The Future of Intercultural Training: 4 Trends for 2020

by Nicole Barile of NB Intercultural

Nicole outlines why intercultural training is a skill we all need. Read on for this short 3 minute read. My company, ELAvate is an Asian Leader in Intercultural Inclusivity Training for Global Leaders, Sales People, Virtual Team Members and NGO volunteers. Contact us if you want a better skilled cross cultural savvy workforce. Read Nicole’s insights!

We are living in a hyper connected world. An estimated 258 million people are currently living outside of their home country. If all of those people made up their own country, it would be the fifth-largest country in the world. This number is increasing day by day and will continue to grow and impact the way we work.

Ten years ago, you may have worked mostly with colleagues in Germany and the U.K. Now, you’re more likely to work with colleagues in China, Singapore and India. Of the Global 100 companies, 27% are based in Europe (compared to 48% in 2010), 37% are based in the United States (compared to 33% in 2010) and 35% are based in Asia (compared to 19% in 2010).

As organizations become more global, intercultural understanding becomes more crucial. In addition, technology is connecting people and cultures like never before. In order to be an effective leader, business traveler and global citizen, employees must learn the right skills.

However, the way we deliver and expose people to intercultural training and information is changing. Modern learners want learning to be immediate, personalized, flexible and ongoing. They take just seven seconds to decide whether content is good. They want to be instantly wowed, they want to be challenged and they want to have fun along the way.

Taking these learner needs and desires into consideration, companies should create tailored solutions to ensure that intercultural education is part of their corporate strategy and culture. With that goal in mind, here are four trends likely to emerge in intercultural training over the next five years.

  1. Skills for All:Intercultural Training Is Not Just for Expats

Intercultural training is necessary at all levels and functions within an organization. It’s for multicultural teams and organizations, business travelers, human resources (HR) teams, short-term assignees, rotators, developmental programs and employees working on virtual teams.

You don’t have to be a large company or make international assignments to invest in intercultural training. You are most likely a global company, even if you have a single office in one country. Anyone working with partners, clients or vendors abroad will benefit from such information.

  1. Collaboration: Intercultural Training Is a Natural Partner for Other Initiatives

Organizations are starting to combine intercultural training with other learning and development (L&D) initiatives and other disciplines; it will also partner increasingly with HR, diversity and inclusion (D&I), and in-house global mobility programs.

According to 2016 research by the Association for Talent Development, only 18% of multinational companies “believed they had a strong leadership pipeline to meet their future business challenges.” Why not integrate intercultural information into your existing leadership development programs to give your people and your organization a competitive advantage?

  1. Integration: Intercultural Training Content and Delivery Is Changing as Technology Advances

Companies are increasingly integrating intercultural tools, courses and information directly into their portals and intranets. As technology advances, gone will be the days of multiple logins and cumbersome systems. Application programming interfaces (APIs) will enable more connection and sharing of information. Intercultural information will be at employees’ fingertips via texting apps, chat bots and machine learning applications.

  1. Strategic Partners: Intercultural Training Success Is About Finding the Right Partner

Strategic partners can lead you through the ins and outs of intercultural training and help you navigate your options. Many provide complete customization, alignment with your corporate culture, a better learner experience, lowered costs and increased return on investment (ROI). If you incorporate intercultural training into your mobility and development programs, or are considering doing so, you may want to speak to a strategic partner who can help guide the way.

The more connected the world becomes, the more cultural competence organizations will need. Many leading multinational organizations have developed global programs dedicated to nurturing the skills and mindset required for international growth. These companies are creating the international leaders of tomorrow.

The future of work is global. Are you ready? Contact me at ELAvate if you want to assess your organization’s intercultural leadership fitness.

Blogs I have Read in 2019 and My Top 12

I have found my reading habits have gone through an evolution over the past two years.

Two years ago…..

I read in newspaper format The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Economist and the local newspapers where I am working. Magazines were regularly bought at local shops or in the airport.

Now, I read electronically…..

Flipboard to consolidate my news for Singapore, Detroit, Global News, Canada, Weather, Social Media, and Health.

Subscribe to daily news headlines from New York Times, Forbes and Fortune Magazine and Yahoo news page before logging into email.

My daily menu of blogs includes those from INC. Magazine, Pocket, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and one of my favorite Seth’s Blog.

Weekly reading includes Mc Kinsey and Company Highlights, John Maxwell Team, Economist on line, and Training Industry Weekly and Tim Elmore’s Growing Leaders.

I hope this proves even those over 60 can adapt to technology to keep learning!!!!

Here are some of the best blogs and articles I saved during 2019 for your review and growth that I saved on

Hidden in Tom Hanks’s Emotional Golden Globes Speech Was the Best Career Advice You’ll Hear Today. Here It Is in 1 Sentence

These Are the 5 Traits of Great Leaders, According to 50 Years of Gallup Research

 The Six Morning Routines that Will Make You Happier, Healthier and More Productive

 The Art of Losing Friends and Alienating People

 Are You Gaslighting Your Child? Here Are 6 Signs

Why Asking for Advice Is More Effective Than Asking for Feedback

Tina Turner Is Having the Time of Her Life

Why the 15-Minute Daily Huddle is Critical to Scale Up Your Business

How to be persuasive: 7 secrets from hostage negotiation

To Be Happier at Work, Invest More in Your Relationships

Why Coaching Matters: How Leaders Can Become Better Coaches And Build Stronger Teams

Ten Crucial Behaviors That Keep Love Alive

Hope you enjoyed my insights and best blogs!

Have a great start to 2020!

Michael J Griffin
Founder ELAvate
John Maxwell Team Coach

2020 is Near – Are You Ready for a Great Year?

With 2020 on a few weeks away, it is time to reflect on 2019 and prepare for a more significant 2020. Here are ten questions for you to think about the past year.

1.   What life changes did you go through in 2019? What did you learn about yourself, relationships and life?

2.   List your top three accomplishments for 2019 and the impact on you and others.

3.   How would you score yourself on each of these: teachability, humility, forgiveness and patience?

4.   How was your life “balance” in 2019? Where was it in or out of balance?

5.   What goals or projects did you achieve in 2019? How do you feel about the achievements?

6.   What goals did you not accomplish in 2019? What have you learned?

7.   How generous were you last year? What did you give, do for others? How did you feel?

8.   What mistakes, regrets or failures did you make in 2019? What was the outcome for you? Did you fail forward?

9.   Evaluate yourself on your physical and spiritual health.

10. Were you able to flourish in your life purpose or calling? What were the accelerators or obstacles in your calling?

Your reflection and vision for 2020 sets the stage for you to determine your journey to significance. I have created for you a Lego House Goal Sheet that helps you plan and list out your life mission, values and goals for 2020. You ask “Lego House,” what do you mean?”

I do not believe in life balance. Most people will balance one key aspect of their life against all others. For example, you find sales people and CEO’s put their personal or company revenue targets at the expense of all other areas of their life: health, family come to mind. I call this the “Running the Rat Race.”

Instead why not lead a wholesome life that is integrated across the “Lego” building blocks that “houses” your goals to reach real success and significance?

Click on the link here to download our ELAVate Lego House 2020 Goal Sheet and explore, reflect, change and commit to integrated goals for a more wholesome life of significance in 2020.


If you need my insight, help or coaching on

Your calling, vision, focus and goals for 2020,

email me


Begin your 2019 reflection and start planning for a more fruitful 2020!

Have a great week!

Michael J Griffin

Founder ELAvate

John Maxwell Team Founder

Executive ELAvate Coach

Who is this High Performance Team?

Dr. Katzenbach and Dr. Smith of Harvard Business School have an excellent definition of High Performing Teams. Here it is (with the words in parentheses added by myself):

A small number of (high trust) people with complimentary skills who are committed to a common purpose (mission), performance goals, and approach (process) for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.

I experienced a world class high performance team recently in Singapore. Can you guess who?

1.      A group of 4

2.      Been together since 1976, formed in Dublin, Ireland

3.      Each has complimentary skills

4.      They have grossed USD 1 billion in the past ten years

5.      Their common purpose is to give you a healing experience

6.      They deliver 25 unique musical experiences that link your life and emotions

7.      They can depend on each other and are mutually accountable to serve their customers with exceptional unbelievable delivery

8.      They share their earnings from each event they do equally

9.      They are a “Band of Brothers” who love and trust each other

10.  I have seen them 10 times

11.  Elavation, Vertigo, 360, and Joshua Tree are names of  of their global work around the world

12.  Bono, Edge, Larry and Adam are their names

13.  After 42 years, they finally arrived in Singapore delivering a High Energy Performance. I was healed again.

Who is this High Performance Team? None other than the rock group U2! Enough of the written word. Here are some photos of their Singapore Joshua Tree Tour Rock concert!

Have great week listening to U2!

Michael J Griffin

Founder ELAvate

U2 Fan!

The Work of the Manager By Dr. Peter Drucker

During my morning quiet time, I always read the “The Daily Drucker.” This book is a compilation of the best of Peter Drucker’s insights.  He has been called the “Father of Modern Management.” I find it amazing his insights, advice and predictions are still very relevant today! Read his clear and concise summary of the five basic operations of all managers.

“Managers can improve their performance by improving their performance of these constituent activities.”

There are five basic operations in the work of the manager.

  • Managers, in the first place, set objectives. They determine what the objectives should be. They determine what the goals in each area of objectives should be. They decide what has to be done to reach these objectives. They make the objectives effective by communicating them to the people whose performance is needed to attain them.
  • Second, managers organize. They analyze the activities, decisions, and relations needed. They classify the work. They divide it into manageable activities and further divide the activities into manageable jobs. They group these units and jobs into an organization structure. They select people for the management of these units and for the jobs to be done.
  • Next, managers motivate and communicate. They make a team out of people who are responsible for various jobs.
  • The fourth basic element in the work of the manager is measurement. The manager establishes yardsticks – and few factors are as important to the performance of the organization and of every person in it.
  • Finally, managers develop people, including themselves.


ACTION POINT: Manage by setting objectives and organizing, motivating, communicating with, measuring, and developing people, including yourself.

Taken from Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices by Dr. Drucker


Read more about Peter Drucker’s Life and accomplishments from his Wikipedia page here

I suggest get your hands on a Drucker book and begin your learning for 2020 by absorbing and applying this man’s leadership wisdom.


Have a great week!

Michael J Griffin

Founder ELAvate

John Maxwell Team Founder

With Goals, FAST Beats SMART

Recently I read this blog from MIT Sloan Management Review,  Donald Sull and Charles Sull wrote this amazing insight in which I would like to share with you. Happy reading!

To execute strategy, leaders must set ambitious targets, translate them into specific metrics and milestones, make them transparent throughout the organization, and discuss progress frequently.

In 1954, management guru Peter Drucker introduced “management by objectives,” an approach where employees would agree with their boss on a set of goals and work toward achieving those objectives throughout the year. Not even a visionary like Drucker, however, could have predicted how thoroughly goals would come to dominate the modern workplace. In 95% of organizations, according to a recent survey, employees set goals for themselves or their teams.

When it comes to setting goals, most managers follow a well-established set of practices. They hold one-on-one meetings with their subordinates to set goals, and then they review performance against those objectives at year end and link their appraisal to promotion and bonus decisions. These same managers aspire to make their goals SMART, by ensuring they are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

The conventional wisdom of goal setting is so deeply ingrained that managers rarely stop to ask a fundamental question — does it work? The traditional approach to goals — the annual cycle, privately set and reviewed goals, and a strong linkage to incentives — can actually undermine the alignment, coordination, and agility that’s needed for a company to execute its strategy. Expecting employees to hit 100% of their targets to earn their bonus, for example, creates strong motivation for them to “sandbag” by setting conservative targets they are sure to achieve. And when goals are kept private, employees don’t know what colleagues in other teams are working on.

Goals can drive strategy execution but only when they are aligned with strategic priorities, account for critical interdependencies across silos, and enable course corrections as circumstances change. If these conditions aren’t met, every employee could achieve their individual goals, but the organization as a whole could still fail to execute its strategy.

If the traditional approach to goals cannot ensure successful strategy execution, what’s the alternative? Over the past few decades, a handful of leading companies including Google, Intel, and Anheuser-Busch InBev have pioneered and refined an alternative approach to harness the power of goals to drive and align action. To understand how this new approach works, we studied these companies and others, analyzed a proprietary data set of more than half a million goals, and reviewed the academic literature on goal setting.

We found that four core principles underpin effective goal systems, and we summarize these elements with the acronym FAST. (See “Make Goals FAST, Not SMART.”) Goals should be embedded in frequent discussions; ambitious in scope; measured by specific metrics and milestones; and transparent for everyone in the organization to see.

Make Goals FAST, Not SMART

According to conventional wisdom, goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound. But SMART goals undervalue ambition, focus narrowly on individual performance, and ignore the importance of discussing goals throughout the year. To drive strategy execution, leaders should instead set goals that are FAST — frequently discussed, ambitious, specific, and transparent.

FAST goals help organizations improve along multiple dimensions at the same time. By making goals transparent, for example, companies enable employees to align their activities with corporate strategy and to coordinate more effectively across silos. What’s more, FAST goals work well across a wide range of industries. Technology companies such as Google, Intuit, and Netflix use an approach called objectives and key results (OKRs) to put these principles into action. FAST goals are also used in companies in more traditional industries, including AB InBev, Burger King, and Kraft Heinz.

Make Goals Transparent

When Marcel Telles took the reins at a struggling Brazilian beer-maker named Companhia Cervejaria Brahma, he had no inkling that he would help pioneer a new approach to managing goals. Prior to joining the company as CEO in 1989, Telles had been a trader, and he wanted to bring the transparency of the trading floor to the century-old brewer. He tore down walls and cubicles and created an open office where managers posted their goals and current performance for all to see.

As it has grown — through a series of mergers and acquisitions — into AB InBev, the largest and most profitable beer-maker in the world, the company has maintained the practice of making employees’ goals public. Google follows a similar approach, posting all employees’ current and past goals on its internal employee directory right beside their title and contact information.

Some executives assume that transparency is fine for AB InBev or Google but would never mesh with their corporate culture. Our research, however, suggests that employees across a wide range of organizations prefer transparent goals. We have analyzed metadata from more than 600,000 goals from customers of BetterWorks, an enterprise software company in Redwood City, California, that’s funded by John Doerr, the chairman of venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and the leading proponent of OKRs. BetterWorks provides a platform for users to set and manage their own goals as well as view or comment on colleagues’ objectives. Each time employees create a goal, they have the option of making it visible to all users on the system. Those who are reluctant to make their goals public can keep them private.

Aggregating these individual choices across a range of companies, we found that users made more than 90% of their goals public. The percentage of public goals, moreover, was virtually the same whether an organization was public or private, small or large, a Silicon Valley technology company, or a more traditional enterprise. To be sure, some goals should remain private (particularly those dealing with sensitive personnel decisions, legal issues, or pending acquisitions). But in the vast majority of cases, users believe the benefits of transparency outweigh the costs.

Making goals public can boost performance by introducing peer pressure, showing employees what level of performance is possible, and helping them locate colleagues in similar situations who can provide advice on how they can do better. When Telles extended public goals from Brahma’s headquarters to its individual breweries, for instance, managers of underperforming plants reached out to their counterparts in higher performing facilities for tips on how to improve efficiency.

When employees can see top-level goals, they can align their individual and team objectives with the company’s overall direction. Clarity on how their work contributes to the success of the organization as a whole, moreover, is one of the top drivers of employee engagement. Unfortunately, corporate goals are poorly understood in many companies. In a recent study of 124 large organizations, we found that less than one-quarter of middle managers knew their company’s strategic priorities. Making the goals public can help. Nearly all of BetterWorks’ customers make corporate priorities visible to all employees, and the typical user views them more than twice per quarter.

Sharing company goals publicly cannot guarantee that employees will align their objectives to the company’s strategy. But transparent goals do make it easier for employees to check the objectives of their department, function, or business unit against those of the company as a whole. When goals are public, senior executives can easily review them to spot objectives that are out of line with the company’s overall direction. Transparency, in short, can foster strategic alignment without resorting to a time-intensive process of cascading goals down the chain of command.

When goals are kept private, employees are often in the dark about what people on other teams are doing. We have administered a strategy execution survey to more than 400 organizations (mostly large U.S.-based companies) to assess how well they implement their strategic priorities.10 In our sample, only one-quarter of the managers said that their goals were understood by their counterparts in other divisions, functions, or business units. When employees don’t know one another’s goals, they are more likely to make unrealistic demands, focus on activities that don’t support their colleagues, or duplicate effort.

Yet when goals are made public, our data suggests that employees take advantage of the transparency to view their colleagues’ objectives. The BetterWorks platform, for example, allows employees to view, follow, and comment on other users’ goals. You might think that employees would use these social features to keep tabs on how their own team is doing. And indeed, the typical user checks in on his or her teammates’ goals twice a month. Surprisingly, though, users check in on the goals of colleagues on other teams more than twice as frequently as they check on their own teammates. Employees in larger companies are even more likely to keep tabs on other teams. In companies with more than 10,000 employees, the typical user views the goals of colleagues on other teams more than twice a week.

Viewing Colleagues’ Goals

In most organizations, goals are private. When goals are made public, employees use the transparency to keep tabs on colleagues on other teams. In large companies, employees viewed the goals of colleagues on other teams four times as often as they checked in on their own team members.

Many companies rely on frequent meetings, highly structured processes, or frequent email blasts to make sure employees’ goals align with the company’s strategic direction and the objectives of other parts of the business. When goals are public, employees can connect the dots for themselves to see how their work supports the strategy and colleagues in other teams.

Make Goals Specific With Metrics and Milestones

In the early 1970s, Intel was making the transition from memory chips to microprocessors. Andrew Grove — then the chipmaker’s executive vice president of operations — read about management by objectives and immediately saw the concept’s potential to help Intel implement its new strategy. Grove implemented Intel Management by Objectives, which required employees to translate their goals into concrete actions and metrics to clarify how they would achieve their targets and measure progress along the way.

As an Intel employee, Doerr was deeply impressed by Grove’s system. When he joined Kleiner Perkins in 1980, Doerr refined Intel’s approach into OKRs, which were tailored to the needs of the firm’s portfolio companies. Eventually, Doerr introduced OKRs to companies he backed, including, Intuit, and Google, and the methodology has spread widely throughout Silicon Valley’s technology ecosystem.

OKRs consist of two parts. Objectives are short descriptions of what you want to achieve. Each objective should include a handful of key results — typically quantitative metrics or milestones that specify the steps required to achieve the goal and measure progress. Don’t get hung up on the terminology of OKRs. Many Silicon Valley companies refer to goals as objectives, while other companies refer to them as targets. (We use the terms goals, objectives, and targets interchangeably.) Likewise, some companies use metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) instead of key results. Regardless of the terminology, the important thing is that employees translate their goals into clearly defined tasks and concrete measures of progress.

Some companies, particularly those run by engineers, insist that every key result be quantifiable. Our experience working with companies, however, suggests that relying exclusively on quantitative measures is neither necessary nor optimal. For a fast-growing startup, for example, the qualitative milestone of hiring a new chief technology officer can be every bit as important as any quantitative KPI. Among BetterWorks users, about half of key results are quantitative.

The power of specific, ambitious goals to improve the performance of individuals and teams is one of the best documented findings in organizational psychology, and has been replicated in more than 500 studies over the past 50 years. Compared to vague exhortations like “Do your best,” a handful of specific, ambitious goals increases performance of an average team or individual to the 80th percentile of performance. Adding a set of metrics for each goal and providing frequent feedback on progress can further improve results. A meta-analysis of 83 interventions in organizations including the U.S. Air Force, high-tech manufacturing plants, and hospitals found that setting a handful of objectives, assigning metrics to each goal, and providing regular feedback improved performance enough to move an average team to the 88th percentile of performance.

The discipline of translating goals into metrics and milestones can enhance the performance of individuals or teams in several ways. For big-picture thinkers, breaking goals into concrete tasks and metrics helps them think through the details of how to achieve their objectives. Conversely, more tactically oriented employees can link their activities and KPIs to the outcomes that matter most for the company as a whole. Working through concrete actions and metrics, moreover, helps employees understand exactly what their boss and colleagues expect from them, and decreases the odds that they will agree on broad generalities that each interprets in their own way.

Defining specific metrics and milestones for each goal can also enhance agility. Key results can be treated as hypotheses: “If we do this, then we will accomplish our goal.” The more specific the hypotheses are, the easier it is to test them, determine which ones are (or aren’t) working, and make midcourse corrections. “Truth,” as Sir Francis Bacon noted, “emerges more readily from error than from confusion.” Translating general goals into testable hypotheses surfaces errors more quickly and precisely, which accelerates the pace of learning and adjustment.

Linking goals to key results makes it easier to adjust as circumstances change, without losing sight of the company’s must-win battles. The marketing manager of a startup might have a goal to attract 1 million unique visitors per month to the company’s website. To support that, however, she might have several key results — for example, “gain 100,000 followers on Twitter” or “restructure website architecture to optimize for search.” While the same objective might extend over several quarters, the key results will change as the team accomplishes them or learns that other approaches or metrics are more relevant.

Discuss Goals Frequently

When we ask managers how often they look at their goals, most say twice per year — once when they set their objectives and again when they write up their performance self-appraisal. For many organizations, goal setting is an annual ritual that begins with a one-on-one meeting between an employee and his or her boss to agree on objectives for the year. Employees dutifully enter their goals into a spreadsheet or performance management tool, and largely forget about them until year end. Come December, they revisit their objectives and are often surprised by the tenuous relationship between their stated goals and what they actually did in the meantime.

Even the most finely crafted objectives will have little impact if they are filed away for 363 days of the year. To drive strategy execution, goals should serve as a framework that guides key decisions and activities throughout the year. One way to make goals more relevant is to set them quarterly rather than annually — quadrupling the number of times teams evaluate progress, discuss unexpected challenges, and make real-time adjustments. We have found that companies in dynamic sectors (for example, media and information technology) often use quarterly goals, while companies in more stable industries tend to set annual goals.

Companies in Dynamic Sectors More Likely to Set Quarterly Goals

Setting and reviewing goals on a quarterly basis provides more opportunities to make course corrections throughout the year. In our sample, companies in dynamic sectors such as media, information technology, and financial services were most likely to set quarterly goals. More stable industries favored annual goals.

Resetting goals on a quarterly basis can be useful. But it is not the only way to embed objectives in ongoing discussions. Employees at AB InBev, for example, set their targets annually, and Google, for its part, recently moved from quarterly to annual goals. What really matters is not whether goals are set quarterly or annually, but whether they shape the key discussions for getting work done. LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, for example, meets weekly with his executive team to discuss how his team members are doing against their goals and metrics. Goals can also provide the framework for making difficult trade-offs regarding which initiatives to prioritize, how to allocate resources, and how to respond to requests from colleagues in other teams.

Feedback and coaching sessions provide another opportunity for managers and employees to discuss goals on an ongoing basis. Some 70% of the managers we surveyed said they want monthly updates on how they were doing against their goals. Unfortunately, less than half receive monthly feedback. Several high-profile companies, including Microsoft, IBM, and Accenture, have recently transformed their traditional performance appraisal process to incorporate ongoing discussions on how employees are doing against their goals, which keeps these objectives top of mind throughout the year.

Set Ambitious Goals

A core tenet of the SMART framework is that goals should be achievable and realistic. Several recent articles have argued against stretch goals and recommended incremental targets instead. The widespread practice of requiring employees to achieve 100% of their goals to earn a bonus or a positive performance review reinforces employees’ tendency to set conservative goals that they are sure to achieve.

The temptation to play it safe when setting goals is understandable but often misguided. Recall that employees pursuing ambitious goals significantly outperform colleagues with less challenging objectives. The pioneers of FAST goals, moreover, emphasize the critical role of ambition in setting effective goals. In a new book titled Measure What Matters, Doerr discusses the value of pursuing order-of-magnitude improvements as opposed to incremental gains, supported by case studies from Google Chrome, YouTube, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Ambitious goals minimize the risk that employees will sandbag by committing to overly conservative goals they are sure to achieve. The typical image of sandbagging is a sales representative setting a goal of $1 million when he is confident he could sell twice that amount. Sandbagging, however, manifests itself in more insidious ways that undermine experimentation and learning. When bonuses are tied to hitting targets, employees may opt for cost-reduction initiatives that are fully under their control, as opposed to growing sales, which depends on the actions of customers, partners, and competitors. Or they might attempt to wring incremental improvements out of existing products or business models rather than pursue a novel technology that offers a higher payoff in the long run. When the gap between the goals being set and current reality is wide, organizations need to search for creative or innovative ways to achieve their ambitious, overall objectives. Insisting that employees achieve 100% of their goals, in contrast, can also deter employees from the trial-and-error experimentation required to innovate.

When it comes to setting goals, more ambition is not always better — at some point, the objectives enter the realm of delusion. Striking the balance between ambition and achievability is a difficult but essential task for leaders at every level in an organization. “My biggest challenge,” AB InBev’s Telles said, “is setting the right targets that are almost impossible but not impossible.”

Ambition is fiendishly difficult to measure. You can usually observe only what was achieved not what was possible. We have used multiple measures to estimate organizational ambition, and all point in the same direction — the typical company should focus on setting more ambitious goals. Our survey of more than 400 organizations asked managers what advice they would give a newly hired colleague on setting goals. They could advise new managers to (1) make conservative commitments they are sure to achieve, (2) set ambitious goals even if they are not sure how they’ll achieve them, or (3) avoid committing to objectives whenever possible. In the typical organization, nearly two-thirds of managers would advise a new colleague to play it safe.

In the same survey, we asked respondents to choose three factors that most influence promotion decisions (from a randomly ordered list of 10 factors). Past performance, the most commonly cited factor, was selected by 61% of respondents. Setting ambitious goals, at 13%, was second from last, just ahead of innovating (12%).

How to Get Promoted

In our execution survey, we asked managers to choose the three factors (from a randomized list of 10) that most influenced promotion decisions in their organization. Pursuing ambitious goals came second to last.

How can leaders inspire people to set more ambitious goals? In Silicon Valley many companies encourage employees to set goals that they are unlikely to achieve in full. Google, for example, expects employees to achieve an average of 60% to 70% of their key results. In the eyes of Google executives, asking for more would prevent employees from thinking big enough when setting their objectives.

Google deliberately decouples goal attainment from performance reviews and compensation decisions, which may seem like heresy to managers steeped in traditional performance management philosophy. But it’s consistent with research that shows financial rewards are not the only way to boost performance of an individual or team. Indeed, specific, ambitious goals (recall the research we mentioned earlier) spur performance on their own, without the need for financial incentives. A recent meta-analysis found that in motivating people to complete complex tasks that involved creativity, intrinsic motivation was nearly six times more effective than external incentives in motivating people to complete complex tasks that required creativity.

Although Google’s approach is common among Silicon Valley technology companies, it is not the only way to foster ambitious goals. At AB InBev, bonuses are tightly linked to targets for reducing costs, improving operations, and optimizing pricing. The brewer injects ambition by setting challenging objectives for the company as a whole, hiring highly motivated employees, and rapidly promoting those who deliver on their stretch targets. When it comes to injecting ambition, one size does not fit all.

Goals are a powerful tool to drive strategy execution. To harness their potential, leaders must move beyond the conventional wisdom of SMART goals and their entrenched practices. Instead, they need to think in terms of being FAST, by having frequent discussions about goals, setting ambitious targets, translating them into specific metrics and milestones, and making them public for everyone to see.

Donald Sull, who tweets @simple_rules, is a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Charles Sull is a partner at Charles Thames Strategy Partners LLC.

1. P.F. Drucker, “The Practice of Management” (New York: Elsevier, 1954): 109-110.

2. Mercer Global, “2013 Global Performance Management Survey Report Executive Summary,” accessed Feb. 16, 2018, The sample consisted of 1,056 organizations from 53 countries, and 85% were for-profit companies. The sample was weighted toward larger organizations, with 30% having more than 10,000 employees and 48% having between 500 and 10,000 employees.

3. According to the same Mercer Global survey, 94% of organizations conducted formal, year-end reviews of employees’ goals, and 89% of organizations reported that performance on goals influenced an employee’s performance appraisal, promotion, or bonus.

4. Various sources associate different attributes of goals with the five letters in SMART. The most common, however, are the ones we’ve listed. For a review of popular attributes associated with the SMART acronym, see the Wikipedia article on SMART criteria,, accessed March 20, 2018.

5. D. Sull and M. Escobari, “Success Against the Odds: What Brazilian Champions Teach Us About Thriving in Unpredictable Markets” (Rio de Janeiro and Cambridge, Massachusetts: Editora Campus, 2005).

6. The first author served as an unpaid adviser to BetterWorks from 2014 through 2016. He did not receive any funding, compensation, consulting fees, equity, or stock options. We conducted our analysis on a sample of 79 companies that were active BetterWorks customers in the first quarter of 2017. The information technology sector accounted for 44% of all companies in the sample, followed by health care (12%), and consumer discretionary (7%); 70% of the companies were headquartered in the United States and 14% in Europe.

7. We gratefully acknowledge the help of Shezal Padani, J. Michael Wahlen, and Moshe Barach in analyzing the BetterWorks data.

8. “The Impact of Employee Engagement on Performance,” 2013, Harvard Business Review Analytics Report, Figure 7, accessed March 15, 2018, This study found that the second most important driver of employee engagement was “individuals have clear understanding of how job contributes to strategy,” with 70% of respondents citing it as very important in terms of its impact on employee engagement. Of the 568 managers who completed the survey, 42% worked for companies with more than 10,000 employees; all organizations had more than 500 employees.

9. D. Sull, C. Sull, and J. Yoder, “No One Knows Your Strategy — Not Even Your Top Leaders,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Feb. 12, 2018,

10. For an in-depth description of the survey methodology and sample, see D. Sull, H. Kang, N. Thompson, and L. Hu, “Trade-offs in Firm Culture? Nope, You Can Have It All,” MIT Sloan School of Management working paper, 2018.

11. R.S. Tedlow, “Andy Grove: The Life and Times of an American” (New York: Portfolio, 2006): 74; and J. Doerr, “Measure What Matters” (New York: Portfolio, 2018), chap. 2-3.

12. E.A. Locke and G.P. Latham, “A Theory of Goal Setting and Task Performance” (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990) report effect sizes (Cohen’s d) ranging from 0.5 to 0.8 of a standard deviation of task performance for individual goals. A more recent meta-analysis of goal setting on group (rather than individual) performance found an effect size of 0.8 standard deviation of performance. See A. Kleingeld, H. van Mierlo, and L. Arends, “The Effect of Goal Setting on Group Performance: A Meta-analysis,” Journal of Applied Psychology 96, no. 6 (July 2011): 1,289-1,304.

13. R.D. Pritchard, M.M. Harrell, D. DiazGranados, and M.J. Guzman, “The Productivity Measurement and Enhancement System: A Meta-analysis,” Journal of Applied Psychology 93, no. 3 (May 2008): 540-567. The average team improved their performance by 1.16 of a standard deviation of task performance in this meta-analysis.

14. In our survey of strategy execution, we asked respondents in 131 organizations how often they created new objectives for themselves and their teams, and 56% answered once a year. (This was similar to another survey in which 54% of organizations said they revise their goals once per year or not at all; see S.S. Garr, “High-Impact Performance Management: Using Goals to Focus the 21st-Century Workforce,” Bersin by Deloitte, December 2014, page 11).

15. Based on the sample of 79 BetterWorks customers.

16. Doerr, “Measure What Matters,” 14.

17. “The Management Framework That Propelled LinkedIn to a $20 Billion Company,” First Round Review, 2016, accessed March 24, 2018,

18. P. Cappelli and A. Tavis, “The Performance Management Revolution,” Harvard Business Review 94, no. 10 (October 2016); and S.S. Garr, “High-Impact Performance Management.”

19. S.B. Sitkin, C.C. Miller, and K.E. See, “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Harvard Business Review 95, no. 1 (January/February 2017); D. Markovitz, “The Folly of Stretch Goals,” Harvard Business Review, April 20, 2012,; and L.D. Ordóñez, M.E. Schweitzer, A.D. Galinsky, and M.H. Bazerman, “Goals Gone Wild: The Systematic Side Effects of Over-Prescribing Goal Setting,” Academy of Management Perspectives 21, no. 1 (February 2009).

20. Doerr, “Measure What Matters,” chap. 12-15.

21. R.M. Cyert and J.G. March, “A Behavioral Theory of the Firm” (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1963); H.R. Greve, “A Behavioral Theory of R&D Expenditures and Innovations: Evidence From Shipbuilding,” Academy of Management Journal 46, no. 6 (December 2003): 685-702; and O. Alexy, E. Bascavusoglu-Moreau, A.J. Salter, “Toward an Aspiration-level Theory of Open Innovation,” Industrial and Corporate Change 25, no. 2 (April 2016): 289-306.

22. C.S. Dweck, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” (New York: Ballantine Books, 2008).

23. D. Sull and M. Escobari, “Brahma Versus Antarctica: Reversal of Fortune in Brazil’s Beer Market,” London Business School case study (2005).

24. C.P. Cerasoli, J.M. Nicklin, and M.T. Ford, “Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Incentives Jointly Predict Performance: A 40-Year Meta-Analysis,” Psychological Bulletin 140, no. 4 (February 2014): 980-1,008. In table 4, the authors report the relative contribution of external incentives and intrinsic motivation on performance for different types of tasks. For simple repetitive tasks, intrinsic motivation accounted for 42% of the explained variance in motivation, while financial incentives accounted for 58%. For tasks that required absorption in the activity, a broad approach, and more creativity, intrinsic motivation accounted for 85% of explained variance in motivation versus 15% for extrinsic incentives.

How to Harness Originality and Great Ideas in the Workplace

For this week’s Blog, I bring in a wonderful insight on from Dave Clark on Originality and Ideas. Read further for this amazing insight!

TTI Success Insights

By Dave Clark

Have you ever had a great idea, but were afraid to express it for fear of being thought of as being “out there?” Or, have you ever been exposed to ideas at work that you just knew were destined for failure, but you didn’t say anything as to not rock the boat?

At some point in our careers, the majority of us have experienced both of these things. While it seems so simple to speak up, we often don’t. Why is this?

Many factors will hold us back from voicing our true opinions. Fear of having our ideas rejected is one. Fear of a perceived disagreement may be another. All ideas come from people, and people take ownership of these ideas. When ideas are challenged, the owner of that idea can often times get defensive. Ego is a natural part of life and not all leaders take negative feedback as well as others. Because of this, many brilliant ideas go unspoken and many less than brilliant ones don’t get challenged, simply because they originated from someone who outranks us.

Taking ego out of the workplace

Many leaders have taken risks and trusted their guts all the way to the top. In doing so, they build confidence. But it does not mean that a leader has all the answers, and the great ones will be open to suggestions from those who are willing to express an opposing point of view.

In a truly successful workplace, any worker, regardless of rank, should feel free to express an opinion that has the organization’s betterment in mind. Rank, title, position or experience should never come into play. An idea is simply that – an idea. It makes no difference where a great idea comes from, or who stops a bad idea from moving your organization backward.

Speaking up for bad ideas

I have personal experience seeing this concept come to life inside a major, global organization. When I worked for brewing conglomerate MillerCoors, the head of our division continuously preached one important rule. He instilled in us the following words, “If you think it’s a bad idea, then it’s up to you to tell us so, because we certainly don’t know everything.”

Having that freedom to express our true, honest opinions, and having an open-door policy with which to do so, created an environment where ideas flowed freely and the best ideas worked their way to the surface. Without knowing our opinions were welcome and valued, I’m sure many of the ideas may have never moved forward or seen the light of day. Having that environment made for a better employment experience, giving each employee ownership in the process.

A recent article by Christina Folz on shed some light on Adam Grant’s take on idea sharing. Grant is an organizational psychologist and professor at The Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and has a lot to say on the topic. Grant suggests companies create a “problem” box instead of a “suggestion” box.

Create a problem box

Quite a departure from the positive spin companies often try to put on things, having a problem box helps get to the bottom of problems so they can be solved. In response to the commonly heard phrase, “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions,” Grant says, “I think this is a bad sentence and I think it’s a part of a dangerous philosophy.”

He believes that when companies tell people not to bring up problems, it stifles dialogue. Problems that don’t get brought into the open continue to grow beneath the surface. Things escalate, and before too long, fixable, minor issues turn into something much more severe. When employees are afraid to speak up, important insights get ignored.

Grant cites the global investment firm Bridgewater Associates which strongly encourages bringing problems to the forefront. One of the core beliefs of the company is that “nobody has the right to hold a critical opinion without speaking up about it.” Simple, yet profound…and powerful!

Bridgewater takes it further by evaluating its people based on how willing they are to challenge their boss and the status quo. This is quite a departure from many workplaces where the exact opposite philosophy exists. Think about it this way – if a leader is never challenged, how can that leader grow? Any leader looking to grow and improve would be well advised to encourage feedback of any kind – good or bad – in order to learn what he or she can do better.

It’s not a bad idea, it’s just new

The interesting thing about ideas is that, many times, they are new. Because of that, there may be a natural apprehension to adopt the unfamiliar, novel idea. However, if given enough repetitive exposure to the idea, minds can change and become much more willing to accept the new ideas. In fact, according to Grant, “On average, it takes 10 to 20 exposures to an idea before it will be accepted.”

Cultural fit or cultural contribution?

Taking the concept of providing ideas further, how does it tie back to a company’s culture? We often hear about a company’s quest to find workers that are a “good cultural fit.” What, exactly, does that mean and why is that necessarily a good thing?

One problem with trying to find a staff full of people that all play nice in the sandbox together is that you get a lot of very similar people. Companies that want to bring the best ideas to the table may consider looking beyond cultural fit and more toward what a person can contribute new to the culture. If you have a room full of people that are similar, so too may be their less than inspiring ideas.


The takeaway here is to never stop sharing new ideas and giving feedback. Ideas are often new, and sometimes get rejected just because they are novel. Stick to your guns and keep providing feedback. Your ideas will eventually be heard.

Grant sums it up when he says, “Stop looking for people who will be a good “cultural fit” and start seeking those who can make a cultural contribution.” Going against the grain can lead to bold ideas that can challenge, and often improve, the status quo.

Some Very interesting News Korn Ferry Acquires Miller Heiman Group and Achieve Forum

Yesterday morning I awoke to some very interesting news! My two principals, Miller Heiman Group – MHG (AchieveGlobal sales training before) and Achieve Forum – AF (AchieveGlobal Leadership training before) were acquired by Korn Ferry, the very large human resource consulting company. This merger will only begin next year and could bring some robust additions to the library of training and consulting we have at ELAvate. Remember ELAvate is an Asian Distributor for both MHG and AF solutions since 1992. Here is the press release:



September 30, 2019

Combination Bolsters Learning & Development and Training Offerings

LOS ANGELES–Sep. 30, 2019– Korn Ferry (NYSE: KFY) today announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire three companies from TwentyEighty, Inc. in the leadership development area: Miller Heiman Group, AchieveForum, and Strategy Execution. The transaction, which is subject to customary closing conditions, is expected to close by November 1.

“The combination brings a world-class portfolio of learning, development, and performance improvement offerings and expertise to Korn Ferry and will bolster our firm’s substantial leadership development capabilities,” said Gary D. Burnison, CEO, Korn Ferry.

Byron Matthews of Miller Heiman Group, Christoffer Ellehuus of Strategy Execution, and Scott Bohannon of AchieveForum said: “We are delighted to find the perfect strategic home at Korn Ferry. We are enthusiastic about what the future will bring from this acquisition in terms of synergistic product and consulting solution offerings for our customers as well as career opportunities for our employees.”

Miller Heiman Group specializes in transforming sales performance and customer experience. AchieveForum offers frontline leadership development. Strategy Execution provides organizational and project management training. Combined, the three companies have trained thousands of professionals and hundreds of clients across the globe and have substantial expertise in sales performance and customer experience, frontline leadership development, and project management, which will greatly benefit future clients.

These companies will be part of a newly branded Korn Ferry Digital (formerly the Products Group), which, working closely with Consulting, will provide clients direct access to data, insights and analytics from one of the world’s most comprehensive people and organizational databases. The addition of these three companies is expected to further expand Korn Ferry’s vast intellectual property and content and leverage the firm’s digital delivery platforms.

The broader corporate training and education market is a greater than $300 billion global market opportunity, which includes retraining employees to meet the changing demands of today’s dynamic business landscape. The acquisition of the three businesses is expected to accelerate Korn Ferry’s ability to capture a share of this significant market.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to adjusted earnings in the first year of Korn Ferry’s ownership.

 About Korn Ferry

Korn Ferry is a global organizational consulting firm. We work with clients to design their organizational structures, roles, and responsibilities. We help them hire the right people and advise them on how to reward, develop, and motivate their workforce. And, we help professionals navigate and advance their careers.

Our relation with you an ELAvate client will remain the same. Let’s see what positive changes this acquisition brings in 2020.


Michael J Griffin

ELAvate Founder

MHG and AF Distributor since 1992

The Seven Dimensions of Culture Certification Workshop By Dr. Fons Trompenaars in Singapore!

I normally do not use my blog space to “promote” but this is an excellent exception. In 1994, I read the book “Riding the Waves of Culture” by Dr. Fons Trompenaars. This book and it’s exposition of Seven Dimensions of Culture have been crucial in my success to lead, manage and sell across cultures. Harvard Business Review cites Dr. Trompenaars as one of the top 3 cross cultural experts in the business world.

Dr. Trompenaars is coming to Singapore on September 30th and October 1st to conduct his world renowned certification for you to train the Seven Dimensions of Culture. If you work across cultures – national, ethnic or organizational cultures this workshop is a must for your personal growth.

The flyer of this THT certification and investment can be downloaded by clicking on this THT Certification Details and Pricing.

Please find an informative video on Linkedin for this certification here

Registration is by Google Forms here

Dr. Trompenaars’ website is

I have been a certified as a THT Seven Dimensions Trainer since 1995 and have attended at least two more because of their usefulness in my role as a cross cultural leader. I strongly believe you will become a more competent global leader from this highly interactive and entertaining workshop. Please note I receive no compensation from THT or Dr. Trompenaars for promoting this excellent workshop! Sign up as seats are limited!

Have a Great Week Leading Across Cultures!

Michael J Griffin

THT Trainer since 1995

ELAvate Founder

Former US Peace Corps Volunteer

Soft Skills or Hard Skills – Which is More Important?

For this week, I would like to share you an article from Rieke Geerlings of TTI SI. This article is filled with insight on which set of skills more important Soft Skills or Hard Skills? Read this wonderful article below to nurture your learning this week.

TTI Success Insights

By Rieke Geerlings

Do you remember that one special teacher from back in your school days? Mine was a math teacher who somehow was able to make math class a real joy. It certainly was not because algebra or the Pythagorean theorem were so much fun, it was because something magic happened whenever she was teaching. Her flair, passion and outside-the-box presentation skills made math class just fly by. She is a great example of someone well developed in both hard and soft skills.

I also remember the opposite: teachers who were really competent in the subject they taught, but who lacked the empathy, leadership and ability to motivate. That made classes boring at best, and frustrating and demotivating at worst. While the hard skills were certainly present, the lack of soft skills blocked them from making a real connection with their students. They just ‘taught’ us a subject, instead of inspiring us to learn.

This brings us to a very valid question: what’s the difference between hard and soft skills? Are soft skills more important than hard skills, or is it the other way around? And, if soft skills are so important, is there hope if you lack somewhat in that department?

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are measurable, functional or technical skills. Examples include calculating, reading, writing, typing, accounting, working with technical devices and computer programming, to name a few. Specific professional knowledge such as knowledge of human anatomy or Chinese economy would also qualify. Hard skills are skills that you can verify through individual exams, tests or assignments. Results can be compared to a set of predefined, hard criteria.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are “soft” due to their being hard to measure objectively. Often, we call them personal skills. When we say soft skills, think about skills such as leadership qualities, working together with your teammates, listening to others or inspiring an audience. Soft skills are not all about others, they can also be applied to the self.

Think about self-care, the ability to focus or showing resilience in the face of setbacks. The hard thing about soft skills is that one cannot measure them on the basis of criteria-based tests. The absence or presence of a soft skill will only show itself in response to a series of different and varying situations.

Which is more important?

Both types of skills are important. Certain professions require very specific and well-developed hard skills. Without them you would fail instantly. But even then, soft skills will assist you to develop and use your hard skills successfully.

Imagine what happens if you are a brilliant neurosurgeon (hard skills) but you have a short temper (soft skills). Or as a fireman you can swim very fast (hard skills), but you cannot cooperate with your teammates (soft skills). Or you are a certified TTISI trainer or coach (hard skills) but you have difficulty listening to others (soft skills). It’s not so hard to predict you may struggle to save the lives you intend to save, or to help your clients to develop themselves.

Soft skills enable the neurosurgeon to keep severing blood vessels precisely even when that operating room nurse keeps annoying him. Soft skills allow the fireman to work together with his teammates to get a victim out of the vehicle in the water. They also enable a certified trainer to respond to the individual needs of his/her clients. Soft skills are the key to success!

Why soft skills now?

Only a few decades ago, a customer was mainly dependent on what was on supply. These days, a customer has so many options that the customer journey has become a key concept in the boardroom. Whoever delivers the most flexible, attractive, trustworthy and innovative product and/or support wins over the customer.

Today, you can buy advice, counsel, coaching, mediation, search, or support in all areas of work and life, delivered by entrepreneurial professionals. Since service is a less tangible product, soft skills are vital to make a difference in a market full of well-informed and assertive buyers. How to handle stress, or how to address the modern customer, may spell the difference between success and failure.

Both skills are necessary to succeed

There is absolutely still need for hard skills in a changing marketplace. It’s still crucial that a bus driver owns a license, a judge knows the law and a pilot can fly a plane. And it’s certainly helpful if a math teacher can continue to tell us what the Pythagorean theorem actually means.

In the age of the customer, soft skills become more important than ever. Soft skills will make your hard skills more valuable. They are like oil that makes an engine run smoothly. Like Dr. Watson next to Sherlock Holmes. If they grow together symbiotically, they both become a unique buying point for your customers.


The good news is that, just like hard skills, soft skills can definitely be developed. However, they do require a different learning approach. It all starts with getting to know yourself, such as how you tend to do things, what drives you, and how you respond to feedback. With a fair amount of introspection, some patience and a will to improve, you can develop soft skills which can help bring out the best in all of those hard skills you’ve learned over the years.

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