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Jesse Lyn Stoner

Management

To Craft a Powerful Mission Statement, Avoid These Six Traps

Then use it to provide guidance for strategic decisions

Published: Tuesday, September 22, 2015 - 14:27

One of the most important things you can do is to identify your team’s mission. And one of the biggest wastes of time is creating a mission statement that isn’t used.

An earlier post of mine, “How to Write a Mission Statement in 5 Steps,” explains what a mission statement is and how to write one. But simply writing a good statement does not ensure it will be used. How you create it is as important as wht it says.

Avoid these six common traps to craft a powerful mission statement that provides guidance for strategic decisions, focuses your team’s energies, and increases their commitment, clarity, and trust.

Trap No. 1: Seeing this as an activity to complete

Approaching the idea of a mission statement as a task to be completed means that once you’re done, you move on to another task, and your mission statement gets filed and forgotten.

Instead, think of this as the process of surfacing important information that you need to guide your decisions.

Trap No. 2: Focusing on the words instead of the meaning

Too often people turn this into a writing project, without first getting very clear on the concepts they want to communicate. Focus on understanding first and the wording later, or you will end up with a vanilla, blah-blah-blah statement.

Trap No. 3: Over- or under-involvement by leaders

Too often leaders swing toward one of these poles: They either complete the work and then announce their results (over-involvement), or they delegate the task to a committee and disengage (under-involvement).

By staying involved, you demonstrate that you are invested in this work. By involving others, you get more information, a broader perspective, and ensure their investment.

Trap No. 4: Lack of teamwide conversation

Simply sharing the mission statement is not enough. If you want it to guide people, they need an opportunity to talk about what the mission statement means and its implications. Without conversation, the words on paper will not mean the same thing to them that it does to you.

Trap No. 5: Focusing on the external message first

Too often creating a mission statement is seen as simply a marketing message—a way to communicate to the public what the company is about. When you approach it from this perspective, you lose its most important advantage: to provide internal guidance, team alignment, and increase team commitment.

Focus first on what you are communicating internally. Later you can partner with marketing to craft the external message and possibly tweak your mission statement, as long as it doesn’t dilute the meaning.

Trap No. 6: Lack of ongoing feedback

Have you articulated a mission that coalesces and guides your team? You won’t know unless you get ongoing feedback about how it’s being used and how effective it is. If you discover your team’s mission is not guiding strategic decisions, find out why. Is it because the mission statement is unclear, because people don’t agree with it, or because people are unintentionally making decisions that will dilute your focus? By setting up ongoing feedback processes, you can quickly realign before you get into trouble to ensure your mission statement will not be filed and forgotten.

First published Aug. 25, 2015, on Jesse Lyn Stoner’s Blog. © 2015 Jesse Stoner.

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About The Author

Jesse Lyn Stoner’s picture

Jesse Lyn Stoner

Jesse Lyn Stoner, founder of consultancy Seapoint Center, has worked with hundreds of leaders using collaborative processes to engage the entire workforce in creating their desired future. Stoner has authored several books including Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2nd rev. ed. 2011), co-authored with Ken Blanchard. Stoner is recognized by the American Management Association as one of the Top Leaders to Watch in 2015 and by INC Magazine as one of the Top 100 Leadership Experts. Stoner has advanced degrees in psychology and family system, and a doctorate in organizational development.