Anything is possible: Mat Steinwede on running a high-performance team

Mat Steinwede has been described in many ways over his 25 years in real estate, but one word you’ll never see connected to his name is ‘dictator’.

The McGrath Terrigal agent leads one of the country’s highest-performing sales teams, but he does it with a holistic, from the inside out approach, rather than barking orders from the top down.

Mat sees leading a team as a privilege and a partnership. It’s a role he relishes and he says the key to leading a high-performance team is empowering those that work alongside him.

“It’s about everyone wanting to be together,” he explains.

“Sure, a team has to have a leader, but I think my energy is felt across the team because I’m in the trenches every day with them.

“I don’t ask them to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.

“I’m not a leader that shoots orders at everyone for the benefit of my own time off.

“I think it’s about being really connected and tight.

“I think the success of our team is genuinely liking each other.”

Mat’s also clear on what high-performance is and is not.

He says it’s not just limited to selling the most properties for the highest price, but rather ensuring that all facets of your life, inside and outside of work, are working harmoniously.

“High performance, to me, means being in alignment with your better self,” Mat says.

“It’s about living congruently. It’s fine to say that your results are great at work, but if your personal life is in shambles, you’re unfit, or you drink too much, or whatever it is, you’re never really going to live with peace of mind, you’re going to feel a bit disconnected.

“Even though you might be achieving great results at work, if you’re not living a high-performance life all around, then I think you could easily feel overwhelmed.”

Mat notes that instilling a high-performance mindset in others is tricky, especially for salespeople, as they are often perfectionists who like to feel in control.

He says the most challenging time is when an agent first starts to grow their team, and while it might be tempting to micromanage to ensure everything goes ‘right’, taking a more hands-off approach usually yields better results.

Agents should first hire someone in an administrative role rather than another selling agent, and the key is to give the newcomer time to grow into their position.

“Because salespeople are naturally control freaks, they have an expectation that their world is going to be all of a sudden different or better just because they’ve put on a personal assistant,” Mat explains.

“But what happens is they strangle the process to death, and they don’t let the other person be empowered enough to fulfil their role properly.

“They try and micromanage the person, and it becomes a really unpleasant sort of environment because it gives the other person a lot of anxiety, and they question am I doing this right or am I doing that right?

“It doesn’t allow the other person to find their rhythm, and quite often the salesperson will say, ‘Oh they’re hopeless’ or ‘they can’t do this quickly enough’.

“But you’ve got to allow the new person time to find their own style, and I think if salespeople can let go of that particular role a bit, while still keeping a check on it, I think there would be a greater success rate in retention of PAs because people like to feel empowered.”

Mat’s team comprises Jordan Bulmer and Trevor Hamilton as fellow selling agents, Charlie Betar is a buyer agent, Ash Roberts takes care of operations, Alex Browning is responsible for marketing and Cienna Knowles is a cadet.

So far this financial year the team has almost hit $6 million gross commission income and are on track to finish with somewhere between $7 million and $8 million come June 30.

“We look to list and sell a minimum of 20 properties a month, and we’re pretty consistent,” Mat says. 

“The numbers are important to us, and we focus on them, but we don’t micromanage the numbers. 

“We don’t track market opinions and buyer appointments and things like that. But we know that if we take care of people and the right amount of people, and we’re taking care of the inquiry well, we’re looking after our area and market share, and we’re prospecting hard enough, that part comes.

“We measure it in the number of listings and the number of sales.”

Mat got his start in real estate 25 years ago, but it’s no exaggeration to say his life wasn’t always as on track as it is now.

“I used to be an underworld criminal, and then I ended up becoming homeless because everything fell apart,” Mat reflects.

“I left Sydney, basically with what I was wearing, and then an ex-girlfriend said, ‘Why don’t you get into real estate?’”

Mat secured a job in the industry with an agent that worked from home and spent his days pounding the pavement prospecting as he didn’t have a car.

“About a year after that I ended up on Australia’s Most Wanted, and I had to go back (to Sydney) and hand myself in,” he says.

“The judge, fortunately, could see I was trying to make an effort with myself and turn my life around, so I had to do community service for a very long time, and I never looked back.

“I just made a decision, I rang my mate and I said, ‘I’m going to be the number one agent in Australia eventually’, that’s my commitment and that’s what happened.”

In more recent times, Mat has consistently ranked as the number one agent in the McGrath network.

And while some see it as a lightning-fast rise to the top, Mat knows the effort that’s driven the achievements.

He says it’s proof that if you set your mind to something, anything is possible.

“It took me 15 years to become number one in McGrath, and John McGrath said, ‘I don’t know if you’ll be able to do it from Terrigal because the real estate is not as expensive and it’s a coastal town,’ but in my mind I was like, ‘no, I’m doing it’.

“I think how it’s helped me, that whole experience, just in life in general, is if you really want something, you’ll find a way to do it.

“That’s pretty much embedded in me now. 

“ It’s been a long hard road…it’s made me see that your life does throw things at you sometimes, but I think your mind can override the doubt.

“As soon as doubt comes in, and we all have it, but as soon as doubt comes in, it will be the reason you don’t achieve something.

“It’s taught me that no matter where you’re at, you can make a decision to make a difference.”

Mat says where people, not just real estate agents, go wrong is they settle for less than excellence and become ok with mediocrity.

An agent’s initial goal may be to write $1 million GCI, but they immediately discount the goal and say they’ll be fine if they write $500,000 as that’s still a good result.

Mat says the habits people fall into and accept will attract a similar level of success, so if an agent says they want to be number one, but then they spend a few nights a week out on the town, it will show in their results.

“You start living the results of the habits that you have created,” he explains.

“It’s a lot of hard work to change your inner self, to redesign all of your habits, reinvent yourself and become something different.

“It takes a lot of sustained focus, a lot of daily commitment.

“But once you do it, you create momentum.

“I think where people fall down is too often they settle for what’s just acceptable.”

Mat tackles such issues in his best-selling book 31 Mins: The secret to living your best life, which helps those who constantly feel under the pump to unlock their true potential.

Using fitness as an example, Mat says without health you have nothing and that you can’t reach your workplace goals if other areas of your life are out of sync.

“I see myself as a corporate athlete,” he says.

“So if I’m going to perform at my very, very best to lead the industry, I’ve got to feel my very, very best. 

“So I have to make time for my body to operate at that level.”

Mat’s very clear on what his next personal and business goals are for the future.

He plans to become the fittest he’s ever been at age 50, which is 18 months away.

He wants to ensure his six children are all doing well in life and, when it comes to business, he wants to write $10 million GCI in 12 months.

Something tells me he’ll achieve it.

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Kylie Dulhunty

Kylie Dulhunty is the Editor at Elite Agent.