Dreaming is a great way to build a world-class culture

Photo by Илья Мельниченко on Unsplash

If you want to build your organization’s culture, I highly suggest you check out Matthew Kelly’s The Dream Manager.

In the book, a custodial company is struggling with high turnover. They attempt to understand the problem by going to their people and asking: Why are employees leaving?

Their assumption is “because we are a custodial company, people don’t care that much about the job and are looking for something better.”

And like most assumptions: they are wrong.

Instead, they find out their employees struggle to make it to the job site — not because they are lazy, disorganized, or don’t care — but because they lack the transportation needed to get there. Frustrated, they look for other work that is easier to travel to and leave the company.

So the company starts providing transportation, and Volia! Employees stay.

Eventually, the company wants to take everything to the next level and improve culture. One executive observes, “These people all have dreams. We need to find a way to connect their job today with their dreams for tomorrow.”

The point of the book is that dreams motivate people and if you can help people accomplish their dreams, company culture will improve.

I’ve tested this idea in the leadership community I run. Using the ideas from The Dream Manager, I asked leaders I coach to complete their “dream list.”

Matthew Kelly suggests twelve categories to include (and I added a few of my own).

The Dream List

  • Physical (e.g. run a half marathon in under two hours)
  • Emotional (e.g. row my self-awareness to greater than 70)
  • Intellectual (e.g. learn to speak Shona fluently)
  • Spiritual (e.g. Reread the Tao te Ching)
  • Psychological (e.g. experience the overview effect)
  • Material (e.g. own my first home)
  • Professional (e.g. grow my leadership community to 600 leaders)
  • Financial (e.g. save 1,000,000 in savings)
  • Creative (e.g. write a book of poetry)
  • Adventure (e.g. become a 46er, hiking 46 paks in the Adirondacks)
  • Legacy (e.g. start a scholarship for students in need)
  • Character (e.g. judge people less)
  • Travel (e.g. Zimbabwe)
  • Family (e.g. have 2–5 kids)
  • Sports (e.g. see Liverpool FC at Anfield and sing “Never Walk Alone”)
  • Misc (e.g. meet fellow coaches from the altMBA)

Doing this within my community has been a culture-builder. It has been wonderful reading what leaders I serve want to accomplish.

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash

My goal is to help people cross off items from their dream list.

There are things I can easily make happen. Erica wants to coach a novice principal. Guess what, my podcast has millions of downloads and the target audience is school leaders. I just have to ask my listeners, “who is a novice principal and wants to be mentored?” and can make Erica’s dreams come true.

And there are other items I can help people plan for and execute themselves.

Nick wants to write a book. I’ve already written one book and I’m working on a second. The first was self-published and the second is being published with Corwin. I can easily coach and cheer Nick toward accomplishing his goal of writing a book.

Finally, there are dreams that leaders have that are similar, so I connect amazing people together and they can encourage each other.

A number of leaders in my community want to climb a mountain and there are mountains in my backyard in upstate New York. All I have to do is set a date and invite these leaders to hike with me.

Taking action on dreams builds relationships and builds culture.

Making someone’s dream come true is an incredible investment you can make in your people.

I’m sold on the idea and thank Matthew Kelly for putting this work into the world.

I wrote about this idea on my blog. Feel free to check it out and download a free dream list / bucket list template.



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