Steve Carroll: Reinventing and reimagining your capabilities

Digital thought leader Steve Carroll shares his journey towards achieving his lifetime ambition of working in Australia, and the key business lessons he learned during his 10-year career within the REA Group.

Originally from England, it was Steve Carroll’s lifetime ambition to move with his family to Australia and work in the media industry.

At the time, Steve held a position in Europe’s largest media company, EMAP, based in London. Eventually, an opportunity came up in their Sydney office – and when opportunity knocks, Steve answers.

He was confident that if he could present well during his interview, he would be moving to Australia and ticking the most substantial goal off his bucket list in no time.

But on the day of Steve’s interview, things did not go to plan. London was struck by a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks. Explosions tore through the Underground transit system, and the city fell into complete mayhem.

Steve’s interview was cancelled and for a brief moment felt his dream was slipping through his fingers.

But what happened next were a series of lessons he learned that have carried him through his career.

Take care of your people and they will take care of your company
After the bombings, EMAP hired a motorcyclist to get Steve out of central London, as the capital city was on high alert.

Initially, he questioned his boss for taking such extreme precautions, but then he was reminded of the company’s ethos: “Take care of your people and they will take care of your company and customers.”

Hang around with five victims of life, and you will become the sixth
Feeling as though he was the unluckiest man in the world, Steve says he entered a phase of negativity.

He began to surround himself with people who were sympathetic to his experience, confirming his doubts, and creating a spiral of negativity.

There’s only one way out of that – hang around with different people.

You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shores
Just three months later, Steve was invited by a friend to a dinner party where he was purposely placed next to iconic Olympic athlete, Derek Redmond.

As Steve began to explain to Derek that he was the unluckiest man in the world, Derek decided to pull the pin and gave Steve the wake-up call that he needed to explore new horizons if he wanted to achieve his goal of working in Australia.

Steve began looking for roles outside EMAP, and within a mere three months, he was offered a position at Newscorp in Brisbane. 

When handling the unexpected, don’t get distracted by the sideshows. Focus on what you can control
One of the reasons Steve wanted to come to Australia was to work with Stephen Tait, a man that Steve looked up to as an incredible leader of people.

Within Steve’s first three months at Newscorp, Stephen resigned. Steve says he felt rather displaced by this and began to generate a list of reasons why this life ambition was not going to work out.

He was unhappy in his new role but he couldn’t quit because of his visa, so his only option was to return to London. Seeking a light at the end of the tunnel, Steve phoned Derek Redmond.

“Get used to managing the unexpected by focussing on what you can control,” Derek explained.

Equipped with this advice, Steve spent a further three years at Newscorp until he was offered the opportunity to work within the REA Group.

For Steve, this meant making another big move from Brisbane to Melbourne with his family who were still very young at the time.

The kids were very happy at school and they had created good friendships in Brisbane. Was this the right path for them?

Making a wrong decision is better than making no decision
Battling the decision whether or not to leap at the opportunity, Steve reached out to Stephen Tait where he received the response, “You can’t keep procrastinating.

You are a leader of your family. They expect you to lead. Just make a decision.”

With this advice at the forefront of Steve’s mind, he took the leap and began his 10-year journey as the Director of Industry Relations at REA.

Steve has since become one of Australia’s most highly regarded digital thought leaders.

Reinvent and reimagine. Relevancy is the currency of the Digital Age
Steve revealed that he is “always up for a challenge”, as he recalled a pivotal moment in his career in conversation with John McGrath at AREC 2017 where John said: “Everyone in Australia has dreams. Everyone in Australia has goals. But most people, their goals are of a mediocre level. You only actually know whether or not your goals are meaningful if people start making jokes about them.”

Steve saw this as a challenge and set himself on the path to making the Digital Live Ride the world’s biggest real estate charity event, with 100 riders raising $1m for Hands Across the Water in 2020.

“I always continue to reinvent myself and stay relevant. Irrespective of how old you are, you have to continue to reinvent yourself.”

If you become a better person, you become a better leader
Over the years, Steve has been a major contributor to Elite Agent Magazine, has chaired an auctioneer round table debate for us, has been a popular coach for the Transform program, was part of a live podcast for Inman Connect New York and has regularly been named among our Top 50 Most Influential Thought Leaders. 

Recently presenting at the annual Place Conference, Steve said he has “nothing but amazing praise for REA”.

“REA has sent me to some amazing countries across the world, and I have met some incredible people,” he said.

Do not wait. The time will never be just right
In life, timing is never quite right. You are never going to be in a position where all the stars align.

Give it your best shot, and just go for it. 

Moving on to new horizons
After 10 years at the REA Group, Steve will be moving on from his role however, he will be continuing his journey as a digital thought leader through Digital Live, with the next program kicking off in May 2020.

“We’ve engaged 10 of the top digital masterminds in the country as coaches for the program,” Steve said.

“These coaches will not only provide a personalised digital scorecard and snapshot of a person’s digital footprint, but they’ll also coach participants at full-day events across the country, as well as provide 12-weeks of dynamic and industry-leading online education to members.”

The programs are due to take place in Sydney and Brisbane. To register, go to digital-live.com.au today.

Because according to Steve: “There has never been a better time to reinvent and reimagine what you are capable of.”

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Samantha McLean

Samantha McLean is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of Elite Agent and Host of the Elevate Podcast.