If you’ve watched this recent video from Weird Al Yankovic, you know just how unoriginal most corporate mission statements are – full of meaningless platitudes like “monetize our assets” and “leverage our core competencies” or “world-class technology.”
Take a look at your own mission statement – are you singing the same old song? Or are you ready to be a breakout indie artist that stands out from the crowd?
Step 1: Ask your employees
Most mission statements are written in a conference room by a leadership team that spends way too much time reading management books full of terms like “synergy” and “value-added” – which is why they all come out sounding the same! Asking real people why they come to work every day, and what keeps them energized will help you craft a mission statement that truly reflects your company culture and values.
Step 2: Change the question
Asking people “What is our mission?” can be overwhelming to many people – it’s a loaded term that also has religious and military meaning, which can cause people to chose words that are lofty and aspirational, instead of grounded in reality. Instead, consider asking the question: “What is our purpose?” or “Why are we in this business?” or “What gets you out of bed in the morning to come to work?” Phrasing the question in more accessible, down-to-earth language will yield more accessible, down-to-earth answers from your team.
Step 3: Begin independently
Let people answer the question on their own – either using a survey, or in a brainstorming session where people start off by writing independently. If you try to craft a mission statement together as a first step, you’re likely to end up with generic language that lacks creativity or inspiration.
Step 4: Decide together
Review all of the individual answers in a group session to uncover common themes and identify the language that resonates with your team. Consider hiring a facilitator to run this session to make sure everyone is heard, and try to agree on a draft that retains the spirit of your company culture and inspires your entire team. Depending on the size of your company, you may need a few rounds of revisions to arrive at something everyone can get behind. If conversation gets heated, don’t despair – this is a sign that people are actually passionate about creating something great!
When you’re done, don’t forget to re-watch Weird Al’s video and make sure none of those phrases snuck their way into your wording by accident.
Step 5: Communicate and inspire
A strong mission statement or purpose statement deserves more than a token page on your website or blurb in your employee handbook. If you truly capture the passion of your employees, your mission statement can be used as a tool for decision making and a source of motivation through challenging times. Plaster it on the walls, recite it at your staff meeting, or make up a song that all your employees have to learn and sing at the company picnic!