The Huddle: What Is A Mission Statement, And How To Write Your Own

In this month’s The Huddle, our careers columnist and founder of the Step Up Club, Alice Olins, explores what a mission statement actually is, why it’s important and provides her top tips for writing your own.

I am in the midst of much excitement at work. My business, the Step Up Club, has just launched a new corporate membership product, and guns are blazing on all fronts.

As the founder, I feel like I’m always standing on the edge of a very high precipice. You know that giddy, exhilarating fear that feels good, but is also slightly paralysing? My brain and nervous system are pulsating, which is good in some ways, but isn’t exactly conducive to clean, strategic thinking. Or, at times, even writing simple emails.

I needed some organisational scaffolding, I realised, so that I could enjoy these professional thrills and still get the job done.

Enter, my new personal mission statement.

What Is A Mission Statement?

A mission statement is used by brands to ensure consistent communication about a product. A clear message opens doors – you can pitch to the right audience, harness your product’s USP (or, unique selling point), articulate its power, plus, talk about its impact and future importance.

The thing is, you can be that product.

mission statement
Alice. Step up Club. Hearth. Feb 2021 Picture by Zute Lightfoot

Why Do You Want One?

With a mission statement of your own, you will benefit from all of the good stuff mentioned above and it will build confidence because you have the words and concepts to hand when describing your career and goals. Why? Because you will have already articulated it before, making it that bit easier when you meet someone new or are in a situation where you need to succinctly and powerfully share your values, impact and future vision – such as your annual review.

In short, a mission statement is a crutch when you’re frazzled, and who doesn’t need one of those?

What Makes A Mission Statement Unique?

Story-telling is the foundation of a powerful mission statement. This is where things get really interesting for you as an individual because sometimes we get stuck in outdated stories about ourselves. When we think about who we are, what we value, and where we are going, let’s say we often default to a previous chapter in the book of our career.

Sometimes, I work with coaching clients whose stories remain cemented in childhood. They still see themselves as the young person who didn’t like to lead or the graduate who was bad with money. Even your story from a couple of years ago might be holding you back or, at the very least, limiting your space to move forward with authenticity and truth.

Our stories, of course, are always evolving, and it’s vital – personal mission statement aside – that we have to hand our story of today. Of course, that story will be informed by what’s been, it will also have snapshots of the person we are outside of work, and crucially, it will contain the person we want to become.

When thinking about the work stories of our life, we are conditioned to go back in time and structure chronologically. A mission statement breaks that prosaic approach and breathes in creativity and interest. What makes us unique as human beings is our sophisticated communication. Stories are our lifeblood, and if yours lacks interest or clarity, or is a bit outdated, then you are doing yourself a disservice.

Crafting a mission statement will tell your story in metrics like values, mission and actions, becoming a vehicle for consistency and confidence.

So let’s get crafting yours.

Crafting a mission statement will tell your story in metrics like values, mission and actions, becoming a vehicle for consistency and confidence.

How To Write A Powerful Mission Statement

what is a mission statement

1. Write Your Story Of Today

This is a big one, and it will take some time. You can use free writing as a useful tool to get going; put a timer on for 7 mins, put pen to paper, and write without editing or taking your pen off the paper. Write what you do, the things you value, where you want to be in the near future, and the impact you’ve had so far. Your passions, your mistakes and what they taught you. This can be messy, but that’s ok.

Then leave what you’ve written and read it later, circling repeated themes or moments that resonate. Think of this as your primary research. You can also ask friends and colleagues what makes you unique, moments in your career that they’ve felt have been defining. Give yourself time, and don’t expect perfection. This is your research.

2. Create A Simple Structure

Mine starts with a ‘Who’ section; it’s very short, just a single, extended sentence. Then comes the ‘Why’ bit. Here I’ve got my vision, my mission and a short overview of how I want to achieve those. Here are some ideas: Vision: To be an honest, empathetic and impactful team leader, to be recognised industry-wide and known for my value-added products. Mission: To create and lead a diverse, impactful team where everyone is playing to their strength for individual and organisational benefit.’ Next are Values and Actions – these are your How and What sections.

3. Refine, Refine, Refine

I am not going to lie, I sweated blood and tears over this statement. But it was worth it in bucket loads. Simple is good. This is an aid, not a definitive dissertation. My CSM is open at all times on my desktop. It is there to open, copy from and re-read when I’m lost for words or to make sure I’m doing myself and my new project justice.

Truthfully, the art of writing this Messaging Statement is as powerful as the act of owning it. To celebrate our brilliance, we need to know what that looks like and have the words to express it when we’re feeling nervous or out of our depth.

The Takeaway

Remember, your story has subplots, it has addendums, it has chapters that never need to be read, and others that’ll be referred to many times over. It also includes the chapters not yet written and your vision for yourself. Articulating potential feels a bit alien, so be kind during this process. It might feel awkward; my advice is to keep plodding forward because the final draft will become your best, loyal work friend.

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