To put it simply, a mission statement is a summary of values. For your personal life, those will be your personal values and for a company, it will be for your organization. By writing a mission statement, you are separating what is most significant from what is less important.
Absolutely, Positively, Overnight
A slogan is usually written from the basis of a mission statement. If you look up the FedEx mission statement, it is to: Produce superior financial returns for shareholders with high value-added logistics, transportation and related business services through focused operating companies. (try saying that 5x!)
There’s a bit more to that statement, but that’s not what I focus on when I use Fed Ex. Out of that statement comes the phrase most of us remember: Absolutely, Positively Overnight!
Another example: For many women in the U.S., we know that the department store Nordstrom’s will return almost any item. Even though their actual mission statement is longer, the Nordstrom's main slogan is: Outstanding service every day, one customer at a time. I’m not sure about you, but Nordstrom's has delivered their promise and mission statement many times in my experience.
A Personal Mission Statement
A personal mission statement is a good place to start if you don’t have one. Even though you may already have a professional mission statement, defining your personal mission statement will help you both personally and professionally as they impact each other.
Put down at least two of your most important values. You could even start a list, but narrow those values to the most important two or three. That will get you started.
Why a Mission Statement?
One of the main reasons why a mission statement is so important is that it helps you stay focused on what’s most significant. Life holds many twists and turns leading in different directions. It’s very easy, especially for people who are creative, to get sidetracked and head down multiple rabbit holes.
I understand this temptation very well! It is hard to actually define your message, especially for creative entrepreneurs who tend to have a new thought and idea every other second.
Change and Life Balance
Your mission statement may change slightly through different stages of your life. Realize that as you experience life, growth, change--and yes, aging--what you feel is significant will change. Study your own mission statement to make those changes if needed.
A personal as well as professional mission statement will also help you with life balance. My commitment to my family is in my personal mission statement. Some of my professional interests have been put on hold because of this but it has been worth it. With three grown sons, now launched and a husband I still love, those sacrifices seem very small and insignificant at this point in my life.
Writing Your Mission Statement
A mission statement doesn’t have to be full of difficult words and language that has to be interpreted by a legal advisor. In writing your professional mission statement for your company you may want to include legal advice, but for your personal statement, that’s not necessary. Take the list of what’s most important in your life that you created and start there.
There are many online sources on how to write a mission statement if you want more guidance. But I’m going to summarize just a couple things here. Anyone who has faced writing a thesis or dissertation has had to write a main summary statement of a proposed topic. Hopefully it will be something of interest and intrigue to the writer.
What, How and Why
For both personal and professional mission statements, each should include WHAT you do, HOW you do it and WHY you do it. Professionally, you should solve some sort of problem for customers, so define what that problem is. If you don’t what that problem is, take some time to work on the focus of your business. Get help if needed.
When facing rewrites of my staged musicals, as the directors timed each scene, they suggested cuts and consolidation with clarity. This is not easy for a writer to do, especially under pressure. I spent many sleepless nights doing those rewrites. Just as important as cutting down the dialogue in a musical or staged scene, cutting down the words in a mission statement will help it be more effective.
Trim it Down!
Say what you say in a concise, clear manner. When one of our sons, who’s an attorney, was writing a brief as an intern for a major state tax issue, he was told to trim the 20 words down to 10. Then the 10 words down to 5. Imagine how hard that was for an attorney!
Do the same thing for your mission statement. It takes time and thought to trim it down. Then share it out loud with a trusted colleague. Get their reaction. Be willing to work on it some more, even totally revising it. I guarantee you that it will be worth it. Great songs are written the same way!
You will find you’ll become more focused and single-minded on what is most important. Don’t delay. Start now—actually schedule in either time to write or rewrite! I look forward to hearing of your progress!