Over the past several years I have had the privilege of writing books about two companies with well thought-out, clearly articulated mission statements. They communicate corporate goals, their vision for the future, and values they desire for all of their employees to embrace. These are not just words on paper, but principles and precepts reviewed regularly with their teams. It is no coincidence, I believe, both of these organizations have reached the fourth generation of family ownership, an extremely rare feat.
When I told a friend about the value of drafting a mission statement for his own company, he expressed reluctance and a bit of skepticism. Too often, he has encountered businesses with lofty-sounding mission statements that consistently fail to live up to the values and principles they espouse. Even if the mission statements are displayed publicly, he said, they amount to little more than wall decorations.
I did not argue with my friend because, unfortunately, I have sometimes observed the same thing. Even the most eloquently crafted mission statement means nothing without the commitment to live up to it. As someone has said, “If your actions do not speak louder than your words, the less you say the better!”
If you are a top executive, you might receive this as a challenge: What is the true mission of your company? Do your leadership team and employees know and understand this mission? What steps have you taken to ensure that everyone is striving to live up to and carry out your mission statement? Even if you are not a high-ranking leader, the concept of a mission statement applies to you. For instance, what would you say is your own mission in life? Stated another way, what is your purpose – why are you here? Is it merely to fulfill your personal desires, or is there a higher, greater calling on your life?
Many people have never considered such questions, but that does not mean they are not valid. In fact, when we stop rushing through our days long enough to evaluate our professional and personal progress, a mission statement can be invaluable for answering questions like, “How are we doing?” or “How am I doing?” If you wonder how to even draft a mission statement, here are some helpful suggestions from the ancient manual for the workplace – the Bible:
Know who you are working for. Are you working just to achieve your own goals? Are you willing to give it enough effort only as long as you feel you are progressing toward those goals? A commitment to quality and excellence will elevate your standing in the eyes of those you interact with in business, whether superiors, peers, customers or suppliers. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…. It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24).
Always put customers/others first. Today many businesses are downgrading customer service to save costs. But one way to ensure return business is for customers to feel valued and well cared-for. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you…” (Matthew 7:12).
Cultivate an attitude of humility in service. When a person senses you have their best interests at heart, they cannot help but trust you and feel they can rely on your judgment and recommendations. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
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1. Does your company have a mission statement? If so, what importance does it receive in terms of how the organization is run?
2. Have you encountered companies that fail to live up to their statements of mission or values? If so, does this have any impact on people outside the company that have the option of dealing with it or a competitor?
3. How about a personal mission statement – do you have one? If not, what do you think you would want it to say?
4. One of the suggested Bible passages states that when we work, we should regard ourselves ultimately as working for God, not for people. Do you agree? Why or why not?
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Psalm 139:13-16; Proverbs 22:29, 27:18; Ephesians 2:10; 2 Timothy 3:16-17