Thursday, November 19, 2009


Take care of your people and they will take care of you.

Have you ever wondered why some companies are having extraordinary success and others aren’t? Look beneath the surface. Are the employees engaged in their work? In other words, are they passionate about what they’re doing? Or do they just show up to earn a paycheck and go home? According to Matthew Kelly in his book The Dream Manager, “the great majority of people in the workplace today are actively disengaged. People don’t feel connected to their work, the organizations they work in, or the people they work with.”

A recent study of 550 Human Resource managers by Monster (Summer 2007) states that “the next 20 years will witness a dramatic change in the U.S. workforce. The Baby Boomer generation, 72 million strong, will reach retirement age and have the opportunity to leave the workforce. Successive generations of workers are proportionally smaller, leaving a potential gap in the number of workers versus the number of workers needed to maintain the expansion of the U.S. economy. The ability to effectively manage worker knowledge is becoming a critical core competency in an era when knowledge is the primary resource for delivering organizational value. The chasm that exists between a firms’ most valuable asset, knowledge, and the lack of formal management of this asset represents key opportunities for organizations to gain a competitive edge.”

How does this relate to helping people achieve their dreams? Companies need to find ways to reward and train employees to help them become the best they can be. In doing so, these workers stay longer and help the organization become the best it can be. Some will grow with the companies where they work as they continue to gain more knowledge, skills and attain their dreams. Others will outgrow their current companies and move on to other organizations or to head their own companies. With a shortage of available workers coming online in the next 10-20 years, it is ever more critical that companies start acting today to get the current generation trained and focused on helping the company achieve its future vision.

When organizations help their employees achieve their dreams, they get numerous positive results that affect the bottom line:
  • Dramatically reduced turnover (employee turnover costs a company 150% of each person’s salary, and can be as high as 250% for sales and managerial positions 1).
  • A reduction in unauthorized absenteeism (in 2005 the average per-employee cost was $660 2 ; today it’s likely much higher).
  • Increased loyalty to the company.
  • A new culture of empowerment and possibility.
  • A motivated staff where everyone is part of the sales force talking to friends, relatives, customers and prospects.
As a business owner or manager, can you really afford NOT to pay attention to your people’s dreams? The answer is no, not when companies worldwide are facing shortages of both management and skilled labor over the next 10-20 years. By 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) estimates there will be 165 million jobs and only 162 million people available in the workforce; 19 percent (30 million) of those available workers will be age 55 and older.

Why haven’t more companies done something about this? Many companies aren’t using a Systems Thinking Approach® to their strategic planning and management process. The strategies they have in place don’t connect with the future reality of the workplace and the hearts and minds of their employees. By focusing primarily on the bottom line, too many companies have forgotten that it’s the people in the organization that make it succeed or fail.

The modern employee is looking for more than just a decent paycheck. People want work that is interesting and challenging, but more than that, they want to feel appreciated and valued for the contribution they make. Younger employees also want to work for companies that are socially responsible, and one way to be socially responsible is to help your employees achieve their dreams.

So how do you as a manager or business owner implement a plan that reaches the hearts and minds of your people? According to Matthew Kelly, begin by hiring a Dream Manager to work with each person individually and help them create plans for achieving their dreams. Survey your employees to find out what drives them, what dreams they have for their future. The answers may surprise you. Then work with each person to help them achieve the smallest dreams first, and then the successively larger, more challenging dreams later, after they’ve succeeded in achieving their initial dreams. The very fact that their company takes the time to help them succeed, will turn their attitudes around and get them re-engaged in helping the company succeed.

In a Systems Thinking Approach®, the plan for each person would unfold by answering the five key Systems Thinking questions in Phases A – E below:

A Where do you want to be? (What are your future dreams, aspirations? List as many as you
can and put a future date by when you want to accomplish each one.)

B How will you know when you get there? (What are the measurements that will determine
you’ve achieved your dreams? Identify at least one for each dream.)

C Where are you today? (What is your current situation related to each dream or aspiration?
Describe it and put today’s date next to it.)

D How will you get there? (What strategies and actions do you need to put in place to achieve
each dream?)

And ongoing
E What will or might be changing in your future external world that could alter your dreams?
(look at your external future changing landscape with respect to the areas that might apply
to each dream. Write down your dreams in each area that applies.

From a business perspective:
  • Society (What societal changes are occurring that might impact your dreams?)
  • Competition (If your dream is to own your own business, who and where are your competitors?)
  • Ecology (How do alternative fuels, global warming and environmental concerns affect your dreams?
  • Economics (What part does the economic downturn play? What can you do to mitigate against it?)
  • Politics (Are there political or regulatory issues that might affect your dreams? Do you want to run for political office? Is your product or service under regulatory scrutiny?)
  • Technology (What technological changes might affect your dreams – online social networking, ipod, pod casts, etc.?)
  • Industry (Are there changes occurring in your chosen industry or field that might affect your dreams?)
  • Customer (Who are or will be your future customers? How are they changing?)
  • Community (how do you define community – your neighborhood, family, online network, volunteer work – and what impact might that have on your dreams?)
Using a Systems Thinking Approach to create a dream plan, during Phase A each person would develop a future vision of what they are striving for. Incorporating the Dream Manager process, he or she would list their dreams in each of the following areas:
  • Physical (health, fitness, exercise.)
  • Emotional (attitude, relationships)
  • Spiritual (inner peace, religion)
  • Intellectual (learning, schooling, languages)
  • Psychological (willpower, overcoming fears)
  • Material (car, house, boat ownership)
  • Professional (career development, skills, promotion)
  • Financial (salary, retirement plan, vacation savings, college fund)
  • Creative (art, dance, music)
  • Adventure (travel, white water rafting, mountain climbing, skydiving)
  • Legacy (what will others say about you when you’re gone)
  • Character.(inner strength, integrity, passion, respect for others)
Then for each area above, move to Phase B to identify the measures or milestones that determine whether they are on the right path or have achieved their dream. For example, under the area of Physical, someone might have a dream to run the New York marathon. The milestones for this might be
1) save the money to travel to New York and enter the marathon
2) finish the race in less than 4 hours
3) finish the race period

Once the milestones have been identified, move to Phase C to list the current issues today. Using the marathon dream as an example, the following situation might be true:
1) you need to lose 20 pounds
2) you need to get better running shoes
3) the maximum you have run so far is 10 miles
4) if the weather is unseasonably hot or cold you need to plan for either
5) you know two people who successfully completed the marathon
6) your work or family life might prevent you from taking time off to run

After completing Phase C, move into Phase D to identify the strategies and actions needed to accomplish the dream of running a marathon. These might include:
1) get a running coach or buddy
2) make arrangements at work to take time out to run
3) research the weather in advance so you anticipate the climate issues
4) make sure you have proper clothing depending on the weather
5) determine how much you have to save to afford to travel to New York and enter the race

That’s all there is to it. By going through each Phase, answering each question, a plan is created for each dream with measurements for success. It’s best to tackle the easiest dreams first to experience some successes before taking on the larger ones. These successes will spread like wildfire throughout the company across the informal rumor mill as each person shares their achievements with their co-workers. Nevertheless, it’s also a good idea to highlight the successes on company bulletin boards. Be sure to get your employees’ input first, however, before celebrating these successes to be sure they want their dreams shared with others.

  1. William G. Bliss, President of Bliss & Associates Inc., Cost of Employee Turnover,
  2. 2005 Unscheduled Absence Survey by CCH Inc, a Wolters Kluwer company.
  3. Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager®, Registered trademark of Floyd Consulting. © 2007 Beacon Publishing.