Business

Mission-critical | Embodying Your Mission Statement

Retooling your mission

Is your company’s mission in mothballs? Two words: huge opportunity. Reigniting your mission can set off sparks that fire up the whole team. Stir things up at the next executive-team meeting. Ask if anyone knows the mission from memory, or at least its essence. If they can’t, chances are no one can. That means your mission registers a big fat zero on the inspiration scale.

That’s time for an update. First, convene a brainstorming session with top brass. The leaders should have an innate sense of the company’s purpose. (Hint: A management consultant can smooth the process if her focus is fixed on facilitating; however, the question of purpose requires an insider’s insight.) How to begin? Start by describing your offering.

Ask, “Why is that important?” Challenge what the group comes up with, asking again and again, “How does that help our customer?” Go deeper until you finally punch through the brick wall of logic and tap into people’s hearts. After five or six iterations—the whole thing could take two or three sessions—odds are you’ll nail the essence of why you’re in business.

Sowing seeds

Your responsibility as CEO (chief enlightenment officer) is to champion the company’s mission until it guides every member of your team like the North Star. A leader breathes life into a mission statement by consistently modeling it. Then it evolves into a force that shapes employee behavior.

Feature your mission everywhere—in orientation seminars, employee manuals, visual reminders, promotional materials, staff meetings, performance reviews, one-on-one coaching sessions, special functions, ceremonies.

To promote awareness of your mission:

■ Use it as a litmus test in one-on-one and group meetings: “Is this in sync with our mission?”

■ Ask people to commit it to memory. At team meetings, randomly call on someone to recite it. Reward a correct answer with a gift certificate.

■ Hold an annual team meeting to make everyone aware of the company’s mission and how it meshes with their daily routine.

■ Try an essay contest with a topic like, how our mission helped me make an important decision. Or, how our mission inspires me to give my best. Or, simply, what our mission means to me. Post the entries on your intranet or bulletin board and award a prize to everyone who enters.

■ Start a “Mission Mentions” section in the company newsletter to officially recognize employees for embodying the mission through words and deeds. At smaller shops, low-tech bulletin boards work just as well as high- speed e-letters.

■ Post a suggestion box for comments about how the company can follow through on its mission.

■ Encourage employees to speak up if they see circumstances that clash with the mission. Make various reporting channels available. The energy spent on this will pay huge dividends directly and indirectly throughout your business.

Last thought

That’s the essence of Minneapolis-based Medtronic’s six-part. It’s also the mantra Ann Krzmarzick heard in each of the eight interviews she endured to become a communications specialist at the renowned medical technology company. It was a test of sorts. If Medtronic’s mission didn’t resonate, the human resources manager told her, she should look for employment elsewhere. Ann smiled and nodded. It was a catchy sound bite, but she figured it would have about as much impact as a bumper sticker on her day-to-day duties.

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