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Getting More from Your Staff Than You Could Ever Dream Possible

Once your staff knows that you care about their dreams, they will walk through walls for you.

By John Fisher

It’s a problem that’s a constant struggle for you.  Your employees come late, leave early and surf the web at work.  You want your staff to have an ownership mentality, but you can’t give them an equity stake in your firm.  You decide you have to pay your staff more money.

You raise their salary or give them a fat bonus. And your staff is effusive with their appreciation, but you quickly realize that the pay raise and bonuses don’t change a damn thing.  Your staff is doing the same things they were doing before the bump in pay, and you’re ready to give up.

An Irrefutable Truth that Lawyers Ignore

You come to the same conclusion that all lawyers inevitably reach: money doesn’t motivate.  Rewards and penalties may motivate in the short-term, but they won’t do squat for your law practice over the long-haul. If you’re not a believer, read Daniel Pink’s book, Drive, about the futility of motivating with rewards and penalties (a/k/a “carrots” and “sticks”)—yes, there are actual studies backing this up.

John Fisher is a medical malpractice attorney for plaintiffs in New York.

Perhaps you’re ready to give up and accept what you’ve got or fire your lazy, unmotivated staff. You think there’s no way that you can motivate your staff—either they’re hard-working and committed to your clients or they only show up for a paycheck. But you’re ignoring the one thing that your staff wants more than anything else: a strong, unequivocal sign that you care about them, personally and professionally.

You’re thinking, “This guy Fisher is nuts—of course, I care about my team.”  No doubt that you compliment your staff when a big case settles and perhaps you take them to lunch or throw a birthday party. But what you’re doing is the bare minimum—your staff still won’t work harder or become more invested in your practice.

The Power of Dreams for Your Staff

Everything you do is motivated by dreams. Your dreams are why you work weekends and stay at work long after everyone else has gone home—you’re trying to build a better life for your family. Your dream might be to retire early, take a month-long vacation to Europe or send your kids to an Ivy League school, but did you ever bother to think that your staff has dreams too?

The dreams of your staff might be as simple as owning their own home or taking a trip to Europe.  The dreams of your staff may seem simple and easily attainable, but for your staff, their dreams are the reason they’re living.  Once you tap into your staff’s dreams, you discover what motivates them and why they come to work.

If you can find out what your staff’s dreams are—and help them achieve their dreams—you’ve discovered the key to unlocking the power of dreams.  Your staff will know that you’re not using them just to get rich—you care about their future and you’re got a specific strategy to make their dreams come true.  Once your staff knows that you care about their dreams, they will walk through walls for you.

Step #1: The Dream Book

[sws_pullquote_right]Get the Slides and Recording of John Fisher's "The Secrets of Lawyer-to-Lawyer Referral Based Marketing" [/sws_pullquote_right]

You begin by asking your staff to list their dreams in a journal that you give them (the “Dream Book”).  You explain that your staff’s participation the Dream Manager Initiative is completely optional, but for those willing to take a chance, you will take the leap with them.  Show your Dream Book to your staff and tell them about the biggest dreams that you have—not just for your practice, but your personal goals too.

Ask them to set aside a couple of hours to write their dreams in their Dream Book.  Tell your staff to dream without limitation—no dream is too big—and write their dreams in a sort of stream of consciousness.  Ask them to write 100 dreams in their Dream Book in any sphere of their life from spiritual, intellectual, physical, material or emotional.  As each dream is added to the Dream Book, tell your staff to write the date of the dream.

Once they’ve got a list of 100 dreams, ask your staff to add time frames of each dream.  A short-term dream (“ST) is one that can be accomplished in less than 12 months; a moderate-term dream (“MT”) can be achieved between 1-5 years; and a long-term dream (“LT”) will take more than 5 years. Your staff should write “ST”, “MT” or “LT” next to each of their 100 dreams.

Step #2:  Hire a Dream Manager

Ask your staff to pick one dream that is most important. Sure you can’t conquer the world, but you can help your employee achieve the most meaningful dream. Hire a Dream Manager (a/k/a Life Coach) to meet once a month with your employee to create a plan for achieving her dream—these are “Dream Sessions”.

Let’s say the biggest dream of your receptionist is home ownership.  Your employee meets with the Dream Manager to discuss a financial plan to save money from each paycheck for the down payment and continues having Dream Sessions with the Dream Manager for 30 minutes every month to review her progress.

[sws_pullquote_right]“When we stop dreaming, we start dying.” -- Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager [/sws_pullquote_right]

The Dream Manager will hold your employee accountable and make sure she’s complying with the plan.  After six months, your employee is on her way to fixing her credit rating, saving money for a down payment and hiring a realtor to find her first home (something no one has done in her family).

Step #3:  The Dream Fund

You tell your staff that you want to invest in their dreams.  You create a Dream Fund and set aside some cash from every settlement into the Dream Fund. Maybe you’re adding $1k from each settlement to the Dream Fund, but you’re showing your employees that there is money to help pay for their dreams.

When the Dream Fund is ready, you explain to your staff that they will vote to allocate the cash toward specific dreams.  Let’s say your secretary dreams of a 3-week Italian vacation—the Dream Fund doesn’t pay for the entire trip and you don’t give her a check.  You pay for the airfare to Europe for her and her spouse, but if she doesn’t go, she can’t tap into the Dream Fund.

[sws_pullquote_right]“Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.” -- 1993 movie, “Rudy” [/sws_pullquote_right]

Money doesn’t motivate your employees, but if you help them achieve their dreams, they will reward you with dedication and commitment.  There is nothing more powerful than helping your employees achieve their dreams!

A Crazy Idea that Might Actually Work

For some of your employees, your law firm is not the ideal fit for their dreams and professional aspirations.  Tell the ambitious 22-year old receptionist that you hope she moves onto a bigger, better job and you will help her. Perhaps you give your receptionist money from the Dream Fund for paralegal school or college.

[sws_pullquote_right]“The pursuit of dreams creates passion, energy, enthusiasm and vitality.” -- Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager [/sws_pullquote_right]

Your receptionist might leave for bigger challenges, but you’re showing your staff that you care about them, even if this means they leave for greener pastures.  You will be rewarded with a staff that kicks butt and is devoutly loyal to your practice.  And even when your receptionist leaves, you’ve built goodwill with your staff that they will pay back in spades through their loyalty and commitment.

Make Dreams Your Unique Hiring Proposition

Don’t keep the Dream Manager Initiative to yourself—make the Dream Manager Initiative one of the core benefits of employment with your firm. In your advertisements for a new secretary, show the candidates that you care about their dreams.

We believe in your dreams and making your dreams come true.  We want you to set new dreams and surpass them.

You will receive:  Dream Manager Initiative with a Dream Manager at your disposal (cost is 100% covered).

Once job candidates find out that you believe in dreams and the fulfillment of their dreams—both personal and professional—they will be knocking down your door for an interview.

The Dream Manager Initiative for Your Kids

Every child should have a Dream Book and a Dream Manager.  Sit down with your kids and ask them to write down their dreams, put deadlines on each dream and review their Dream Book as often as they can. You can be their Dream Manager!

It’s a beautiful thing when your kids and spouse know exactly what their dreams are and have a plan for achieving them.  And once your kids know that you’re committed to making their dreams come true, they will pay you back with hard work, top grades in school and just maybe a lesson in the Dream Manager Initiative that they can pass onto their children. You’re creating a legacy that will live long after you’re gone.

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