Mastering momentum: 7 secrets every CEO must know for ensuring results | Inquirer Business

Mastering momentum: 7 secrets every CEO must know for ensuring results

/ 02:03 AM July 17, 2023



I work closely personally with some of the wealthiest people on the planet and with business leaders across all industries. Many clients of my global strategy and management consulting firm ask me and my team how to ensure their people get things done faster and become masters at execution.

Ideas are a dime a dozen. But execution is king. Great ideas are nothing without proper execution.


It is no surprise, therefore, that efficient execution is the hallmark of the world’s best-performing companies. And if you want your business to rise to the top and stay there, you must ensure that your people execute. Here are the no-nonsense, no-BS seven secrets for CEOs, presidents and business owners to ensure your people get things done.


Secret 1: You cannot be too hands-off

There is a reason why many of the wealthiest CEO entrepreneurs in the world, such as Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos, are very hands-on. Elon Musk’s involvement in his businesses is legendary.

A good example would be his approach to the production issues of the Tesla Model 3 in 2018. When faced with bottlenecks at Tesla’s Fremont factory, Musk took control of the production line personally. He reportedly slept on the factory floor and worked incredibly long hours to fix issues holding back production. He called this period “production hell.”

Is that comfortable? No. Would he instead relax at home or play video games? Sure. But look where he is now.

The two types of Asian CEOs

If you are at the top, execution starts with you. Many Asian entrepreneurs, business owners and CEOs do not realize that and are too hands-off.

When headlining one of the largest retail conferences in Southeast Asia, after my opening keynote, it was one of my duties to give a few TV interviews and then open the adjacent retail exhibition with the head of the 10th wealthiest family in Asia.

When we walked over the expo together, her attention to detail and knowledge was exemplary. She was interested in even the most minor details that could give her an edge and further unlock new business opportunities for her multibillion-dollar empire.


When my company and I consulted for her family’s business, her work ethic was the stuff of legends across the entire conglomerate. From knowing even the most intricate details of the business to going out into the field to check on suppliers, she was not shy to get her hands dirty whenever needed. This included working on Sundays and being among the few in the office during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Secret 2: Set very short deadlines

Some business owners check back with their top generals in six months only to find out stuff didn’t get done. Hold everyone, including yourself, on a tight leash. That means having very, very short deadlines. If you have longer-term projects, break them down into milestones and check in with others —and yourself—in regular, short intervals.

This uses another law of performance: Parkinson’s Law and the magic of the imminent deadline. The law is often stated as: “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.”

In simple terms, this means that the amount of work required adjusts (usually increasing) to the time allotted for its completion. If you give a task two weeks to complete, it will take two weeks. If you assign the same task with a deadline of two days, it will get completed in two days.

Recently, one of our Asian family business owner clients, who is also the CEO, told me about an urgent new digital product launch. His chief technology officer (CTO) had told him they still needed a month. I analyzed the project and told the owner that this could easily be done in half the time and that his CTO was lazy. Then he told his CTO to do it in half the time. And guess what? They did!

In the context of business performance, this can have significant implications. Parkinson’s Law suggests that by setting shorter deadlines, work can often be completed more efficiently and quickly. This doesn’t mean stress or overwork but instead challenges individuals or teams to focus, prioritize and work more effectively within the time they have.

Secret 3: “Monkey see, monkey do”—Lead by example

The third-generation owner of a well-known European family business conglomerate came to us to future-proof their business and help them professionalize. This included drastic turnarounds in some of their businesses; pivoting and cost-cutting to stop the bleeding where businesses were no longer profitable.

However, the president/owner spent more time horseback-riding (her passion) than working in the office. Of course, the entire team’s performance was substandard because people looked to the top and then imitated behavior.

As a result, everybody was slacking off. And the cost cuts never happened.

Secret 4: Time beats talent—you have to put in the hours

There is no substitute for doing the (hard) work. We call that the “shit sandwich.” Everything comes at a price and in business, that is usually long hours and attention to detail.

Putting in whatever it takes to reach your goals at work means “volume.” Volume makes luck obsolete. You cannot rely on luck, but you can rely on volume.

If you find this challenging, create a big image in your mind of your ultimate goal and realize that sacrifices have to be made, and they are usually higher than we would like. American self-made multi-billionaire Ray Dalio calls that “first order” versus “third order consequences.” You may know this rule exemplified in the simple “You cannot have your cake and eat it too.”

Secret 5: Consider the role of chair

If you are at the top of your business but all of this still sounds too complicated or too much work, or you think this may not be ideal for you, consider giving up the CEO or president role and become the chair instead. There is no shame in that. The only thing that counts is what is best for your business.

In my global practice as a management guru, I have experienced firsthand that many businesses blossomed after the owners had taken that step. As a result, they can now focus on strategy, vision and oversight while someone else puts in all the hours for the day to day.

Secret 6: Be ruthless when following up with people

This means: ruthlessly following up with people, digging deep into why things are not working or delayed, finding root causes, hiring and consulting external experts, and so on.

Being relentless takes work. The alternative is to brush over things so you can be done faster and play more golf. But remember: one small hole can sink an entire ship. If you miss one or two major strategic decisions, your business may join the infamous failures of corporate history.

Secret 7: Be clear on the carrot and the stick

People work best on a “reward” plus “punishment” system. This means you need to establish a carrot, a reward for reaching targets, and a punishment if people do not reach them. Combine them and you create a powerful forward-propelling motion for performance. Drop one of them and the performance of your teams may go below average. INQ

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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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