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Your mission statement in two sentences.

Who are you, what do you stand for, anyway?

If you can’t answer those two questions in less than 15 seconds (and less than 50 words) you’re not in a good place.

And if  you can’t answer well, how do you think your employees are answering those questions, much less, how well are they living up to an acceptable level of customer expectation?

I learned this from an old ad man: Chances are your employees can’t correctly tell you what their job is today, so you need to tell them right now so they know it. Put it on a sign on the wall or hang it from the ceiling.

You’d think it would be easy to say what your job is. For your employees, it is generally anything but straight-forward. Everybody has to be all things to all people. If you get emails you have to be a good writer, voice mail a good responder, cell phone a good text-er, for crying out loud. I know of one large B2B company who mandated that all employees create their own Facebook and Twitter sites in order to “better understand and communicate with tomorrow’s customers”. Good grief. No wonder businesses struggle to turn a dime.

And to add to the problem, we got too arcane along the way. We tend to over-think our functional roles and worry about missing something important in their engraved (and public) description. God forbid we leave room for a critic to probe a gap (real or imagined).

Stop the madness! If you can’t say who you are in two sentences or less, you don’t know who you are. Period. Make the adjustment or get out of way of those who have a clear sense of purpose in your organization.

Get your mission statement off the wall, and re-write it. Keep it clean and simple: “My job is to produce [product or service here] that pleases the customer and makes the company money.” Hang it from the ceiling, wide and short. Make an oversized version of it and hang it on the wall. Then get everybody together and have them to repeat it back to you. Those that can repeat it accurately and without hesitation should get a reward.

I defy you to come up with a more accurate mission statement that your employees can recall and that will satisfactorily guide their behavior.

In my own company, our mission is simple: Please the client with great marketing work and be profitable. The employees know that profitability hinges upon happy clients, regular time sheets, efficient production and professional-grade thought. Great content counts as well. New techniques, research, value-added items, delivery on dead-line, good client communication, budget-tracking are also all part of the package. But, none of those details should be part of the mission statement.  They will only serve to weigh it down.

“Keep your eye on the ball” is a reminder that the even the most seasoned professional needs. The simpler the reminder, the easier to remind.

Fix your mission statement.  Do it today.