The November issue of Fast Company is entitled “Find Your Mission.” This theme immediately piqued my interest. I have a strong belief that having a meaningful mission makes a life more fulfilling and a company more successful. In his opening column, The Meaning of Business, editor Robert Safian talks about the pace of change, our need to adapt and the lack of clear rules in today’s world. He posits that, because of this, there is not a clear line between life and business. He asserts that there is a need for a clear, engaging mission and that it is critical in our personal lives and businesses.
This issue has me thinking. It sparked some questions in my mind about how mission impacts our lives. Join me as I mull over the following questions.
How important is it for individuals to define and clarify their own personal mission? I believe that having a personal mission is essential to living a fulfilling life. In taking the time to think about who you want to be in the world, what energizes you, the strengths you have and what legacy you want to leave and for whom, you create a foundation and an energy to find the places and people with whom you can fulfill that mission.
How do you make a mission come alive in a large organization? This is a harder question for me. Too often I think companies develop a mission statement because that’s what you do in successful organizations. Often these mission statements are bland or not communicated in word or action. This leads to lack of engagement on the part of employees and, ultimately, customers.
For a company mission statement to be clear, it must evoke emotion and clear action. Perhaps most importantly, it must be the litmus test for every hiring decision made; for every product, financial and marketing decision; and for every piece of internal and external communication. A company mission is the life giving breath for its people and product.
What does having a defined mission do for you and for your company? Whether you are talking about a personal or company mission, each can provide focus, incite passion and align action; all of which lead to engagement, creativity and performance.
One of the things that became clear to me in reading this issue was what having a clear mission does not do. Your mission is not armor against failure. In spite of aligning your actions around a particular mission, sometimes individual projects or decisions don’t work out. You are human, after all. When you or your companies fail, your mission can act as a homing beacon to get you back on course. It is the measuring stick for what went wrong or what needs to change. It ultimately is the driving force behind coming back from a failure with renewed energy and vision.
Robert Safian closes his editorial piece with two questions: “What’s your mission? And how are you living it?” I hope your answer is “with clarity, energy and engagement.”