Oct. 17 2018 06:00 AM

Get more from your employees with a motivating mission statement.

A few weeks ago, I conducted a team alignment meeting for a client. That’s where I get a group of supervisors and managers together with the company’s owner or president, and we create a structured discussion about areas that need attention and action.

One of the topics that came up was the organization’s mission statement. Now my client happens to have an excellent mission statement. But the problem is, most of the people in his company don’t know it exists, let alone believe in it.

A 2015 survey conducted by the employee recognition firm Achievers, entitled “The Greatness Gap: The State of Employee Disengagement” revealed that a staggering 61 percent of employees don’t know their own company’s mission statement. Val Matta, vice president of development at CareerShift, a Jacksonville, Florida, career website, says of that survey, “What’s more, 57 percent of those who are familiar with their company’s mission statements are not motivated by them.”

Get a meeting on the books

In our consultation, my client and I discussed the best way to help the entire team embrace his company’s mission statement and identify with it. I recommended holding a meeting with everyone in the company to discuss the present mission statement, and then, doing the following five things:

  1. Have each participant read through the mission statement separately.
  2. With the help of an outside facilitator (in this case, me), give the group an opportunity to discuss it.
  3. Ask everyone to identify what they like (and don’t like) about it.
  4. Brainstorm how it could be made better, more meaningful and include an emotional component.
  5. Identify some of the ways the revised mission statement could be implemented on a regular basis.

We’re in the process of scheduling that team alignment meeting now, and I can hardly wait until we have that discussion. It’s amazing what can happen in a meeting like that. In some past meetings that I’ve facilitated for other companies, the results were quite simply incredible.

A number of years ago, I conducted a team alignment meeting for the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. At the time, the airport had recently finished installing a beautiful new electronic signage system for its parking structures and lots.

At the meeting, a suggestion was made by one of the plumbing supervisors. This man — small in stature, dressed in his blue uniform, and quite reserved through most of the meeting — raised his hand. In a modest manner, he asked, “It’s great that we have these new electronic signs for our parking structures and lots. But don’t you think it would be a pretty good idea that instead of simply telling our customers which lots are full, we also inform them about which lots are still open?” The director of the airport, who had been seated in the back of the room, promptly stood up, walked to the front and said, “That is an absolutely brilliant idea, and we will start implementing it today.”

There was a buzz of comments and acknowledgments from the plumber’s peers — and a smile on his face, knowing he’d made a meaningful difference. On my next visit to the airport, I noticed one of the electronic signs displaying the very information the plumber had suggested.

Don’t be the smartest person in the room

How about your green industry company? Would this kind of scenario be possible? Do your team leaders, supervisors, foremen and managers have some great ideas that could help make your company better than it is right now? I know what you’re thinking; “Of course they do.” Then, why not give them the opportunity to contribute those ideas?

I often tell clients who are company owners and presidents that they don’t always have to be the smartest people in the room. They don’t have to have all the answers, but they do need to ask better questions. Then, attentively listen to the answers they get.

This can go a long way in building a foundation for perennial success. (By the way, if you are the smartest person in the room, you might want to consider inviting other people into it.)

A critical role

If you need one more reason why you should have a team alignment meeting to discuss and improve your company’s mission statement, consider this. According to a 2016 report by the Society for Human Resource Management, “76 percent of working adults need to feel their job is meaningful to engage with their company. If the meaning isn’t clear, employees can fall victim to the gravity of a purposeless employee experience.” Your company’s mission statement plays a direct role in helping your team members feel engaged and on-purpose.

Matta states that a good mission statement creates a “cause” that employees can’t help but connect with on an emotional level. Emotion is a powerful driver of performance. This is especially true for the younger generations. According to a 2015 Deloitte survey, 60 percent of millennials said their company’s purpose contributed to their decision to work there.

Once you have updated, improved or recreated your company’s mission statement so that it packs an emotional punch, begin putting it to work. Here are some ways to do this:

  • Have informal discussions with your team members, asking them for examples of where your company’s mission statement is being put into action. In other words, where do they see their team members or themselves serving the customer in a way that fulfills the mission statement’s main directive? Then ask them, “How does that make you feel?”
  • As you get their responses, compliment them on their efforts. Don’t stop there — point out to the other team members and leaders how the mission statement is “being lived out” by their fellow team members.
  • Whenever you catch a team leader, supervisor, foreman, manager or employee fulfilling the mission statement through his words or actions, acknowledge it. Tell him how it’s making a difference in that customer’s life and how it positively impacts the company you both work for.
  • Whenever your company receives emails, notes or phone calls from your customers thanking you for the great service your team provided to them, do something with that information. Post the letters and comments on your company’s electronic or physical bulletin boards and share some of them at every team meeting. Congratulate and thank your team members for their hard work and tell them how it helps your customers.

Live and breathe it. Remember the saying, “What gets rewarded gets repeated.” Reinforce the idea that the mission statement is a living and breathing philosophy. It is real and it feels good to live it. It is part of the reason you are all working for the company.

Hold a meeting where you bring your entire company together to discuss the present mission statement and organize it around the five items I listed at the beginning of this article. Afterward, positively reward team members whenever you see them living out that revised mission statement.

By consistently applying this approach, you’ll fortify the mission statement everyone worked so hard to refine. If you follow this advice, you’ll motivate your employees and get them excited about coming to work each day.

Tom Borg is a team performance and customer experience expert who works with small businesses and organizations in the green industry to improve customer acquisition and retention. He helps these organizations through his consulting, speaking, training and mentoring. He can be reached at 734.404.5909 or at tom@tomborg.com, or visit www.tomborgconsulting.com.