Shouldn’t mission statements be exciting and compelling? Isn’t a mission all about heart and emotion, about caring and helping, about being human?
Why then, do companies create emotionless statements like this one: “Our mission is to provide the best value for our customers.” Or these:
- Walmart: “Saving people money to help them live better.”
- “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
- “Walt Disney’s objective is to be one of the world’s leading producers and providers of entertainment and information, using its portfolio of brands to differentiate its content …”
- Microsoft: “… to create innovative technology accessible to everyone, adaptable to each person’s needs.”
Do any of these statements stimulate you? These are all successful companies, doing incredibly useful things for the world. But none can articulate WHY what they are doing is important, in terms that are compelling and meaningful to the lives of their customers.
Do any of these make you want to work for them? Or buy from them? Do any differentiate themselves from anyone else?
What those mission statements are all about is what they do. That’s good in a strategy, but not in a mission.
The mission statement should incorporate passion. It’s all about the WHY.
Many businesses do great things for humanity, and every business makes others’ lives better. Our mission statements need to model that. How do you do that?
Put yourself in the customer’s place and think about how the customer is better off by using your product or service. Then, how do they feel as a result of using it? Describe that feeling. Don’t get corny, but get to feeling words that feel accurate.
Many companies that try to develop their “why” mistakenly focus on why they do what they do, what they are doing for the customer. That’s good, but it’s not what we’re looking for here. Take it a step further, to the why of the customer. Why does the customer appreciate your product or service in terms of feelings, not logic or numbers or facts?
Apple talks about how its customers will “feel connected to ideas and people around the globe.” Many of our businesses have customers who “feel they have a partner as they pursue fulfillment of their dream.” (I love the word “dream.” Don’t all entrepreneurial business owners have a dream they’re trying to achieve with the work they’re doing? Don’t they appreciate every business partner who is helping them achieve those dreams?)
When your employees know the feeling they’re trying to create in the ultimate customer, they have a much more forceful drive and inspiration to develop the product or service well.
The “why” is critical
If you live your why so well that your customers and prospective customers know it, you don’t have to worry about differentiating yourself. You already are. That’s a big deal.
Emotional ties create loyalty. You don’t leave someone (or something) you’re emotionally tied to, do you?
The prospect who understands your why is much more likely to decide right now, immediately. If you are only communicating the benefits of what you do, it appeals to the logical part of the brain, which may not react for a lot of repetitions. When the reason for buying is about the customer, not about you, you’re much, much more likely to stimulate immediate action.
Within TEC groups, we spent a lot of time last year developing our whys and articulating our passion. It was driven by Simon Sinek’s book, “Start With Why.” Here is what he said: “Companies with a strong sense of why are able to inspire their employees…When people inside the company know why they come to work, people outside the company are vastly more likely to understand why the company is special.”
If your mission isn’t yet emotional, get it there.
Phil Hauck leads three TEC groups in northeastern Wisconsin. He has led a variety of businesses, from technology to consumer products, and is a former reporter for the Wall Street Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org