"Everything you've been told about building
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The Most Powerful Way to Motivate Your Team

Dreams are what make life worth living. You work late nights and weekends to make sure your spouse and kids have everything you want for them and you have dreams and ambitions for your law practice.  The pursuit of dreams has helped make you what you are today.

Have you ever thought about your employees’ dreams? What if you created a system for helping those dreams come true?  Crazy? Perhaps, but no other law firms are doing this.  There is nothing more powerful than taking a genuine interest in your employees’ dreams and taking concrete steps to make their dreams come true.

The Dream Manager Program

Begin by explaining to your employees that you will be offering a new optional benefit of their compensation package: The Dream Manager program.  Tell your employees about a few of your dreams, personal and professional—don’t shy away from sharing your craziest dreams, i.e., climbing to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro.  Let them know that if your employees are willing to share their dreams with you, you’ll take the leap with them.

Step #1: Write the Dreams in a Dream Book

For those willing to take the leap with you, give your employee a journal and ask her to write her dreams in a sort of stream of consciousness.  Tell your employee to dream without limitation—no dream is too big.  Just have your employee block out a couple of hours and start writing down her 100 biggest dreams.

In the Dream Book, put a date next to each date and designate each dream as Short Term (“ST”), “Moderate Term (“MT”) or Long Term (“LT”).  A Short Term dream will be achieved in the next 12 months; a Moderate Term dream will be achieved in 1-5 years; and a Long Term dream will be achieved in more than 5 years.

Ask your employee to keep the Dream Book on her desk and review once a day. It’s okay to add and subtract from the dreams as time passes, but it’s critical to keep the dreams top of mind by reviewing them daily.  Glance through the Dream Book when working out or better yet, share the dreams with her co-workers, spouse and children.

Step #2:  Hire a Dream Manager to Create a Plan for Dreams

Hire a Dream Manager to meet with your employee once a month for a 30-minute “Dream Session”.  Ideally, the Dream Manager will be a financial advisor or certified financial planner—a person who can organize a financial plan for the dreams and understands the power of compounded saving.

The Dream Manager helps your employees articulate their dreams and create a plan for the fulfillment of the dreams.  The Dream Manager will meet with your employee once a month for 30-minute Dream Sessions.  The Dream Sessions are spent discussing just one of your employee’s biggest dreams and specific plans for turning them into a reality.

“We all need a dream manager. This is the first truth.”

Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager

Let’s say your employee dreams of being the first person in her family to buy a home. The Dream Manager creates a plan to make this dream into a reality:

  • Set aside $ from every paycheck for a down payment,
  • Find mortgage companies with special offers for first-time home buyers,
  • Hire a realtor specializing in first time home buyers,
  • Eliminate credit card debt and improve the credit score.

With monthly Dream Sessions, what seemed impossible to your employee suddenly seems possible. The Dream Manager encourages and motivates your employee and creates a detailed financial plan.  The Dream Sessions will make sure progress is made and steps are being taken to turn the dream into a reality.

Step #3:  Pay for the Dreams with a Dream Fund

It’s not enough to simply write the dreams into a Dream Book and have monthly Dream Sessions—you have to help make your employees’ dreams come true with cold, hard cash. The Dream Fund is a bank account that is separate from your operating account and is created for one purpose: to help pay for your employee’s dreams.

You set aside $ from every settlement for the Dream Fund.  Set aside $1k from every settlement for the Dream Fund and add an additional $1k for each of the goals that are achieved in the lawsuit. Create 3 goals for every lawsuit:

  • Length of the Lawsuit: 18 Months
  • Settlement Goal: Highest Realistic Recovery
  • Legal Fee to Disbursement Ratio: 10/1

With every lawsuit, you will deposit at least $1k into the Dream Fund and if all 3 of the lawsuit goals are achieved, add a bonus deposit of $1k.  When all 3 goals are met, add a bonus of $1k and deposit a total of $5k in the Dream Fund.

Making Dreams Come True

Never pay for the entire cost of a dream and whatever you do, never give your employee a check. You want to pay for a part of a dream, say 25% of the total cost, and if your employee says she would rather have a check, that is not an option. You are in the business of making dreams come true—not doling out $.

Let’s say your star secretary dreams of a 10-day trip to Europe with her spouse and kids.  The Dream Fund might pay for the cost of airfare and hotel, but your employee will pay the rest.  You’re playing an important role in making dreams come true, but your secretary is doing all of the planning and funding the bulk of the cost. This will give your secretary a sense of achievement and pride…and none of this would have happened without you.

Your employees should take a vote regarding the allocation of funds in the Dream Fund.  Let them share their dreams with each other, what they would like to do with a specific amount of $ from the Dream Fund and let them decide.  Your employees will encourage and motivate each other and you don’t have to do a damn thing.

Build a Culture of Dreams

You will be the first lawyer in your town, county or even state, who has taken an active interest in your employees’ dreams and making those dreams come true. Your employees will appreciate your genuine interest in their dreams and when you help make their dreams come true, they will walk through walls for your law firm.

“People are enormously grateful to the people who help them achieve their dreams.”

Matthew Kelly, The Dream Manager

Want to take this one step further?  Have your clients put together a dream list.  Find out about your clients’ wildest dreams and ambitions. It will help you get to know your clients and show that you are genuinely interested in their future. By taking an interest in your clients’ dreams, you will build a rapport with them (and be better prepared to present their case to a jury).

Just as a side benefit to your law firm, you are unique from every other law firm.  You have an irresistible offer for prospective employees: “We’re in the business of helping people achieve their dreams.”  The opportunity to help employees achieve their dreams is a powerful motivator for prospective and current employees and you are the greatest benefactor with staunchly dedicated team members and almost zero turnover.

In my humble view, there is nothing better you can do for your law firm.


photo credit: Together Everyone Achieves More via photopin (license)

Leave a comment below telling me what surprised, inspired or taught you the most (I personally respond to every comment). And if you disagree with my take on running a personal injury law firm, or have a specific, actionable tip, I’d love to hear from you.