Mission Statement or Mantra: Which Do You Have?

By Deborah Chaddock Brown

Do you have a mission statement? What do you do with it? It is painted in your lobby, saved as a screen saver on your computer, tattooed on your arm?

There are lots of opinions about the value mission statements offer to a company’s success. In Denise O’Berry’s posting “Do I Need a Mission Statement for My Small Business?” she says: “The Sun Online Agency was commissioned to conduct a survey studying Fortune 1000 companies looking for trends over a 1 and 5 year period. The study was conducted through extensive online research along with a number of company interviews. Although 90% of the highest growth companies for 2006 had published mission statements, the most surprising difference was noted while looking at long-term growth over a 5-year period, where 98% of the 50 most profitable Fortune 1000 companies have mission statements in place.” http://www.allbusiness.com/operations/3357-1.html?postId=6984

I read that yesterday before heading to my monthly boardroom meeting of women business owners where the speaker proclaimed, “Mission statements are a bunch of hooey. They are just something to paint on the lobby wall.”

Talk about a vast difference. But I know what she meant. If a mission statement doesn’t have “legs,” if the employees don’t live and breathe the mission statement, than it is just a bunch of hot air.

I recall sitting in a meeting many years ago as a regional manager with Pearle Vision. We recently had a change in leadership (not uncommon during my 17 year tenure) on this particular occasion the new president came into the meeting to make a statement.

He talked about the hopes he had for the company and how we were the back bone of its success, yada, yada, yada. And then he said, “What we need is a mission statement, something we can stand for, something we can believe in.”

One brave soul in the room (it wasn’t me) raised his hand while pointing with the other to the banner that hung across one wall of the room, “Sir, isn’t that our mission statement on the banner?”

In fact, it was a mission statement we’d had for quite sometime.

The new president didn’t miss a beat. “Oh that.” He said dismissively. “No I mean something that you can sink your teeth into like ‘sales cures cancer’.”

Aside from being unbelievably insensitive, he was also publicly dismissing all that we, the back bone of the company, had been told to believe in and work toward.

Mission statements are tricky things. If all they are is a lot of impressive phrases, then it’s difficult to live up to.

But what about a mantra? Webster’s defines a mantra as “a mystical formula of invocation or incantation.” In other words, something short enough to memorize and say over and over until you own it in your heart.

As an example, the mission statement for NIKE might be “the NIKE Company exists to…” However, their mantra, a memorized statement for employees, might be “authentic athletic performance.” It’s short, sweet and says who they want to be for their customers: each and every time with each and every product.

As a writer for businesses, my mission statement might include words like professional, capable, creative, and effective. Boring, right?

But my mantra is “putting your words to work.”

How do I do that? I write Words People Read SM.

Think about it. What would your mantra be? Ask your employees what they think you stand for. Do you have a short phrase that captures the experience you want your customers to have? Is that what you are known for?

Mission statement vs. mantra. Which ever you choose, don’t keep it hidden under a basket – let it shine for all the world to see.

Deborah Chaddock Brown, owner of AllWrite Ink, has been writing since she was seven. AllWrite Ink is a corporate writing enterprise focused on providing solution-oriented content that enhances her customer’s brand message. She writes Word People ReadSM. She recently penned “It’s a Party, Planning a Successful Retail Sales Event,” a workbook designed to take the thinking out of planning a grand opening or customer appreciation day event for retailers.

For more information visit http://www.allwriteink.com Deborah has two children and a kitten that inspire her thoughts and ideas.

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Filed under Deborah Chaddock Brown, Mantra, Mission Statement, Starting a business, Success

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