During his time at Apple, Steve Jobs undeniably left his mark on the world, which was precisely what he set out to do. He said, “I want to make a ding in the universe.” That was his goal and his mission. It drove him to push his company to new heights and innovate technology beyond the level of any other company.
While Jobs is just one man, his actions illustrate that individuals and companies achieve more when they have a compass to follow. Money is not enough to motivate employees to be engaged, loyal contributors. However, if they grasp the company mission and understand how their contributions make a difference, they develop a sense of ownership for their work. They are more likely to engage creatively with the team because they are motivated by intrinsic factors. As a whole, the company is more likely to be competitive and achieve its goals.
Crafting Your Mission Statement to Support Your Mission
Often seen as a marketing tool, mission statements can be even more impactful to the employees they direct than the customers they are trying to attract. Mission statements vary from one company to the next. While some read like a short description of the company’s services, others uplift and inspire. What makes a good mission statement?
- Actionable – Statements about “striving to be a top producer of circuit boards” sound good on paper, but these statements fall flat if they do not direct company operations. They become a statement of a goal but do not indicate how it is to be achieved. Additionally, words such as “strive,” “aim,” and “foster” leave wiggle room for not living up to your vision and suggest a potential lack of commitment. When defining the core of your business, choose verbs that reflect your devotion to those principles and promote action.
- Inclusive – Companies are rarely one-trick ponies. Attempting to include every aspect of your business in one mission statement can range from wordy to impossible. Instead, focus on creating an umbrella statement that encompasses each aspect. Examine what each department, product, or service has in common to identify the unifying theme.
- Personal – Your mission statement should reflect your company culture and personality. If you support a casual work environment, steer clear of stuffy mission statements that would misrepresent your character. Seek to make a connection to customers and employees alike by aligning the tone of your mission statement with your company culture.
- Timeless – Is your company the same today as it was five or ten years ago – most aren’t. Your direction and focus, location, and size may change over time. However, if written well, a mission statement should remain relevant with minimal need to change. Consider the following mission statement for Nike:
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
If the company changes direction and starts selling different equipment or clothing, its mission statement is still relevant, recognizable, and inspiring.
Applying the Principles
A mission statement is only beneficial if you apply it in the workplace so that it becomes more than mere words on a page. C-suite executives, often closely involved in writing a mission statement, are the most familiar with its tenets and how they guide everyday business. The more separated an employee is from those top leaders, the less familiar they are likely to be with this important guide. Communicating your mission statement effectively and often through many different channels helps your mission become integrated at every level of the business.
They say actions speak louder than words. Nowhere is this statement more correct than in business. Executive recruiting should hone in on candidates whose actions and attitudes embody the mission of the company. Employees watch their superiors closely and, for better or worse, may adopt attitudes and work habits from them. They are adept at spotting actions consistent and inconsistent with the company’s mission statement. Practicing what you preach will not only earn you the respect of your employees but will highlight your support for and belief in the mission statement.
Since mission statements are often broad and all-encompassing, it can be challenging for employees to understand how they apply to their day-to-day tasks. Help them embrace it by providing specific examples of how the principles apply to them. Celebrate successful applications of the ideals and principles it contains. Make is a statement that defines who you are and what you do, and others will follow your lead.