Boards and executive teams everywhere spend an unbelievable amount of time and energy on developing their company’s mission statement.

To be fair this is important work as it helps to focus the organization … but, in my experience high-level mission statements do nothing to motivate front line staff.

In fact the Gallup organization found that only 20% of U.S. workers feel proud of or engaged by their company’s mission statement.

Most companies promote their mission by putting up posters, give out mouse pads and coffee cups. If that doesn’t work they push managers to explain their precious mission differently so that it will finally sink in. They believe that once those darn employees finally get it … life will be all sunshine & roses and profits will climb.

Sorry to tell you that this is not going to happen.

Why? Leaders think big & are future focused and workers are focused on very intimate, personal and local issues.

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Focus locally

Tweet: what matters most to your workers is their ability to support their families & hope to have a better life for their kids

When I ask workers what matters to them, they say what matters most is their ability to support their families, have good-paying jobs and hope to have a better life for their kids — and do what they can for their community.

 

When you have invested so much energy into that lofty mission statement, the idea of a local mission may not make sense. Because, a corporate mission is supposed give employees something big and important to believe in and work for: but employees connect to what they do every day; their team and the community in which they work.

I could list similar examples from around the world. But when I was a leader of a large NGO we had two mission statements, the official one – World Peace – and the local one – Every person who needs help will get it – and that was the one that inspires passion.

You must understand that the mission that matters most to your workers is the local one.

You’ll find it’s almost always about keeping the doors open and the community healthy.

My recommendation is to ask your workers what’s important to them:

  • What does it take to operate in their location?
  • What does the plant mean to the local community?
  • What would be lost if it went away?
  • Ask your workers to imagine the company closing; what would they do to keep the doors open and deliver on their mission?

Talk about the questions and the answers on the shop or office floor, and invite every worker to respond. Listen carefully to what they say, and craft their local missions.

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Then start doing those things — now before they don’t give a rat’s patootie about anything.

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