Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sanity Is a Mission Statement

Executive Summary:
If you are struggling with your job, role, responsibility, or work duties in general, step away from it for a little while and redefine your mission.  Simply declaring for your self what it is you believe you are purposed to do can remedy your whole outlook and job satisfaction.

The Rest of the Story:
I’ve been in a new role for some time now, and have struggled with it somewhat since I assumed it.  Recently, while considering my worrisome feelings that I may not be succeeding as I should, it occurred to me that I didn’t really have a good definition of success to begin with.  I just knew that what I felt wasn’t it.

I took a step back, and without any input from anyone else, (for better or worse) I defined the purpose of my new role, what it was that I should do to make things better for my business, my team, and my family (in my perspective it’s all related).  Since I have done so, prioritizing my tasks, making decisions, and even my demeanor toward my peers, customers, and family has improved.

In none of my experience or training has anyone ever made it so clear how vital a personal mission statement can be.  Sure, we learn to write problem statements and vision statements for projects or programs.  We also probably all have a job description of some kind that we can resurrect from the day we were hired.  If we work in corporate environments we are all steeped in the development of personal performance objectives.

With all of that inspiration, you would think that writing my own personal mission statement would be an obvious thing to do, but it wasn’t for me, and I’ll bet, obvious or not, that most readers of this post haven’t done it either.  Well, I suggest, encourage, and even dare you to try it for yourself.

I’ll give you a hint based on my own recent exercise.  Don’t follow the typical guideline of making your personal mission statement SMART.  SMART stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.  The SMART guideline is essential to writing performance goals, and I’m a big fan.  But we aren’t talking about goals; we’re talking about a probably evolving, but possibly never-ending (retirement or new opportunities aside) purpose.

We should keep our mission statements relevant to our job and job description, but otherwise, ignore the impulse to make them measureable, put a deadline on them, or define what it looks like in specific terms when your missions are done.  Instead, make your mission statement very qualitative and feel free to be subjective.  After all, you will be your own judge in this, so there’s no real need to define quality or value.

Think about how you want to do your job.  Think about what influence you want to have on your business, your team, and your peers.  By all means, think about your future and what your mission has to do with enabling it.

If you are the leader of a project team, might your mission be to mentor your team in how to cooperate and execute projects by sharing your own knowledge and experience, to make your projects more successful than others, or to make your projects more fun?  If you are a manager, might your mission be to grow and develop your people to the greatest degree they can stand?

Take a look back at the first few weeks in your current role.  Did you not spend some significant energy trying to figure out how fulfill your job description, your boss’s expectations, or what behaviors worked best to facilitate your work?  Of course you did.  What about your own expectations?

Regardless of whether you are struggling with a new role, or with one you have been in for a while, even if you are not struggling necessarily, take some time in the next week and define for yourself what the real purpose of your role is, what you are truly doing it for.  Don’t hesitate to be selfish, but keep it relevant to your responsibilities.

Once you have done so, come back to it every day for a couple of weeks until you have it so memorized that it is starting to jump into your thoughts about how to deal with your interruptions, and how you make your decisions.  For it to work for you it must invade your thoughts; it must be a permanent mental fixture.

I suspect you will find yourself, as I have, making easier decisions, having more patience with your team because you now have a purpose to fulfill while dealing with your team, and waking up eager to fulfill your mission instead of dreading going to work.  The worst that could happen is that you cannot match up your mission with your work in any way, in which case you now know what you need to do and the anxiety of putting off that decision will also feel like a weight lifted.

Here’s my last piece of advice.  Once you have done it at work, do it for your home life.  What is your mission as a parent, spouse, sibling, or child?  I have long said that the best way to test any leadership advice is to see if it works in the family environment.  I dare you to try this advice of mine in the same way.

Stay wise, friends.

1 comment:

  1. Great post; I have recently accepted a new leadership position which undoubtedly will require redefining the "mission" -- this advice will help.