Mass control: how to build an army of committed employees who will fight your battles for you | Inquirer Business

Mass control: how to build an army of committed employees who will fight your battles for you

/ 02:04 AM October 17, 2022


Most companies do not understand the true principles behind personal performance, dedication and commitment. Why then are some companies able to attract top talent, retain them and get the best out of their teams while others seem to fight an endless uphill battle trying to motivate employees?

The postpandemic world has made this worse. In a talk I recently gave to a group of Asian entrepreneurs, a few of them shared that they have encountered completely new challenges with their people as a result of the pandemic. Existing employees and new hires are more demanding than ever before. They want more money for less work. They come up with all sorts of new needs and requirements. A lot of them never want to go back to being full time at the office. And the list goes on and on.


The group of entrepreneurs asked me, “Because you and your teams work with clients around the world, is this a problem that just exists in the region, or is this global?” “This is a global challenge,” I replied. “It is one of the effects of the pandemic that has changed our global and national economic order. Unfortunately, some of these effects will be here to stay, at least for a while.”

“Should we give in to these demands?” asked a CEO who is also a member of the family that owns the conglomerate he works for. “Should we tolerate giving people more for less?”


“No,” I answered. “Why?” he asked.

What is the one thing you have full control over?

There are several reasons why this is the start of a downhill slope for most businesses.

In the world of business, the only thing you have 100-percent control over is your productivity: your own, your team’s and that of your business. Therefore, your goal should be to constantly increase that productivity. It will put you in a better position to grow and expand your business. It will also empower you to tackle any new challenges that the market will throw at you and to seize new opportunities that will come up.

Productivity is even more important in the “VUCA” world: the world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity that we find ourselves in today.

The secret is: one drop in the productivity of one employee harms the productivity of other surrounding employees. A wrong sense of entitlement, of receiving more for less, can spread like a virus through your entire company. You need to cut it out like cancer before it spreads.

Stop tolerating mediocrity!

Most companies tolerate mediocrity far too much and for too long. The Philippines is no exception. This is aggravated in the local economy by the fact that a lot of companies could easily boost profits by streamlining processes, running operations more efficiently and not employing so many people.

A lot of Filipino companies could even achieve more output and become more profitable with only two-thirds of their workforce. What does this mean for you?


It means that the odds are that whichever company you are in, people are already not operating at their best and have already regressed into being comfortable, and not living up to their full potential.

How to create an environment for top talent

Human beings are happiest and more fulfilled the more they are growing. This is even more true for top talent. Top talent is attracted to and thrives in high-performance environments.

The opposite is also true: you repel top talent by tolerating and creating a mediocre and average-performance work culture.

I will share an example of one of our clients in the region, a several decades-old family business. The CEO spent half of his time in meetings, and most of them were unproductive. On top of it, there were far too many people attending each meeting. In one of them, we counted 30 people, of whom only three spoke during the entire meeting. A complete waste of time and productivity!

Death by PowerPoint

When we started our fact-finding phase, in which we analyzed the root causes of the major challenges the organization was facing, we quickly found out what the CEO was missing. The majority of the board members and key leaders in the company knew that the CEO was easily distracted by beautifully made presentations. The more beautiful they were, the less he was asking the difficult questions, the less he was probing for answers, and the less he was searching for problems.

So a fair amount of teams within the business spent 50 percent of their time producing beautiful PowerPoint presentations to distract the CEO from the real facts and their mistakes. It worked.

The deeper we got into our investigation, the more it became clear to us that most departments had applied a simple formula: the more they had to hide, the more beautiful the presentations became to cover up the real facts.

In your opinion, how much top talent was that company able to attract?

Your goal: get and keep the 10s

Your ideal goal should be to only attract 10/10s-top talent. While this may seem like a distant goal for most, it should still be your north star. Do not tolerate a lack of accountability and low performance. Build a culture that holds people ruthlessly accountable. And put your finger on it—spell things out.

If someone says, “Marketing made a mistake,” ask, “Who exactly made that mistake in marketing?” Only if you keep individuals accountable for their performance and their mistakes can you build a culture in which people are happy to constantly outperform each other, the competition—and themselves.

Accountability means that you have to have the willingness to lead difficult conversations, and hold others in your business responsible to do the same.

The missing piece

This brings to mind another example of one of our clients in the region. A board member was not only vastly underperforming but also the completely wrong fit for the role. We found that out during our fact-finding phase after the owners requested our support to boost their profits and expansion, and future-proof their conglomerate. What happened: all board members talked behind the owner’s back about the bad performance of that particular main board member, but no one openly addressed that to the owner.

Why? The good old Asian sugarcoating challenge. No one wanted to be the bad messenger. And no one wanted to openly point out their colleague’s flaws and shortcomings, especially not in front of the owner.

Because my company and I have developed a process over many years—by which we get people to talk openly about challenges—when we talked to the board members and the key leaders within the organization, we quickly found out about these challenges and were able to deliver the hard facts to the owner who finally had a real picture of reality.

3 action steps

1. Remind yourself daily that the only thing you have 100 percent control over is your productivity: that of your own, your team’s and that of your business.

2. Stop tolerating mediocrity!

3. Build a culture of ruthless accountability.

Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates.

For more information and inquiries: or email [email protected]

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