"I’m very curious – about everything. To gain insight into who I am and what drives the world we live in. I like to challenge limitations to achieve a better version of ourselves."
I sit down with Myles over coffee, who is a tough person to catch for an interview. I had intentions of writing a “100 days in office” article but that didn’t happen so the determination to do a “year in review” piece was real. I remember when his appointment was announced, every screen from where I was sitting had his LinkedIn profile up on them.
The question “Who’s Myles Clarke?” was all the buzz back then.
With our office having a agile working space, I seem to end up in the same vicinity, as he sits “with the people” as I’d like to joke – and it’s opened my eyes to see his working life, albeit from a fly on the wall’s perspective. He is one busy man, evidenced by the constant stream of people asking “Do you have a minute?” as he almost succeeds in lowering himself in his seat.
“What is the one piece of advice I wish I could tell myself a year ago? Definitely this – don’t worry. It’s going to be better than you think!” Myles laughs as he continues to explain to me “ I just moved back to Ireland. I had no experience in property, well unless you count a summer internship with John Costello who is a commercial property agent!” I probe further if there was a reason for the choice, “ I was interested in property. Back in the day we had the Yellow Pages and I’d knock on the doors of property companies seeking work experience in my teens. I’m pretty sure it was the fact I owned a bicycle that landed me the job! Life took a different turn and it’s a full circle that I’m now back in this industry. My experience is in investment banking, working on a trading floor is incredibly intense and character building but nothing prepares you for the day you lead a company that is cutting edge and excellent in every way. It’s been a very fulfilling journey so far.”
I ask what first drew him to taking the job of Managing Director here in CBRE Ireland. “My first impression of the people at CBRE would be best described as professional, committed and entrepreneurial. Professional in that they set high performance standards in all they do and take pride in the quality of their work. Committed to the broader strategy of CBRE and to delivering success for clients. Entrepreneurial in seeing opportunity beyond the current horizon and have the confidence to execute new business lines. I’m constantly impressed by the people.”
We chat for a bit about our families and how everyone’s narrative is shaped by them. “Actually” he says, “I am the youngest of 6 children and we grew up in Rathfarnham – it was fairly normal upbringing …I was well looked after in a safe environment and always encouraged to do whatever it was I wanted. However, my father had poor health in the later part of his life and died young with no financial safety net – so I never take my health or finances for granted. He also didn’t have half the opportunities that the world offered me so I try to make the very best of every opportunity that comes my way and I hope my kids do the same.”
Mental wellbeing is top on his priority list, constantly challenging the business to be more open and supportive to the staff’s mental health. “I’ve an older brother who is battling mental health issues and I’ve seen how it impacts a person and people who love him immensely. We need to offer support and help, it is unfortunately a by-product of modern life.” Throughout 2019, Myles had pushed for an increased focus on mental wellness by way of talks by organisations, personal sharing by staff and meditation sessions in the office.
I broach the topic of the move back to Ireland after a 2 year hiatus from the corporate life. “I took time out to catch up with my young family and move back to Ireland as my wife and I were very committed to an Irish based education and family experience. I had supported several proptech startups and fundraising space during my time off and have a particular interest in all things blockchain and bitcoin and this technology lends itself in particular to real estate. I think this bias in my interest led me to CBRE, which was the perfect push I needed to move home.”
We talk about the year that has passed and the changes that CBRE has gone through since he’s joined. “Let’s talk about the bunker experience” he jokes. What he was referring to was the massive office renovation that we did while the business was running at 100%. We did it in 2 phases and with each phase we had half the available space and possibly trialled our flexible working policy to its fullest.
“I enjoy getting to know the clients. I am proud when CBRE is able to help them in a broad sense due to our numerous service lines and showcasing our real entrepreneurial sense of possibility. Real estate is still in the early stages of establishing itself as an asset class, as a service driven sector and as a tech enabled sector and as a result, our clients are very open to our ideas to help them realise this exciting future.” He tells me how impressed by the connection between the various CBRE offices. “It is not just an ‘arranged’ co-operation but it is cultural that ideas and client coverage is shared between Dublin and London, Amsterdam, Madrid and across the US and Asia. Dublin in no way feels like a regional office of a large US corporate but fully knitted into the global network. This is a very difficult characteristic to fabricate in a large company and something that many entities struggle to foster - so I would never take this for granted. It’s by no means perfect but I’ve seen too many examples already of it working well for our clients and our business.”
He talks about relationships a lot.
He mentions a key mentor in his life - Sir Robert Stheeman, CEO of the UK Debt Management. “He was a client who became an unofficial mentor. He is a very gracious leader who always applauds his teams, his stakeholders and gave me great advice along the way.”
"I believe in everyone’s potential and I try to develop it. Working with people who really like their jobs makes for a great environment. Too many people sadly consider their job and the company they work for as a burden and a limit to their lives. I don’t think our people feel that way here."
On the broad topic of leadership values he embodies. “I believe in everyone’s potential and I try to develop it. Working with people who really like their jobs makes for a great environment. Too many people sadly consider their job and the company they work for as a burden and a limit to their lives. I don’t think our people feel that way here.”
I ask about his latest initiative called “Open Friday” where there is an open session every last Friday of the month with himself and a member from senior management answers questions from our colleagues in an informal way. He explains “I don’t want to take things for granted. I want to example an open communication culture where I get possibly challenged on policies and decisions. Effective communication, listening, and clear and quality feedback go a long way in creating a positive and open dialogue. Let’s see how it goes!”
I learn along the way that he teaches at the Urban MBA in London. This is a charity which reaches young adults who do not have the required experience or education, and help them transform into successful entrepreneurs. “I teach economics and finance course and its energising to hear their world views and how they were conditioned and formed. They have viewpoints you won’t hear anywhere else coupled with great ideas. I hope give them the confidence to talk finance to back up their ideas.”
I ask about what motivates him on a personal level. “I’m very curious – about everything. To gain insight into who I am and what drives the world we live in. I like to challenge limitations to achieve a better version of ourselves. Doing engaging and challenging work is so important in my opinion.” “Take risks. I have to reference Nassim Taleb – he invented the phrase ‘black swans’ – things you can’t predict no matter how much information you have. He is very frustrating to read but if you stick with it, the revelations are amazing and inform better decision making.”
Risk plays a big part of leadership and the way one handles the outcome of any decision is key. “One of the earliest biggest risk I did was to undertake the Master in Economics at the London School of Economics over a ‘dream job’ in finance – a tough course to finish but the friends I made gave me a great launchpad into my 20 years of living in London. I don’t regret it.”
As we wind down our chat with talks on taking risks and making good decision calls, I ask what was the best risk he’s taken which led to the best decisions in his life, “Asking my wife to marry me and her actually saying yes! Also, children.” He laughs as I remind him he’s bringing them for our charity screening of Frozen 2 this weekend!
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