Most companies have both a mission statement and a vision statement, because they serve two distinctly different purposes:
According to Graham Kenny, "Mission statement describes what business the organization is in (and what it isn’t) both now and projecting into the future. Its aim is to provide focus for management and staff. A consulting firm might define its mission by the type of work it does, the clients it caters to, and the level of service it provides. For example: “We’re in the business of providing high-standard assistance on performance assessment to middle to senior managers in medium-to-large firms in the finance industry.”
A vision statement says what the organization wishes to be like in some years’ time. It’s usually drawn up by senior management, in an effort to take the thinking beyond day-to-day activity in a clear, memorable way. For instance, the Swedish company Ericsson (a global provider of communications equipment, software, and services) defines its vision as being “the prime driver in an all-communicating world.”
Another, and perhaps the most important purpose of the Vision Statement is to inspire the employees to do their best work every day; to work toward a common good. (Sorry, but I don’t think Ericsson’s vision statement is particularly memorable or inspiring. It may be clear, but if I were an Ericsson employee, it wouldn’t excite me to get out of bed in the morning.)
A well-written vision statement is useful in giving employees day-to-day guidance; a “north star,” if you will, for doing their jobs. And “well-written” means clear, simple and inspiring; easy for anyone to understand. And if it’s clear and easy to understand, it’s easier for every employee to act out in doing their day-to-day work.
An excellent example of this is the Vision Statement at the Intercontinental Hotel Bali Resort. The Statement says simply, “Our guests want to return.” This five-word vision statement provides more clarity than any other I’ve seen, and the simplicity has a lot to do with its ability to guide employee behavior. This excerpt from a 2014 review on TripAdvisor is a good example:
“All the staff at this hotel from the cleaners, gardeners to management make you feel welcomed, comfortable, happy, and special! Everyone is made to feel like a VIP.”
And clarity of vision and mission is what drives consistent, desirable action.
How clear is your company's vision? And can every employee tell you what it is? Does it inspire them to be their best selves?
Keep your Vision Statement simple, clear and inspiring to every employee.
I went into a UPS Store the other day to mail a suit to my son at college. The suit was folded neatly inside a nylon garment bag. My mission was to put the entire thing into a more secure box, or padded envelope, and get it to him by Thursday.
I didn't know what drop-off-service is, so I said, "I don't know... I'd just like to mail this suit."
He responded, "Well, we can do that with drop-off-service. Is it ready to go?"
I said, "Not really - I'd like to send it in box." He said, "Well, do you have a box?"
"No, I don't."
"Well, you have to have a box for drop off service."
The conversation was going nowhere, and I was growing frustrated. I wanted to say to him, "Look, I just want to ship this damn suit. Can you do that?"
From my perspective, the man behind the counter made two mistakes:
In assuming my package was ready for shipment, he was anticipating my needs. This is not always a bad thing, if you anticipate correctly. Some businesses - Ritz-Carlton in particular - have grown their brand in part by anticipating their customers' unstated needs.
The second mistake was the bigger cause of my negative experience: In using his language to ask me question, he was being internally processes-focused when he should have been externally customer-focused. "Drop-off service" is a term that's apparently used by the UPS employees, but not necessarily understood by the customers they serve. Using a "foreign language" on your customers causes confusion and frustration, and sets the stage for a negative customer experience.
Always, always speak to customers in language that the customer will understand. That means avoid using industry jargon; avoid using the terminology that's used in company meetings. Always speak to your customers in plain English. Your customers will appreciate you for that, and find you much easier to do business with. And when a customer finds a company be easy to do business with, they tend to do business with them more often.
In hindsight, the many behind the UPS counter should have used the tried and true "How can I help you?" I would have simply told him, and he would have simply delivered it. I'd then have left the store thinking, "Wow, that was easy!" But I didn't.
When speaking to a customer, the simplest language is often the best language. Especially when it's the customer's language. For some more good advice on customer-centric language, check out this short video:
The most underused communication tool in business is the email subject line. That's not to say that we don't use subject lines; but it is to say that we don't use them well.
We don't always (ever?) draft a subject line that's going to trigger curiosity, inspire action, and most of all, be clear about what you're asking.
For example, if I'm sending an email to Mary, and I have two questions about a meeting we're having next Tuesday, here are two ways to write the subject:
Better Subject Line: "Mary, please answer 2 quick questions re: Tuesday's agenda"
Include a call to action. Be very specific about what you want the recipient to do. With a clear call to action, they'll be more likely to do it.
Place the most important words toward the beginning of the email. In the example, "answer 2 quick questions" is the call to action for Mary, so that's in a place where it will be seen first, and Mary will know what I need from her.
Keep it under 40 characters if possible. That's about the number of characters that will display on a the screen of a smart phone, and more emails today are being read from smart phones.
Use words to "sell" the person on reading and taking action. In the example above, the word is "quick." If Mary see's that the questions won't require much of her time, she'll be more inclined to do it now, than file it for later.
Include the entire message in the subject line, if possible. People appreciate brevity, and if you can fit the entire message in one place, and prevent that extra click to open and read more email, everyone's better for it.
Manners never hurt - we're all human, and even if it's in an email (or, especially in email) people appreciate being treated with respect.
Our minds move into action mode when we're given specific instructions; we're naturally inclined to take the next step. Conversely, when there are no specific instructions; when there's only a vague clue, our minds tend to move on in search of something with more of a hook. Give your emails a strong hook, by creating a clear, specific and compelling subject line.
How strong are your subject lines?
When it was my turn, I was assisted by that same teller. She told me that she liked my eye glasses. Normally, I'd feel 100% complimented. But since I heard the teller compliment the previous customer in the same way, my compliment felt discounted, or commoditized.
Was I being too sensitive, or was it the teller being too generous with compliments?
If you're going to compliment a lot of customers, say it in a way that won't be overheard by other customers. Each customer deserves to feel the full value of a compliment.