What are you FOR?

Mission Statements

What is your opinion on company “mission statements” or written declarations of “organizational values and visions”?

Has your organization developed documents that define your “corporate goals and identity?”

Ideally these documents will shape and inform the everyday functioning of the teams and individuals that constructed them. But very often these documents make impressive, but irrelevant decor items for executive office walls.

Why is that?

The answer lies in the often overlooked fact that practical skills and abilities alone are not enough to translate goals into results, or intention into motivated action. An organization’s capacity to collectively exercise its defined goals depends as much on its level of emotional intelligence as it does on its level of practical expertise.

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The reality is that typical “mission statements, no matter how comprehensive and affirmative, are ineffectual and pointless when organizations do notnurture the quality of the interpersonal relationships that make it all happen.

Shouldn’t Mission Statements  be about What  you are for?

An inspirational speaker I once listened to placed a progression of two slides on the screen that appeared in the following sequence:

His thought-provoking lecture on individual and corporate identity was aimed at challenging the human tendency to define ourselves according to what we are against, rather than what we are for. The phenomenon of defining yourself by “being against” something is often the mode of engagement in organizations where defensive, conflicted and unproductive professional relationships have undermined productive collaboration and reciprocity.

Have you heard these kinds of statements at your workplace?

“We’re not used to this way of working.”

“We are not prepared to do their dirty work.”

“Our department is not getting enough support.”

“I’m not the one with the problem.”

“This is not our department’s issue to deal with.”

We so quickly and easily define ourselves in negative terms, don’t we? It initially makes us feel somehow more secure, superior and invulnerable to talk about what we don’t like, what we just won’t accept, or who we find offensive? But when this “me vs. you” or “us vs. them” paradigm infiltrates an organizational culture it very quickly erodes the impact and use of even the most impressive mission statement.

Of course clearly defined boundaries, of role and responsibility, are very important to organizational functioning. We need to know what we are not ok with to know what we are ok with.

But how does your team or organization nurture and develop the kind of relationships that allow for a shared sense of what you are for?

Writing a mission statement is not enough.

If division, conflict and defensiveness have infiltrated your organizational culture how can you overcome the “me vs. you” or “us vs. them” mentality to break through to more productive and collaborative working relationships?

Four keys towards emotionally intelligent mission statements

An organizational intervention that focuses on the development of emotional intelligence through in-depth assessment and coaching is best suited to this challenge.

Firstly, a structured organizational assessment and needs analysis, will reveal the key relationships and partnerships where intervention is required. An individual and team coaching intervention can then be tailored to the concerns within the relevant areas of the organizational functioning.

This coaching process should focus on the following key tasks – Affirm, Challenge, Support, Align:

1)     Affirm – rapidly develop affirmative assessment profiles of individual personality style, team roles and leadership styles. This naturally fosters an acknowledgement and tolerance of differences, but simultaneously promotes the affirmation of individual values, strengths and goals.

2)     Challenge – rapidly develop challenging assessment profiles of individual personality style, team roles and leadership styles that point to areas of potential growth. This encourages individuals to acknowledge responsibility for patterns of behaviour and thinking that reinforce disunity and defensiveness in organizational relationships.

3)     Support – use assessment profiles as the basis for providing ongoing support and coaching that develops more positive strategies for the achievement of personal and team goals, and for responding to interpersonal challenges within the organization.

4)     Align – If the initial organizational assessment and needs analysis has been conducted appropriately, it would have already considered the most relevant needs and perspectives of individuals from all levels of the organizational structure. Therefore the coaching intervention will more rapidly be able to align personal values and goals (what am I for) with the organizational mission statement and targets (what are we for).

The four key tasks above outline a basic intervention for enhancing organizational and individual emotional intelligence in a way that can align individual development with the corporate mission.

This creates an essential, and often lacking, interface between “what I am for” and “what we are for”. Furthermore it invites individuals to accept greater responsibility for the management of themselves and their key professional relationships.

So rather than providing an impressive form wall decor, your organizational mission statement can become an integral part of each person’s daily response to the enduring question, “What am I…. for?

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