Many individuals and business owners have what they consider mission statements. What they usually have are vapid “crusade” statements.
That’s too bad. The internet age makes it possible for an extraordinary mission statement to “go viral” and spark a movement; or at least coalesce a great business tribe. A crusade statement only labels you as a self-absorbed, unimaginative follower.
History books remind us of the difference. Over the centuries, the best leaders had such a powerful sense of mission, they eventually made life better for many men and women. Crusaders only made things worse for anybody within their reach.
Of course, a poorly conceived mission statement is merely our innocent attempt to communicate what makes our business unique and extraordinary. But it often accomplishes the exact opposite of what we intended: it just inspires the best people to keep looking.
Luckily, within a few minutes of finishing that unworthy attempt we can dig beneath the glib phrases and discover our true mission. And digging for a more subtle and elusive statement is always worth the effort.
Try these five easy steps.
- Forget all the time and effort you put into your existing statement. Read it aloud as if it just occurred to you (recording may help).
- Check for a pulse in your statement. Does reading it make your voice rise with excitement and commitment? Probably not, since it was an intellectual exercise.
- So add persuasive personal details about why you’re in this business, until you can feel the excitement in your voice. What great outcomes are you on the verge of achieving?
- Quickly write down whatever you said just before the excitement became noticeable. It may have nothing to do with your industry, but everything to do with why your business is worth the effort (finding a cure for cancer? making people more fulfilled and productive? helping people connect and get more productive?). If it isn’t in your own words, you’ll hear the excitement escaping like air from a flat. Keep going.
- Rewrite your magic phrase until a kid could understand it. Clear, concise and compelling. Now that’s a mission statement! Throw away that useless earlier attempt, or use it in a sales pitch. The crusade’s over, but your new movement is just beginning.