Marcel Dybner – Mastering Leadership

Marcel Dybner is the Head of Property Management at Boutique Agency Besser & Co in St Kilda, Victoria. With the business in a rapid growth phase, he applied for Transform Masters to ‘take a step back’ and look at how he could grow the company by growing as a leader. Taking in all the lessons, the transformative idea he put forward in our ‘Shark Tank’ challenge was impressive enough to win the day. Here are some of the highlights of what he learned during the 12 weeks.

Firstly, tell us why you applied for Transform Masters.

I’ve wanted to apply for Elite Agent’s Transform program for a while now, but previously it was only ever salespeople who could apply. So when the opportunity for PMs and directors opened up, I didn’t hesitate.

We’re currently in a rapid growth phase in our business and I’ve spent the last three years with my head buried in the day to days of the business. I saw Transform as an opportunity to step back and take a look at how we could grow as a company and individually.

It was also an opportunity to meet and be coached by some of the biggest names in our industry.

How did you feel after that first day of intensive coaching, including goal setting, understanding business data, strengths profiling and capturing your image?
Day 1 was extremely overwhelming.

The one-on-one sessions with Fiona, Sam and Sarah were quite eye-opening and really cemented that I had a lot of work ahead of me to get to where I wanted to be as a leader and a businessman.

It was also great to spend time with the other ‘Transformers’ and learn more about the similar challenges they were facing within their businesses and markets.

As challenging as day 1 was, as i boarded the flight back to Melbourne i felt comfortable knowing we were in great hands.

As challenging as Day 1 was, as I boarded the flight back to Melbourne I felt quite comfortable knowing we were in great hands and had a solid group that I’d learn a lot from.

You completed a Character Strengths profile as part of coaching on self-awareness; what did your profile say was your top strength and why do you think that came up?
My top strengths on the Character Strength profile were humour and forgiveness, both traits which I believe are core to who I am as a person and a leader.

Charlie Chaplin famously said that ‘A day without laughter is a day wasted’, but he didn’t work in property management.

A day without laughter in property management can feel like a month!

I want to enjoy my day and I want my team to enjoy coming to work. There’s no better way than to have a good laugh together to make the day better and bring the team closer together.

I also think forgiveness is vital when you lead a team. There are always going to be problems and most managers will dwell on them or judge their employee for making bad choices. I believe we should forgive and look at ways to make sure it’s handled better the next time.

What does leadership mean to you now and has that changed?
I was a victim of poor management for most of my working life, with managers who were great at selling or leasing property but weren’t given the tools or training to lead effectively. The benefit of this was that I worked out very quickly the type of leader I didn’t want to be.

I always wanted to be the leader who motivated and inspired his team to work hard, but after some great coaching through the Transform program I’ve picked up some great strategies on how to do this more effectively.

Which coaching session has stood out to you so far and why was that lesson important for where you are now in your leadership journey?
It’s hard to just pick one stand-out because these coaches have really opened up to us about their businesses and sharing their experiences.

If I had to pick one, it would have to be Matt Lahood. From the very start of his coaching session, it was clear that Matt was a true leader who really cared about the people in his business. I instantly added Matt on LinkedIn and started seeing him share and comment on his employees’ posts, showing his support and appreciation for their hard work. It was really great to see that he walked the walk after talking the talk.

Matt Lahood talked about the importance of visioneering, and a culture and values that support people to achieve their potential. What vision do you have as a leader of your organisation and how is that manifest in the culture and the values of your business?
We all hear of those ‘cool’ places to work, where the managers care about their teams and the culture is built around achieving results and celebrating them. That’s the business I want.

I want my team to know that I care about each one of them as a person – not just a number on a spreadsheet.

Matt Lahood was very inspirational, and I have witnessed by what I can see through his social media that he supports and cares about his staff. These are the people we should really be celebrating in our industry.

What other leaders inspire you, and why?
I’m inspired by people who have achieved actual results – rather than those who simply theorise about it.

I spend a bit of time each week listening to podcasts and YouTube videos, and one of the best leaders I’ve come across is Jack Welch, the former Chairman of GE. Spending over 20 years at GE, he transformed the company into one of the most profitable businesses in the world, raising the company value by 4,000 per cent.

Although he was known as quite a tough leader and had very high expectations, he knew how to motivate his key people and enable them to motivate their teams.

Is there anything you have stopped doing, or let go of, as a result of Transform?
One of the first tasks I did after starting the Transform program was split a whiteboard through the middle and list all the tasks on one side that I was currently doing, and on the other side all the tasks I should be doing.

I identified a few tasks which I could delegate to focus on more dollar-productive tasks like prospecting, which would help us meet our business goals.

We’re now also looking at outsourcing certain tasks to free up a bit of time for our PM team, so they can start prospecting a little more too.

Leaving the Transform classroom, what do you see as the biggest challenge for leaders of real estate businesses in the future?
I think the biggest challenges for leaders in our industry won’t change – it’ll always be about attracting and keeping good talent. Unfortunately we see too many people ‘try’ real estate and then leave.

I see a big shift in how we do our jobs; with automation and technology knocking on our door, we’ll see a massive shift in how our teams operate and what tasks will be done by technology, outsourced or in the office.

Reflecting back on your journey from where you started, how far do you feel you have come and what specifically is different now?
My focus has completely shifted from being full time ‘in’ the business to making time to work ‘on’ the business.

My first challenge was becoming more familiar with the business’ financial numbers. This is a work in progress, but understanding where we are has made it much clearer to structure how to get to where we want to be.

I’m also committed to making myself available to my team, whenever they need me. This can be difficult and often requires me to stay back and finish off my work later, but I want them to know that I always have time for them.

What are your specific goals now, personally and for your organisation?
My goal is to continue growing our rental department. We’re currently managing just shy of 400 properties, and by the end of the financial year I want to have 500 properties under management.

What has been the best part of Transform?
The best part of Transform has been the brilliant people I’ve met. The other ‘Transformers’ have been a great springboard for ideas and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to sharing ideas and support.

What have you learned about balancing leadership with your other roles in the business and the time you need to give to clients?
My team comes first; that’s a non-negotiable for me. Even if that means I spend my morning working through their problems, I know that the time I spend with them now will help them be better tomorrow.

This means that I’m spending more time in the office getting through my work, or opening the laptop on a Sunday to get a head start on the week ahead. But that’s the price you pay for being a leader.

Based on everything you have learned, what advice would you give to anyone thinking about making the leap to leadership?
“Before you’re a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” This quote by Jack Welch really sums it up perfectly. Being a leader means putting your team first and yourself last. If you can’t do that, you have no place in a leadership position.

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Sarah Bell

With a background in research and investigations, Sarah Bell married into the real estate industry in 2009 and has found a passion for both the business and its people.