Arete Coach Review: “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly

As we continue into the fourth quarter of 2022, the challenges executives face in regard to employee relations continue to evolve. Recently, we analyzed the latest trend in employee engagement of “Quiet Quitting.” Inspired by this trend, we dove into insights outlined in Matthew Kelly’s The Dream Manager to understand the strategies executives can apply to their practice, and encourage managers to apply to their workforce, for a happier and more engaged workforce.



“If you treat people like people, they respond like people? Dreams are at the core of every person. It is there that our passion for life is ignited.” - Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager

About The Dream Manager

The Dream Manager is a “business parable about how companies can achieve remarkable results by helping their employees fulfill their dreams.” The company discussed in this book faces high rates of employee turnover and low morale in the workplace. Because of this, the managers in the company set out to discover “what really drives” their employees. They found that “the fulfillment of crucial personal dreams” with individual-specific “help and encouragement” are key to leading a successful workplace.


This book is centered on the idea that “a company can only become the-best-version-of-itself to the extent that its employees are becoming better-versions-of-themselves” (Kelly, 2007). The Dream Manager has received praise-worthy reviews from A. McDonald, the COO of Procter & Gamble, as well as Patrick Lencioni, the author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team.


Management lessons from The Dream Manager

Below are 6 lessons we can learn from Kelly’s The Dream Manager. After each section, we include questions for consideration that can be used as fire starters for executive coaching conversations.


The power of questions

A continued theme in Kelly’s The Dream Manager is the use of surveys to analyze the needs, wants, challenges, and goals of employees. Questions can serve as a powerful tool for both executive coaches and managers. In each episode of the Arete Coach Podcast, we ask guests for the powerful questions they use in their coaching practices. Consider Episode #1021 and Episode #1046 of the Arete Coach Podcast for a review of the powerful questions discussed throughout the Arete Coach Podcast.


Throughout The Dream Manager, employees are asked why they are leaving their careers and what their goals and dreams are outside the workplace. After The Dream Manager program is implemented, they are even asked how it can be improved.


By asking these questions, the managers at Admiral Janitorial Services were able meet the needs of their employees, create programs that fostered the continued meeting of these needs and supported goal attainment, and lastly further improving the program. A few questions to consider:

  • What questions have you asked your employees?

  • Do your employees have a safe space to share their ideas, concerns, needs, and goals?

  • What do you know about your employees? How do you know this?

  • Why are your employees [leaving your company, distracted at work, not engaged, etc.]? How do you know this? Have you asked them?

  • What assumptions have you made about your employees or workplace?


“The employees know things about our business that we don’t.” - Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager

The power of personalization

Within The Dream Manager program, Admiral Janitorial Services’ employees were given monthly meetings with a “Dream Manager.” These employees were able to address their own personal goals, creating a connection between their personal goals and their careers. Through personalized encouragement and praise, employees were able to establish their “why” for their work and connect this to their personal lives and overall goals. This connection motivated them to excel in their careers and create a workplace with decreased absenteeism, increased retention, improved workplace relationships, improved performance, and improved customer service (BBC, n.d.). A few questions to consider:

  • Do your managers know the individual needs of their employees?

  • Do your managers have a relationship with each employee they manage or are they managing too many people to do this?

  • How do your employees receive personalized support and management?


When work fulfills your “why,” engagement increases

As exemplified in this book, employees without a “why” or greater purpose for their career are likely to be less engaged. As seen in our recent “Quiet Quitting” article, employee engagement has become a major concern for executives worldwide. By implementing The Dream Manager program and helping employees identify and connect their “why” with their careers, engagement levels at Admiral Janitorial Services increased. According to McKinsey & Co, “employees expect their jobs to bring a significant sense of purpose to their lives” and “employers need to help meet this need, or be prepared to lose talent to companies that will” (Dhingra et al., 2021). Helping employees identify their personal “why” and how it can be fulfilled through their careers can help them find purpose in their careers; ultimately creating a more stable and engaged workforce. A few questions to consider:

  • What are your employees’ “why” for coming to work everyday? How do you know this?

  • How can you support your employees goals, dreams, ambitions, or “why”?

  • What is your company’s “why”? How can employees contribute to this? How does this help your employees achieve their own personal “why”?


“Isn’t one of the primary responsibilities of all relationships to help each other fulfill our dreams?” - Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager

Staying green and growing

After establishing The Dream Manager program, managers at Admiral Janitorial Services continued to question how they could improve the program; they stayed green and growing. In this mission to continually improve, managers were able to learn new ways of improving the program in ways that greatly impacted employees.


The workforce of today has faced many changes and challenges in recent years with the hiring challenges, the rise of the nomadic and remote employment, inflation, and the Silver Tsunami. All of these factors have contributed to changes in the demographics, needs, and desires of the current workplace. Because of this, it is vital for executives to not only remain aware of these changes, but also respond to these changes to best meet their employees’ needs. When managing employees, managers and executives should stay green and growing, by continuing to ask questions and rapidly responding to changes in the workforce of today—not yesterday. In the words of Mark Sanborn, “Your success in life isn't based on your ability to simply change. It is based on your ability to change faster than your competition, customers and business” (Herrity, 2022). A few questions to consider:

  • When was the last time you evaluated your management practices?

  • How are you rewarding employees? Is this the reward they want today?

  • How have the needs of your employees changed over the past 2 years? How have you responded to this?

  • Are your managers receiving training based on the current state of the workforce?

  • Are you managing yesterday’s workforce or today’s?


Culture is key

In the creation of The Dream Manager, the managers of Admiral Janitorial Services found that they were creating a culture of goal achievement and purpose. Having a workplace culture that is healthy and encourages growth can greatly increase engagement. According to Mckinsey & Co “many of the costliest risk and integrity failures have cultural weakness at their core” (2020). They explain that culture “is an organization’s best cross-cutting defense” and that companies with “strong risk cultures have more engaged and satisfied customers and employees (McKinsey & Co, 2020). For more insight on powerful culture strategies visit Building Resilient Workforces to learn how to create a culture that fosters resiliency and withstands the challenges of the post-pandemic workforce. A few questions to consider:

  • How does your workplace culture support your company’s values, goals, and “why”

  • How does your workplace culture affect your profits and losses?

  • How does your management practice affect your workplace culture?

  • If you could describe your workforce’s culture in 1 word what would it be?

  • Where is your workforce culture today and where would you like it to be 1 year later?


“Help your employees in the direction of their dreams and you will create the most dynamic environment in corporate America!” - Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager

Acknowledging financial needs

Managers in The Dream Manager acknowledged that many of their employees had goals and dreams that required financial input. After experiencing increased profits from their program, the pay for the employees was increased. They also provided financial advising through the The Dream Manager program. Furthermore, they created a grant program that allowed employees to apply for specific financial grants using the increased profits of The Dream Manager program. In light of today’s current rates of inflation and economic difficulties in a variety of areas and industries, it is important to acknowledge the financial side of good management.

Research has shown that when employees are stressed, they are less likely to be engaged at work (Breaugh, 2020). For example, when employees are stressed about how they can afford groceries during periods of inflation, they are likely to be more stressed and less engaged at work. Does your employees’ rate of pay meet their needs today and support their goals for tomorrow? A few questions to consider:

  • How can you increase profits and reallocate these funds to employees?

  • What are the financial needs of your employees?

  • How can your company help meet some of these needs?

“The future of your organization and the potential of your employees are intertwined; their destinies are linked.” - Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager

The main takeaway

In Matthew Kelly’s The Dream Manager, we see the increased need for human connection and purpose put on full display. We gain insight into the power of questions and personalization, the importance of fulfilling one’s “why,” the impact of staying green and growing, the value of a great workplace culture, and the importance of acknowledging your employees' financial needs. By taking on the stance of a “dream manager,” executives and their managerial staff can see management and human resources in a new light, creating new opportunities for increased engagement, decreased turnover, and more resilient workforces.


References

BBC. (n.d.). The benefits of a motivated workforce. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/zdn992p/revision/1.


Breaugh, J. (2020, March 16). Too Stressed To Be Engaged? The Role of Basic Needs Satisfaction in Understanding Work Stress and Public Sector Engagement. Public Personnel Management, 50(1), 84–108. https://doi.org/10.1177/0091026020912516.


Herrity, J. (2022, August 24). 52 Thought-Provoking Quotes on Managing Change Effectively. Indeed. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/quotes-on-managing-change.


Kelly, M. (2007, August 21). The Dream Manager. Hachette Books. https://www.amazon.com/dp/1401303706/?tag=sounexecbooks-20.


McKinsey & Co. (2021, April 5). Help your employees find purpose or watch them leave. https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave.


Soundview Executive Book Summaries. (2009). The Dream Manager THE SUMMARY IN BRIEF. www.Summary.com.


Strengthening institutional risk and integrity culture. (2020, November 4). McKinsey & Company. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from https://www.mckinsey.com/capabilities/risk-and-resilience/our-insights/strengthening-institutional-risk-and-integrity-culture.


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