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Using Dreams to Improve Your Business

Do you ever wish you had a Magic Eight-Ball to give you accurate guidance on career decisions? You may be surprised to know you already have one: your dreams.     

Most of us know that a good night’s sleep decreases stress, increases memory recall, and improves overall functioning. Less well-known is that our nightly dreams also work to keep our psyches healthy and help us access our full potential. With just a little practice, we can learn to tap into this valuable source of information and use it to enhance every aspect of our professional and personal lives.    

Every dream, no matter how small or strange, has a message for us. Dreams give us hints of what is to come, point out opportunities we are missing, and suggest creative solutions to problems we face. In Walter Isaccson’s biography Steve Jobs, he realys how Jobs saw things and dreams of potential. (“An entire record collection in a digital player as big as a pack of cigarettes.”)

To find out what your dreams are telling you, here are some things to listen for.

The yes/no feeling after waking. Jessica felt stifled by her job but was afraid to quit and strike out on her own. After a tumultuous day she went to sleep early and woke in the morning with a peaceful feeling of resolve, knowing that, in spite of her fear, leaving her job was the best decision.

Questions answered through imagery. David was considering changing careers when he dreamt of viewing his recently deceased father through a window. He interpreted the dream as saying that grieving was currently more important than making a big career move.

Literal dream messages. Susan was searching for a job and dreamed of having an animated phone conversation with an old colleague. They hadn’t spoken in years, but she took a cue from her dream and called him. He had just started working for a new business that was hiring—and Samantha got the job!

More Ways Dreams Help In Business

Dreams assist us in managing change. Phyllis’s workplace was undergoing restructuring but she thought her position was safe. She dreamt of walking into the office to find her desk bare and her coworkers gone. Several days later her whole team was laid off. Her dream had prepared her for the change even though she hadn’t wanted to admit it.

Dreams give us great ideas. Paul McCartney woke with a song in his head that he was sure belonged to someone else. He played it for friends and they all assured him it was new. Convinced, he turned his dream song into “Yesterday,” one of his biggest hits ever.    

Dreams are like having an inner coach. If you’re struggling with career or personal goals, check your dreams to see if a great solution is waiting in the wings. Often all it takes is listening to realize you had the answer all along.

 

Techniques for Working with Dreams

Like guests to a party, dreams have to be invited, and then treated well. Here are 10 ways to begin:

1. Before going to sleep, state your intention to remember your dreams. Like priming the pump, this may take a while, but soon your dreams will flow.

2. Try to wake before your alarm goes off. Nothing erases a dream faster than being startled awake.

3. When you wake from a dream, lie still. Translate the images into words before opening your eyes.

4. Keep pen and paper beside your bed so you can start writing before the dream fades.

5. Better yet, keep a dream journal to record your dreams and recurring symbols. While some images may be universal, your dream language is your own.

6. Don’t judge your dreams. They speak in metaphor, image, and pun. As with any language, it takes time to learn.

7. Don’t take your dreams too literally. If you dream of a death, it doesn’t necessarily mean that person will die. Read books about dreams to learn more.

8. If you want help, ask for a dream, and then seriously consider its answer. Often dreams answer the question behind the question.

9. All dreams come for our benefit—even “bad” ones. Have the courage to face what your dreams are telling you.

10. Share your dreams. Working on dreams with others is a great way to learn about dreams.

The Business Results of Coaching

Without a doubt, coaching is the hottest approach to enhancing the performance of people in an enterprise—whether it’s teams of coaches working with managers in a Fortune 500 company, transition coaching for new C-level executive hires, or coaches working with the owners of small businesses or sole proprietorships.

 

It is clear from the increasing acceptance and investment in coaching that we believe coaching works.

But how well does it work? And how hard is it to measure? In recent years, a couple of detailed, well-documented studies have put the return on investment (ROI) of major coaching engagements within Fortune 500 companies at between 600% and 700%, depending upon how improved retention was calculated.

 

But studies of this precision—funded by the corporate clients—are generally too costly to be a sustained way of assessing the business benefits of coaching—even at the level of large corporations. Moreover, the issue of the benefits of coaching is, if anything, even more relevant to small business. For many firms considering hiring a coach, the notion of funding a major study to assess the results is laughable, yet it is critical that they be able to associate the benefits they are deriving from their investment in coaching.

 

The challenge of measuring the benefits of coaching often depends upon why the coach has been engaged in the first place. In some cases, the goal of a coaching engagement can be fairly easy to quantify—improving meeting management skills, for example. You can measure how many meetings start on time, how many end on time and survey meeting attendees as to the effectiveness of the meeting. With a little imagination, such measures could be converted to hard dollar savings or productivity increases and an actual ROI developed.

 

Often, however, the connection between the behavior and the result isn’t so clear. One of the biggest challenges in measuring coaching is that tangible, behavioral change is usually linked to intangible mindsets and beliefs. Effective measurement strategies require that we make those intangibles measurable.

 

Is it possible to capture all of those intangibles in some concrete, meaningful metric? The answer is generally, “No, not precisely.” However, there are techniques that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of coaching and often to achieve a realistic estimate of the ROI. More importantly, setting up an evaluation process up front not only helps set performance expectations, but it can also make the coaching more effective.

 

For example, coaching can be refocused to deal with issues or to ensure that business priorities will be met. In this way, the evaluation of coaching becomes more than just a measuring stick—it becomes a key approach to deepen the business value of coaching.

 

For large firms, coaching consultancy MetrixGlobal suggests seven critical steps for measuring ROI from a coaching engagement:

1.  Set objectives for the engagement that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time bound. Establish a performance benchmark from existing appraisals and reviews.

2.  Ensure that coaching objectives flow from overall project and/or business objectives.

3.  Communicate the methodology for measuring the monetary value of the coaching program before the program begins.

4.  Identify the opportunity costs of the client’s time for participating in coaching.

5.  Capture the monetary value of the coaching in tandem with the intangible value.

6.  Validate the calculation with the managers being coached.

7.  Communicate the results of the coaching program to key stakeholders.

 

Smaller firms, on the other hand, often cannot spend the time and effort to achieve the same level of measurement precision. In that case, there are several steps they can take to come up with quantifiable measures, if not quite ROI metrics. Among them are: 360-degree surveys, climate surveys within the organization, employee performance metrics and customer surveys.

 

However, such broad measures can be disconnected from the effect of specific behavior changes that the coach and the executive are addressing. The challenge is to figure out the connections between the executive’s behavior and the behavior of the organization. Lore International Institute’s Bacon suggests these possibilities: improvements in productivity, reductions in absenteeism and employee turnover, reductions in cycle time, improvements in quality and/or reduction in waste, increased customer satisfaction, and increased value of the opportunity pipeline.

 

Though challenging, the business effectiveness of coaching can be measured, or at least closely approximated. And if coaching is to prove its worth, it ultimately must stand up to the same test as any other investment in the business.

 

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