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Leaders shouldn’t ignore their employees’ dreams

3 min read


Late last year, I traveled to Indianapolis for business.

When a friend online heard about my trip, she encouraged me to meet her niece, Margy, a recent college grad.

“She’s beginning to do social media marketing work. I think you’d be able to give her some direction and encouragement.”

Because this friend has encouraged me in countless ways, I eagerly set aside time for dinner with Margy. And during our dinner, though we talked about our work, the most memorable conversation topic arose when I asked Margy about her dreams.

We don’t typically think of helping others discover and move to their dreams as a leadership skill or competency, but if Margy’s response to my question is any indication of the power our (sometimes unspoken) dreams for our futures hold in our lives, leaders would be wise to pay attention to and give concern toward their teams’ ambitions, goals, aspirations and dreams.

While my question to Margy was a simple one — “What are your dreams?” — with a bit of creativity, leaders may be able to gain deeper understanding of their team members’ ideal futures.

What if we, as leaders, asked, “What do your dreams look like?” What if we asked, “What do your dreams feel like?”

While reading Whitney Johnson’s soon-to-be-released book, “Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream,” I came across a sentence that jumped off the page at me: “If a dream feels right in both our heart and head, the dream becomes delicious.”

What if we asked, “What does your dream taste like?”

If we engage our five senses in imagining our desired futures, and if we involve our teams in dreaming with all five senses, we will help them discover how to live lives of purpose, lives that make sense to both their heads and their hearts. We will help them discover something delicious.

In some ways, this will require that we suspend our own agendas, to temporarily set aside our own dreams in service of helping others freely express their dreams.

Yes, we have goals and plans for our organizations and we would like our team members to join and work with us toward the goals we set for our organizations. But, far better to talk openly about each team member’s individual gifts, strengths and abilities, and to identify ways to give them opportunities to move closer to their dreams.

This requires balance that is counterintuitive to a traditional view of leaders as directors and architects of vision and goals. We must learn to set goals with our team members, inviting them to dream with us, allowing their dreams to inform our plans and priorities.

What do you think? Is it important for leaders to care for and nurture team members’ dreams? How can we as leaders find the balance between pursuing our own goals and attending to others’ goals and dreams?

Becky Robinson is the owner of Weaving Influence, a social media marketing company focused on helping authors and thought leaders expand their online presence and influence. You can read Robinson’s blog or follow her on Twitter @beckyrbnsn.