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Ken Keller: Gain focus, engagement and results

Posted: September 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 15, 2013 2:00 a.m.

The decade ending on Dec. 31, 2009 was considered by many in the media as “The Lost Decade.”

On Jan. 2, 2010, at the beginning of the Alamo Bowl football game, one of the television announcers commented on how driven the Texas Tech team was to win the game. He said, “Great teams have a clear mission.”

Texas Tech scored first against Michigan State but it went back and forth. In the final quarter, Texas Tech took the lead and held on to win the game 41-31.

Earlier that day in the Wall Street Journal, columnist Peggy Noonan wrote a column of reflection. In it she commented that one of the reasons the previous 10 years were difficult ones was because people “... forgot the mission.”

She went on suggest that from Wall Street to Main Street, from Congress to religious institutions, from public schools to colleges, there has been a “... diminished sense of mission or one that has disappeared or is disappearing.”

In David Halberstam’s best seller “The Best and The Brightest” he tells the story of General James Gavin, a WW II hero, meeting in the Oval Office with President Johnson and Vice President Humphrey. This meeting takes place in 1965, as Johnson was deciding to introduce the first ground forces in Vietnam.

The general is about to ask the president a question when the phone rings and Johnson gets involved in a long conversation. As Gavin and Humphrey leave, the vice president turns to the general and asks “What were you going to ask the president?”

Gavin replies, “I wanted to know what the mission of the ground forces going to Vietnam is.” Gavin never was able to ask the question of President Johnson.

What is a mission statement? It is a combination of words providing focus and direction while defining what an organization does, whom it serves and how those served benefit.

Many organizations have official mission statements. They are often long, never mentioned and even more rarely discussed so that people in the organization cannot even remember them.

Even those responsible for creating, promoting and enforcing the actual statement cannot remember it unless it is on paper in front of them.

Mission statements have to be relevant. For too many employees, the only mission statement they know is: give me my paycheck on payday.

It is the responsibility of leadership to make mission statements applicable to every position in the company.
Chip Conley founded Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a San Francisco-based hotel, restaurant and spa business.

In his book PEAK he observed, “With respect to connecting our employees with the company and its mission, we have found that the simpler and more succinct the mission, the more powerfully it engages our employees.”

In the Jim Collins book “Built to Last,” his research finding suggested that companies that focus on core values and a sense of purpose are more successful long-term than those that are purely profit-driven.

Who can blame an employee if the owners and leaders have failed to enroll and engage them in a higher level of commitment to the company mission?

A mission statement, keep succinct and actively promoted within the organization, will help regain focus, improve engagement and help achieve improved results for all employees.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.



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