Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Do You Dare Your Employees To Dream?

I’ve written a number of times about the importance empathy, passion, and fostering a sense of shared purpose plays in our ability to succeed through our collective efforts, ideas that are normally considered too touchy-feely or soft to be of any practical benefit in the business world. Then again, in light of the rising tide of employee disengagement, the ability to empathize and communicate a shared sense of purpose is becoming ever more critical to an organization’s long-term health and viability.

But what about dreams? Could our dreams also help to push the boundaries of what’s known and familiar in order to ensure our collective success and growth? It’s an thought that came to mind after talking with my friend Whitney Johnson about her new book “Dare, Dream, Do”.

In most cases, any thoughts or discussions about the role dreams play in today’s business world tend to focus more on innovation and creativity; of how dreams of making a better product/service or learning to see the world differently has lead to so many of the breakthrough innovations that have changed and shaped the world we live in today.

Outside of inventing the next big thing, most of us tend to relegate dreaming as a skill needed only by the creative types, while the rest of us focus more on viewing the world through a pragmatic and practical lens.

But I would submit that our collective ability to dream shouldn’t be viewed as the exclusive domain of the creative and visionary types amongst us; that we shouldn’t limit our understanding of dreams to simply being about such quaint notions as winning the lottery or travelling around the world.

Rather, just like our passions, it’s important that we recognize that our dreams serve as both our inspiration and our drive to continue despite the long odds. Why else, after all, would so many people buy lottery tickets despite knowing the slim chances they have to win? It’s not simply the win they’re after, but what that win would mean for their lives in terms of giving them the opportunities they might not otherwise have.

We’ve all read time and again the mountains of research demonstrating that our ability to be motivated by financial rewards is finite, and how our ability to tap into that inner drive to persevere and succeed relies more on connecting our actions to something which provides a sense of purpose and meaning.

But if we don’t dream of what if – of what truly matters to us – how can we possibly reach this renewable source of determination and drive?

And if organizations and their leaders don’t create an environment or culture where the dreams of those they lead are recognized and understood, how can we create that necessary shift from focusing on what we do to why we do it in order to foster that sense of inner purpose which can fuel our employees to press ahead despite the challenges before them?

Again, let’s be clear not to confuse wishful thinking with the ability to use our imagination and passion to discover new approaches, understandings or realities about the changes going on around us.

Our ability to dream is the key to shifting from a mindset of scarcity to one of abundance because we see potential where others see risk or even loss. After all, none of us dream within boundaries or limitations; but rather of what it would be like to move beyond these perceived restrictions.

Granted, sometimes these dreams can simply be flights of fancy. Then again, if we consider some of humanity’s most respected and admired achievements – the building of the Giza Pyramids, the Taj Mahal, sending a man to the moon – so many of them were dismissed as being unattainable, beyond our abilities and even absurd to consider.

And yet, the leaders who were behind these dreams didn’t concern themselves with the dismissive remarks of their contemporaries because they not only believed in their dreams, but because they understood the importance of transferring their dreams into the collective consciousness of those they lead.

In so doing, it was no longer merely the dream of one person, but of a group that shared a common goal and shared purpose. These leaders understood the power of dreams to not only bring people on board, but to getting them to make that leap of faith in the pursuit of taking that long-shot.

Don’t wait if you have a dream and say you’ll do it one day. Attack it immediately.”
– Explorer and environmental leader Robert Swan, the first person to walk to the North and South Poles.

The simple truth is that the world is changing and it’s becoming clear with each passing day that aiming for ‘good enough’ is no longer enough to succeed and thrive in today’s global market. It’s no longer enough to help create products or services that people want to use or continue to use. It’s no longer enough to ensure you attract and retain the key talent your organization needs to grow and evolve. And it’s no longer enough to ensure your organization’s survival in the years ahead.

Today’s world demands that leaders not only instill creativity and innovation, but that they reach out to tap into the dreams of those they lead to discover that common thread with which to connect their collective efforts around a common purpose that doesn’t simply engage their employees, but empowers them to feel like what they do matters.

Passion, empathy, and dreams are no longer words we should look upon as being the ideals of wishful thinking and what ifs, but as the necessary tools we’ll need to not only help our organization move forward towards reaching our shared goals, but to demonstrating to those we serve why it is we do what we do.

Click here to subscribe to my blog so you can get my latest posts sent directly to your inbox.

  1. On May 9th, 2012 at 5:59 AM stareditions said:

    It's so important to encourage your employees to dream, otherwise they won't progress within the company!

  2. On May 9th, 2012 at 11:47 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Actually, I think dreams have the ability to impact us on all facets of our lives and organizations need to be aware of that as well, given how regardless of what we would like to think, other parts of our lives impact how we approach our work.

    That's why those organizations that are thriving right now are not the ones that limit their focus and efforts on work-related tasks, but ones that look out for the whole person. This benefits not only the employee, but the organization as they end up having a stronger, more productive and involved contributor to their shared purpose.

  3. On May 9th, 2012 at 8:43 AM @briandshelton said:


    I really enjoyed this post as many – perhaps most – organizations appear to ignore their most critical asset, people. And, you're right, it's not enough to simply "attract and retain key talent" because the "best and brightest" typically strive for more; they are the Dreamers. If an organization does not have a culture that values dreaming, the Dreamers will either wither and perform below their potential, or find a new place to dream.

  4. On May 9th, 2012 at 11:42 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Thanks Brian; I'm glad you enjoyed this piece. I read a piece a friend and fellow leadership blogger wrote recently where he was giving advice to new graduates on what to expect on entering the workforce. In my reply to his piece, I noted how often we tell recent graduates about how they have to cast aside their idealism or dreams in order to fit in with 'the real world'.

    Frankly, I think we're not only doing a disservice to new graduates when we say that, but we're also doing a disservice to ourselves by not looking at them as a reminder of how powerful those dreams are to instigate action and change. And more importantly, how all of us have such dreams within us – we just have to make the effort to reconnect and rekindle those dreams to fuel our actions going forward.

    Thanks again, Brian, for sharing your thoughts on this piece.

  5. On May 9th, 2012 at 12:37 PM cmaime55 said:

    Are you speaking of dreams of the employees for their personal life, or in respect to the business? If more on the business front, how to you motivate them to dream big on behalf of the business when there's nothing guaranteeing a return for them?

  6. On May 9th, 2012 at 12:53 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    I'm referring here to those dreams we all have of making a difference in some shape or form; of knowing that what we do matters beyond ourselves.

    With regards to your query, the way that leaders can accomplish this is by first understanding what matters to their employees and then finding ways to connect these dreams and passions to what their employees contribute to their shared cause.

    There are so many examples of this in action in today's business world – just look at some of the companies everyone speaks so highly of as being the best places to work. They got these accolades not because they pay high salaries or because of their unique perks.

    Rather, it's because their leaders understand what matters to their employees and they make an effort to repeatedly demonstrate to their employees how their contributions not only benefit their organization, but help their employees with fulfilling their inner sense of purpose.

  7. On May 9th, 2012 at 1:09 PM cmaime55 said:

    Do you think private thank you's and verbal/written appreciation of their efforts and contributions are better/worse/same as public acknowledgement?

  8. On May 9th, 2012 at 8:46 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    There's no single answer to your question because you have to gauge the appropriateness/effectiveness of such praise in the context its given.

    For example, some employees do prefer being thanked in private because they're not comfortable with such public exposure; others might appreciate the gesture of having a written note while others would be just as happy with a verbal one.

    The key here is to understand which approach would have the right impact – of demonstrating the value of their contributions – for the employee in question. And trust me, making the effort to understand that about your employee will ensure your message is received, as opposed to simply applying a cookie-cutter approach to your feedback.

  9. On May 11th, 2012 at 7:02 AM Jim Matorin said:

    Interesting post, plus thread of comments. I firmly believe the best way to get an organization of dreamers (a.k.a. Dream Team) is to instill a culture where people ask some basic questions everyday: What if? What can we do better today? Then reward.

  10. On May 11th, 2012 at 11:04 AM Tanveer Naseer said:

    Absolutely, Jim. One of the most critical functions a leader has to instill and encourage in those they lead is to be inquisitive, to question why they're doing what they're doing not only in terms of whether it's the most effective approach, but whether it helps them to succeed in reaching their shared goals.

    Unfortunately, it is so easy for us to fall into a pattern of behaviour or process to the point that it becomes habitual or 'the way we do things around here'. Encouraging an "organization of dreamers" is a great way to ensure that perceived limitations/barriers don't become real ones.

    Thanks for joining in on the conversation, Jim.

  11. On May 11th, 2012 at 1:45 PM Rudy said:

    It takes passion and hard work to accomplish dreams. Sometimes employees need lots of motivation otherwise they might not do it.

  12. On May 15th, 2012 at 3:38 AM Antoun Sehnaoui said:

    Hello Tanveer,
    Thank you very much for your inspiring article and advice. Will surely pass it on. I sincerely hope that this will inspire many other people.

  13. On May 15th, 2012 at 4:53 PM Tanveer Naseer said:

    You're welcome, Antoun. Glad to hear this piece has inspired you.

Your Comment: