When properly done, mission statements inspire people by giving their work meaning and proclaiming the organization’s purpose. However, there are fundamental flaws in most mission statements:
- Too many words.
- Too many concepts.
- Addressing only the mind and not the heart.
- Not “sticky” or memorable.
To prove my point, try to recite your company’s mission statement. I’m sure only a few of you will succeed.
To remedy this, here are five things you can do to make your mission statement “sticky”:
1. Try to convert your longer statement to a single word. One of my clients, Goodfellow Bros. Inc., conveys its safety efforts with the Hawaiian word makaala. The word refers to eyes being alert, aware and vigilant, a critical element in preventing accidents. Easy to remember and deploy.
2. Create a metaphor that captures the point of the mission. At Leadership Works, we selected a tree to symbolize our purpose of helping people grow. Seeing the symbol immediately reminds us of the importance of what we do.
3. Align your statement to a question that engages the mind and motivates everyone to work toward achieving the same goal. For example, in a service organization, the question may be, “How can we better serve our customers?”
4. Leaders must lead. Stickiness alone doesn’t guarantee alignment and implementation. Leaders must consistently practice mission-centric behaviors and set good examples. Failure to do so nullifies the statement.
5. Regularly review and reinforce the mission. Recognize people aligning to it and acknowledge them. Correct anyone whose behavior goes counter to it. Heed the advice from advertising guru Leo Burnett: “Make it simple. Make it memorable. Make it inviting to look at. Make it fun to read.” Your purpose will then come alive!
Furuya is president and CEO of Leadership Works