7 Ways to Become a Better Leader

Written by Charles Ngo
Written by Charles Ngo

One of the most important steps for you to build a successful company is to start hiring people.
It’s not easy.
I hired my first employee 8 years ago and I’m still learning about people every day.
But I noticed most people will ask these type of questions:

  • What website do you use to find employees?
  • What kind of questions should I ask?
  • How much should I pay them?
  • Are you remote or do you have an office?

The truth is…these questions don’t matter in the big picture.mi
What makes a bigger impact is your ability to be a better leader.
Imagine trying to row a boat, and everyone is rowing in a different direction. Or no one’s following your orders to row to the tempo.
Think about how much time, energy, and money it takes to hire a good employee. And think about them leaving because they don’t enjoy the work environment.
They don’t teach you real leadership skills in school. I’m not going to say I’m an authority on leadership, but I’ve come a long way within the past few years.
I’ve noticed a lot of affiliate marketers have struggled with this.
I grew up a nerd. I didn’t play sports growing up or have any leadership roles in school.
I’m an introvert. I’d rather be alone than surrounded by people. After I graduated from Georgia Tech, I only spent 6 months working before I blew up in affiliate marketing.
Can you relate to any of these traits?
But remember that leadership is a skill. You can learn how to be a better leader.
I’m going to share with you some lessons that I had to learn the hard way.

1. Get the Right People Onboard

My friend was excited to finally hire a rockstar programmer.
This guy was a dream on paper. He had a computer science degree from Stanford, and he did work for two different startups.
But right from the beginning, there were a ton of problems with his personality.
He would show up to team meetings, and be glued to his cell phone. Women HATED working with him because he would always make awkward comments about their looks.
When milestones weren’t met, he was quick to blame everything on his teammates.
People hated working with him.
It was a difficult situation for my friend, because this guy produced world class work. There was no denying that he was amazing at what he does.
What would you do in this situation? Would you keep someone who is producing A+ work, but is being a diminisher to the rest of your team?
I told him he should fire the guy.
The comments against his female co-workers shouldn’t be tolerated and put the company at risk of sexual harassment lawsuits.
He also created a toxic environment for everyone, and you don’t want his mindset contaminating the rest of the workforce.
He ended up firing him.
Yes it was a pain in the ass to replace him talent-wise. But the morale of the office improved. Everyone else’s work quality improved.

You Need to Test if Someone’s a Good Culture Fit.

When you’re first hiring someone, you should test to see how their ability to do the work. But you also need to test if they’re going to be a good culture fit.
Zappos does something interesting. They’ll hire a person and train them. After 4 weeks they’ll offer the candidate $2,000 cash if they quit. Why do this test? Because they wanna make sure anyone at Zappos is someone who wants to be there.
The easiest way to do this is to establish a set of core values that the company stands for, and to test for it.
#1 I am HUGE on self-improvement. If someone doesn’t exercise then that’s a red flag for me. If they can’t make the time to take care of their bodies, then that shows me they have issues with prioritization / time management.In the interview process I will ask people what their exercise regime / diet is like.
#2 Do you want someone on your team who always blames others for their mistakes? Probably not. Then ask them about a time they made a mistake at work and how they handled it.
#3 I can’t stress this enough…. CHECK THEIR REFERENCES. Talk to the bosses and ex-coworkers. They’ll tell you what kind of person they are. Talent and intelligence are important, but you also have to make sure the person “fits” with the rest of your company.

2. Learn How to Be a Better Communicator

I’m not an emotional person.
I like to be blunt, effective, and to get straight to the point.
Let me tell you a story about myself…
I hate giving compliments to people.
I never received compliments growing up. My dad never told me “good job”, but instead he would tell me how I could’ve done things better.
The first compliment I ever received was when I got accepted into Georgia Tech. It felt like a mental orgasm.
So when I started giving compliments to my employees their first reaction was…
“Wait what…is this a trick?”
It’s important to learn how to communicate with others.
I can take blunt criticism because I’ve been receiving that my entire life. But some other people can’t. You need to work with their style.
Here’s an example.
#1 Bad:

“Are you fucking serious? I could hire someone in the Philippines for $5/hr that could do a better job than you.”

This is something I actually said a few years ago.

#2 Good:

“I loved how you put a ton of effort into the design. I noticed the details on the landing page.
However, I think we could’ve improved in regards to the questions. I think I could’ve given highlighted the importance of the questions before I assigned you the task.
Do you think we can give this another try with more focus on the questions?”

What’s the difference?

  • I used WE instead of you
  • Focused on telling them what I DO like about their work
  • We talked about what I could’ve done better as a manager

Imagine if you’re an employee. Would you work harder if your boss talked to you like I did in #2? A lot of people would quit if someone talked to you like #1.
One of my friends Ruben has an interesting way of talking about his company.
He always referred to his employees as his “colleagues” and “teammates.” This whole time I thought he was actually an employee, but he owns the company.
Ruben does this so that everyone feels more like a team and will work better together.
I have an executive assistant.
But I don’t tell people that my assistant will help us coordinate a meeting, I tell them that my colleague will help us.
I don’t know if she notices it, but it’s my way of making everyone feel like we’re a team.

3. Know Your Team

One of the best books I’ve read on leadership is actually a book on relationships.
It’s called the 5 Love Languages.
Basically, people can show and receive their love in different ways.

  • Acts of service
  • Gifts
  • Words of Affirmation
  • Quality Time spent.
  • Physical touch.

How do I receive Love?
I absolutely hate gifts.

  • I’m a picky person and I’m trying to be a minimalist.
  • I don’t need much. It makes me feel guilty if I know someone’s not doing well financially, and they used their resources on me.

I love acts of service.
I’m super busy so if someone can help me with an errand or make my life easier, I love them.

How do I show love?

I don’t show love through physical touch. Asian people don’t really hug much.
My point is, everyone on your team is different. You need to cater how you treat and talk to them according to their personality.

  • One person is sensitive to negative criticism. Now that I know this, I make sure to word my feedback carefully.
  • Another person cares a lot more about “recognition.”
  • In general, there are people who like “Projects” and other people who like “Processes”

How can you know your team better?
Well one is there are a ton of tests you can give (Pro tip: I give these tests to people right before the final stage of hiring)

Another one is to get to know them a bit on the personal level.

4. Give Feedback Often

Some companies only do formal reviews or feedback once a year.
It’s also important for feedback to be a two-way street. You want an environment where your employees are comfortable giving you feedback on how to improve.
Here are a few thing I do:

  • We have 1 on 1 meetings each month for 30 minutes. This isn’t just to talk about work. I’m curious about their personal life. John’s work performance has suffered the past two weeks? I find out that his dog died 🙁
  • Do they have issues with someone else on the team? It’s easy to squash it now when the problem’s small, then ignore and both of them end up quitting.
  • We also have something called the weekly reflection. What did we do well as a team? What could we have done better?

5. Give People Ownership

No one wants to feel like they’re a “cog” in the system. Give people the ability to make decisions, and go with it even if you disagree.
Here’s an example from a few months ago:
We needed to switch to a better project management software. What we were using wasn’t cutting it anymore.
I gave the task to an employee to research and make a proposal.
I didn’t like her choice of software, and felt there were better ones out there.
But I sat back and trusted her. Because she picked the software herself, she has more “ownership” and will work harder.
And what ended up happening?
A. The software she picked is pretty fucking balling (we use Wrike btw).
B. She has complete ownership of project management and feels like it’s her “baby.”
What if you don’t like their choice?
Roll with it anyways. Because if it ends up being a bad choice, there’s a ton of power in them discovering it themselves.
There’s a huge difference in you telling them this software sucks, and them experiencing it themselves.
You gotta learn how to pick your battles.
I’m going to fight if it’s a huge decision with high stakes like strategy or hiring.
But something like what software we use, or if we should go to a conference?
Save your brainpower.

6. How Do You Treat Mistakes?

Mistakes are going to happen.
By you when you’re trying to become a better leader, and by your employees.
What matters the most is how you deal with mistakes.
Are you going to tell someone they’re an idiot, and that they’ll get fired if they make one more mistake?
If you treat mistakes too harshly then a few things will happen:

  1. People will “play it safe.”
  2. People will “hide” and cover up their mistakes.
  3. Your employees will start playing the blame game whenever there’s a mistake. Now you have people playing politics.

You can see how this can be a bad thing.
Whenever someone makes a mistake then find out:

  1. Where did things go wrong? Did you not delegate or explain the task correctly? Did they not follow the standard operating procedures?
  2. Discuss what you guys can do so this doesn’t happen again.
  3. No blame, no shame. Be objective about it and extract a lesson.

Whoever experiments the most will win. And remember, Edison failed thousands of times before he created the light bulb.
If you have a culture that is harsh on mistakes then you’ll stop being an innovative company.

7. Don’t Micro-Manage

This is something that I’ve struggled with for years.
I’m learning how NOT to be a micro-manager. I have a struggle with perfectionism.
There are a few reasons why you don’t want to be a micro-manager:

  1. You’re not focusing on your highest leverage tasks.
  2. You’re not letting your smart people…be smart.

You know what’s the most powerful feeling in the world?
Give someone a vision, and watch them come back later with a game plan.
You need to focus on the strategy, and let your colleagues handle the tactics.

Leadership is Tough But Necessary to Become A Better Leader

Learning how to be a leader is tough.
People are emotional and complex. Every person has a different button.
Don’t just give up and say you suck at leadership. If you wanna grow your affiliate empire you need to learn how to manage people and get the best from them.

Mistakes are gonna happen though…

Last year I rounded up 11 of the biggest super affiliates in the game.
I asked them what their biggest newbie mistakes were, then got all the answers made up into a PDF.
Click here to download the PDF (It’s free :))

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                The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

The posts published by Charles are prepared and analyzed, including the author’s own experience…

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