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Transcript: What Rugby League Taught Me About Leadership (EP18)


Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.


Hello, everybody. I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast. This is Episode 18.

Today, I'm talking with Matt Sharp. Matt is the Owner and Director of Sharp Property Buyers, where he helps people secure their dream home or secure their future by investing in quality investment properties.

Away from his buyers agent business, Matt coaches rugby league at the elite junior level with the Sydney Roosters.

Matt's passion for property has seen him build a diverse portfolio over the last eight years.

His passion for rugby league took him to playing at a semi-professional level on the Central Coast and also overseas.

Matt has worked for ten years in the corporate sector as well, where he saw the good, the bad and the ugly around leadership and culture.

The combination of his experience across the corporate, sport and entrepreneurial sectors have given him firsthand experience with leadership and teamwork, and building high performance cultures. And this is the focus of our conversation today.

Matt, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.

Matt Sharp: Thank you so much for having me, Brendan. It's a pleasure to be here, mate. And also, thank you for sharing so much valuable content across obviously the podcasts and all of your social platforms, mate. It's truly invaluable and it's a topic that I'd love to discuss all the time. So, mate, very, very privileged to be here.

Brendan Rogers: Absolute pleasure, mate. Thanks for coming to my home as well. Again, I've mentioned this to a few guests. Great to have you face-to-face where we're social distanced, but it's just nice to be sitting in the same room with each other, yeah?

Matt Sharp: Yeah, absolutely, mate. Thank you. It's good to get out of the house too. I've got a six-week-old at home. It's quite tough sometimes.

Brendan Rogers: As we said, mate, this is your break away, right? Well, we might do a three-hour episode today.

Matt Sharp: Yeah, we’ll stretch it out. I'm happy with that. Just don’t tell the wife.

Brendan Rogers: Definitely not. Although this is going to be published in a couple of weeks, let's hope she listens to it.

Matt Sharp: (Laughing) She doesn't listen to me at home. I don't know if she’ll listen to me on a podcast.

Brendan Rogers: Good on you, buddy. Matt, how about you just give us a bit of background about yourself and I'd love you to dive into, not only the corporate side of things in getting you to your own business now and what you've done there, but also your sporting journey. So, give us a bit of your career highlights, so to speak.

Matt Sharp: I recently created my own buyer's agency business here on the Central Coast. And the purpose for that was because I generally wanted to help people have better outcomes when they were purchasing property, right? I could see there was no one here doing it on the Central Coast. At the time that I started, I'm a super, super passionate property guy. I've managed to build and continue to build a reasonable investment portfolio. And I just saw too many people were getting it wrong when it comes to purchasing, right? They were getting their advice from the wrong person, they’re being misled, or mistreated by, you know, sales agents or developers with people that had underlying issues or just their values and their morals weren't in check, right? We all know the role of a sales agent. He needs to sell the house for someone that's looking to sell and he's a professional and he gets set out to get the best price or the most expensive price for that property. However, there is no one helping the purchaser, right?

So, I saw there was a huge opportunity there to help people get better outcomes and just have a professional by their side, you know, an independent voice to guide them to better outcomes. Absolutely loving it. I probably underestimated how much work was involved, but thankfully, given my background in rugby league, also in the corporate space, it's probably helped me get to where the business is now.

I played rugby league growing up. Absolutely passionate rugby league fanatic, aspired to play NRL. Wasn't good enough to play NRL, again, mainly through talent, but also application as well. I underestimated how much work needed to be put in to play at the elite level at any sport, right? Not just rugby league, although I did give it a fair crack and in no way am I upset or bitter or anything like that about not playing. I had a really, really good career playing in the lower grades and then also semi-professional here on the Central Coast as well as overseas as well. Some phenomenal memories, I was lucky enough to win multiple competitions with my brother and some of my best mates, which, you know, fantastic memories. And even playing at that level, it's allowed me to grow a successful buyer's agency, right through the skills that I learned through leadership and culture and determination and grit and sticking to the cause and understanding process and goals and all of that sort of stuff. So, all of those skills are basically now rolled into my entrepreneurial endeavours or journey and they've put me in good stead to hopefully build and continue to build a successful buyer's agency.

Brendan Rogers: You finished on that rugby league side. So, let's start there. Let's dig into expanding on some of those things, determination and grit and these sorts of qualities you talk about. You're a young leader from an age perspective. I think you said you were 23 off-air when you first led a semi-professional team. What do these sort of values and characters that you learned were valuable in leadership and how did they help you in your style of leadership in the rugby league sector?

Matt Sharp: I think, the biggest thing for me, and it's only now on reflecting back, right at the time, you don't know that, you know, that you have these leadership traits or anything like that. It's only now reflecting back, but I think being authentic is key, taking some ownership there of your own performance and your own contribution. I think one of the biggest things and probably one of my best attributes is as a player, I was always able to connect with all my teammates and also coaches. I think that was probably one of my main reasons for being a young Captain and a young leader. I was able to get on and, you know, have a good conversation and enjoy, you know, say for example, a brick layers company. And then on the other hand, speak to an accountant or someone that was studying law, right? I feel as though that was probably my best attribute, whether or not it helped us win many games. I don't know. But I just feel as though connection is a big one, obviously being authentic, showing humility as well, taking some ownership, these are all key things that I still hold close to me now. And still that I value now.

Brendan Rogers: Let's talk a bit about one of those things in particular - ownership that really stands out for me. What does, in that environment and you as a leader and the expectation around the players that you're leading, what does this take ownership mean?

Matt Sharp: I guess ownership for me is taking ownership of your own performance, your own preparation, your own self-evaluation, personal feedback, taking ownership of the situation. I think it's key for anyone that wants to be a leader or anyone that wants to contribute to any sort of team. We all need to understand our role where we add value to the company or the business or the team or whatever. And we need to take ownership for our role. If you don't turn up prepared and ready to perform at any level in any space or any team environment, you should be held to account. And the first person to say that, or the first person to acknowledge that should be yourself. And to me, that's taking ownership of a situation.

Brendan Rogers: Moving that into your own business, how has that helped you? This taking ownership and all these things you mentioned you refer to?

Matt Sharp: It’s been absolutely enormous. And it's probably been my biggest driver and my biggest help starting a business from scratch. As you'd be aware, it's super, super difficult. It's challenging, but you need to take ownership of one where you are. Two, how you're going to get there. And three, basically, the steps you need to put in place to get your work to where you want to be.

And taking ownership is recognising where I am right now, what I can do to get me to where I want to be. And it's about turning up every day and just applying yourself in the best way possible, right? And it's not, there's no, you know, I'm super passionate about culture and about leadership and staff and similar to yourself, you know, I've read multiple books and listened to loads of podcasts, but there's no leap from you knowing nothing to all of a sudden, you're this fantastic business owner or this fantastic or own this high performing team or anything like that. You hear some of the best coaches in world sport, you know, Bill Belichick, you know, Wayne Bennett, Craig Bellamy, they just talk about process, taking ownership and just taking the steps to get you to where you need to get to. And basically, that's just getting down to process.

Brendan Rogers: You also had about ten years in the corporate sector. And I know when we spoke some weeks ago in preparation for today's conversation, there was some good, there was some bad, there were some pretty ugly experiences that you had or that you saw through that. Could you just share what you learnt good around the corporate space in that ten years? And maybe, also then we can dive into, maybe the stuff that you felt, “Well, me as a leader, that's not something I would ever do.” The challenges that you saw.

Matt Sharp: Yeah, absolutely. I spent just over a decade working in one of the biggest corporations or companies in Australia. When I first started, things there were great. It was a job where I thought I was going to be there, you know, forever and I wanted to retire. I was very, very content in the position I was in. I absolutely loved the team that I was working within. It was fantastic.

Slowly but surely, I guess things started to deteriorate there. I don't know if it was because of new CEOs or at Board Level or whatever, but I guess things did deteriorate there quite dramatically. Some observations from my point of view and reflecting back on those ten years early in the piece, something that was really, really important to that company was keeping people happy, okay? It was a very family environment. We used to do like loads of functions and we would get together to watch, say, like the Melbourne Cup or State of Origins or anything big. And it was all about, literally just trying to keep the employees happy, okay?

And because of that, everyone was in a better mood. Everyone was willing to share. Everyone was willing to help. That there is invaluable, right? A guy might be on a cap salary of say, a $100,000 dollars a year, but the things that he's doing for people within that team in terms of assistance or help or guidance or mentorship, you know, that can't be measured. It's invaluable, that stuff, right? And I believe that the company that I was working for lost sight of that, and slowly but surely, it became more of a numbers game, which it does for many of the big corporations, right? I understand that. And I guess the company started to shift its view on figures and where, I guess, where the value was, they didn't see the value in how important it was to have a happy environment, right, at work. So, obviously, with that, there were redundancies, which led to people becoming quite paranoid, which then led to people having personal agendas, which then led to people being feeling entitled. And then from there, you're basically on a downhill slope, right?

So, that's where things start to become bad. And then when things get ugly is at the basement level, at the cross level where people have hidden agendas, you know, there's a lack of trust, there's no communication, no one knows which direction anyone's going in. The left hand isn't talking to the right hand. People are on, I guess people are unhappy, not prepared to help people, not prepared to go to the extra mile. “Okay, we're not going to do a Christmas party now, because the cost. We're not going to watch the Melbourne Cup now because of the cost.” You can spend four hours or six hours at a Christmas party and yeah, you can measure, “Okay, this is unproductive at X. You know, this is undollar productive. It's cost us $5,000.”

But keeping the guys happy throughout that whole year, it's unmeasurable, right? If you know that, you know, work puts on a good function because of the culture where I enjoy, you know, Brendan's company at work, you can't measure how much extra effort I'm going to put in or go the extra mile for you. And I took so much out of my lessons in the corporate space and it's something that I want to implement going forward once I grow my business to ensure that everyone's happy and make sure that I connect with people to understand what happiness is for them and why they're here. And are they driven by money? Are they driven by comfort? Are they driven by passion for property? Or why are they here? And it's about extracting that and making sure that they're happy with why they're here, I guess. And yeah, it's really sad to see the company that I was working with become what it is now. Yeah.

It is quite sad when I reflect on it. And it's just happened in such a short period of time. And I honestly don't think there's any coming back from it once you're there, because I mentioned trust, and trust takes a long time to build back up. And when you've lost trust, I don't think it's that easy to get back. You can lose it really, really quickly, but it takes some time to get back.

Brendan Rogers: Was there anything specific that something happened in a day or you looked at it at a time and thought, “You know what? This is just not for me.”

Matt Sharp: Yeah. There was actually. I wouldn't say there was a day, but it was over some time, it was gradually and it was just wearing me down. External factors were wearing me down to be there. I wasn't passionate to go into work. I didn't want to be in there. I was wasting way too much energy on what my manager was doing, what so-and-so was doing, whether or not I was going to have a job in six months, all of this stuff was just creating unneeded pressure. And I just didn't want to be in that environment anymore. And it's extremely deflating how the company got there. I feel as though potentially, people were given roles or positions that they didn't necessarily earn. And I guess people were being put in positions of leadership and they had no background in being a leader. They had no experience in working in a team environment, they had no experience in working in high performing teams at all.

So, you know, they spend half a day doing a workshop on leadership. And as we mentioned off-air that the theory behind, you know, what it takes to build culture. And, you know, you can send out emails, you can use buzzwords, but at the end of the day, it's actions, right? But for me, that's what it was. It was just wearing me down. And I could just see that this wasn't an environment I didn't want to, I just didn't want to be in that environment anymore. And because of my background and my experience, I guess it was probably more clear to me than some others, you know, some others are still there and, you know, they're still complaining. And they're basically on a ship sailing to nowhere, I suppose. Or at least I didn't see, I don't know the direction of where they're going. So, it was something that I don't really want to be a part of anymore and didn't want to be a part of anymore. So, I decided to take the leap.

Brendan Rogers: What did you take from that experience and the journey you had from good? You said the corporate scenario was good to start with and then it just gradually wore down overtime. What learnings did you take from that into the rugby league space and your own leadership style when you're leading teams of people?

Matt Sharp: I probably didn't learn too much out of my corporate background other than keep people happy. I think that is one of the biggest keys, even in professional sport. I think it's very important that you make sure that your team is happy, right? And it's not about always giving in or making sure that everyone likes to sleep in, or that Brendan's turning up at 10:30 instead of 9:00 or anything like that. It's just making sure that they're happy in their environment and you’re connecting with them and rugby league is the same, right? People have different drivers and needs as to why they're playing. Sometimes, they just love being around a team environment. Sometimes, they want to play for the money. Other times, they really want to compete. Other times, they're just playing ‘cause their best mates are playing, right? Whatever the reason is, I think it's important that you drill down on that.

And then, you try and just, I guess, stoke that fire to continue them to be happy, which means that you're basically going to get optimal results, right? You're going to get optimal performance out of that individual, if they're happy within that environment. But the corporate space, it was just so evident. I guess the one lesson is, if you're not happy, you're not performing, you're not willing to do anything, you're not willing to improve the team, you're not willing to improve anyone's performance other than your own. And you don't even have the time if you're not happy. You're not even caring about your own performance, right? So, yeah, I think those are probably the biggest lessons that I learned for sure.

Brendan Rogers: As we said in the intro, you've been working with the Sydney Roosters in coaching at a junior rugby league elite level. How do you create that environment for those young players to make sure they can be happy? Which in turn, as you said, helps them be at their best.

Matt Sharp: I wish I had any one answer. And I think if someone did have one answer, I think they would probably be lying or guessing. It's about creating an environment where the kids are challenged, also rewarded, and also encouraged. Regular feedback for the kids as well is very, very important. And I'm so lucky and so fortunate to be involved in a rugby league team, such as the Roosters admittedly we don't have a lot to do with the seniors. I've only been to minimal sessions down there, but very, very impressive setup. You have people like Trent Robinson or players, or just walk over and greet themselves or introduce themselves to anyone watching training sessions, you know, and that's a culture down there and it's no, you know, it's no surprise that they've been so successful and that's led through probably Trent Robinson and whoever else is at the top there, right?

There are no egos from what I can see from an outsider looking in, but up here on the Central Coast, working with the juniors, I think it's very important that the kids, I guess, feel valued. I think that's very, very important. You need to challenge the kids and you don't want to give them an arm to, I guess, a “cuddle” all the time, but you need to know that, they need to know that you're there, you're supporting them and you're in their corner. And I think that's super, super valuable.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, I want to get your perspective on the culture of rugby league. And when I say that, it does seem to be a constant flow of off-field incidents, off-field discretions, I suppose, you can say. What is it about rugby league when you can compare it to maybe some other sports that they don't seem to have the same sort of level of off-field discretions?

Matt Sharp: Yeah, mate. And you know, I'm not immune to it either, right? I hate picking up the telegraph or I hate seeing another story on Fox Sports where another player’s, you know, drink driving or he's had a major discretion or something, right? Domestic violence, whatever. I sometimes get embarrassed. And I do take it to heart sometimes. If I had the answers, I probably wouldn't be sitting here in front of you. I'd probably be sitting down in NRL HQ somewhere, but mate, it's a tricky one. And I know a lot of people in the NRL are doing a lot of work and probably more work than ever before to try and create one, a better culture, but more importantly, better individuals, right? And prepare them better for life outside of rugby league, whether that's outside of the training hours or outside of once they're finished their careers.

An observation for me, I think rugby league players, you know, they're not your run-of-the mill guys, right? You have guys that are going into battle to run into three different guys that are trying to hurt them as much as this guy with the ball wants to hurt those guys. And there's a lot of emotion and there's adrenaline charge there and ultimately they're risk takers. So, I don't think it's hard to ask someone to go out there on the field and run as hard as he can into three guys that weigh 110 kilos and then walk off the field and say, “Well, listen, mate, you have to be a choir boy now. We don't want you to do X, Y, Z.” I'm not saying that they should be breaking the law. And I'm certainly not condoning that, but there's a certain contrast they're right there. They're polar opposites to say, you know, you need to be a model citizen, but on the field, you can act, you can do anything you want in order for us to win. I think that that's an observation that I've seen. I don't know if it's a valid reason or not. It's certainly not a valid reason, but yeah, it's just an observation, I guess, that I've seen.

Brendan Rogers: Your responsibility as a junior level coach, how do you help young players of the future deal with these sorts of scenarios or understand that they may be in these sort of scenarios? And it's not just about on field being an elite sport, there's a role model perspective to play.

Matt Sharp: Yeah, mate. Really, really tough question. And as I mentioned before, like the NRL are doing a huge amount of work to make sure that these kids coming through are aware of their environment, are aware of their surroundings, aware of the dangers of holding a mobile phone that has a camera on it, 24/7.

But for me, you know, I want to improve these kids as players, as rugby league players, but ultimately, I want to improve them as people, right? And if I can have any sort of an impact on their character, that's a bigger thing for me then, improving them as players. And I'm fortunate enough to have some great coaches within the junior program up here on the Central Coast. You know, that very much share my values and share my points of view. And their ultimate goal is to improve these kids as people first. But I guess it's just understanding their environment, the kids' environment and how catastrophic things can be if, you know, if they turn bad, if something happens, you know, whether it be drink driving and having a car accident or maybe getting a phone and maybe something happens with a female or I don't know, but things can be catastrophic in today's day and age for sure. And it can derail not only your rugby league career, but potentially, your life too, right? It happens to people all the time.

People fall off the cliff all the time, metaphorically speaking of course, all the time, you know. Unfortunately, they just can't get back on the track. So, I think it's having a holistic approach to life in general. And yeah, I guess not only improving yourself as a player, but trying to improve yourself as you know, as a human being too. I think it's important. Very, very important.

Brendan Rogers: There's another scenario going through my head that I really want to get your view on. Cooper Cronk, Latrell Mitchell. I look at those two players and again, I'm just an outsider. I don't know any of those two gentlemen, but I see one as a really quality team player. And I see the other one, maybe not such a team player. What's your view on a rugby league player being the ultimate team player?

Matt Sharp: Mate, yeah. It's a good question. And those two individuals, I don't know them personally. So, I'm only looking at it from an outsider as well. Obviously, Cooper Cronk goes without saying his application to his job, his team, his role within the team is phenomenal. Probably unmatched. I would say, maybe, Johnathan Thurston might be the only other one. And Latrell Mitchell is an interesting one. Again, I'm only a partner from the sidelines, but the information that I get about Latrell is he's really, really well-liked and well-respected within the team. I don't know. The media certainly portrays him in a slightly different way, but generally speaking, I guess the ultimate team player for me is someone that turns up every day. They want to make themselves better, or they want to make the team better. And they're willing to go outside of their comfort zone or outside of their comfort levels to improve their own performance or the team's performance, right?

They have no ego. They're willing to give more than they take. And they're willing to basically buy in to get to a common goal. I think that's the ultimate one. And I've heard a couple of examples around some NRL players that obviously have done that. Some really, really successful players, like I mentioned, Johnathan Thurston. There's stories about Johnathan Thurston, where, he announced his retirement midway through the season, and right up until their very last training session, he's the first guy training. He's the last guy to leave. Now, if that's not someone that has a bigger vision for the team to improve or has a bigger purpose than his own agenda, I don't know what is. You know, he could have easily just cruised into the sunset, not worried about his own performance. Mate, he's one of the best players to ever play the game. He can quite easily get by playing a game of NRL without a problem, but he generally wants to make himself better, make the team better until the day that he hangs up his boots. You know, that's quite phenomenal.

Again, I'll use him as an example as well. There's been some stories of him taking ownership, a grown man, someone that's achieved so much in the game where, you know, he's been emotional after games because of his own performance. You know, it hasn't been to his high standard. Now, I think if you're in a team, if you're sitting in the sheds and you're looking across at someone of his stature and someone that's achieved so much in the game, and you're a younger guy coming through, how does that not rub off on you, right? Like that's leadership to me, that's taking ownership, that's leadership and that's buying into a bigger cause than yourself. He's probably had it. For an average guy, he's probably at a 7 or an 8 out of 10 game, but for himself, maybe it's subpar and he's not happy. He's not happy with it. I think that's the ultimate team mate.

Brendan Rogers: I can't help but say this, but you've mentioned, or you mentioned one JT, I guess I mentioned Cooper Cronk, but two Queenslanders mate, is it just, is the simple answer that Queenslanders are just better team players?

Matt Sharp: I hope not. No, I don't think so. I'm sure there's plenty of other examples, but they're just the two that I, that I've sort of been, you know, being privy to, I guess.

Brendan Rogers: On that, and again, I'm pushing you. I'm a Queenslander, you're a new South Welshman and I know New South Wales has got the upper hand at the moment, but what were the differences, you know, as a passionate rugby league player and supporter, you had the Queensland State of Origin team for ten series in a row, you know, back-to-back. I can't ever see New South Wales doing that to be fair, us Queenslanders, we would just never let that happen.

What did you see differences around such a Queensland team that was so strong and powerful? Yeah, they had great players, but was it something more there because New South Wales also had some fantastic players over that generation? Give us your thoughts on that.

Matt Sharp: Yeah, mate. Again, if I had the answers to this, I'd probably be sitting down in NRL HQ, right? I don’t know. Look, goes without saying you have four people in critical positions there, you have Cooper Cronk, Jonathan Thurston, Cameron Smith, Billy Slater. And also, even Darren Lockyer I think may have played there in the early days at five eight, right? And probably, Greg Inglis as well. But if you want to look at it and try and look at the similarities in a business or a corporation, like you look at those four or five guys, they’re your Board Members. So, players that come in and I'm sure there's others, right, that had huge influences on that team. You look at them and those guys were there basically for that whole decade. So, they set the standard, they set the culture, they set what was acceptable.

And again, I'm only looking from an outsider in. Look at the New South Wales side. Unfortunately, due to form, due to just looking for answers, understanding how we can beat this champion side, we didn't have the answers. I could probably name ten different combinations that we used. I can probably name half a dozen half backs that we used. Half a dozen dummy halves. There's three or four coaches in that period as well. I think the biggest thing was the stability for those guys. And it was matched. The stability was matched through some champion players and some guys that, you know, hold really high values and high standards as well. Whereas, New South Wales, unfortunately, we didn't have that calibre of players. We didn't have the stability within the team and within the structure. And it's a really, really interesting one.

I don't know, looking back, if New South Wales had the ability to say, and we weren't far off a few times, right? There's only a couple of points in it, but I don't know if they had the time again, if they would be like, “Okay, let's just stick to this, our structure, and not worry about what's happening at the other end. And let's try and do everything we can to improve what we have here.”

But I think it's quite clear. You can see why they are so successful in Queensland because of those players and because of the standards, like you never hear those, those four guys or five guys that I mentioned in the papers, you know, like Cameron Smith's never out drinking, carrying on, you know, he's the ultimate professional. Everyone loves to play with him. He's the ultimate teammate. It's even similar to, you know, Bill Belichick, Tom Brady. I know Tom Brady's left now, but same thing. They have standards there and you rather get on board or you're out. It's that simple.

Brendan Rogers: It's a good segway into, again, moving that into business. And again, you've got your own business. You've had that for some time now, and you've got plans to grow that. What sort of lessons that you've taken from your sporting days and being that passionate rugby league supporter as well. So, what you're seeing from the outside, what are you going to take into your own business and building that culture, building that team, building that high performing environment for your organisation?

Matt Sharp: It’s something that I think about a lot. I guess, as a leader within my business going forward, you know, I always want to be someone that's approachable and always just a stakeholder within the team. Some of my best coaches, you know, they haven't been dictators, they've shown tremendous humility. They've been very approachable, they've owned their mistakes. And also, they've asked for and received a lot of feedback from players. I think that's very, very important. I learned a tremendous amount from rugby league. You know, like I said, I never played at the NRL level, but it taught me so much. It teaches you grit, determination, goal setting, being self-aware, being able to receive feedback - external and internally. I think team sport gives you so much that translates into business. And even now having the ability to connect with people from all walks of life, having the ability to take some ownership of where I'm at now at business and what needs to be done, having the ability to prioritise and then execute on that when I'm prioritising is super, super important.

And also just having the self-awareness to know, you know, where my strengths lie and areas that I need to work on as well. Like it's just endless, it's really, really endless. And one thing that I used to pride myself on rugby league when I was playing was doing extras and training outside of, you know, the norm. It didn't help me as much as I would have liked, but still, you know, I used to thrive off being down, kicking at the oval when I knew that no one else was down there, right? Or preparing for a game and knowing that my opposition weren't preparing. And I love that about business now, like I mentioned at the top, when we first started talking, was I underestimated how much was involved to run your own business? And I'm still building. And I still feel as I'm very much on the way up on the trajectory on the way up.

But I take pride in working early, early hours when other people aren’t, I take pride on working on a Sunday when other people aren't, I take pride on working outside of, after dinner when I know other people aren’t. I hope to continue to have a strong work life balance, especially now that I'm a young dad, but I take pride in those little wins knowing that other people aren't there.

And I used to love that even like, I train a lot in the gym, definitely not a bodybuilder or anything like that. It's more just probably between the ears why I like training. But, you know, I always enjoy training first thing in the morning, I'm usually in the gym around 5:00, 5:30. And that probably is a follow on from rugby league as well. You know, I'm walking out of the gym at 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning and I've trained and I know the majority of people haven't, you know, it's just a little win, it's just a, it's a little tick of the box, and then you can sort of set your day up from there. So, yeah, that's probably some of the main things that I've learned and hope to carry on and take forward with me.

Brendan Rogers: The one word that really sticks out to me as it always does is you mentioned feedback. Can you think about a situation when you were leading a team? A time where you gave players or even an individual player feedback? Like, what was that about and how did you find that situation? Like, just talk us through something like that, how you approached it.

Matt Sharp: It’s something that I learned as I got older and became more experienced with rugby league and now that I'm a coach, something that I'm very, very conscious of. So feedback, I think it's extremely important that your feedback should be probably 75% positive, 25% not negative, but constructive, right? Or even 80%, especially with kids, actually, anyone. I used to play half back, which I guess is, you know, it's a leadership role within the team. You need to direct the whole team around. And I used to get the best out of my players when I would say, “Mate, that was awesome” straightaway. The feedback was there straightaway within a couple of minutes or even seconds after someone did something really well. And if I needed them to do something that they weren't doing so well, I would give them the positive feedback first and then remind them of the other thing that they need to improve on.

And that's something that I'm extremely conscious about now as a coach. If you are always constructive or negative with your feedback, criticise, criticise, criticise, straightaway, you're going to lose connection; straightaway, you're going to lose trust; straightaway, you're going to create friction. I understand that there are certain individuals that thrive on that, but I would say they're in the minority really, really minority.

I feel within a team environment, one of the biggest things that you can feel, whether you're, if you're just a standard player, if you're a Coach or you’re Captain whatever, but everyone ultimately wants to feel valued. They want to feel as though that they're contributing to the common goal, right? So, if you get positive feedback, you can then double down on that. You feel as though, “Okay, Brendan understands here. You know, I am working my ass off to get something done here and you know what? He can see that I'm doing this. I appreciate the feedback. I may not say it to you, but in my mind, I'm thinking, ‘Okay, anything he wants to do, I'm just going to look to him, not necessarily impressing, but I want to make sure that Brendan's happy with what I'm doing.’”  And that's from a player or an employee at the same level. That's from someone, maybe superior, whether it be a captain or a coach, or even sometimes at a low level, you know, like someone may come in and say to the coach, you know, “Coach, I’m loving your pre-game prep talks,” or “I'm loving that we're doing this.” Like the coach walks away feeling good about that, right?

I think that's, I think feedback comes from all angles. Absolutely all angles. And you hear certain CEOs and I know there, I won't mention any names, but I know there are some rugby league coaches that consciously look to meet one extra person or one new person within the organisation a week, you know? And that could be anyone from the cleaner, all the way through to a Board Member, right? You connect and you give them some feedback. And I think that just builds relationships. And relationships are everything.

Brendan Rogers: And you joked a couple of times during this interview around your own performance and not quite good enough to get to NRL level. Was there any coach in particular that stood out to you that either gave you feedback or maybe didn't give you the feedback to help you improve your game?

Matt Sharp: Mate, yeah. There are a couple and it's probably, look, I was so lucky to be coached by some really, really good coaches. Paul Stringer, Jamie Goddard. Both of those guys played NRL level. Jamie Goddard played State of Origin. I learned a lot off Jamie more so around working hard for your teammate and certainly, no one's bigger than the team. And that was more through his actions and his application than anything that he ever said or did, okay? But no, I wouldn't say there was one, but looking back and reflecting on my own personal experience, I feel as though the coaches that showed trust and showed faith in me I just naturally performed better under, because I felt comfortable. I felt as though I had my back and that happened later in my career and maybe I just became more aware of it later in my career.

But certainly, towards the back end, I was more aware of it. And you always feel good when a coach or colleague or anyone or manager at work or anything that says, “Matt, mate, I've got full faith in you. You just go out there and do what you need to do. I'm very, very confident. Just let me know when the job's done, you know.” Whether that's something giving you a new project at work or whatever, surely that's going to be received much better. And it's going to make the individual feel, you know, more confident and more comfortable in the role that they need to do, right? Whether it's playing rugby league or, you know, doing, taking on a major project at work. So, I think the coaches that were sort of giving their trust to me were the ones where I played the best under, for sure. For sure.

Brendan Rogers: Matt, thanks for sharing that, mate. I want to wrap this up a bit now. So, I normally ask my guests, if there was one bit of advice you could offer, what would that be? I want to flip this a little bit for you, because as we said, you led teams from quite a young age in that semi-professional environment. If you had your time over, what leadership advice would you give to your younger self?

Matt Sharp: I guess the thing that comes to mind for me is ownership. As a young guy, it's hard to understand exactly what ownership is. And I wouldn't say that I was someone that used to play the blame game or anything like that, or I was quick to point the finger, but as I get older and become more wise, I think ownership's probably the biggest one that I would say to my younger self. And I would say, “Take ownership of where you are now and what you can do to improve the position that you're in and whether you want to move forward or move sideways or change jobs or whatever it takes.” Take some ownership of the situation, work out some steps to how you want to get to your goal or your end result, and then implement them. I think a lot of younger kids, are quick to point the finger, whether it being on performance on where they are in life or whatever, but I think ownership without doubt for me is something that I'm learning and still learning every day. You know, I haven't certainly haven't mastered it yet, but yeah, without a doubt, I would say ownership for me.

Brendan Rogers: Hot seat’s nearly finished, mate. Second last question. If the NRL Season is able to finish this season, who's going to win it?

Matt Sharp: I'm a Knights supporter. I don't think the Knights are going to get there. I think they might go close. I think Parramatta are going to be hard to beat. I think it’d be a battle of the West Parramatta and Penrith. You know, they talk about premiership windows. I feel as though Parramatta and both Penrith have that window that's open at the moment. They have a really, really, both teams have well-balanced squads. Both teams have got really, really good coaches. Both teams have young, enthusiastic rosters, but yeah, I think those two might meet in the Grand Final. If I was to pick one, I'd probably say Parramatta at this stage.

Brendan Rogers: Well, my brother will be happy. He's a Parra man and I'm a Broncos man. So, I don't think I've got much chance this season.

Matt Sharp: Nah, I don’t think so, mate, unfortunately.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, tell us how listeners can get hold of you.

Matt Sharp: I'm on all the socials - Sharp Property Buyers. Also, obviously LinkedIn, Matt Sharp, and then website www.sharpproperty.com.au. So, reach out anytime if anyone has any questions or anything, feel free to call or email. Yeah, I'm always happy to see if I can help.

Brendan Rogers: Matt, it's fantastic to have a rugby league man on. It's fantastic to have a buyer's agent on as well. You know, you're growing your business there. You're really helping people on the Central Coast and across Australia, to be honest Your insights around your learnings in rugby league and leadership and those sporting experiences and also, the maybe good and not-so-good experiences in the corporate sector has given us really good insight on those areas. So, I really appreciate that, mate. Thanks for coming on The Culture of Things podcast and sharing this with us.

Matt Sharp: Mate, not a problem. Really, really happy to be here. Thanks so much for having me.

(Music plays)

Brendan Rogers: Despite Matt being a New South Welshman, I still enjoyed this interview very much. I particularly enjoyed when Matt was talking about his idea of an ideal team player and the only examples he could give were both Queensland State of Origin players.

Matt and I have a very similar background with leadership in sport, specifically being captain of a semi-professional team at a young age. It was this experience that Matt learned so much from and on reflection has helped him make the successful transition from a corporate role into building his own real estate buyer's agent business.

These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Matt.

My first key takeaway. Leaders take ownership. Matt spoke about this specifically in relation to rugby league, but as he also said, it applies equally across business. A leader takes ownership of their preparation and their performance. They take ownership of any situation and feedback they are given or in providing feedback to others. They hold themselves to high standards and keep themselves and others accountable to those high standards. Taking ownership is a prerequisite for being a true leader.

My second key takeaway. If people feel valued, they will go the extra mile. If people don't feel valued, how can they be happy? And as Matt said, if you aren't happy, you aren't performing at your best. Connecting with people as real people helps to make them feel valued. Combine this with clarity around how the person's job contributes to the overall success forms a powerful foundation for high performance.

My third key takeaway. The ideal team player is humble, hungry and people smart. I know Matt hasn't read the ideal team player book by Patrick Lencioni, but he perfectly explained a number of attributes of ideal team players just based on his experience.

Humble. There is no ego. They give for the team first. They know how they contribute to the team. They are willing and committed to buy into a common goal.

Hungry. They turn up every day, they do extras. They push themselves out of their comfort zone to make themselves and the team better.

People smart. They connect on a human level with other team members. They know how and when to provide feedback to others and they understand how their words and actions impact on the team. Oh, and as Matt referred to, ideal team players are also Queenslanders.

So, in summary, my three key takeaways were: leaders take ownership; if people feel valued, they will go the extra mile; the ideal team player is humble, hungry, and people smart.

If you have any questions or feedback about this episode, please feel free to send me a message at brendan@brendanrogers.com.au.

Thank you for listening. Stay safe. Until next time.


Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.