How to help someone write a great mission statement?

Copy of Putting people first

I believe that you can’t lead others unless you have a strong sense of who you are and what you stand for. – Denise Morrison

Mission statements come in two main forms in the work place. Firstly the more commonly known company mission statement which outlines the institution’s values and purpose and aims to provide a shared direction and belief system to guide all employees. Then secondly there is in my view the far more powerful and useful personal mission statement where an individual employee outlines their own objectives and commits to achieving them.  This mission statement narrows goals down to a personal level with daily relevance. Done well a personal mission statement provides a tangible vision for individuals to improve and to push themselves towards personal excellence.

Why mission statements (1)

I am thus a firm believer that all staff should write mission statements (and update them regularly) and that all training should include the process. It is important to bear in mind that writing a mission statement in a way that actually makes a difference to work performance isn’t easy which is why it should be introduced step by step. I start the process giving a short presentation on general development concepts Personal Professional DevelopmentI feel matter most to their position with the objective being to activate staff’s own self-development chips. I usually choose around 10 concepts but adapt the ones I use to the individual/group of people and their type of responsibility. I however usually include the following 5: 1. inside out mentality, 2. objectives over tasks, 3. end in mind, 4. win/win and 5. learning pyramid. I explain these points using a simple slide presentation, like that indicated to the left, eliciting opinions and aiming to get buy in to why having these mentalities will not only help them achieve their work objectives but also can help them improve themselves personally. After activating their development chip, I summarize the mentality i believe they need to have in order to write a great personal mission statement (and to develop in general) which i outline as CVAAC indicated below.

CVAAC development mindset

I then move onto simple value phrases, which I introduce using our own 10 staff value statements (see example to left)but these could just be a selection of short phrases that you believe in a snippet indicate the values needed in your work place.Personal Professional Development (1) I again ask staff to reflect on what each point means to them, asking them to do the following:

    • Describe in their own words what the value means to them.
    • Think of a time when they lived up to the value.
    • Think of another time when they didnt and in both think about why.

This time i give them a print out of the slides and ask them to do the self reflection individually before moving on to discussing their answers with either myself or other team members. The aim throughout, via investing this time, is that they have clear my company will assess them as much on how they develop as we will on how they perform right now.

The process of writing a mission statement helps to kick start professional development success programmes.

Next after I feel the staff member/s has activated their own professional development chips, I ask them to fill out a document asking how they wish to see themselves at the end of a set period (usually a year). This self analysis document asks them questions, like “how do you wish your peers to see you in month’s time?”, “How do you wish your tutor/manager to see you?” With the objective being that staff start to visualize “success”. They then have to reflect on what they would need to do to get there. Again the answers to these questions are discussed but always in a way that leaves clear the answers are theirs and not mine. The most important part of this process is that they are visualizing the best version of them-self, one where they have realized their potential as the aim of a personal mission statement is to get them to commit to becoming that person.

The aim of a great personal statement is to get the individual to visualize the best version of themselves and then to commit to making that happen.

Finally it is important to give them some examples of mission statements, the best examples are those that you have from current or past workers who did similar positions to them. Also it is important to remind them about the importance of using commitment language and where possible power words, reminding them that if something is quantifiable to achieve, they should be saying “they will achieve it” rather than saying “they will try”. Confirmative language is important as a mission statement is about promising to do what is required to achieve success and stating you will merely “try” gives a possible cop-out not to push oneself to the level needed, whereas saying in your own words that you will achieve something, gives you far less leeway. Saying this it is important to distinguish between what you can achieve “at your best” and what is just not possible as a mission statement whilst pushing for high aspirations should still be realistic enough that you won’t just give up when off track.

Mission statements only work when they include commitments.

Finally for a personal mission statement to be effective it must be an ongoing evolving process and form an integral part of staff development in general. Usually a good way to ensure this happens is to do following:

  • Have a set timeline to which the mission statement applies, i.e. the staff member is outlining their mission for next 3 months or year.
  • Have regular check ups, usually done as part of staff feedback, encouraging the staff member to refer back to their statement and give feedback on how they are doing with their commitments.
  • At regular interviews get staff to reflect on and list micro actions they will do to achieve the commitments they are behind on. This stage is very useful for helping staff have a manageable micro plan for harder commitments.
  • Then finally having an end of year reflection on how the staff member did with their mission statement goals. A process done before writing up a new and improved mission statement for the coming period.

Mission statements must be an ongoing evolving process being an integral part of professional development in general.

Mission statements are a fantastic way to align staff energy to the goals that need to be achieved at work. Done well they are also a great way for a leader to show their staff that they care about their staff’s real development, gaining that all important buy in. Most of all a well done mission statement provides a framework for staff to visualize and then channel their potential. A great mission statement is our own map towards becoming the best version of ourselves both professionally and personally.

Stages of a guiding someone to a great mission statement


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