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Words + Internet

Your mission statement suuuuucks

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Oh, mission statements. We’re not just talking about mission statements, but vision statements and core values, which are different than core competencies, but may or may not be different from key differentiators. I knew something was wrong when I had to repeatedly Google the difference between a vision statement and a mission statement. This is especially concerning since I am paid to write said statements for clients. I am comfortable with my confession because anyone in a leadership position has encountered this confusion.

This is assuming your company even has a mission statement. Come to think of it, I never worked anywhere that had one. If they did, I definitely didn’t know it. If you do have a mission statement, and especially if you were part of the team that crafted it, you likely participated in a high-level discussion on the matter. You may believe they are valuable, but you also know they're alarmingly ineffective. If you are not in a leadership role yet, you have likely been forced to listen to those leaders espouse their “ah ha” moments that earn your polite, "uh huh." If we choose to believe these statements are vital to a company’s culture, impact, and success, then why do they fall so flat on the people they’re intended to inspire? In short, why does your mission statement suck so bad?

Reason #1: Your mission statement sucks because no one remembers it. Go ask around to see if anyone knows it. Right now. My somewhat smug guess is no one can recite it. And, if no one knows your mission statement, it’s pretty safe to say your mission isn’t off to a great start.

I believe mission statements are important. In fact, they're critical. If you don't know why you're coming in every day, you'll only come in to get paid and see your friends at work. Which is nice, but I want more than nice. Let’s say I ask someone on my team to design a business card. The next day, I told them to delete yesterday’s design and design another card. The next day I told them the same thing. Let’s say I told them I will pay them $100,000 per year to do it. Will this lead to a positive outcome?

✓ They’re doing the job they were hired to do
✓ They are working alongside people they like
✓ They’re being paid well

But, their job has no purpose. No mission. 

By now, you might be thinking, “what’s your mission statement, hot rod?” I have been listening to every audiobook and podcast about leadership and entrepreneurship I can get my ears on for the last three years. I even listen to one called “EntreLeadership.” Gross. What has this overindulging on words like “visioneering“ and “intentionality” taught me? Keep it simple, stoopid.

So, after years of tinkering and watching blank faces staring back at me, we landed on this simple mission:

Be the BEST small agency.

It’s five words, it’s easy to remember, and it gives us a clear mission. "OK, why this mission statement, hot rod?" Because if we aren't trying to be the best what the heck is the point? The irony is we're not going to be the best because there is no such thing. But, we should flipping try! Words like “enhancing,” “improving,” and “most innovative” don't get me out of bed every morning feeling like I am on a mission. I can get out of bed to be the best.

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This mission statement also has a cheat code inside it. B.E.S.T. is an acronym. Yeah, like an old school, 1991 human resources video. B.E.S.T. is a cheat code because it lists the four things we need to do to achieve our mission. A mission statement doesn't need to have the how, but it helps.

I might go into this in more detail in another blog. But, like most mission statements, this blog is getting a little long to have any meaningful impact.

Adam FaustComment