Your mission is not your story

I do a lot of work with companies that want to redefine who they are. They say, "We need to rework our mission statement."

I think mission statements are important. They act as an inward-facing guidepost. The trouble with 99% of mission statements is that they feel generic. Like you could paste "Insert company name here" and it would work.

There is something that feels monumentally wrong about that. "Mission" is a powerful word. A mission is just this side of a quest. A journey of like-minded evangelist who are going to make a real difference in the world. Instead, the mission statement has become a generic, soulless expression that nobody in the company can remember.

Focus on the vision/purpose

In some respects, I've given up on the mission statement. I still think it is important. But giving it passion seems damn near impossible with the vast majority of company leadership. I've moved on to the vision statement, or what I like to call the organization's "purpose".

With the mission statement in place, you can free yourself (and the organization) to think about the difference you can make in the world. That's heady stuff. In my experience, it's the stuff that leadership can get excited about.

I've facilitated those leadership meetings where senior executives passionately debate the real difference the entire organization can make. Making the world a better place is a pretty awesome reason to get up and come to work everyday. The purpose statement helps companies find and express how they do just that.

Make it your manifesto

I like to write these vision/purpose statements as a manifesto. It gets emotional. It becomes a rallying cry. And it becomes memorable throughout the organization.

I've also noticed an interesting trend with this process. Management invariably asks, "Can this message become outward facing?" The answer is yes. In fact, the manifesto can become a bold invitation to your customers and prospects to join you on this journey to some good in the world. What company wouldn't want the ability to do that?

What's your company's passion? Get it down in a manifesto. Every time I've worked with an organization to do this an amazing thing happens. An emotionally-charged story emerges. It's something the entire company can get excited about. And way more powerful than the mission statement taking up space on the boardroom wall.


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