Here’s a question I get asked a lot: How can I make my company more resilient? It’s a great question, and sometimes the answer is simple: Make sure you have an inspiring mission.
In today’s world, people need to be resilient, but companies need resilience just a much. The business environment is more volatile and unpredictable than ever before. Technology has reduced barriers to entry for many industries, so new competitors can emerge at any moment — and from unforeseen places. Surviving means being able to turn on a dime, respond to the unexpected and keep the focus on what’s important — it means resilience, and having an inspiring mission is a big part of that resilience.
Here is what makes an inspiring mission, why it leads to resilience and steps you can take to make sure you have a mission that will unlock resilience in your company.
What is an inspiring mission statement?
Let’s start by looking at what a mission is and what makes some mission statements so inspirational that they spark resilience. Your mission statement is a concise description of what you seek to accomplish in the world and the value that you deliver. It’s why you and your employees come to work every day. Here are some great inspirational mission statements:
• “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” — Google
• “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” — Patagonia
• “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” — Starbucks
Now, here are two very different mission statements — one inspirational and one not:
• “A PC on every desk and in every home, running Microsoft software.”
• “To empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
The second statement is obviously more inspirational, but what is not obvious is that both statements are from the same company: Microsoft. After becoming Microsoft’s new CEO in 2014, Satya Nadella recast Microsoft’s mission statement. In evolving the mission statement, Nadella identified what distinguishes an inspiring mission: They are built on an enduring ideal, not just a temporary goal.
It’s a problem that bedevils many companies because temporary goals are rarely inspiring enough to foster resilience. Understanding the enduring ideal has paid off for Microsoft — the recast mission is the cornerstone of a reinvention that yielded more than $250 billion in market value over three and a half years.
Why does an inspiring mission spark resilience?
The path to any noteworthy accomplishment inevitably includes setbacks: often very big ones. Resilience is not about avoiding these setbacks, it’s about how you respond in the tough times. Successful people are driven by a sense of higher purpose. They see themselves as being on a mission to achieve that higher purpose and the sense of mission keeps them on track. Commitment to the mission puts setbacks into a more productive perspective. Rather than getting derailed, they see setbacks as lessons learned on the path to achieving their mission. Achieving the mission is always more important than the pain of a setback.
The same goes for a company. When faced with tough challenges — a difficult business environment, a new competitor, a product failure, etc. — companies driven by an inspiring mission are more able to rise to the challenge. An inspirational mission sharpens focus and centers attention on what is important. Companies that are built on an inspirational mission adopt a mindset of learning: They look past the immediate challenges, focus on the future and put the lessons gained toward achieving the mission.
A strong mission is a beacon to attract the right people.
There’s another important part of resilience: finding the right people. The mindset your employees bring to their work will ultimately define the company’s culture, and that culture will determine how well your company can respond in the tough times. When companies create and communicate an inspiring mission, it becomes a beacon for attracting the right people. These are the people who believe what you believe and are inspired by the work you do. They are also the people who come to work for more than just a paycheck — they come because they are committed to the mission. This commitment is what fosters a culture of resilience.
How can you create an inspiring mission that sparks resilience?
Here are five things to think about:
1. What is the value that you deliver? Compelling missions are based on value delivered to customers and, ideally, to the world. What is your value proposition?
2. How are your customers better off because of what you do? The inspirational part of a mission statement comes from envisioning the long-term result of your work, not the tactical. How well does your mission statement speak to the end result?
3. Are you focused on an enduring ideal or a temporary goal? What is the enduring ideal behind your mission? The commitment to that enduring ideal is what unlocks the resilience to achieve the mission.
4. Is your mission top-of-mind for everyone in your organization? Is everyone in your organization able to recite the company’s mission? Have you made the mission statement clear enough that everyone can see how their work relates to it? If not, your people are not connected to their work, and that will impede resilience.
5. Understand what you stand for. There’s a saying: “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything.” Developing an inspiring mission is ultimately an exercise in understanding what you stand for. That understanding provides the foundation for resilience in the difficult times.
This article was originally published on Forbes.