Dream Management

I was first introduced to Matthew Kelly’s book The Dream Manager by my friend (and then boss) about three years ago. 

For those of you unfamiliar, the concept is fairly simple: if companies are willing to help their employees fulfill their dreams and goals, the company in return will achieve remarkable results. One of the first lines in the book reads, “An organization can only become the-best-version-of-itself to the extent that the people who drive that organization are striving to become better-versions-of-themselves.”

He asked my opinion on starting a similar type of program at our company. My initial reaction was along the lines of “um, you’re kidding, right?” It seemed too touchy-feel-y and soft for a company that’s staffed by a majority of male techies. Fast forward a couple years, past my fight with the big C. I found my opinion significantly changed. Life is too short to wonder “what if” about anything significant to you.

I re-read the book. I talked with some people who have started similar programs at their companies. I made my own dream list, and I told our employees I’d be willing to talk to them about their lists. Of course it’s completely voluntary. At times, my job as HR Director gets in the way; some people are naturally apprehensive talking about such vulnerable subjects as career(!), health and finances with me.

What I have found over the past year has convinced me there’s merit in the idea. Just raising the concept and asking people to consider it led to many accomplishments:

  • four people obtained motorcycle licenses (three of them women!)
  • one person quit smoking, and one more is currently working on it
  • three significant credit card balances were paid off
  • one non-profit was founded
  • multiple people have trained for and competed in 5Ks and 10Ks
  • one person joined a monthly book club
  • two people have maxed out their annual 401(k) contributions
  • one person scanned and saved old family photos to share and preserve
  • one person started her own business
  • one person realized a dream of playing in an orchestra for a local theater
  • one person found a private tutor and started painting
  • two people started participating on advisory boards in our industry
  • one person started a savings account for doing a 25th wedding anniversary trip
  • multiple people have enrolled in and completed continuing education classes
  • one person moved out of her mom’s house, into her own

There are many more accomplishments in the works. There is also a ripple effect happening. Some employees may not want to formally participate in the process, but occasionally reach out for a resource or two for a specific project or problem. I’m so proud of everything these people have accomplished, and I have seen increased confidence in what they do day-to-day. It stands to reason that this increased self-confidence, along with the personal and career learning people are doing, will benefit the company in the long run.

In both large and small ways lives are being actively changed, inspiring me. Recognizing I haven’t given everything I can to the project, I am in the process of recommitting to it for this next year.

Today, July 6, I embark on my own journey to develop a personal strategic plan and identify what matters most to me. I’m embracing this opportunity to grow!

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

April Kunzelman

April Kunzelman, PHR, has a wide range of experience in many aspects of personnel management. For over 10 years, she served as the HR Director for fatwallet.com, building an award-winning culture. April now spends her days working with the non-profit organization Chemo Cargo, aimed at assisting first-time chemotherapy patients. Connect with April on Twitter as @akunzel and @chemocargo.


Jayne Kopp

Hi April… I absolutely am on the same page. I often do my best to drive home the fact that life IS too short of ‘what ifs’… Oh how wonderful if others would embrace that same thought.

Dream lists, what a wonderful concept. I an almost feel how things can come to fruition by making one… and having people buy into the idea must be such an awesome experience particularly when you see results.

Thanks for the lovely post.


Heather Stephens

Hi April,

Wow, I’m so blown away by what everyone has accomplished. What a great program. I read the book a while back when a friend loaned it to me, but at the time I was self employed and obviously my own dream manager. The challenge is not always having someone to hold you accountable or to help you through the personal junk that comes up when you’re stretching your comfort zone and heading into uncharted territory.

What a great concept and great post. I look forward to the dream manager process! 🙂 Good luck on your dreams as well.


Linda Schemel

Great article! Just challenging people to write down personal goals and put them in a prominent place – close to mind. It helps!


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