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Did you know that of the 100 million people working full-time in the U.S. only 30% are engaged and happy at work? A recent two-year study by the Gallup organization also reports that another 52 million workers are not engaged and sleep-walk through the day, and the bottom 18 million workers are actively disengaged and hate their work. The report also notes that most of the engaged workers have great managers and most of the disengaged workers have terrible managers.

And the job of selecting these managers is the most important responsibility of senior leaders. So, if you have a disengaged workforce, it is your fault.
The Dream Manager

A few years ago I learned about a very interesting method of engaging employees, hiring unique managers and weeding-out poor ones. Through a friend of mine, Jesse Stevens, I had the pleasure of meeting Mike Hamra from Hamra Enterprises, who owns and operates dozens of Panera Bread and Wendy’s restaurants in Massachusetts and the Midwest. During our meeting we were introduced to their company’s Dream Manager, Christie Reed.

Yes, you read that right…a Dream Manager.

The Dream Manager concept was introduced by Matthew Kelly in the Dream Manager. In this book Kelly uses a fictional cleaning company in Texas to teach us how to increase employee engagement by helping each person achieve their dreams. He teaches us that when organizational leaders and managers show personal interest in the dreams of the individuals who work for the company, the employees feel more connected, engaged, productive, and stay around longer.

Mike Hamara has adopted the concept in real life, so it was helpful speaking with him and Christie to learn how this concept works in real time. Most of what I learned from them was consistent with Kelly’s concepts. Here are a few highlights.

Top leadership must believe it first and adopt it. Mike told us a story about he was the first person to develop a dream plan and meet with his Dream Manager, Christie. One of his dreams was to learn to fly a large jet (he already had his pilot’s license.) He achieved the dream by following a plan that he and Christie developed together.

Dream Managers have job descriptions. According to Kelly’s book, the Dream Manager should have a job description. A simple description is “The Dream Manager will meet with employees, discuss their dreams, and help them put together a plan to achieve their dreams. Once a month, the employee can meet with the Dream Manager, assess their progress, and discuss next steps.”

Dream Managers are coaches and financial advisors. Kelly recommends that the best Dream Managers have backgrounds in coaching and financial management. Many dreams require financial resources and often a lack of these resources are what prevent people from pursuing their dreams.

Individual dream plans are multifaceted. Each person develops his or her own plan. The dream list can include dozens of dreams and usually include housing, education, personal health, hobbies or interests, vacations, personal relationships and family, and careers.

Dream Managers can also help facilitate career development, hopefully within company. Twice each year the Dream Manager encourages the employee to invite their supervisor to their dream session, in which they discuss the career vision for the person and what they need to do to get there.

In reading the book I learned about results, too. Here’s what happened at one particular company after adopting this culture-

90% of employees had dreams and over 2,785 dreams were fulfilled

Home ownership among employees tripled

Personal debt among employees was reduced by 40%

Employee headcount went from 407 to 743 while turnover declined from 400% to 12%

Gross revenue tripled

One dream Christie told us about came from a quiet, inner-city Boston man with a very hard upbringing. As the Dream Manager she discovered that his dream was to publish his poems. Not only did his fellow team members not know he wrote poetry, they never knew how good he was. She helped him enroll in a poetry-writing class, helped him arrange poetry readings, and helped him get his book published.
A “Dream Culture” emerges

As more and more employees engage with the Dream Manager, people start talking about their dreams with each other. They begin to learn about each other on a very personal level. The right managers get hooked on the process and the wrong managers leave.

So the next time you wonder how you can get employees engaged, dream on!
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