The Twenty-First-Century Manager

Managing people has perhaps never been a more daunting task. This is true whether you are a CEO, the leader of a small department, or a parent. Even managing ourselves has become increasingly complex and difficult in the midst of a modern schema filled with endless possibilities and opportunities. From where will clarity emerge? The answer is from a deep and resounding understanding of our purpose, both as people and as organizations.

The modern manager is responsible for helping an organization become the-best-version-of-itself. The major objective of this role has never changed. Only now, the modern manager understands that achieving this objective is largely dependent on a team of employees dedicated to becoming better-versions-of-themselves.

The most effective leaders and managers will be those who find ways to advance a company, while at the same time helping employees to advance personally and professionally.

If a manager attempts to advance the company's purpose to the detriment of the employees' purpose, it will hurt both employee and company. On the other hand, advance the employees' purpose at the detriment of the company, and it will hurt both company and employee. The two must find a way to coexist in support of one another. The two must find ways to add value in equal measure.

For decades, we have invested billions of corporate dollars in programs that pretend to focus on employee enrichment, but in truth were designed to get exactly what the corporation wanted. Why are we surprised that these programs are met with cynicism and that the results are mediocre? Corporate leaders often display the very same cynicism when programs are proposed that actually focus on employee enrichment, doubting that the payoff will be there for the company.

In all of this, we have overlooked the startling reality that if you play a role in teaching your employees how to manage their money, they will manage your money more effectively and be less distracted by personal financial concerns. If you play a role in helping your employees to adopt a healthy lifestyle, your health insurance costs will be reduced and your employees will be more effective because they are healthier. The examples are endless.

Rule #1You cannot reasonably expect people to do for your company what they won't do for themselves.

Hire an accountant who doesn't manage his personal finances well, and you are asking for trouble. Hire an employee-relations executive who doesn't generally get along with people in her personal life, and you are asking for trouble.

I work all the time with CEOs who are baffled that they can't get their senior managers to really throw themselves into the strategic-planning process. “They constantly want breaks to check e-mail and voice mail,” one CEO said to me recently. And yet, when you examine the lives of these senior managers, you discover they spend more time planning their annual vacation than they spend planning their lives.

One of the most powerful exercises we facilitate in our two-day executive retreats is to take each member of an executive team through a process that helps them create a Personal Strategic Plan. We begin by examining the twelve areas — physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, psychological, material, professional, financial, creative, adventure, legacy, and character. We then take traditional strategic-planning methods and exercises and apply them to the different areas of a team member's life, helping him/her to create a three-year Personal Strategic Plan with specific and measurable Critical Success Factors.

Many of these people have been putting together strategic plans for their organizations or departments for decades, but have never created a Personal Strategic Plan. Once we have taken them through the process — made it personal — their involvement in corporate strategic planning takes on a whole new meaning, and is usually accompanied by a whole new level of enthusiasm.

Teach them the importance of strategic planning in their own lives and they will understand its importance in the life of your company. The same is true for dreams and goals. If you want to engage employees in corporate dreams and goals, you must first engage them in their own personal dreams and goals.

So, you're a manager. You picked up the book, and you like the idea, but where do you start? Here are four first steps.


Write your own Dream List. Examine each of the twelve areas and come up with a list of one hundred dreams.


Spend half an hour each morning walking around, visiting with your team members. Begin to take a sincere interest in their work and their lives.


Pull your team together for a Dream Session. Send out a memo or call a meeting to explain what it is, how it will work, and what it is designed to achieve. If you are concerned about how it will be received, have some or all of your team members read this book before the Dream Session.


Use employee reviews as an opportunity to take an interest in the dreams of the people who report to you. Try to pinpoint one dream you can help and encourage each team member to accomplish in the next twelve months. At the same time, use this as an opportunity to educate individual team members about the dreams you have for your company, department, team, or project.

Launching the Dream Manager Program formally at your company is something you should consider, but whether or not you pursue the program formally you should begin its informal implementation today. It will cost you nothing, and you will begin to see results almost immediately.

Dreams provide fascinating insights into what drives people. This is indispensable knowledge for a manager of any kind.

Take an active interest in the dreams of the people on your team and in your life, encourage them to move boldly in the direction of their dreams, and have the courage to share your own personal and professional dreams with them. Over time, the people who surround you will begin to do the same among themselves, and you will witness a new spirit of collaboration — and the unrivaled power of a culture of dreams.

It is a different approach, I must admit, and I feel certain that you will agree with me. I am equally certain that different is exactly what is needed in the corporate arena if we are going to engage employees and build dynamic teams. So, I beg you — don't be ordinary! Not as a manager, not as a friend, not as a lover, not as a parent, not as an employee, and not as a citizen. Don't be ordinary…

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