Getting Results from a Dreamer Worker

Which is better? Having innovative new ideas or putting those concepts in action?

Dreamers make work look like play. But that doesn't mean they aren't working.
Dreamers make work look like play. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t working.

It’s a logical conclusion that ideas and implementation have equal importance. What good would brilliant ideas be if they go no where? And where would we be without the creative thinkers who dream beyond existing limitations?

Yet I can bet that we’ve all been a part of a workplace project and seen first-hand how challenging it can be to get that dreamer worker to commit to the nitty-gritty work needed to implement. So what can you do if you have a dreamer who won’t get any work done?

Steps you can take to make things easier on everyone

Recognize the value of those big ideas. It might seem like it’s all fun and games to you, but moving outside the established boundaries takes courage. A dreamer can be seen as out-of-touch, not serious, or full of fluff because they don’t focus on the details or work needed to make the vision a reality. But even if the ideas are brought forward haphazardly or without a lot of concrete justification, it doesn’t automatically make the ideas ridiculous. Imagine the possibilities with the dreamer, at least for a little while, before you start being critical.

Let the dreamer dream. Find as many opportunities as possible to let the person focus on innovation, not implementation. Use those strengths and be sure to acknowledge them. Be clear with the dreamer about how much autonomy you are offering (it may not be clear until stated).

Voice your need to focus on the implementation process. Talk through the short-term and long-term goals of any ideas that are brought to the table. If you are enthusiastic about the ideas, say so, then point out the need for action. Walk through next steps that are required to bring the dream to life. Help the dreamer see that details and implementation are critical for his success, too. If he isn’t willing or able to provide that help, be clear on how much you can (or can’t) take on.

Prioritize projects. One of the biggest disconnects between dreamers and workers is the perceived workload. Lots of ideas can come quickly, leaving the worker to get buried in a long list of projects or continuous changes to existing ones. Each time a dreamer brings a new idea to the table, have a discussion about where it fits into the existing timeline. Discuss this thoroughly so that both parties come to a place where each can live with the decision. If the worker can sincerely appreciate the value of the idea, work to figure out how to best bring it to life. If the idea doesn’t cut mustard, it will naturally fall off the list. Make sure those decisions are conscious ones, though, rather than it just happening.

Be realistic about project schedules. Even the worker can get excited about projects and take them on despite workload or process concerns. However, be conservative and realistic when determining timelines. Focus on a small number and do them well versus taking on too many activities at once.

Trust and appreciation of each contribution will yield solutions

When the dreamer and the worker trust each other enough to talk through the challenges that each face, solutions will be found. Big differences exist but that doesn’t make them insurmountable. Either fewer ideas can be implemented or more staff is needed, or the answer falls somewhere in between. The trick is making sure both players appreciate and value the work being done by the other.

What ideas do you have to help work with a dreamer more effectively? Think big and share here! 

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