Quick. Tell me your company's mission statement.
Can't remember it? That's alright — go look it up.
Now read it and tell me how you feel.
Chances are, if you're like 95% of folks out there, the answer is more likely to be confused, apathetic, or bored than inspired. That's because most mission statements simply don't work. Why?
It's perfectly fine to have a cross-functional committee review and approve a mission statement, but when powers cross into writing and editing, it's a sign that your mission statement is headed for disaster. Groupthink takes the originality and punch out of language faster than a sparkly teenage vampire draws blood from her victim. It distills your words into the most flat, dull, and uninspiring language possible.
Being boring and unremarkable is the exact the opposite of what you want for your mission statement. A mission statement should inspire your team to work towards a common goal. It's your link between your lofty ideas and the people who will do the work to make them happen. It's time to stop looking at them as mission statements and start looking at them for what they really are: rallying cries.
I'm a big fan of leadership movies, and one of my favorites is Braveheart. Mel Gibson plays William Wallace, a commoner in 12th century Scotland who leads a revolt against an invading English army. During a pivotal moment at the Battle of Stirling, Wallace's troops are visibly nervous and afraid to go face the enemy, and with just a few short words he is able to turn their doubt around.
Aye, fight and you may die. Run, and you'll live... at least a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM! (Braveheart, 1995)
Tell me, does your mission statement do that?
When your star employee is considering leaving your company because they've been offered more money at your competitor, where is your mission statement?
When a loyal customer is considering switching brands because competitor promises flashier features, where is your mission statement?
When a big project requires you to work late and you need your life partner's support, where is your mission statement?
Does it sit on a dusty shelf? Out of reach and lost of meaning? Or do those simple words ring strong and true, inspiring you to dig deep, fight the good fight, and win no matter what stands in your way!