A mission statement is a company’s clear, concise explanation of its goals, purpose, and beliefs. Despite the importance of a guiding mission, communicating it in a simple message is no easy feat. For example, passionate company owners can likely list numerous reasons why they’re in business. Nevertheless, without guidance, boiling all of these purposes down into one strong, unifying sentence can feel impossible at times.
Crafting a powerful mission statement into a concise message starts by answering a few basic questions: Who? What? Why? How? Whether a new entrepreneur writing their first mission statement or a business owner revising an existing one, this guide benefits anyone who wants to lead with a clearer vision rooted in purpose.
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Why Mission Matters
Creating Internal Mission
Consider a company’s mission statement as its compass. Leaders who guide without one will find it’s difficult for employees to understand what they’re working toward and why. The internal mission helps team members realize what purpose their work serves in others’ lives. To illustrate how important this is, research from Great Place to Work concluded 85 percent of workers from Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® said “their work has special meaning: this is not ‘just a job.'”
Having a mission also focuses attention on the overarching direction of a company. Clearly communicating collective purpose helps business owners and entrepreneurs spotlight objectives that achieve their long-term vision. Developing a solid mission statement guides organizational leaders to “make sound decisions which can be beneficial to the revenue stream. Without a mission statement, businesses may struggle when it comes to planning for the future,” says Lahle Wolfe, a contributor for thebalancecareers.com.
Len Sherman’s case study on the transformational success LEGO achieved after bringing on a new CEO is an example of why internal mission matters so much. Sherman explains in 2004, the company was bleeding millions. Due to this, executives brought on a new leader, Jørgen Knudstorp. Knudstorp noticed that somewhere along the line, LEGO’s values and mission were tossed to the wayside. Realizing how important guiding with purpose is to an organization, the new CEO brought mission back to the forefront of the business. As a result, the company skyrocketed out of the red. In fact, under his leadership, LEGO profited more than ever before.
Mission matters because it equips leaders with the clarity required for guiding the ship. Without a clearly stated purpose, achieving positive outcomes becomes a lot more difficult. Having a distinct, effectively communicated vision helps get everyone working toward the same goals. Leading in this manner provides value to business owners, employees, and customers alike.
Powerful vs. Less Effective Mission Statements
Powerful Mission Statements
Strong mission statements are typically short and action-oriented. Additionally, sincerity and authenticity play an enormous part during the development process. The point isn’t to write an idealistic essay on why the company exists. Instead, develop a concise creed people can hold themselves and others accountable to. For leaders, this means all company objectives need to reflect back to achieving the decided-upon mission.
When Determining the Difference, Ask:
- Could someone easily recite this back?
- How will the target audience respond?
- Does this statement inspire or elicit a positive emotional response?
- Are the company goals and values clearly expressed?
- Is this mission realistically achievable?
For example, Patagonia is notoriously known as an altruistic company that lives by its mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
In one sentence that takes 7 seconds to read, the company articulates:
- What they do
- Why they do it
- What their overarching goal is
- How they achieve this goal
- Why it matters
Less Effective Mission Statements
Long, wordy mission statements don’t convey a simple message people can get behind and support. Before these guiding words become widely used within your company, read aloud what is written. Does it take more than 10 seconds to recite? If so, keep whittling the statement down to the core actions, purpose, and beliefs of the business.
For example, a well-known company’s mission statement, at 84-words-long, takes around 31 seconds to deliver. While they state the desire to make a global difference, the mission statement can’t be broken down in a simplistic manner. Because of this, the message requires multiple reads before the audience understands what is being conveyed. Overall, this defeats the purpose of having a mission statement, which is to clearly communicate the company’s purpose for existing.
How to Write a Mission Statement
The key to creating a powerful mission statement is clearly and concisely communicating the company’s core purpose and how it’s fulfilled by those supporting the organization. As mentioned above, complex statements are more difficult to understand. Business owners typically should avoid overcomplicating why and how the company provides value to others. Essentially, boiling the mission down into a basic, yet effectively communicated message is the ultimate goal.
When creating or revising a mission statement, first schedule a brainstorming meeting with key players on staff. Ask the team what they believe the company mission is or should be. Create a list of the messages employees convey. While doing this, look for commonalities and links. How can beliefs about the mission be concisely described? Using each other as a sounding board helps bring the core message to light. Additionally, it shows business leaders what resonates with employees and how they share the company’s mission with others.
Start with the simple, hard-hitting questions: who, what, why, and how?
Consider these first:
- What does the company do?
- Who does it serve?
- How does it serve?
- Why does the business exist?
Hone in even deeper by answering:
- What voids are being filled by the organization?
- Why is the company valuable to others?
- What collective goals does the business work together on?
- Why should customers care?
When in doubt, keep boiling the mission statement down by asking, “Why?” Every word in this brief statement needs to communicate purpose and intent. If the information being shared isn’t relevant to answering those questions, exclude it.
After crafting or revising an agreed-upon mission statement, business leaders should start putting it into action as soon as possible. Nevertheless, this is a process. First, start communicating the company mission with employees before sharing it with customers. Employees need to understand the new mission statement and any transitions being made within the organization. Larger scale initiatives require a change management plan. Without creating a strategy for implementing new initiatives, missions will struggle to grow deep roots.
Once the leadership team determines an internal strategy, they must decide on how the mission will be launched into customers’ line of sight. In an article for thebalancesmb.com, Susan Ward writes: “you want your mission statement to be front and center in the minds of everyone who works in or interacts with your business. As the statement of why your business exists, it also explains to them why they would want to do business with you.” As a vital piece of core messaging, the mission statement needs to be visible across various brand touchpoints. This includes, but is not limited to the company’s: website, product labels, social media accounts, marketing materials, and promos for community events.
Honing in on the mission and sharing it through brand assets is extremely important, but leaders who actually live out the mission create the greatest impact. After all, words are only words if they don’t have action to back them up. Donate your time, develop team-building activities around company values, and be of service to those around you. It’s compelling for customers and employees to see leaders step out from behind the scenes and lead by example.
Be passionate about your goals and purpose, put your mission into words, and go out there and actively make a difference by living it. If you don’t, who else will?
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