Whenever I begin a cultural change program with a business I ask them about the purpose of their business, what drives them and what they do that sets themselves apart from other like businesses? Every one of them points to their mission statement and nearly all of the mission statements are some variety of “Profitable growth through superior customer service, innovation, quality and commitment”.
These are a fine set of words, but…these words don’t tell me or anyone else about the underpinning philosophy of their unique business.
The business owners and leaders I have met decided on their line of work because they felt that they had something to offer or something they could do better than anyone else. They had a reason to start. Their reason was tied to their personal vision for their business and it kept them going through the years scraping by as they established themselves.
I doubt very much that they had a generic missions statement in mind when they started out.
Recently I was preparing a workshop for a law firm. The partners of the firm felt that the staff lacked motivation wanted some help to turn this around. I asked the founding partner why he started his own firm and as if longing for the past he said “I wanted to have fun”. Fun, in a law firm, is a great ideal and what an opportunity to set themselves apart. The problem was that the founding partner had lost sight of his original reason and ended up with a firm culture that looked and felt the same as any other law firm and he definitely was not having fun.
I believe that a mission statement should reflect the reason that business exists. It should also face internally, towards the staff. It should incorporate the unique operating philosophy of a business the “how we do things around here”. This operating philosophy guides the staff and business owner / leader on what is required of them and is the secret to their success.
Here are some examples of mission / operating philosophies that I have developed:
We enhance and exceed our peoples experience – Hospitality
We make it easy for people to want to work with us – Construction
The reason I started my business, People Strong, was because I wanted to offer people management tools that put people first. It might not come as a surprise that my operating philosophy or mission is simply “People Come First”.
These operating philosophies are supported by deliberately chosen values and behavioural guidance for staff. Not only are people told what is important they are given clear ideas on how they can contribute to working in line with the unique values of their employer. It’s also pretty clear why these businesses exist, what direction it is heading in and what success looks like.
Contrast the generic outward facing mission statements that most businesses have with the mission statement of retail and customer serivce giant Zappos “To provide the best customer service possible” or the legendary Ritz Carlton Hotel mission of “Ladies and Gentleman serving Ladies and Gentlemen”. I think you will agree that both of these statements are clear operating philosophies that capture the owners reason for getting into business in the first place. It is believed, by both of these hugely successful businesses, that the fulfilment of their simple mission will make success possible.
Start by asking your self these three questions:
1. Why did I start this business, take this job?
2. What did I want for the business, the customer, the staff and myself?
3. How can I use this information to re-energise my mission?
Instead of worrying about sending a mission statement to the world, consider what set of words captures your philosophy and what success looks like for your business.
What is your true measure of success and how will you and your team deliver it?
No one can ever replicate your unique philosophy because it is made up of your unique values and beliefs and there in lies the holy grail of competitive advantage and engagement.
Have a great week,