THE MOST POWERFUL ideas are almost always the simple ones. And so often, they come from unlikely sources. Matthew Kelly's The Dream Manager is a testament to both of these axioms.

As long as organizations have existed, leaders have been looking for ways to inspire workers and keep them from leaving for imagined greener pastures. But during the past thirty years, as fewer and fewer people cling to the notion of staying with the same company for their entire careers, concerns about inspiring and retaining employees have grown rapidly. Today, with the increasing shortage of skilled labor in the job market — and the unprecedented leverage that it has given employees — the search for an effective solution to the retention problem in the corporate world has become nothing short of an obsession. And for good reason.

Executives today realize that the cost of losing good people is no longer limited to higher recruiting and retraining expenses; it is a recipe for failure. Even the most cynical manager will admit that one of the most important competitive advantages a company can have is the ability to keep and motivate the human capital that is in such short supply.

Unfortunately, managers and human resources professionals have traditionally focused most of their attention on levers like compensation and benefits. They've raised salaries, increased bonuses, awarded stock options, increased vacation time, and let people bring their pets to work — with limited success, at best. In those cases where a company has been able to successfully use one of these tools to coax an unfulfilled employee into staying, they usually find that the solution is only a temporary — and costly — one.

The truth is, few people — if any — work for money alone. Sure, we all need money, and we certainly factor it into our decisions about a given job. But when it comes to inspiring people and creating the kind of environment where employees laugh at the notion of leaving their company, there is something far more powerful — and less expensive — that companies have largely overlooked.

Until now.

As you read this book, you'll probably have the same reaction I did. “Why hasn't someone already figured this out? It's so obvious in hindsight!” And that is the sign of a truly ingenious idea.

And the real beauty of Matthew Kelly's breakthrough idea is that it is one of those rare discoveries that is as beneficial for employees as it is for a company's bottom line. It's like discovering a cheap and powerful new source of fuel that is also good for the environment!

The one sad thing about Matthew's idea — although I suppose from a competitive standpoint it might be a good thing — is that some managers will probably dismiss his theory. They might say, “Give me a break. That's the simplest idea I've ever heard.” Or they'll think, “Who is this Matthew Kelly guy, anyway? He's not a business or management expert I've ever heard of.”

My response to both of those objections is, “Exactly!”


author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

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