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Published on November 2, 2020

How to Write a Mission Statement That Empowers Your Employees

How to Write a Mission Statement That Empowers Your Employees

A mission statement is the battle cry of an organization. It is a sentence or set of sentences that state the firm’s organizing idea—its reason for being. With a mission statement, the founders, the management, and the employees declare, “this is why we are in business”, and “this is why we fight”.

The mission statement infuses an organization with purpose and clarity and empowers employees to attack the problems and opportunities necessary to achieve the firm’s goals.

What is the purpose of your business? What is the battle cry that you want to send your employees out to battle with, empowering them with a clear purpose? Why are you here and why should your employees care?

A mission statement is not merely a bland statement of what the business does. It is an attempt by the founders to achieve buy-in from the employees and state to the world why they exist in ways that enthuse the people within the firm, earn the admiration of potential employees, and burnish the business’ brand.

In asking these questions, another question then arises: how does the typical business owner craft a mission statement that will encapsulate what the business is about and empower employees?

In this article, we will look at various, exemplary mission statements to fire up your imaginations and get you thinking and then, breakdown the tasks that must be accomplished to craft an impactful mission statement that will empower employees.

Whether you are a startup founder or the owner of an old business, you need to consider the importance of clarifying your mission and the huge impact that would have on achieving buy-in from your employees so they feel tied to the destiny of the company and are empowered to fight for its goals.

Without further ado, let’s look at mission statements in more detail!

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Examples of Exemplary Mission Statements

  • Alphabet: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
  • IKEA: “Offer a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices so low that as many people as possible will be able to afford them.”
  • Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”
  • Facebook: “Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”
  • Verizon: “We deliver the promise of the digital world to our customers. We make their innovative lifestyles possible. We do it all through the most reliable network and the latest technology.”
  • Southwest Airlines: “Dedication to the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit.”
  • Tesla: “To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

The mission statements above are the organizing ideas of some of the greatest companies in the world and as such, they influence the decision-making, behavior, and strategic direction of the company.

Every decision an employee makes is grounded in the principles laid bare in the mission statement. Through achieving clarity in the mission statement, the employees are freed to work without confusion.

Read on to learn how to write an effective mission statement,

1. Ask the Four Questions

According to Patrick Hull, four important questions go into the writing of a mission statement:[1]

  1. What is the purpose of the company?
  2. How do we do it?
  3. Whom do we do it for?
  4. What value are we bringing?

Research by Professor Chris Bart of McMaster University dovetails with this and indicates that a mission statement has to include three essential components: the target audience, the product or service offered, and the distinction or competitive advantage the company has over rivals.[2]

Bart’s research also suggests that only about 10% of mission statements say something meaningful. It is essential to be clear on the three keys otherwise your mission statement is hot air.

2. State How the Business Empowers Its Employees

Without employee buy-in, it is very difficult to achieve the goals of the business. It is for this reason that the companies people most want to work for are some of the most successful businesses in the world.[3]

Creating the right corporate culture—a culture that rewards employees, inspires them, and defines clearly why they are there, to begin with—is important. And it begins with the mission statement. It is important to not simply state why your business is good for its employees but also say how, and then work to achieve that.

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This encompasses questions of diversity, creative freedom, continuing education, fairness, and empowerment. Every business will claim that it is good for its employees, so you need to stand out from the crowd because you are competing in the market for employees.

You may feel that you have to say the obvious, bookmark ideas, and remind people of values, even if shared across the business community. But you have to find a differentiator. As you may have noticed from the above examples, many mission statements are customer-facing and rather ignore the employees. I suggest bucking the trend.

A good example of this is American Express’ mission statement, which reads:

“We have a mission to be the world’s most respected service brand. To do this, we have established a culture that supports our team members, so they can provide exceptional service to our customers.”

3. Be Candid

We have all read those mind-numbingly boring examples of corporate-ease—those pieces of corporate literature that seem to be nothing but a smorgasbord of buzzwords. Though jargon has its places in providing a shared language to transmit ideas, the mission statement is the one place that demands a more colloquial approach.

Richard Branson, in discussing how to craft a mission statement, insists that it should be clear and contain no unnecessary jargon.[4] He discussed Yahoo’s mission statement with this idea in mind and suggested that though it was interesting, it was too dense to be understood by most people and therefore, was meaningless and useless.

A good example of clarity, and simplicity is Alphabet’s (the parent company of Google) mission statement: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Research shows that there is a direct link between future shareholder returns and the candor of corporate language.[5] The more candid a business’ language, the more trust it earns from shareholders, and the greater future performance.

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The logic can be extended to the relationship between employees and owners: establish trust with candor and thereby earn the devotion of your employees and excess effort. This means stripping away jargon to be as clear and candid as possible about what you are offering your employees. You can only earn the trust and sacrifice of your employees with candor.

4. Inspire

Tesla’s mission statement is a good example of this, not simply because of what it says but what it omits. The company commits to clean energy and advancing technologies, such as the batteries it is famous for as well as its electric vehicles.

An employee at Tesla is charged with the mission of fighting the good fight for sustainable energy. Interestingly, Tesla is a car manufacturer. But the mission statement says nothing about cars—anyone can make cars. Tesla zeroes in on something bigger than cars, and without saying so, links Tesla to broader struggles against climate change.

Whether you like Tesla or not, Tesla indeed has a fervent base of admirers and this brand strength starts with things like the mission statement.

5. Balance Realism With Optimism

One criticism of mission statements is that they often are too optimistic and unrealistic. Business is about working for ideals through reality.

Take Southwestern’s mission statement, which offers realism in the first part: “Dedication to the highest quality of customer service”—and balances it out with idealism—”delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and company spirit”—to create a powerful mission statement.

Realism alone is dull and uninspiring, and idealism and optimism on its own can seem like a reach. But together, they make a mission statement powerful. In thinking about how you will empower your employees, balance realism and optimism.

6. Think Strategically

As the organizing idea of the business, a mission statement should endure. Think long-term—think strategically. Every decision and every action taken by and within the company flows from the mission statement. Consequently, it is of the utmost importance that you frame a mission statement within the context of the long-term so that it does not constrain or narrow the scope of the business.

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7. Seek Employee Input

A lot of this discussion has been top-down. But the most important thing you can do as an employer is to ask your employees for. This will not only tell you what they want to achieve within the company and what they want from the company, but it will also help establish a corporate culture that empowers employees by constantly communicating with them and seeking their buy-in in developing the business.

This will help them stay focused even when they’re working from home. It makes little sense to have a top-down approach in establishing the corporate culture and then wondering why employees do not feel empowered.

Toyota is perhaps the best example in the world of the benefits of creating a corporate culture that embraces employee input. Indeed, the “Toyota Way” may be the most integrated corporate culture in the world and seeks employee input down to the lowliest shop floor employee.

Seeking employee input cannot be overly emphasized.

Final Words

We have seen examples of great mission statements of some of the world’s leading businesses. Along the way, we have established the importance of asking the “four questions”, stating how the business empowers its employees, being candid, inspiring, balancing realism with optimism, thinking strategically, and seeking employee input.

It is important to see the mission statement as the organizing idea of the company and not just something to chuck into a business plan. From the mission statement, you establish the corporate culture of the company and the conditions that will allow your employees to be and feel empowered.

It is vital to take the mission statement both seriously and enthusiastically. The benefits are a devoted and enthusiastic workforce as well as a stronger brand and a corporate culture that will fuel future returns.

More About Writing a Mission Statement

Featured photo credit: Bram Naus via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Chris Porteous

The CEO of Grey Smoke Media / My SEO Sucks, helping entrepreneurs to grow their businesses.

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Last Updated on October 28, 2020

The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing

The Crucial Letter Your SMART Goal Is Missing

SMART goals are a simple, logical way to organize your goals as you set them throughout life. Not only does this technique help you identify reachable goals, but it helps break down goals into smaller and more manageable pieces.

However, there is one crucial element (or letter) that is missing from this acronym. This missing letter can potentially make it harder for you to reach your goal – no matter how well you have broken down your goal into different pieces and action steps. However, once you understand this missing piece, you’ll be able to use it to move forward with your goals.

What Are Smart Goals?

If you are not familiar with the SMART goal setting technique and what the acronym means, here is a brief rundown with a simple example:

  • S = Specific — Your goal has to be specific enough (“I want to lose 4 inches off my waist”).
  • M = Measurable — You can measure your waistline every week to keep track of your progress.
  • A = Achievable — Do you think that you can do this? Or are you going too far by getting rid of yet another 4 inches? Or should you expand the goal to 5 inches; is that within reach?
  • R = Realistic — Is your lifestyle stable enough that you can commit to this goal?  Are you mentally prepared to do this? Do you have the resources you need for this goal?
  • T = Time-framed — You could want to achieve this goal within a week or within six months, but it should have a specific time frame.

As you can see, when you break down your goals like this, they become much more manageable and concrete than just saying “I want to to be slimmer.”

All fine and well, except that there is a crucial letter missing in this package – another letter “A.”

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The Missing Letter

The other letter “A” stands for accountability, and this is a great way to make sure that your defined plan is actually executed and is not left just on the talking or planning level. Even if you have crafted a masterful plan by using the SMART goal technique, it becomes useless if you don’t actually execute it. To make sure you start the execution phase, you want to throw some accountability into the mix.

By having some external pressure on your back (in the form of accountability), you are more likely to take action on your goal steps than if you just keep the plan to yourself. Accountability is based on the fact that you want to stand behind your words and save face. When you announce your goal to the world, you realize that the world is now watching you, and you don’t want to let the world down.

Accountability is also about facing the expectations of others. If you announce a goal or a task in public, other people are expecting you will achieve the tasks and goals you have laid out for yourself.

Watch this video and find out how by having dependable accountability, you can reach your goal more efficiently:

Ways to Implement the Letter “A” in Your Goal

There are plenty of ways you can go about creating accountability. Choose which one will work to motivate you the most.

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1. Keep It to Yourself

I was a bit hesitant to include this, since in this scenario you are not telling others about your plans or tasks. However, for some people this might work since your conscience is your accountability partner in this situation. And you don’t want to let your conscience down.

2. Announce It to Other People

Your people could be your colleagues at work, your local golf club buddies, the subscribers and readers of your blog, or your Twitter followers. I would say that accountability is more effective when dealing with “offline people.” Being accountable face-to-face to someone is very effective.

I’m in no way underestimating the power of “online people” either. If you are trying to form solid relationships with others online, you want to keep your word – even if you don’t necessarily meet the people in the same sense as in the offline world.

3. Find an Accountability Partner

A more intimate way of being accountable is to find an accountability partner. This could be a friend or spouse, but it needs to be someone you feel comfortable reporting to. When this route is chosen, you might decide to call your partner on a frequent basis to tell them how well you are progressing on the goal.

4. Get on Stickk.com

If none of the above ways work for you, it’s time to put Stickk into play.

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Stickk.com is a website where you can announce your goal (“Commitment Contract”), and to make you even more committed to reaching that goal, there is money at stake. Money is not mandatory to get set up with Stickk, but knowing that you will lose a certain amount of money if you don’t reach your goal can give you an extra push to get stuff done.

5. Join Mastermind Groups

A mastermind group is a group of like-minded people gathering on a frequent basis (online or offline), trying to push each other closer to their goals. This type of accountability is very common in the business world. When you are in a mastermind group and you have set the objectives you want to achieve by the next meeting, you want to get stuff done and fulfill other’s expectations.

Mastermind groups are a great way to improve your productivity and reach your goals with the help of others.

6. Hire a Coach

If you really want to get personal attention for your goals, then hiring a personal coach may be the best way to stay accountable.

Not only are you accountable to your coach, but you also have to pay for his/her attention. This makes the coach option even more effective. You want to make sure you do everything you can to get the assignments done before the deadline you two have set. So, there is a money factor to keep you accountable as well. Since you want to quickly move forward, this option is a very effective for staying accountable with your SMART goals.

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The Bottom Line

Next time, set your goal using “SMARTA,” instead. Add that letter “A” to the SMART goal setting technique:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-framed, Accountable.

The accountability factor of reaching your goals may be just the thing you need to make them a reality.

More Tips on SMART Goals

Featured photo credit: Estée Janssens via unsplash.com

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