By Jasmine Glasheen and Donald Dunphy
We are now five months into the coronavirus pandemic. Our work lives have been put on pause, or fast forward for first responders, which has sparked a lot of thinking about our life purpose. For all of the devastation this virus has wreaked, it has given us a chance to review what we stand for and how we want to navigate our lives.
A personal mission statement can be a guiding force during times of upheaval––a mantra we return to again and again that helps us realign with our core values. Yet if a mission statement doesn’t hold up in light of the current social, political, and public health landscape, it may be time to reevaluate and to find a more relevant statement to guide our personal and professional lives.
What is a Personal Mission Statement?
A personal mission statement articulates how we function in the world. Stephen Covey, the author of the book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, looked at the personal mission statement as a Western approximation of the Japanese bushido code, the set of codes of honor and ideals that dictate the samurai way of life. It originates from samurai moral values, usually highlighting a combination of sincerity, frugality, loyalty, mastery, and striving to be the best in every arena of one’s life.
Cecilia Sepp, CAE and Principal, Rogue Tulips Consulting, describes a personal mission statement as a living credo and source of inspiration similar to the 6th century BC Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu. Sepp paraphrases one of the tenets, ‘To conquer others is to have power. To conquer yourself is to have strength.’”
“By developing inner strength,” Sepp says, “an individual no longer needs to fear the unknown. Inner strength provides the self-knowledge to know weaknesses and strengths, this leads to the insight necessary to know when to ask for help or input from others. It also provides the
individual with the self-knowledge, and thus self-confidence, to handle change in any form.”
While at first glance this might seem a little abstract, Bushido was a guiding principle when Toyota instituted its TPS (Toyota production system), which was picked up by Motorola and eventually transformed into Lean Six Sigma. The ancient personal mission statement that fuses philosophy with spirituality with the influence of bushido and Taoist teachings has evolved in the West into a more pragmatic life goal that aims to help the individual function at a higher capacity as a citizen, worker, and human being.
Personal vs Corporate Mission Statements
Your mission statement is worth considering when being faced with uncertainty on a daily basis in the fleet industry. A personal mission statement helps guide us in a similar way as the mission statements for our organizations and teams. However, your personal and corporate mission statements are rarely the same. While a personal mission statement can help the individual identify his or her north star and navigate interpersonal interactions, the corporate mission statement works on the organizational level
Claude Masters, CAFM, Claude Masters Fleet Consulting, LLC, quotes Simon Senek in reference to drafting a personal mission statement. “Always start with the WHY,” he says. “The purpose of the personal mission statement is to provide focus, meaning and direction for your life.”
A personal mission statement can help you create your personal brand in the fleet industry. Mission statements aren’t exclusive to the fleet industry. Powerful businesspersons, from Oprah to Virgin CEO Richard Branson, find themselves returning to their mission statements for guidance in times of crisis.
As an example, Richard Branson shared his personal mission statement in an interview with Motivated Magazine: “Have fun in your journey through life and learn from your mistakes.” In terms of business, his mission is: “know how to be a good leader and always try to bring out the best in people. It’s very simple: listen to them, trust in them, believe in them, respect them, and let them have a go!”
Your mission statement can become stagnant if you don’t update it to reflect the current climate. Masters says that his mission statement has evolved over the years.
“Corporate mission statements are typically crafted by the marketing and communications departments under the guidance of the executive team,” he says. “Your professional mission statement is yours and yours alone. It should be a thoughtful and meaningful reflection of you.
“I came to understand that early in my career that my goals were more inward-focused,” Masters continues. “As I matured, I learned that I needed more balance and focus on helping to develop others. Additionally, my focus became less tactical and more strategic.”
Covid-19 and Your Mission Statement
The novel coronavirus has poised a unique set of challenges for fleet leaders and, as such, you may find that your personal mission statement that once worked perfectly for your life path now needs to be updated. Sepp says that her mission statement has remained the same in the wake of Covid-19.
“There has never been a time when safety and certainty were 100% assured,” she says. “We now live in a time that has exposed that reality. I find that my personal mission statement is more relevant now in an era of crisis when decisions need to be made in a fluid environment.”
Cecilia Sepp came up with her personal mission statement over years of watching people put things off because they didn’t think they had the ability or the resources to accomplish a task. “I realized that the opposite is true,” she says. “There is no someday. There is only now. You can act; you can decide; you can make a difference – even if it seems small.”
And she created her mission statement, “Do what you can, when you can, with what you’ve got,” to prevent that type of stagnation.
Masters has a similar take, saying the pandemic hasn’t changed his mission statement because he always held positions that had an emergency/pandemic element to them. “My opinion is strong leaders rise to the challenges presented by these events and offer guidance, stability and direction during these times,” he says.
However, he adds, “Events like the pandemic do provide an opportunity for people to hone and refine their skills, learning new and innovative ways to operate their businesses during these challenging times.”
Robert Martinez, Deputy Commissioner-Support Services for the City of New York Police Department, shared his 19-point personal mission statement with NAFA.
The highlights are:
Set, and follow a good example for my family
To teach my children to love, to learn, and to laugh- and to work and develop their unique talents, regardless of what I think is best
Be forgiving, but wise
Exhibit kindness and consideration
Never compromise with honesty
Must continue to learn and grow throughout my entire life
Hear both sides before judging
Do not prejudge anybody or anything
Give and receive counsel from others
Defend those who are weak
Take time every day to reflect
Plan tomorrow’s work today
Maintain a positive work attitude
Keep a sense of humor
Do not fear mistakes- fear only the absence of creative, constructive, and corrective responses to those mistakes
Facilitate the success of subordinates
Listen twice as much as I speak
Choosing Trust Over Fear
Many of us have never gone nose-to-nose with our fears the way we have during this pandemic. In an Applied Brilliance online conversation about Trust + Belief April Rinne, author of “Flux Mindset: Disciplines to Thrive in Constant Change,”
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calls the pandemic The Great Accelerant, saying “The pace of change has never been as fast as it is today and yet it will never be this slow.”
When our business is faced with extreme turmoil––potentially including breaches of trust on many levels -- it can be easy to operate from a place of fear instead of continuing with a growth mindset. But Rinne suggests we operate under the premise that most people are trustworthy, focusing on creative thinking rather than keeping our guard up trying to defend what we have.
The pandemic makes adopting a flux mindset and operating in trust even more relevant. She says it’s time to ask yourself how operating from a place of trust would alter how you run your business––from how you structure sick days and parental leave, to how we operate client relationships. Does your personal mission statement include giving people the benefit of the doubt?
Sepp posits that a professional mission statement can help a fleet leader manage change by providing a philosophical and intellectual grounding.
“By doing so,” she says, “a fleet leader can identify and manage change agents within their environment because they have a starting place or touchstone that informs their decisions and how they interact with the world around them.”
Masters adds that leaders should be the unflappable force in a world of constant change. “People look to leaders for strength and stability during challenging times and conditions,” he says. “I believe our personal and professional mission statements should reflect that, acting as a tool to remind us of the importance of our core values.”