How to Make Team Building Dead Simple — Interview with Lee Adkins

Team Management
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There's a point in every successful real estate agent's life when they have to sit down and face some serious champagne troubles—namely, what to do with all this business you've generated. 

No matter how much admin help you bring on, you've got so many referrals and so much inbound business, that you can't reliably service it yourself. It's a great problem to have, but that doesn't make it any easier to solve.

What many team leaders realize the hard way is that what got you to this level, isn't at all the same as what it will take to hit the next one.

That's why we're thrilled to welcome expert coach, Lee Adkins on GrowthHouse this week. 

After six years as an active buying and selling agent, Lee was recruited as the Operations Manager for what became one of the top-performing teams in Atlanta. It was a role that suited him so well, other team leaders started asking for his team-building secret recipe.

Today, he's the Head of Growth at Amplified Solutions where he and a team of expert coaches help successful salespeople become successful business owners.

We sat down with Lee to find out how to make the leap as pain-free as possible.

Pssst, want to skip to the video? Scroll down to the bottom for the complete interview!

Table of contents

  1. The best-kept secret to team building: Start with yourself
  2. Mastering feedback: The 3-question performance review
  3. Beyond iBuyers: How to stay relevant in a fast-changing market

The best-kept secret to team building: Start with yourself

"You can't hire to your weakness or find the holes in the system if you're not honest about the things you're not good at."

Lee Adkins doesn't beat around the bush.

After decades growing enterprise and real estate businesses, he knows that honesty (when coupled with a strong dose of empathy) is the key to any high-performing team.

And according to him, it all starts by being brutally honest with yourself.

Here's how he explains it:

The trap that many team leaders fall into is they know they need to fill the gaps within their business, but they never stop and take the time to figure out exactly where those gaps are.

And that means acknowledging both your strengths and your weaknesses.

Lee recommends sitting down and taking a hard look at the things on your to-do list that never seem to get done. "I always use taxes as the example. There are people out there that are waiting to do your taxes, like, they love doing taxes. I don't get it, but I'm happy that they exist," he laughs.

Once you figure out where your gaps are, the next big challenge is to let go of the urge to simply take on more revenue-generators and focus on taking on the person who will bring the greatest overall value to your team—even if that's an operational role.

Developing an operational mindset

"Something I've done a lot of is actually helping people hire that person from out of industry. If you get people that come from a corporate background or that have had some experience in some other place or some other industry, there are usually a lot of parallels," Lee explains.

For Lee, insurance is the natural sweet spot given the number of clear parallels with the real estate industry.

"It's a really delicate balance of finding the right team agents to join because you don't want another you… you want people that are competent enough to do the work, but understand that they're paying you a portion of what they're generating because collectively, you're providing some staff, some contract-to-close, a CRM, leads—all these things that cost money," he explains.

Lee's got one of the coolest professional networks we've ever witnessed. When he's not busy building rockstar teams, you can find him speaking at leading industry events or even helping folks get their books published. Image: Lee Adkins

And according to Lee, you're never going to strike the right balance if you can't understand the true value of solid business operations.

Here are some of the signs to look for if you think you may have a breakdown in your ops:

  • High turnover in the team
  • Agents aren't following up
  • Your successful agents are lone wolves, not team players

In his past role as Operations Manager, one of the big 'aha moments' for Lee was when he finally routed all leads, communication and workflows through Follow Up Boss. It was a game-changing switch-up that required a BIG shift in mindset from his team leaders at the time.

"I always joke with one of them because every month she'd call me and be like, 'Why are we paying, you know, $800 a month on We're not getting anything from that.' I'm like, we closed $80,000 in GCI last month from You just didn't see it because it went right to an agent and the agent knew what to do with it, and we have it all tracked right here."

For team leaders, the transition from touching every little thing within the business to only having input where it's truly needed is a massive leap of faith. 

You've got to be willing to get out of your own way.

Mastering feedback: The 3-question performance review

Back in his pre-real estate days, Lee helped scale an enterprise business into multiple markets. 

The hiring challenges were real.

"I always think it's really important to dig into people's backgrounds because real estate is almost always a second, third, fourth career for people and a lot of people don't talk about what they used to do, you know, before that. And you may be bringing some skills to the table that are relevant to that."

For Lee, finding the right candidate is all about finding the right transferable skills, not necessarily experience.

Whether you opt to shell out for the experienced pro or train your talent from the ground up, Lee says the keys to success are always the same:

  • Give clear direction
  • Offer opportunities to grow (both professionally and financially)
  • Provide efficient tools and systems
  • Check in with regular one-on-ones

"Something else that I've done personally and recommend to a lot of people is having those one-on-ones. I don't know if you want to call it a 'review', especially at first, but having that honest review with the team, ideally in a one-on-one environment, and just asking the agents, 'Are you getting what you need? Why are you not making 10 calls a day? What is prohibiting you from doing that?' is important because a lot of times the agents will say, 'Well, I don't know what to say.'"

And you're never going to get those insights if you don't ask.

According to Lee, it can be as simple as asking three pointed questions:

  1. How's it going?
  2. How can I help you?
  3. Is there anything I can join you on today?

Lee recommends shadowing agents to give them real-time feedback on what is and isn't working in their calls and appointments.

According to him, at the end of the day, "it's not rocket science". It's about simply taking the time to let people know you're there if they need you.

Lee and the team at Amplified Solutions use a program called Roadmap to help business leaders break free of task-driven tunnel vision and get back to their guiding philosophies.

Here are some of the questions he'll ask:

  • What's good about the business right now?
  • What's bad?
  • What do you guys do? 
  • What’s your unique value proposition? 
  • Do you have a mission statement? 
  • What are five words you use to describe the company?
  • What are some things that are great about this company? 
  • What are some goals you've set for yourself this year?
  • What are some things that could improve? 
  • Who do you go to when you have problems?

Once they've covered the basics, Lee and the team launch an anonymous survey across the company using a similar set of questions.

"It's not the survey that's the magic, it's asking people what they need," says Lee.

A simple thing, but far too many team leaders still avoid doing it—usually because they're afraid of the answers they might get back. The good news is, that part is also much easier than you'd think.

"A lot of times it is kind of repositioning a little bit," explains Lee. "Like, hey, this person has been with you for five years, they know how everything goes. Maybe you should, you know, give them an extra 200 bucks on every closing and let them run the show."

"Another thing is people can just raise their price point, and that's another thing I always give Follow Up Boss huge props for—the fact that you can actually distribute leads potentially by price or by area or whatever, like there you go. There's your solution. Only send leads $500K and up to the team owners and let the rest of the team grow and own it."

Want to see Lee's interview in full? Watch it now!

Lee also recommends keeping your KPIs as specific as possible. "You know, like literal key performance indicators that are typically single digit numbers," laughs Lee.

For example: If this person does a great job, you're going to have five more agents by the end of the year.

"The minute you get good at having a three-person team with an assistant, then you're gonna start to have to become a six-person team with like two or three staff people, and then somebody is gonna have to manage those people."

It's always going to be a moving target.

But having someone on the team dedicated solely to the success of the team can make it easier to hit. "You've got to have someone who's forward-thinking about where it's all headed and if that's you as the leader, that's fantastic. There are people in real estate who have that skill set and are good at selling real estate."

If that's not you, that's fine, too.

One of the biggest problems that Lee's had plenty of insider access to, is the real estate industry's collective shiny object syndrome.

"But I'll also say this, also with love. Our industry really creates this [idea]... You've got to go to this conference. You've got to go to this thing. You've gotta buy this new tool. You've got to get this new software. We're using it and it's doubled our business," he laughs.

According to Lee, it's time to stop trying to do what everyone else is doing and get back to the things that make your business one-of-a-kind.

"Don't believe everything you see on Facebook or Instagram," he warns.

For Lee, it's all about knowing and owning your own business parameters via a living, breathing plan that upholds your grand vision, while making it easier to master your daily tasks.

And no, it definitely ain't easy.

Image: Lee Adkins

Beyond iBuyers: How to stay relevant in a fast-changing market

Speaking of hype, Lee's got a few thoughts on the future of real estate.

"Some big teams are having a really hard time because they want it to be more of the way it used to be, and it doesn't work that way," he explains. "You know, first off, if your reaction is to roll your eyes when somebody brings up an iBuyer when you're on an appointment, then you're you're doing it wrong."

For Lee, lasting success in the real estate business will come down to a leader's willingness to look deeply at the symptoms of how the market is shifting and develop creative ways to get ahead of current and future challenges.

In Atlanta, Lee's in the epicenter of the iBuyer debate. He knows today agents aren't just competing with other agents—they're competing with mega companies that have direct mail campaigns, TV commercials and way more marketing muscle than everyone else.

"As an industry, I think the more we can run a business more like a business, the more we will kind of gain back that respect of not being, you know, like the used car salesman type person. But I think that also includes us working with all these other options in whatever way you deem best for your business," he says.

It all comes back to having a plan. And not a perfect one, but one you can work with.

"The plan will always get better as long as you have one."

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