By Rebecca Twitchell
Leadership means ... knowing your mission. Mission--as in, your company’s purpose and meaning. Not to be mistaken with your company vision. Having a long term vision is imperative to company success but it's not enough to get your company brand known. You should still have a clear mission for your work. However, we see many organizations with one or the other because there is often confusion between the two. Let's clarify ...
Your vision should be a long term goal. Where you want to see your company in the future. Where you believe your company can be in the future. And it's not just between you and you. You have to communicate it. Often. It's the momentum that promises forward movement to your employees. It's the written statement that gets people excited. That rallying cry that begins every meeting.
If you're a hater of the vision statement, don't be. It's important you have one. Make it simple, strong and direct. Ten to 15 words equals perfection. Make it memorable. Don't forget--you are not the only one who should be able to recite your vision on command. Your employees should be able to as well. In fact, you should include them in the process. One of our favorites is "To inspire Africa through global success!" Inspiring, strong, easy to remember.
Now, on to the mission. This is the purpose and meaning behind your work. It's the reason you are in business. The idea you are constantly defending. You need one of those statements too. Same rules apply: it should be simple and your employees should not only be able to recite it back to you, but they should be able to demonstrate that they understand it. Ideally, a mission statement should not be more than one sentence. But if it gives you stress every time you see it on the office wall without those 5 key words you wanted in it, then have at it.
You also want to be sure that you make your mission statement broad enough that it can sustain change. While it is not advised that you change your mission every five years, it is advised that you add and/or subtract from it those areas that do not pertain to the business anymore. Markets change, the economy changes ... your business changes. Be sure your mission statement is flexible but that it also maintains your founding purpose and meaning.
APPLYING MISSION TO LEADERSHIP
So how does this apply to leadership? Think back to the day when you established or joined an organization. Ask yourself why you made the move. You probably didn't start off with a long term vision, but rather, an idea. A creative solution to a problem. An innovative product or service. Or perhaps even a behavior to introduce. Whether you created the mission or it was the existing mission that attracted you to the position, don't forget why you got on board with it. Remember the purpose and meaning is the backbone of your 9 to 5.
As a leader, it is your responsibility to sell your organization's purpose and meaning to your supporters, employees and customers. Not only are you sometimes responsible for actually creating the mission, but it's also up to you to encourage others that your company mission is THE mission to support. And more importantly, YOU have to believe in your mission in order to earn trust in it. If you don't believe in and/or cannot communicate your mission effectively, you will lose your audience.
Think about it. How many times have you had the opportunity to talk about the organization you lead? If you are a dedicated leader, it's a ton. You are the main marketer for your organization. As a leader, YOU are the one to get people excited, motivated and on board. Be excited about your mission. Live it. Breathe it. Scream it from the mountain tops! Okay, that's a little extreme, but you get the point.
And remember, this is not just for the money makers of the world. You might think that cause-related organizations have a "get out of jail free card" just because they have 401c3 status. You'd be surprised at how many nonprofit leaders have forgotten why they are "in business" themselves. It doesn't matter if you are a large corporation, a nonprofit or a small business ... your purpose and meaning tell the real story. So get out your soap box, grab your megaphone and ... BRING IT!
Twitchell began her career of "do good" ventures throughout the East Coast working in non-profit, community development and public policy. This changed slightly when she began working in the Environmental Health & Safety "do good for money" space in San Diego, CA. There, she ran the Marketing and Public Relations department for a multi-million dollar hazardous materials information management company. Not sexy enough for this do gooder entrepreneur, Twitchell partnered with two colleagues to form half full - a "do more good for money" company inspired by several years of strategic planning and facilitation for the Clients they had serviced.
After acquiring half full from her partners in 2009, Twitchell changed the mission of the company to strengthen its commitment to corporate responsibility. Just by signing a contract, a Client becomes a "full" company and automatically gives back to those in need. Twitchell is known for her facilitation style, problem solving techniques and keen ability to adapt and plow through any issues that may affect any of her Clients locally, throughout the U.S. and globally (Africa being a favorite).