Ah, the mission statement. Is there any loftier set of words? Organizations often pay consultants thousands of dollars to craft the perfect message. It must be elegant. It must be poetic. It must be a rallying cry that captures the hearts of staffers and stakeholders alike.
You’ve probably read lofty mission statements that actually say very little. Slick brochures and catchy phrases might look good on a website or an office wall, but they’re meaningless if they don’t compel the readers to take action.
The difficulty is that sometimes mission statements are written reminders of what the company ought to do, rather than a reflection of what the company actually does.
Words might tell a story, but actions tell the truth.
Words might tell a story, but actions tell the truth.
But that doesn’t mean a company or an individual shouldn’t have a mission statement, because well-crafted ones provide a valuable sense of direction for people to be more and do more. The words become a guiding principle to drive decisions.
Every day I add value to leaders who multiply value to others.
This is my personal mission statement. Twelve simple words serve as a daily reminder to invest in leaders who in turn influence others.
I use what I call my Rule of Five to help live out my mission statement:
- Every day I value people.
- Every day I think of ways to add value to people.
- Every day I look for ways to add value to people.
- Every day I do things that add value to people.
- Every day I encourage others to add value to people.
When I became the pastor of Skyline Church in San Diego years ago, I wanted to evaluate how unified we were, so I asked each board member to explain our purpose. Surprisingly, each person described a very different picture of our mission statement. I knew then I needed to clarify our message if we wanted to make an impact on the community. Without a unified understanding of our purpose, we faced a strenuous uphill climb.
How can you craft a mission statement to guide your life or organization? The maxim must be more than inspirational words. It must push you to action, anchor you to your strengths, resonate with others and contain a measurable outcome.
Here are four vital questions to ask yourself as you develop your mission statement:
1. Is it practical?
Poor mission statements are overly ambitious and often unattainable. Statements like these can do more harm than good. Your team will probably ignore it or simply give up.
My mission statement begins with the words every day. I might not know what next week or next month will bring, but I do know I can control what I do today, so my statement is written in the present. If I focus on adding value to people today, I can’t put my goals on a shelf to be attained in some nebulous future. I’m actively looking for ways to fulfill my mission through my daily decisions.
2. Is it achievable?
Momentum builds when you set and achieve goals. So how can you nudge the ball and get it rolling? By making sure your mission statement is achievable. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling you aren’t making progress. My mission statement contains the achievable phrase: I add value.
These three small words are filled with huge potential. With every person I meet, I try to offer something to benefit his or her life. Adding value might take the form of encouragement, answering a leadership question or giving more than people expect. I build momentum by living out my mission statement daily.
3. Is it shareable?
A good mission statement leaves a lasting impression on not only the reader, but also those he or she inspires. In my book The 17 Indisputable Laws of Leadership, it says, “One is too small a number to achieve greatness.” Without the help of others, your vision can go only as far as you can. But when you add the help of others, you multiply your impact.
Related: 5 Ways to Be More Influential
My mission statement specifies that I will add value to leaders. Leaders have followers. When I inspire leaders, they share what they’ve learned with their teams. This enables me to help people I’ve never met personally. Shared vision becomes shared victory.
4. Is it measurable?
The best mission statements are measurable. Measurement is the scoreboard of your progress or lack thereof. I focus on leaders who multiply value to others. When I add value to leaders and help them increase their influence, they go on to multiply that value to the people they influence. It becomes a chain reaction. I determine whether I’ve fulfilled my mission statement by monitoring the success of those I’ve added value to, as well as those they’ve added value to.
Your mission statement will evolve with your career. The one I live by came through the realization that I was going about my work all wrong. Early in my career, I tried to do everything myself, figuring I would be successful if I just outworked everybody else. I learned my solo mindset would only take me so far. In my 40s, I discovered if I prioritized and poured my experience into the best leaders I could find, they would take my message further than I could on my own. Now after years of adding value to others, I continue to experience the joy of serving people of influence.
When organizations and individuals align what they ought to do with what they are actually doing, they reap the rewards of a mission statement.
When organizations and individuals align what they ought to do with what they are actually doing, they reap the rewards of a mission statement that does more than look inspiring on paper. It’s one lived out in principle.
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of SUCCESS magazine.
John C. Maxwell, an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books, has been named an inaugural SUCCESS Ambassador. Dr. Maxwell is the founder of EQUIP, a non-profit organization that has trained more than 5 million leaders in 126 countries worldwide. A New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek; best-selling author, Maxwell has written three books that have sold more than a million copies.