AM CONSTANTLY RUNNING ACROSS across smart and talented business leaders. And in conversation, I get the intensity of their passion. Yet when it comes to articulating that as a mission statement for employees, they end up with mush.

Our company exists to serve customers and improve lives through our market-leading products and services. We’re responsive, innovative, and deliver consistently high quality.

As said by every company ever. Who would claim they DON’T do that?

I know that you haven’t fallen into this trap. You’re brilliant, motivated, doing amazing work, delivering great value.

So why is it your employees don’t seem to have the passion that you do? Why does it seem that half of them are just in it for the paycheck?

It’s because you haven’t yet captured the stories that make up the emotional connection. Those employees haven’t developed the personal reasons to deeply care about what you’re doing with this organization.

Here’s how to change your impact.

Let’s start with looking at every word and phrase you chose in your statement:

Our company exists: You chose this because you’re convinced that if the company doesn’t do these things, you really don’t even want to be associated with it.  Not only will you have no customers, which isn’t any fun, but even if it somehow survived you don’t want to be doing it.  Doing what?  Well, …

Serve customers: You chose “serve” because you find the concept to be much more powerful than just making and delivering products. “Serving” implies a sense of generosity, fairness, and integrity. Perhaps you even make an association with the idea of service as a purpose for you being on this planet.

At this point we might observe that the word “customers” is a bit weak. If we define that as “anyone who gives us money for our products”, then we’ve implied that a primary purpose is simply to get money from other people. So it can be useful to ask questions like:

  • What makes someone an IDEAL customer for what we deliver?
  • Who would we actually turn away, because it conflicts with our commitment to service?
  • What’s the relationship we desire to have with customers besides just the exchange of money for products?

As you can see, this process of delving into an existing mission/purpose/vision statement can be a fascinating discussion, often transformative. When I work with clients, we also get into the territory of what’s important but NOT written down.

It’s amazing what we uncover.

What powerful messages are hidden in the depths of the direction you’re giving your employees?