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Dream Maker

To make these dreams happen, they hired Matthew Kelly, a speaker, an author and a partner at Floyd Consulting, a Chicago-based management-consulting firm. Kelly was immediately intrigued by what the Millers were doing and wanted to share the idea behind their story with more people. Thus was born Kelly's book, "The Dream Manager," which illustrates how companies like Jancoa can achieve phenomenal results by helping employees achieve their dreams.

"Our work at Floyd has been about how we can help other businesses take some lessons, principles and processes from this idea," says Dan Brunnert, vice president of Floyd Consulting. "We wanted to make it replicable so that other businesses could learn from that and apply it to their business, team and culture. And we wanted to help other people to achieve their dreams. The training came out of this real experience of helping a company become a culture of dreams. The question was: How can we replicate and share this with other businesses?"

Since 2006 the Dream Manager concept has been implemented by business owners nationwide. St. Louis Small Business Monthly spoke with Brunnert about what business owners can realistically expect to gain by helping their employees achieve their own dreams.

Why was it important to Kelly and Floyd Consulting to help others realize their dreams?
Managers and owners want to help their employees succeed. When it comes to small-business owners, part of the reason they became and are drawn to the entrepreneurial lifestyle is that they want to create an environment that's exciting for their employees. They want to create a positive working experience for the people who are critical for helping them advance and grow their business. So it's my perspective that managers and business owners get up in the morning and want to create a good environment for people to work. When people read the concept of the Dream Manager, they say: "That's great. It's so simple. It's what I want to do. And here there are tools and processes that make it a little bit easier for them to go out and do it." Or it simply finds a way to encourage them and they say, "Yes, I am on the right path as a business owner to do some of these things." It's encouraging for managers and business owners.

What has the Dream Manager training program grown into?
Floyd as a company has different tracks. People are curious and hungry about the Dream Manager. Matthew speaks to large events, organization and association meetings and really inspires them to consider this concept. He shows them the relevance of why dreams matter in terms of the context of running a business. Our training programs then help leaders who are excited about the message but want the tools and practical ways to incorporate the concepts into their work as a manager or business leader.

How does a company go about implementing the training?
There are lots of different ways to do that from a formal process and structure. For some of our clients we'll go in and do manager coaching and implement a formal monthly program. Some busy managers who maybe have 20, 30, 40 people in their company, they just want to learn a couple things they can do because they have a lot going on but they recognize that it's important. So we give them a couple tools or exercises to share with their team.

What categories are there under the Dream Manager training?
We explore 12 areas to develop a diverse dream list. They include: adventure, financial, physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, creative, psychological, professional, legacy, character and material.

How does the program work?
The first part is to help people see that their future is bigger than their past and to help them pursue their dreams. Then we help them to realize they can do something about it. They can take steps to go after their dreams, whatever they are. Dream-storming sessions touch on the first part – helping people see that they have a great future in front of them. The dream-storming session helps them get in touch with 12 areas of dreams – a good cross section of dreams. And most people haven't taken the time to write down their dreams. So this experience is really powerful for helping people to do that. It's a guided experience that invites people to look at areas they wouldn't have.

What can it do for individual employees?
The overarching idea is that employees get more engaged. There is a spectrum to engagement. There are those employees who are only 20% engaged – they are basically checked out. Then those who fall in the middle – they are present but not totally. Lastly, there are those employees who are 70, 80, 90% engaged. I think of these people as the Whole Foods employees. They are always friendly and eager to help. The idea is that Dream Manager training helps employees move up the spectrum. By helping employees with their dreams, they provide better service. They are happier at work because they are pursuing a personal goal too. They are often healthier because they realize they need their health to achieve a long-term goal. They are also mentally healthier because they feel more control in where their life is headed. All of this is part of developing a better culture at work.

What are the ties between employee achievement and business improvement?
Without maintaining your people, all aspects of your business suffer. Why wouldn't you want to ensure that you're investing in, growing and helping your people so that they develop into better versions of themselves and your business becomes a better version of itself? By helping employees achieve their dreams, cultures improve. Employees from accounting and marketing departments, who may not usually interact and do in dream-storming, find commonalities and begin to support each other. And managers have a new way to bond with employees and show support. People become healthier and happier. Customer service and sales improve. It's not the end all be all, but I believe it creates a meaningful impact.

When someone starts the program, what are some of the struggles they deal with?
It may take awhile to achieve a goal. So we create a time horizon. What we would do is say, "Find something manageable for a year and give people time to plan." Then we say, "Provide tools to encourage them, whether it's books or ask dream questions at monthly meetings." But paying attention to someone's dream doesn't mean paying for it. We want to empower people, not develop a culture of entitlement.

In the world today, why do you believe it is growing more and more important for leaders to engage and retain talent?
Without feeling valued, talented employees will look elsewhere. They want appreciation – not to feel used. The best companies want to create a dynamic culture, and that turnover can have a huge cost to it.

What do you believe leaders can do to keep talented employees interested in their jobs?
Give your employees the sense that you care. Explore and take interest in your employees' dreams. Use dream management to build connections in the workplace. It can be powerful to bring people together through similar dreams. It helps teams grow. Additionally, if you want people to think bigger for your business, then you need to think bigger as individuals. When you help employees achieve personal dreams first, they will be more engaged in conversations about bigger-picture planning for your business.

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