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Happy New Year!


 It's now 2013, and if 2012 wasn't the End of the World for you, then perhaps good fortune awaits you in 2013!


It's also the time of the year when we set our New Year resolutions and goals (again), and hopefully you will get to achieve some, if not all, of the goals you have set this year.


Hence, this month's topics:

  1. Sun Tzu and the Art of Achieving HARD Goals; and

  2. Why do So Many Goals End Up in Failure?

This issue's main article is on "Sun Tzu and the Art of Achieving HARD Goals?", and we will share with you some insights of what kinds of goals will motivate you to move mountains and rivers to achieve them.


In brief:

  • Why most of us are not motivated to achieve our goals, and what needs to be done to set those goals that will inspire and motivate us beyond our limits;

  • Setting goals without allocating the right resources and taking the right actions is the same as dreaming, and here are some tips on how you can turn your dreams into reality;

  • Find out why easy-to-reach goals seldom motivate people, while challenging and difficult goals can motivate us to move mountains and rivers to achieve them.  That is as long as we believe in the meaning of our goals.  Read on... ...

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Sun Tzu and the Art of Achieving HARD Goals

by c.j. Ng


It's the time of the year for Tracy to make her New Year resolution (again). 


Objectively, Tracy almost has never achieve her New Year resolutions.  In fact, she tends to forget what was her New Year resolution by the end of February.


This year though, things are a bit different.  Due to the rather turbulent economy, the company which Tracy is working in has a restructuring.  As a result of the restructuring, Tracy is faced with more responsibilities, and has to shoulder a near-impossible performance target.  In fact, since no one in the company has ever achieved such targets at all, it could be deem as a "mission impossible", let alone that she now has a lot more work to do than before.


In addition, Tracy is overweight.  And not just a little.  In fact, her doctor is telling her that she has mild hypertension and high blood sugar.  If she does not watch out, she might suffer from a heart attack in 5 years.  She has to change her diet.


It's not that Tracy does not know anything about the importance of a healthy diet.  She has tried numerous diets in the past, only to give up the soonest she saw signs of reduction in her weight.  Tracy also has a tendency to binge on very unhealthy food when she's under stress.  Given her targets and workload this year, it's going to be a real uphill battle for her.


It seems that Tracy's New Year resolution is screwed even before she has begun.  However, this year Tracy decides to do some soul searching and explore different strategies that perhaps help her to achieve both her goals.


Sun Tzu and the Art of Goal Setting

While business is not really war, people working in businesses and other organisations sure feel as if they are fighting a war everyday.  In fact, many business terminologies such as "strategy", "logistics", and even "training" originate from the business of waging wars.  Hence, we can refer to Sun Tzu's Art of War (孙子兵法), one of the earliest military strategy treatise in the world, to understand what are the main ingredients that make successful strategies.  They are:
  • The Way (or Vision)     

  •  The Climate                   

  •  The Ground                   

  • The Leadership             

  •  The Methods                  

In particular, the first and foremost factor to consider here is "The Way" or "The Vision".  In Sun Tzu's Art of War, it is elaborated as "the idea that will make people agree with their leaders, make them die or live for, and never be afraid of the dangers or risks involved"(道者,令民于上同意,可与之死,可与之生,而不畏危也)
To understand further on how we can verbalise "The Way" or "The Vision" of our goals, we can borrow a simple goal setting model from Leadership IQ called HARD Goals, and they are:
  • H - Heartfelt
  • A - Animated
  • R - Required
  • D - Difficult
Let's start with the easiest concept, "Required".  Simply put, it can be translated as "What Will Happen If Nothing Is Done?"
In Tracy's case, if she doesn't meet her targets, she could be fired or transferred to some undesirable positions.  If she does not change her diet, well, she could die or be critically ill.
Still, this is not enough to motivate someone.  Many smokers know and believe that smoking is harmful to their health.  In other words, if they smoke too much it will cause health problems.  That hasn't changed their behaviour to quit or cut down on smoking.


Making Your Goals Heartfelt and Animated


To make sure your goal is motivating or engaging enough, it has to resonate with you.  While there are many ways to make your goals resonate with you, one effective way is to determine if your goal is NOBLE enough.  NOBLE stands for:

  • Name a party

  • Other than ourselves who will

  • Benefit from this goal

  • Like customers or

  • End users

In other words, is there someone else that we care for who will also benefiting from our goals?  In Tracy's case, she has a 10-year-old son whom will want to have a healthy mum.  If the targets are not achieved, it is not just Tracy's career that will be badly affected.  Everyone on her team will be affected by her poor performance too.


More importantly, Tracy believes that her company's products are good and they provide real value to their customers.  If they are able to reach out to more customers, then more people will benefit from their products.  If she becomes healthier, she will then have the required energy to make new initiatives to get more customers benefit from her company's products.


Tracy also needs to also move beyond feeling that her goal is Heartfelt and Required.  She has to get Animated as well.  She has to be brutally honest to herself to foresee how tough it will be to achieve her goals.  She can also predict the sense of exhilaration once she achieved her goals.


In addition, Tracy needs to have an action plan that will encompass factors such the "Climate", "Ground", "Leadership", "Methods".  In particular, she has to map out what methods or means is she going to achieve her goals.  Perhaps Tracy will need to bring her own healthy food to the office and stay away from tempting but unhealthy food.  Perhaps Tracy will need to relook at how things were done in her company, and then suggest new and more effective ways of getting things done.


Without taking into consideration of what resources are needed and how to get things done, the goal is likely to remain as a dream that cannot be turned into reality.  And Tracy has to be Animated enough to see what needs to be done to reach her goal.


Is Your Goal Difficult Enough?


Surprisingly, most of us will be de-motivated if our work is not challenging or difficult enough.


While this may run contrary to common sense, here are some reasons why challenging goals can be motivating for most people:

  • Challenging work tends to be more interesting as well;

  • People learn new things and pick up new skills when they do challenging work;

  • Only when there's challenging work will the better performers be distinguished from poorer performers, etc.


This is not to say that the work becomes so difficult that we lose all confidence or hope in completing it.  It just means that we are not doing ourselves any favour by just doing the easiest, simplest and most boring stuff that does not help you gain new skills or develop your strengths.


It also means that if you want to get ahead and be a better you this year compared to last year, you have to go the extra mile.  Some people might say that you need approx. 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to gain mastery in your chosen field.  2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu said that "If you can march 1,000 miles and not feel tired, you are undefeatable"  (行千里而不老者,行于无人之地也).  This holds true even till today.


Need help in getting you and your team achieve yours goals for this year and beyond? Simply e-mail info@directions-consulting.comm or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001

Power Breakfast Hour: 20 Feb 2013

Sun Tzu and the Art of Achieving HARD Goals

  • Why most of us are not motivated to achieve our goals, and what needs to be done to set those goals that will inspire and motivate us beyond our limits;

  • Setting goals without allocating the right resources and taking the right actions is the same as dreaming, and here are some tips on how you can turn your dreams into reality;

  • Find out why easy-to-reach goals seldom motivate people, while challenging and difficult goals can motivate us to move mountains and rivers to achieve them.  That is as long as we believe in the meaning of our goals.


VENUE: Crowne Plaza Shanghai • 400 Panyu Road (near Fahuazhen Road) • 上海银星皇冠酒店 • 番禺路 400 号 (靠法华镇路)

DATE: Wednesday, 20 Feb 2013

TIME: 08:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.




To make this a more conducive discussion, we are expecting a small group of about 15 people only. The room can only take in 18, so please register early to avoid disappointments. Please e-mail your registrations to


Pls. check out our web sites and for more inspiration.

Upcoming Events

Due to an increased number of experiential teambuilding workshops and in-house training during this period, including:

  • GlaxoSmithKline R&D;

  • Saint Gobain Isover;

  • Jumeirah Himalayas Shanghai;

  • AmCham Shanghai; etc.


Hence, we are postponing other public events till further notice. Your patience and understanding is appreciated.

Tips for Managers:

Why do So Many Goals End Up in Failure?

Q&A with Mark Murphy

Founder and CEO, Leadership IQ


Q: Why do so many goals end up in failure?


MM: Many corporations have formal goal-setting systems, like SMART Goals, to help employees develop and track their goals. But a big part of the problem as to why those goals are not being realized is that people and organizations get so hung up on making sure their goal-setting forms are filled out correctly, checking and double checking that their goals are realistic and achievable, that they neglect to answer the single most important question: Is this goal even worth it? And then, if it is ‘worth it,’ if it is a goal worthy of the challenges and opportunities we face, we next need to ask: How do we sear this goal into our minds, make it so critical to our very existence that no matter what obstacles we encounter, we will not falter in our pursuit of this goal?  That’s why Leadership IQ teaches HARD Goals.


Q: Why do HARD Goals work?


MM: Leadership IQ research found a distinguishing characteristic in the people who set and achieve extraordinary goals. And it isn’t daily habits, or raw intellect, or how many numbers you can write on a worksheet that defines that success. It’s actually the engagement of your brain. When your brain is humming with a goal, as happens with HARD Goals, everything you need to take your goal and run with it falls into place. But when your brain is ho-hum about your goals, all the daily rituals and discipline in the world won’t help you succeed.


The way to achieve any goal (health, financial, career, business, etc.) is to seek HARD goals—so whether you set a goal to save money, lose weight, hit a sales target or invent better products, every goal you set has to meet the following criteria:


  • Heartfelt—you’ve got to have an emotional attachment to your goal; it has to scratch an existential itch.

  • Animated—goals need to be motivated by a vision, picture or movie that plays over and over in your mind.

  • Required—it needs to feel so urgently necessary that you have no other choice but to start acting on them right here, right now.

  • Difficult—goals need to drag you out of your comfort zone, activating your senses and attention.


Q: That’s quite different from SMART Goals, generally defined as: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Limited. What do you say to someone who says, “But everyone else is using SMART Goals, why shouldn’t I?”


MM: Look, from Einstein to Bill Gates to the late, great Steve Jobs, the greatest thinkers and leaders in history saw opportunities that others didn’t see. The people who achieve the extraordinary don’t just use the same warmed-over ideas as everyone else and they don’t just do what everyone else is doing. They are bold and they do what is right for them, and part of that is in how they set and go after their goals.


Steve Jobs made a career out of doing extraordinary things that quite frequently others said couldn’t be done, and trust me, no goal he ever set would pass the Achievable and Realistic test for a SMART Goal. He had the courage to change his mind, to say “this isn’t working for me” and to try something new.


Lots of leaders and organizations say they want to take the world by storm, to create the next iPod or whatever great thing it is, but then they go right back to running things like they’ve always done. And if you do things the same way they’ve always been done, you’re going to keep getting the same results.


Too often SMART Goals act as impediments to, not enablers of, bold action, and actually encourage mediocre and poor performance. “Hold on a minute,” SMART goals seem to say. “Don’t push beyond your resources, don’t bite off more than you can chew, play it safe and stay within your limitations.” Even a factor like Specific, which sounds okay, can suck the life out of goals. For most people Specific means turn your goal into a number and jot it down (e.g. I want to lose a specific weight, like 27 pounds, or meet a specific sales target, or whatever).


But that definition of “specific” pales in comparison to the intensely-pictured Animated goals of achievers like Jobs and others. Sure they’ve got a number, but they also know what their body looks like 27 pounds from now, what clothes they’ll be wearing, even how they’ll feel when they no longer carry the weight. For them, 27 pounds isn’t an abstract concept or a number on a form; it’s a vision into the future that feels so real, it’s as if it’s already happened. And SMART Goals just don’t do that. However, there are steps you can take to make SMART Goals more powerful.


Q: As leaders and organizations head into 2013 what goal-setting advice can you offer them?

MM: It’s a truly unsettling world right now. But we all know that denial, blame, excuses and anxiety are not going to make it any better. We need to harness the energy of this moment, scary though it may be, and turn it into greatness. Whether we’re going to grow our company, lose weight, run a marathon or change the whole darn world, we’re going to have to saddle up a HARD Goal and ride that sucker at a full gallop.

Too many leaders say “I have had this training,” whether it’s SMART Goals or something else, and that’s where they stay, indefinitely, even if it falls short of inspiring themselves and their employees to be more effective and to constantly reach for better and better results. Don’t be afraid to ask, “Is what I’m doing getting the best results?” And if it’s not, if you’re not getting the results you want, or you just keep getting the same results over and over again, then dare to debunk the standard practices that aren’t working for you and try something different.

Get started on your HARD Goals by attending our webinar Beyond SMART Goals. Learn how to push yourself and your people to achieve the extraordinary, even in the toughest of times.

To find out how you can set and achieve your own HARD Goals and 39 other eLearning topics by Leadership IQ, you can e-mail or call +86-136 7190 2505 or Skype: cydj001


Mark Murphy, Founder and CEO of Leadership IQ will be in Hong Kong or Mainland China from 25 Feb till 1 Mar 2013.  He will be more than happy to give face-to-face consultations with interested parties.

About Directions Management Consulting


Directions Management Consulting is the partner of LeadershipIQ in China and Asia. LeadershipIQ helps more than 125,000 leaders every year through the facts drawn from one of the largest ongoing leadership studies ever conducted is used to help companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved.


In addition, Directions Management Consulting is a leading provider of sales performance, innovation and experiential learning solutions in China and many parts of Asia. is the sales performance arm of Directions Management Consulting specialising in conducting training, research and consulting services for sales managers and their team.


Raybattle is the strategic partner of Directions Management Consulting specialising in experiential learning events and management retreats.


Currently, Directions Management Consulting has served clients such as InterContinental Hotels Group, Unilever, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Roche, Philips Lighting, Carrier, Ingersoll Rand, Freudenberg etc.


Through collaboration with consultancies such as Forum Corporation, MTI, de Bono China, ProWay etc., the consultants in Directions Management Consulting have served clients such as PwC, Air Products, Evonik, Wacker, Epson amongst others.


Directions Management Consulting will increase its efforts to conduct leadership studies in China and other parts of Asia, so that more companies apply resources where the best possible results be achieved in this part of the world.


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