In June, The Balance ran an article on the worst retail company mission statements.  The Balance is a financial site – the reason they posted this article was that these companies’ bad mission statements were reflective of the fact that they had no idea what mission they were actually serving. These mission statements were making them so ineffective that they were bad investments.

A powerful mission statement can help drive results – but most mission statements don’t.  This is because mission statements are often overly long, full of jargon, and don’t say much about what a team is actually trying to accomplish.  Nobody on the team actually knows the mission statement, and even if they did, referencing it would almost never help the team make any tough decisions.

There are many resources on how to build a great mission statement.  Nonprofit Hub in particular provides great information on how to build a mission statement for organizations not focused on shareholder returns.  But once you’ve found the building blocks for your great mission statement, how do you get buy-in from your team?  And if your mission statement can help answer your toughest strategic questions, how can you make sure it’s used for that purpose?

Involve Your Team

The team leader should introduce the core of the mission statement to their team, and encourage an open conversation about whether the mission statement represents the main role of your team.  At this meeting, the mission statement might get tweaked based on the team’s suggestions.  Ultimately, everyone should have put some good thought into the mission statement, understand it, and know that it will be used as a litmus test for future decisions they’ll be making.

Design It to Solve Problems

When crafting this mission statement, make sure it encompasses the true mission of the organization and can be used to guide decisions, rather than just boilerplate text about integrity and waste.  One way to test your mission statement is to think of some of the hardest decisions your organization had to make in the past year, and ask “which decision better supports the mission statement?”  If that question would have been helpful, then the mission statement probably passes the test.

Use It to Measure Team Success

Each team member should be able to directly tie meeting their individual goals to the mission statement.  This requires each team member to understand the mission statement, the goals that support that mission, and how each team member works to accomplish those goals.  Everyone should understand the team goals, and know how their job responsibilities contribute to meeting those goals.  Finally, they should understand that all of those goals are supporting a mission statement that’s actually driving decisions.

For more information on building high-performance teams, contact Kevin Doepp at or 919-600-5102 and ask for access to our recent webinar on the topic.