Why Mission Matters: It’s Your Motive, Your Motivation.

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January 15, 2013

America’s free enterprise system has produced the greatest wealth for the greatest number of people in the history of the world. It’s possible that today’s teenagers are enjoying a higher quality of life than Kings and Queens just a few hundred years ago. Think about it – electricity, automobiles, cell phones, and air travel – not to mention the quality and variety of our food, clothing, and shelter, and all the creature comforts that we enjoy.

But, let’s not take our prosperity for granted. Just because we prospered in the past doesn’t mean that we will prosper in the future. Let me explain.

In the first Wall Street movie, Gordon Gecko famously declared, “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good.” Was he out of his mind? Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. Greed is taking too much of something that you don’t rightfully deserve. It’s that kind of thinking that creates the Bernie Madoffs and a wide range of destructive “takers” in our world.

In contrast, I once asked Lee Wagy, a highly ethical businessman, how he helped his teenage workers become such outstanding employees. He explained, “I teach them enlightened self-interest. The better they serve others – customers, co-workers, and owners – the better they serve themselves in terms of career advancement, financial rewards, recognition, and job security.”

This is how wealth is produced and real success is achieved: countless individuals seek to meet their own needs by meeting the needs of others.

So what does that have to do with you? Well, to produce that wealth… to achieve that success you (and your employees) need to have a clear understanding of why you’re doing what you’re doing.

A mission statement is a clear and compelling statement of why your organization exists. Mission defines why you do what you do. It’s your motive, your motivation. An effective mission defines the ultimate contribution your organization will make to other people’s lives.

“A mission statement is defined as ‘a long awkward sentence that demonstrates manager’s inability to think clearly.’ All good companies have one.” – Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle

Contrary to popular belief, everyone is motivated. The bigger question is, “motivated for what purpose?” Inside each and every person is a desire to live a life that matters, to make a positive contribution, to make a difference.

According to a Harris Poll of 23,000 full-time employees, only 37% had a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve (vision) and why they are trying to achieve it (mission).

So, what about your employees? Are they clear on why they are doing what they are doing? Are you even clear where your business is actually going? Let’s continue the conversation. Leave a comment below.

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