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Are High Performing Agents Great Team Leaders?

The answer to that question is maybe yes, maybe no. I'd love to say we built our high performing team with my great leadership and people skills, but I know better. I found out I'm a "rainmaker" not necessarily a great team builder and leader. Here's how I found out.

Before I got into residential, I was a commercial agent for 14 years. I was with two different companies during that time so that was where my total knowledge of how teams worked came from.

We met once a week, discussed our transactions, and that was pretty much it. There was no coaching, suggestions, mentoring, sharing of ideas, nor guidance. I never received a single lead from our company during that entire 14 years. I had administrative support, and that's it. I just assumed all teams worked the same way and maybe they did in commercial.

When I moved over to the residential side in 1998, I already had my broker's license. I didn't want to join a company (stubbornness) so I started out as a lone wolf working out of the house and learning the business literally from the ground up. Within about 5 years I'd built a pretty recognizable brand name in my area of specialty so I decided I was ready to start a team. I was wrong.

We had a mix of new and experienced agents on our teams. I was always there when the agents needed advice or to go with them on a listing appointment but I didn't take on the role of mentoring I should have. I didn't have the time I was so busy working my deals.

Our team met once a week to discuss transactions and that was it, just like what I was used to. I provided the administrative support, but other than that, we were all working our own transactions. Agents would periodically come and go and there was no stability.

I also found out I really wasn't doing any better financially with a team than when I was on my own, so why bother? The teams eventually dissolved on their own and I was back to the lone wolf life. But that wasn't the answer either.

I got busier and busier through the years and had no polished systems and agents in place to take some of my overflow. I was back to working day and night with awful hours and without a break. My vacations were spent on the phone working deals. It finally dawned on me having a team really was the answer but the team building had to be done the right away. I told you I was stubborn.

Erin Clifford, in her second year as an agent, was my only other agent when we joined Keller Williams in 2013. I told her I absolutely had to make the move to KW for my own sanity. It was never for leads, and to this day I've never received or expected one through KW, but to learn how to build a great team. The decision to come over to KW changed the course of both of our careers.

About a year after I joined KW, I was told in a nice way I was "uncoachable" by my coach. Looking back, he was right and we've remained good friends.

It's my nature to have to be proved something isn't going to work before I accept it. I continued to try things "my way" rather than listening to people who had already been there and done that. That's when I realized I needed to start relying on Erin more.

Eventually I handed the reins over to Erin. Since then we've refined our database, recruited agents wisely, and built a scalable business with our systems. So how have we done as a team?

With only 9 agents and 3 administrative assistants, we closed on $122 million in 2022. As of July of 2023, we're already at $95 million closed and in title. Our relatively small team finished #2 in the entire KW North Texas/New Mexico region and we'll smash last year's sales volume this year.

Best of all, our agents and admins are all happy. We haven't lost an agent or administrative assistant in over two years. That's pretty unusual in an industry where agents tend to jump around from company to company. I bring our agents in to work with me on all of the deals I generate and at the same time they're doing a great job bringing in their own business.

We don't follow the typical Keller Williams model by any stretch of the imagination. We've had learn by trial and error what works best and then go with it. But the coaching Erin has been taking has been invaluable.

Could I have built this wonderful team without Erin? Absolutely not and I've always been the first to admit it. I wasn't ready to put in the work and time that's needed to build and keep a great team.

My advice to any agent thinking about building a real estate team is be honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. You might be a very high producing agent but that doesn't automatically make you an exceptional team leader.

If you're not sure to commit the time and energy to develop the leadership skills find someone who does and also shares your vision of your team. Then get out of the way and let them do it.

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