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Motivating the Members of your MSP Team (Part 1): The Value of a Mission Statement

In my previous series on leadership, I briefly mentioned that good leaders reward team members to show that good work is appreciated. Rewards for a job well done can be an important element in motivating employees to put forth their best efforts for the company, but that’s only part of an effective motivation program. Let’s look at some of the factors that go into inspiring members of your MSP team to go above and beyond the bare minimums and aspire to excellence.

The first step is understanding that exceptional performance happens when employees feel a real investment in their jobs. And that is more likely to happen when they feel that the work they do is important. When people are task-oriented, they can lose sight of where their work fits into the “big picture” – how it contributes to the success of the company’s mission. Which brings us to the question: You do have a mission, right?

Of course you do. Your company exists for a purpose. Part of that purpose is, of course, to make money – but there’s more to it than that. There’s a reason you’re providing managed services instead of, for example, building widgets. And that purpose shouldn’t be just some vague ideas floating around in the head of the company founder; they should be precisely defined and documented in a mission statement.

Large corporations dedicate a great deal of time and resources into crafting their mission statements, which become part of the business plan that they provide to potential and current investors. Many small businesses grow out of personal funding from the owners and may not have a formal mission statement. But even if one isn’t required by outside investors, it can be a valuable internal tool for keeping members of the team – from the receptionist to the CEO – on track and motivated.

A good mission statement is concise, precise, and inspirational. It’s not full of industry jargon, legalese, or vague and meaningless words. It describes what your company does and for whom it does it. To write a good mission statement, you need to know:

  • The company’s core competency(ies)
  • The target customer base
  • The values and philosophy by which the company operates

Your mission statement should be able to serve as a guideline when employees ask themselves “Why am I here? Does what I’m doing matter?”

Think about Google’s mission statement: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It consists of only twelve words, but they encompass a huge mission. The statement gives employees a sense of the importance of their day-to-day tasks as they further that mission.

An attempt to find Microsoft’s corporate mission statement through a quick web search brought an unexpected challenge. I found a “mission statement regarding global diversity and inclusion,” a “mission statement regarding accessibility,” and other sub-mission statements. I went through the “About Microsoft” web page and the links there, looking for it. I skimmed through the 2013 annual report and finally found it buried in the “General” page. Here it is: “Our mission is to enable people and businesses throughout the world to realize their full potential by creating technology that transforms the way people work, play, and communicate.”

Note that Microsoft’s mission statement isn’t a bad one, but my experience highlights the importance of not only making your mission statement good, but also making it readily accessible to those who might be looking for it.

Looking at the two mission statements of these tech giants, you see that even though they’re considered direct competitors, the purposes of the two companies are quite different. In fact, they explain a lot about the differences in the way they operate. Google’s emphasis is on the information, while Microsoft’s is on the technology. Is it any surprise, then, that Google makes its money using the information it collects to target advertising, while Microsoft makes its money selling software and more recently, cloud services and devices?

Moving to a different industry, consider the mission statement of Southwest Airlines: “To provide the highest quality of customer service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual price and company spirit.” Anyone who has flown on Southwest knows that the qualities defined in this mission are what sets the airline apart from all of its competitors. This writer analyzes and contrasts Southwest’s mission statement with that of one of its competitors here.

Often, when employees seem to lose interest in what they’re doing, it’s because they no longer feel a connection between their jobs and the company’s “big picture.” A good mission statement can remind them, but you have to do a lot more than write a great mission statement and make it accessible to keep them motivated. And that’s what we’ll talk about in Part 2.