The Right Mission Drives Motivation

July 15 2012, By , No Comments

While working in business as a regional director, I was attending a meeting with all of the leaders in the company in attendance when I asked the question, “What is our mission statement?”  Looking around the room, I saw everyone’s lips moving as they tried to answer my question.

They all thought they knew it – I heard people saying things like, “Saving for… err, uh… speeding care for… uh, education for the benefit of… hum… “ But no one came up with it until someone pulled out a company brochure and read it verbatim.

This room full of the company’s leadership was not able to recite the mission statement because, at that point in time, it had no influence on decision making.  It was a very nice sounding couple of sentences, but it was more like a tagline for public consumption.

The main reason our mission wasn’t driving decisions, or actions for that matter, is because it was too long to be of front brain thinking, and had not been infused into the organization’s culture.  The resulting consequences played out on an almost daily basis.  Like trying to “herd cats” – the company’s culture was not team oriented, with very capable individuals forced to create their own agendas.

One of the first things a firefighter rookie learns in the fire academy is the fire service mission, which is “to save lives and protect property.”  To be sure, this is a clear and concise mission statement, and that is what makes it such a success and why every firefighter knows it and uses it to base all decisions and actions.  This is just one way that firefighting leaders have been successful at positively influencing their culture.

Given the very dangerous and difficult environment that firefighters must overcome requires a mission that gets to the heart of why the fire service exists.  This mission motivates by telling the people involved why it’s important to go where they must go, and to do what they must do.

It is the responsibility for all leaders to provide a mission that people can believe in, while also providing them with the confidence and courage to get the right things done.  No one can believe in a unifying mission if it doesn’t exist, or is so long and convoluted that they don’t even think about it.

To build a culture where people perform the way you expect them to – even when no one is looking – requires the right mission statement.  There must also be a constant reinforcement of how important the mission is to achieving individual, team, and organizational success.

The right mission statement will define, in the simplest terms, your organization’s core reason for being. This cultural improvement provides individuals with a foundation for thought and action, while also creating the teamwork necessary for greater success.

If your company or organization doesn’t have a mission statement – create one.  If you have one that is so long and wordy that no one knows what it says – change it.  One of the simplest and most powerful ways for leaders to influence their culture is with a clear and concise mission statement.

Leaders at all levels must set an example by holding themselves and everyone else accountable for the mission.  When people believe in a mission they feel empowered to get the right things done for the right reasons.  Let everyone within your organization know what is important, and why doing it right matters.

The right mission drives motivation – and motivated people are successful people!

About the Author:

Tom Pandola is a Leadership Trainer and Consultant delivering real word leadership principles to individuals, business teams and organizations. After 25 years with the LAFD and serving as a captain and battalion chief, Tom moved on to business leadership positions and discovered how the same principles that allowed him to successfully lead others to navigate the dangers and challenges of firefighting and rescue operations, also produces success in everyday business.

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