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How to Craft a Great Team Mission

Knight Campbell
October 28, 2023

Creating a Compelling Mission for Your Team

how to craft a great team mission for the long term

Having a great team mission is critical for your success.

A key way to effectively delegate, empower, and free up your time as a leader is to widely and clearly disseminate a great team mission. Make it succinct, clear, and compelling. Almost any discussion of a high performing team includes having a clear and compelling team mission. In fact, without a quality mission a team would just be a group of people.

Crafting a mission seems like it would be fairly easy, but it has taken Cairn Leadership five years to form our mission and it continues to evolve. It is easy to create an OK mission, but to get the right message into a sentence or two can be painstakingly difficult. It has to be succinct enough to remember and use. It has to be clear enough for anyone to understand. It has to be complete and robust enough to be more than corporate mumbo jumbo.

To further complicate the process, your mission will change more often than your vision. Outside events and economic shifts will change what you do and how you do it more quickly than they will alter your purpose. Read on to better understand why a clear mission is critical for your organization’s success and identify some keys to success in refining your mission.

Don't ignore your team’s mission for the vision!

Leaders get a lot of pressure to create the vision. Frankly it feels a lot sexier to work on a compelling vision. This strategic thinking model from HBR helps illustrate how the two are linked. If we don’t know WHAT we do, WHY we do it becomes less relevant and vice versa. The mission makes the day to day discipline and small steps possible. Having a beautiful vision with no mission is like seeing a glaciated peak without the ropes, crampons and team to climb it.

What makes a great mission statement?

A great mission statement is concise, clear and useful. It answers the following questions in a sentence:

  • What do we do?
  • How do we do it?
  • Who do we do it for?
  • What do we value?

Why does having a great team mission statement matter?

Not having a mission is like having a rudderless ship. Seneca said, “if one knows not to which port they sail, no wind is favorable.” To add onto this, not knowing what ship to sail on leaves you stuck in port! Creating, communicating, and maintaining a clear mission keeps your team aligned, motivated, and agile.

Align your team with strategic communication.

A clear mission allows teams to operate effectively. In the military, units are mission driven. When the commander articulates a clear mission, team members can easily ensure their actions contribute to that mission, meaning no wasted effort. Members can also see when their teammates are task saturated and seamlessly step in to ease the burden — in service of the mission. When everyone in the canoe knows the right direction and cadence to paddle, you’ll move fast.

Motivate your people.

Dan Pink asserts that one key to intrinsic motivation is for people to have a purpose. We agree. This purpose might not have to be as compelling as you think, though. If your cleaning service’s mission is to “provide spotless floors for businesses to look and feel professional,” your people have a clear purpose. That’s better than “we clean stuff.”

Make your team agile.

A mission should encapsulate commander’s intent. In the military this is how the commander envisions the battlefield after conflict. Dr. Brene Brown terms this as “paint it done.” However you say it, by telling your people what their work should result in and walking away, you can step back from micromanaging and people can feel true ownership over the process.

Note establishing clear guardrails can be important here. When Wells Fargo effectively made their mission to increase the number of accounts held without a guardrail of “ethically” they ended up with a 3 billion dollar lawsuit.

Write a great team mission this week!

Read your team or organization’s mission statement and ask yourself the following questions.

  • Does it make sense to you?
  • Can you point out decisions and actions it clarified in the last month?
  • Is it clearly distinguished from your vision (i.e. what you want to see in 5-10 years)?
  • Is it driven by your core values?

Boiling the essence of what you do, who you do it for, and how you do it into a succinct and useful statement that nests nicely under a compelling vision for the future presents a radical challenge. Don’t get caught in the mindset of assuming people know the mission or thinking the mission is not important. You will find yourself in a canoe with everyone paddling in different directions!

Want some help? Our team partners with teams like yours to drill down on your mission, team dynamics, and culture to move your organization forward with a stronger foundation. Get in touch below!

Questions? We'd love to hear from you! 

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