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Are You An Unaware Dream Killer?

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Imagine when you had an idea or dream that gave you great excitement and hope. What happened to that dream or idea? Has it been fulfilled or abandoned? Often unfulfilled or abandoned dreams occur because we encounter a dream killer. I define a dream killer as someone or something that causes you to reduce your enthusiasm for your dream. As a person, the dream killer usually has the influence or authority to speak into one's life. The dream killer might have fear resulting from their memory, scars from previous attempts, lack of resources and ability, or pure exhaustion. Regardless of the reason, the dream killer may not realize they are killing your dream. As a leader, we may not be able to control all the factors that might impact a person's dream, but we can control ourselves and avoid becoming unaware dream killers.

When someone shares their dream with you, what is your typical approach? Do you come with cynicism or skeptical questioning? Or do you provide thoughtful due diligence? What if I told you that cynicism, skeptical questioning, and thoughtful due diligence are all the same? I am sure your intentions are not to squash someone’s dream, but often, those in advisory roles, such as parents, managers, educators, counselors, mentors, etc., do that precisely. Mainly because we often see ourselves and our experiences in the dream or ideas that someone shares through our paradigm instead of from their perspectives. We convince ourselves that it is okay to do that because we have experience and lessons learned. Today, I want to challenge you as a leader not to make that your automatic response.

As a leader, I would like you to consider another initial approach. I encourage you to adopt a first response of exploration and wonder when someone shares their dream or idea. Doing this provides a safer environment for the dreamer and lets you be present while listening. If you have read my blogs in the past, you know I believe one of the essential skills many people lack is "listening." In the Language of Healing Participation Manual (Neely & Neely, 2022), active listening is responding to messages (verbal and non-verbal) sent to you from another person. Some people are experts at only listening long enough to hear a pause, such that they can introduce their thoughts and opinions from their perspective or lens. The problem is that, at that point, the idea has yet to be fully shared. I call this listening long enough to get your wise thoughts considered.

So what are some fundamental steps to avoid becoming an unaware dream killer?

  1. SET ASIDE TIME - If the time is not suitable for you as a leader to be present in the conversation, acknowledge it and ask for a delay to another specific time when you can listen and be present. Too often, to seem open, we allow discussions to go forward when distracted and unable to be good listeners. Instead, when the time is right, the dreamer can share, and you can gain more insight into their idea.

  2. RESIST ADVICE - Too often, many listen long enough for a pause in the conversation to share their ideas, pearls of wisdom, and experiences. While this may be appropriate at some point, it is rarely appropriate at the beginning when we are initially learning or hearing about someone's dream. I am not suggesting that you never share and give your thoughts; I recommend sharing your views only after their vision is wholly shared. Resisting giving advice is not straightforward, but it is essential when trying not to be a dream killer. Our views and experiences shape our paradigm. They also could inadvertently bias the dreamer because of our influence in their life. Finally, remember, I am not suggesting you never share your thought. I suggest you do it after the next step.

  3. EXPLORE - Exploring with the dreamer as they share allows them to consider more detail and identify some steps along their journey. Exploring and extending the conversation helps them identify and list those steps as you repeat what they are expressing back to them. My Leadership Guide, “ LEAD: A Guide to Fostering Perpetual Leadership,” presented this concept. Exploring is challenging because your success has taught and conditioned you to trust your instincts and leverage your past experiences to avoid failure. But in our efforts to be a sounding board, we may become dream killers. So even when we add the phrase, I am not trying to discourage you, but I want you to consider… That statement seems harmless, but it is also a dream killer. The killer phase is not, ”I am not trying to discourage you.” The killer phase is the conjunction “but.” That conjunction does not extend the conversation; it instead can cause a pivot or change in the direction of the conversation. Therefore, asking a question rather than introducing a gotcha thought or a wise warning to keep the conversation going would have been better.

While these three steps may seem simple, they are paramount in avoiding being a dream killer. All three steps are equally important. However, I would be remised if I didn’t reiterate that I clearly understand the need to give advice for ill-conceived ideas and share lessons learned appropriately. But too often, I found myself and others spending so much time advising that the one sharing gets little to no air time in a conversation about their dream. What is your mission as a leader? I believe it is to help others rise above and beyond where you are or even where you have been. It’s their dreams and visions that you are helping them to fulfill.

Try these steps and see if they cause you to have deeper conversations. Please post comments at, or email me at I would love to hear from you and offer other techniques. Now, go forth and #LEADPerpetually.

The information in this blog is provided on an "as is" basis with no guarantees of completeness, accuracy, usefulness, or timeliness. To subscribe to these blogs, please visit You will also have access to a leadership guide that started it all.

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