Dr Stephen R Covey of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People fame, at an address that I attended in the USA, related a story regarding exceptional client service in a hotel at which he was a guest. He had, through his secretary, made a reservation at the hotel chain that he usually used whilst travelling in the country and arrived at his destination and began the check-in process. Whilst waiting at the desk, he noticed an elderly lady struggling with her bags in the car park. At the same time, a cleaner who was washing the glass window façade of the hotel foyer also seemed to notice the lady and quickly slid down his extension ladder, ran across the car park to her, picked up her bags and escorted her to the front desk and went straight back to his job of cleaning windows. Stephen, when it was his turn, remarked to the receptionist that he was impressed by the attention of the cleaner and she responded: “Dr Covey, for us, this is not remarkable, because we have a hotel mission statement that guides our behaviour and our interaction with our guests – we want to really impress our guests with our levels of service”. Dr Covey asked for a copy of that hotel mission and the receptionist said: “Sure (and with a twinkle in her eye, continued), we also have a mission for our reception area – would you like a copy of that too?”

A few months later, Dr Stephen R Covey travelled to another city and checked in at a different hotel, but part of the same hotel chain. He was welcomed at reception and then the receptionist remarked: “By the way, Dr Covey, there is a special parcel for you at the foot of your bed”. Curious, Stephen went to his room and opened the package – inside the envelope, together with a welcoming letter, was the hotel mission statement and all the mission statements from every department in the hotel. Clearly, service levels here were intended to be personalised and behaviour was guided by mission statements that everyone had been a part of creating.

I was really touched when reading my niece’s mission statement the other day – so beautifully transparent about character:

My goal

  • To be at peace with what I do on a daily basis, receive joy from what I do and experience, feel fulfilled and have a sense of purpose

How do I want to be seen?

  • Happy, joyous, peaceful, compassionate, wise, caring, beautiful, free

What do I want to achieve in my job?

  • To wake up in the morning and be excited about and thankful for the work I do
  • Have a permanent, meaningful, positive effect on the world
  • Have freedom to come and go as I please, yet such passion that I rather want to stay
  • Inspire those that work with me to reach their full potential and use it for the greater good
  • Make enough money to not have to think about it or be limited by it
  • To keep learning and experience new things, to keep an open, interested mind
  • To be confident in the choices I make and the effect they will have on the wider world
  • To have the strength to make my voice heard and make my way
  • To have the respect and admiration of those that work with me

What do I have to do to achieve this?

  • Release self-doubt
  • Trust in the guidance that I feel inside
  • Be quiet and at peace (in mind)
  • Make decisions that are ethical and for the greater good of all
  • Stop resisting life and being afraid

My niece displays growing and consistent evidence of attempting to live by what she has written. I am proud of her.

Clearly, a personal mission comes from the heart and becomes a compass to guide one through life. The same is true of a corporate mission, vision and values – they guide behaviour and focus within the organisation and become the yardstick for the way business activities should be conducted. When there is buy-in to a mission from everyone, a culture is formed that is consistent with the brand.

3 comments on “A defining mission guides behaviour and refines focus

  1. Thulani on

    This remind me of our workshop we had with you here at Standard Profil sometime this year and allow me to extend my sincere gratitude for the insight that you planted on me and the importance of self-introspection. I am proud to say we are now achieving 90% productivity, this is still work in progress.

    We received our free-to-grow certificate as well
    Thank you Mr Mills



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