Your company mission statement is both tough to come by and tough to live out. Many businesses pay a great deal of money to have consultants help craft the perfect message that sounds professional, reads elegantly, and captures the cry of the leader’s heart.
Unfortunately, as many of us know all too well, mission statements are hung on the wall, slapped on a sales brochure and never heard from again. Catchy company phrases are nice, but mean next to nothing if they don’t drive action or reflect what a business is capable of accomplishing.
When a business is being built, defining the mission statement may feel unnecessary. Especially if they’re only destined to live inside a slide deck. In some cases, they may be. It’s no wonder only 27 percent of employees say they believe in their organization’s mission, according to a Gallup Study.
Mission should help to define who you are, who you employ, what you stand for, and where you’re going next. The real work isn’t just in defining your mission. It’s about bringing it to life and connecting it in real ways to day-to-day work. Below, we’ll help explore practical (and necessary) ways your small business can actively live by its mission statement.
Before applying action, you need to first ensure your mission is correct. The dictionary defines a mission statement as a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual. In layman’s terms, it states your company’s purpose. It’s why you do what you do and should stand the test of time.
As you develop your company mission statement, consider what makes your business unique. Is it your quality? Communication? Community involvement? When thinking these things through and as you incorporate these elements into your mission statement, it must address how you approach your audience and state where your organization places value.
Starbucks’ mission statement is an excellent example: “To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Their mission isn’t to sell the most coffee or even to make the best coffee. Instead, its mission is to develop a human connection through coffee. That is a mission employees can both understand and practically live out.
There’s nothing more inherent to a business’s success than hiring and retaining talented employees. While finding driven, hard-working individuals is important, you have to remember to find people who believe in the direction of the mission. Many job hopefuls want more than just a paycheck. They look for a sense of purpose in their work, knowing they’re contributing to something greater than themselves.
When it comes down to actually hiring, be sure to ask candidates their thoughts on the mission statement. Do they agree? Disagree? Ask them how they intend to live by or live out the mission statement in their role. Make it known to them day one that your business intends that they adhere to and live by the mission.
Another way your business can live by its mission is to include it in yearly, monthly, and weekly goal setting. Break out your mission into buckets so employees can set specific goals aligned with company direction. For instance, if your mission is to “pursue excellence by delivering effective solutions through innovative software, personalized service, and measurable client results,” you might ask employees to set individual goals based on what areas in development they plan to achieve, what numbers in customer satisfaction they hope to hit, or what kind of revenue they hope to generate on behalf of the client.
By analyzing and then reviewing what the employee does, and how they help achieve the company’s mission, managers can attach relevance to both the individual as well as the company. Employees who clearly understand their portion in driving the mission find more meaning in their work and are able to stay engaged.
The same mentality can also be applied to leadership in their yearly or quarterly goal setting. Are revenue or industry goals in line with the original mission? If it’s not obvious how they align, leadership should reconsider the intent behind the goal being set. Again, the key here is to work according to foundational purpose.
If you really want to hit home on living by your mission with setting goals, rewards will apply. Teams or individuals should be rewarded for behaviors exemplifying successful execution of their goals in relation to company mission. They don’t always have to be massive rewards, but people should know good habits reap benefits.
Business leaders should regularly be modeling behaviors expected of the team. Alignment with the company’s mission is no exception. If leaders can’t reflect the mission in the small details and take it seriously, no one else in the office will either.
For instance, if one element of your business’s mission is to model transparency, leaders need to make an effort to clearly communicate progress — both good and bad — on a regular basis, and provide context as to why that’s happening. How you show your commitment to mission in decision-making will vary widely between types of business. What matters most is that it goes beyond a once-a-year occurrence, but becomes a regular habit.
Mission can’t be a set of empty words that look pretty on your website. They must be integrated into the operations and the experiences of your employees and customers alike.
Integration into company culture can be one of the most fun and practical ways in which you are able to live out your mission. Every company has its own set of traditions and events, and these can be great opportunities to communicate your mission in an engaging way.
AirBnB leaders and designers are excellent representatives of bringing their “belong anywhere” mission to life through their city-themed meeting space setup.
Or take Pinterest’s mission, “To help people discover the things they love, and inspire them to go do those things in their daily lives.” From employee-led workshops to open mic nights, Pinterest allows their employees to teach, learn, and discover things they love — all within their work environment.
Weaving mission into culture means employees aren’t just seeing a phrase plastered all over the walls. It means experiencing a shared language, vision, and theme throughout everyday culture.
There are many other incredible ways to integrate and live out your company mission statement on a daily basis. The important thing is to keep purpose top of mind and repeatable so that there’s no doubt or question in the minds of others. The better you are able to exemplify a mission and apply it to business, the more likely you are to build confidence and trust in the minds of both your employees and customers.