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Last Updated on November 26, 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 February 11, 2021

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

10 Secrets of Making Every Presentation Fun, Engaging, and Enjoyable

Not a lot of people are good at public speaking. You could even say that virtually everyone needs to get some practice, and preferably good guidance, before they can learn to stay calm when facing a room full of people. Having all eyes on you is an uncomfortable experience and it takes time to get used to. However, even if you can manage to control your stage fright and stay focused, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your presentation won’t put people to sleep. This is usually the case with long presentations on a very dull subject, with the presenter speaking in a monotone voice and dimming the lights to play a PowerPoint presentation.

You have to work hard to develop the right skills

If you want to be remembered and actually get people engaged, you need to make your presentation fun and enjoyable, without coming off as corny or desperate to please. I know, it doesn’t sound that easy at all! A good presentation during a promotional event or given to an important client can be a game changer for your business, so it is easy to get stressed out and fail to perform all that well. Luckily, giving an interesting lecture is something that can be practiced and perfected. There is plenty of advice out there on the topic, but let’s look at the most important aspects of giving a memorable and fun presentation.

1. Make your presentation short and sweet

With very long, meandering speeches you tend to lose the audience pretty early on, and from then on out it’s just a test of endurance for the few bravest listeners. Not only will people’s attention start to drop rapidly after sitting and listening to you talk for 30 minutes, but you also risk watering down your core ideas and leaving your audience with little in the way of key phrases and important bits of information to take away from the whole ordeal. Famous speakers throughout history have known the importance of condensing the information by using well thought out sentences and short phrases loaded with meaning.

JFK’s famous: ”It’s not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” expresses so much in very few words and gets the audience thinking. Ancient Spartans, for example were famous for their quick, dry wit, often demolishing their opponent’s argument with a single word or phrase. You’ll want to channel that ancient spirit and be as concise as possible when preparing your presentation.

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2. Open up with a good ice breaker

At the beginning, you are new to the audience. There is no rapport, no trust and the atmosphere is fairly neutral. Even if some of the people there know you personally, the concept of you as an authority on a particular matter giving a speech will be foreign to them. The best way to encourage a warm and friendly atmosphere is to get some kind of emotional response out of the audience right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what emotion it is, you just need to connect with them on a more personal level. It can be shock, curiosity, laughter, knowing smirks, nervousness – whatever gets them out of that initial feeling of indifference. There are different kinds of effective ice-breakers, but generally speaking, the most successful ones utilize one of these tactics:

  • Joking
  • Tugging on their heart strings
  • Dropping a bombastic statement
  • Telling an interesting and relevant anecdote
  • Using a metaphor or drawing comparisons

You can make a small, self-deprecating comment, stir the presentation one way and then suddenly surprise the audience, use sarcasm, open up with a short childhood story that taught you a lesson, quote a famous person and elaborate on it from personal experience, use an inspirational anecdote or hit them with a bit of nostalgia. Just remember to keep it short and move on once you’ve gotten a reaction.

3. Keep things simple and to the point

Once you’re done warming up the crowd you can ease them into the core concepts and important ideas that you will be presenting. Keep the same presentation style thoughout. If you’ve started off a bit ironic, using dry wit, you can’t just jump into a boring monologue. If you’ve started off with a bang, telling a couple of great little jokes and getting the crowd riled up, you have to keep them happy by throwing in little jokes here and there and being generally positive and energetic during the presentation. You need a certain structure that you won’t deviate too far from at any point. A good game plan consists of several important points that need to be addressed efficiently. This means moving on from one point to another in a logical manner, coming to a sound conclusion and making sure to accentuate the key information.

4. Use a healthy dose of humor

Some of the best speeches and presentations in the world, which have been heard and viewed by millions, all feature plenty of humor. No matter the subject, a great speaker will use natural charisma, humor and beautiful language to convey their points and get the crowd excited about what they are saying. A great example of building rapport with the audience through the use of humor is Barrack Obama talking about the government building Iron Man.

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It is silly and fun, and absolutely not something that you would expect from a man in a position of power speaking in such a serious setting – and it’s exactly why it works. The more serious the situation and the bigger the accent on proper social behavior, the harder your jokes will hit.

5. Try to tell a story instead of ranting

Some people can do all of the above things right and still manage to turn their short and fun little presentation into a chaotic mess of information. You don’t want your speech to look like you just threw a bunch of information in a blender in no particular order. To avoid rambling, create a strong structure. Start with the ice breaker, introduce the core concepts and your goals briefly, elaborate on the various points in a bit more detail, draw logical conclusions and leave your audience with a clear takeaway message. You want to flow naturally from one part to the next like you are telling a big story chapter by chapter.

6. Practice your delivery

Standing in front of the mirror and practicing a speech or presentation is a technique as old as mirrors – well, come to think of it, as old as human speech, since you can see yourself reflected in any clear and calm body of water – and that means that it is tried and true. The theory is incredibly simple, yet the real problem is actually putting in the effort day in and day out. Work on your posture, your tone of voice, accent, pauses between sentences and facial expressions. The most important thing is to talk slowly and loudly enough to be heard and understood clearly. Many famous speakers, such as Demosthenes and King George VI, overcame speech impediments through hard work.

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7. Move around and use your hands

Although you won’t instill confidence in your project if you are very jittery, moving around erratically, not knowing what to do with your hands and making fast movements, standing dead still can be just as bad. You shouldn’t be afraid to use your arms and hands when talking as it makes you seem more passionate and confident. The same goes for moving around and taking up some space. However, try to make slower, calculated and deliberate movements. You want your movements to seem powerful, yet effortless. You can achieve this through practice.

8. Engage the audience by making them relate

Sometimes you will lose the audience somewhat in techno-babble, numbers, graphs and abstract ideas. At that point it is important to reel them back in using some good, old-fashioned storytelling. Make comparisons to events from everyday life that most people are more than familiar with. By making things look simple, not only will you help your audience get a better understanding of the subject by enabling them to visualize the information more clearly, you will also draw a connection between you. After all, you are all just regular people with similar experience, you just happen to be performing different roles at the moment.

9. Use funny images in your slides

Although slides are not really necessary at all times, if you do need them to make your point and present your information more effectively, it’s best to liven them up. They say that facts aren’t always black and white, and your presentation should reflect this. Add a bit of color, make the information stand out and use an interesting animation to switch from slide to slide. You can use the slides to add some more humor, both in terms of the text and the images. An image that is used to elicit a positive response needs to be funny within the context of what you are discussing. For example, if you are discussing the topic of authority, an image of Eric Cartman from South Park in a police uniform, demanding that you respect his “authoritah,” is a nice way to have a bit of fun and lighten things up.

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10. End on a more serious note

When all is said and done you will want the audience to remember the core concepts and keep thinking about what you have said after the presentation is over. This is why you should let things naturally calm down and end with an important idea, quote or even a question. Plant a seed in their mind and make them think. Let us turn to Patrick Henry for a great way to end a speech: “Is life so dear or peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

As you can see, there is quite a bit to learn when it comes to giving a good presentation, one that is both memorable and fun. Be sure to work on your skills tirelessly and follow in the footsteps of great orators.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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