What are your goals, dreams and aspirations? Have you had someone that was by your side to help you achieve them, and encourage you to not give up? Did that somebody have your back when it didn’t seem possible for you to finish, and help push you along to succeed? And I am sure I know the answer to my next question. Was that someone the company you worked for? If your answer is, “HA! No way would my job ever do something so crazy like that!” (or some similar… p.c. comment), you are not alone. Most jobs don’t care what your dreams are or what personal goals you are trying to attain. The only goal they care about is the bottom line and your part in getting the company there. But believe it or not, at Cornerstone Autism Center, they do care about what individual dreams you have! This collaboration between Cornerstone and its employees is an amazing thing. It brings real possibilities, strong friendships, and deep positive ties to the center.
I was once told that dreams were what goals are made from. For Megan DeYoung, that is exactly her responsibility at the Cornerstone Autism Center. She makes those dreams a reality. I sat down with Megan Deyoung to talk about “The Dream Manager” program and how in the world this fascinating program Cornerstone provides its staff works.
Jarrad: Hi Megan! You have such an attention-grabbing job that you play at Cornerstone. You are in charge of the Dream Manager program. If you handed me a business card what would your official title be on it?
Megan: Director of Employee Culture and Engagement
J: Wow, that’s probably one of the coolest titles I’ve ever heard! How does that title fit in with what you actually do at Cornerstone?
Megan: I work directly with our staff on multiple levels. We have an initiative called “The 1-120 Project.” Basically, this means I focus on helping each new employee have the best hiring and onboarding process with us from the day they submit their application to Cornerstone to their 90 day review, which we estimate to be a total of 120 days. My goal during this time is to help new employees learn and understand the culture of Cornerstone Autism Center.
My second focus is to work with our employees in our “Dream Manager” program. Cornerstone believes that it is very important to understand and invest in our employees’ dreams and goals. We believe that by supporting employees’ dreams, we will foster a very loyal and dedicated team of therapists and staff members.
Finally, I facilitate ongoing trainings for all of our staff members. These trainings can touch on a variety of topics. There might be ABA technique trainings, CPR trainings, trainings developed out of dream manager meetings (ie, financial planning, physical trainings, nutrition trainings, etc.), team builders to allow our team members to learn about each other on a more personal level, or anything else that is relevant to our staff at any given time.
J: So you help manage “dreams” or “goals”?
Megan: If nothing else, I consider myself a cheerleader for our staff. I meet with each member individually in order to talk about their dreams and goals. I then do 1 of 3 things:
J: So what inspired Cornerstone to initiate such an endeavor?
Megan: A few years back, David read the book “The Dream Manager” by Matthew Kelly. This book inspired David to invest time in learning what dreams his employees have, and then find ways to help employees accomplish those dreams. As our company continues to grow, it has become increasingly difficult to invest that time with so many individuals. David, Debbie, and Ken believe that this is an important part of our culture and therefore they developed my role as our “Dream Manager.” I am truly honored to have such intimate relationships with every staff member at Cornerstone. I believe that I have the best job ever!
J: How does Cornerstone help faculty and staff accomplish these tasks?
Megan: This can be difficult to answer because everyone’s dreams are so varied. When I meet with our staff members, I can begin to see common goals throughout the company. When this happens the company looks for ways to add employee benefits to accomplish these dreams. It was important to many of our employees to start saving for retirement. Based off of this common goal, Cornerstone developed our 401K benefit, and contributes toward that by matching a percentage of what the employee adds to their fund. Another way Cornerstone helps staff accomplish these goals is to match up resources with specific goals. Through conversations with every employee and individuals outside of our company, it is possible to match up someone’s skills with another employees dream. In this case, it really is about team work.
J: You set up the dreams into three categories: Goals to be completed within a year, dreams accomplished in 1-5 years, and then others finalized 5+ years. How does this work for you? Do you focus on the recent ones and then move on to the future goals, or do you help prep them all at the same time?
Megan: We do break goals into short-term, mid-term, and long-term. When I first meet with a team member, we discuss all of their dreams and goals. After that I try to touch base with each individual about one time per month to see how their short-term goals are progressing. I may email them, catch them in the hall or at lunch, or ask them through Facebook. I believe it is important to focus on all goals, but it would be disappointing to miss a short-term goal because we focused too much time on something intended to be completed later. I meet with each employee two times per year in order to update their goals. I ask them if short-term goals have been met, if mid-term goals are now short-term, or if some goals are not goals any more. Once mid-term goals become short-term we start to focus monthly on those as well.
J:Do you see any of the “dreams” from faculty and staff and wonder, lol, just how in the world you are going to help them achieve such lofty goals?
Megan: I have had that thought cross my mind once or twice. Typically those are goals that really depend on the staff member wanting to change themselves. Most of the time, the best I can do with these is to encourage and build them up A LOT. However, I don’t give up easily if a dream seems difficult, I still research ways to help that individual. Perhaps a motivational book, therapy, or even just a listening ear can make all the difference toward that goal.
Jarrad: You were originally the center manager at the West Lafayette location. Has the experience being a center manager helped you to be a better prepared Dream Manager?
Megan: Absolutely! To go back to the beginning, I was once an ABA Therapist at our Greenwood location. Not only can I honestly sit across the table from a therapist and understand the rewards and challenges of that position, but I have also already developed personal relationships with a lot of our employees. They’re all my friends and it makes having such a personal conversation that much easier. As a Center Manager, I was sought out often to answer questions and offer support. If I didn’t know the answer or couldn’t solve a problem I usually knew who could. This falls in line with Dream Manager. If I don’t have personal resources or the ability to help a staff member, I often may know someone who can.
J: What is different from your previous job compared to that current one that you might still be getting used to?
Megan: I would say the most different part of my job is being another step away from the clients we serve. As a therapist, I was on the front line and knew all of our kiddos. Once I moved to Center Manager, I still knew all the kiddos in our West Lafayette center even if I didn’t work directly with them. Now I don’t see our kids nearly as often, and if new kids are added it takes me a much longer time to learn their names. I feel it is still important to know our kiddos in order to know what each staff member is working with on a daily basis. If a client is challenging in some areas, I like to know that so I can encourage the staff members in the appropriate way.
J: You probably answered so it might be repetitive, but what are 2 things you really enjoy doing with the work you do now?
Megan: I really love being able to have a personal relationship with every employee. Since I’ve had the privilege to be with Cornerstone from the very beginning, I’ve been able to welcome each new employee. I really enjoy being that welcoming face to each new team member. I also really enjoy the family like atmosphere we foster in our centers. Our staff members are co-workers, but they are also friends. It is common to hear stories or see pictures of groups of them spending time outside of the center. We also have a Social Chair position in each center. These individuals work with the staff to schedule social outings as a group. We’re currently working on getting West Lafayette and Greenwood together at an Indianapolis Indians game. How many people can say they get to work with their friends? That is something I am very proud of at Cornerstone.
J: All right, now for the hard question! Have you any stories of completed dreams that you can check off their list and that you are particularly proud of?
Megan: I’m still pretty new to this position, and am just now learning what everyone’s dreams are and what they have accomplished in the last 2 years of Cornerstone’s existence. What I am most proud of is the vast number of dreams that have been accomplished. On average each employee has already accomplished 4 dreams. I still haven’t met with everyone, but if we have 50 therapists in the company that’s 200 dreams met!!!
J: You mentioned part of the reason for starting the Strength For Your Life (SFYL) program was because of staff dreams that kept reoccurring. Could you tell me more how this fits with the Dream Manager program?
Megan: The common thread dreams we keep hearing are ‘I want to be more fit’, ‘I want to lose weight’, ‘I want to run a mini-marathon’ and so on. If you look at these goals they all require exercise and healthy diets. SFYL is a well-rounded program that focuses on nutrition, exercise, and mental health. While one wouldn’t necessarily think mental health was needed for fitness, we have learned a lot already about how much our minds play into our eating and exercising habit. However, the job that our therapists do every day is incredibly intense and having the tools to strengthen our minds is so important to Cornerstone as well.
J: How did you become a team member or “family” as you have said many times with Cornerstone Autism Center?
Megan: I love my story of how life brought me to this company! I majored in Early Intervention at Purdue University and was required to complete an internship before graduating with my bachelors. My professor really encouraged me to seek out an internship at an ABA center. So, I interned at an ABA center in Carmel where I met David and Debbie Ide. They both were in leadership roles at that center, and I developed a good relationship with both of them. Before I completed my time there, I encouraged David to build more ABA centers, specifically in my home town of Lafayette. I spent a year as an Assistant Director at a local Kindercare center, but kept in contact with the Ide family. In February of 2010, I left my position with Kindercare to work directly with David and Debbie’s son in their home. During that time I had the amazing privilege of observing and even having some input into the development of what became Cornerstone Autism Center. When they opened in July of 2010 I became a therapist in Greenwood for 9 months. Soon after we had our West Lafayette grand opening, and I was promoted to Center Manager. As our company has grown and evolved I was honored with the position that I currently have and get to spend all my time fostering relationships within our company. I am incredibly proud of my history and the part I had in making Cornerstone Autism Center a reality.
J: What kind of dreams do you have?
Megan: I honestly feel like I’m living a dream right now! Looking back at my own internship, my dream was to have an ABA center in Lafayette. This is my home town, and I knew how desperately we needed these services. Looking forward I am excited to see the continued growth and progress of Cornerstone. I also have the common dreams of paying off school loans, building my dream home, and traveling. However, we all love hearing about those unique dreams that individuals have. My husband is a huge NFL fanatic and more specifically a fan of the Denver Broncos. My dream is to take my husband to a Denver Broncos game in every NFL stadium. So far we have gone to Cincinnati and watched a preseason game. I hope get to another one in the next 2 seasons.
July 9, 2012, cornerstoneac