Connecting with the Mission


 Recently, I read a news story about a woman who had been separated from the military after ten years of service. She was separated involuntarily after returning from a tour in Afghanistan, and surprised by the move. The story included a quote that indicated she’d joined the service “to try something different.” There’s no reason to think she did not serve well or honorably; her job in the service was over manned, and the military needed to cut back because of budget. But I was struck with how disconnected her reason for enlisting was with the mission of a fighting force. I can’t help but think that the military was not the right place for her.

Although the military is an extreme example (you must be willing to sacrifice your life for the mission), every company has a mission that drives its leadership and its growth. If you can’t articulate it or connect with it emotionally, you are probably not going to have success or happiness in your job – no matter how well it pays.

We all need to feel that our work matters. We want to work for companies that make the world a better place in some way. The founders of the company (and hopefully, its top leadership) created and run the company with a vision and mission in mind. They’re often lofty and inspiring. Here are a few corporate examples (edited for length):

  •  Our friendly, knowledgeable and professional staff will help inspire, educate and problem-solve for our customers. (Advantage Auto Parts)
  • Because the product we sell is books, our aspirations must be consistent with the promise and the ideals of the volumes which line our shelves. To say that our mission exists independent of the product we sell is to demean the importance and the distinction of being booksellers. (Barnes & Noble) 
  •  …To be the global energy company most admired for its people, partnership and performance. (Chevron)
  • To be the safest, most progressive North American railroad, relentless in the pursuit of customer and employee excellence. (CSX)
  • We are a global family with a proud heritage passionately committed to providing personal mobility for people around the world. (Ford)
  • We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling. (Harley Davidson)
  • To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. (Nike)

If you’re working, (or looking) do you know the mission and vision of the company? Does it resonate with your personal values? Do you feel that the work you’re doing makes a difference? If you can’t answer yes to any of these questions, you may be in the wrong place, even if you’re doing a good job.

Sooner or later in your career, you’ll want to find work that is “meaningful.” What that means is different for each of us. But knowing what the company means by it is a good start.

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5 thoughts on “Connecting with the Mission

  1. Advanced Auto Parts appears to have grown itself primarily through mergers, rather than organicly. Current management seems excellent. Their mission statement appears to fit the day to day reality of the stores.

    Being a huge fan of Barnes & Noble, having bought enough their books to build a store (or it feels that way), I hate to point out the following. After Borders, which they considered merging with, Barnes & Noble may be the next major bookstore chain that disappears. I believe they have been up for sale. Whatever their mission statement, it appears they have failed to keep up with the times. I could point to other things I have come to NOT like about Barnes & Noble over the past few years, but I think it’s enough to say, no mission statement is worth a grain of salt if the company disappears.

    Chevron, if you mean Chevron Corporation, the oil company, here is a Wikipedia link http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chevron_Corporation you may wish to read. Go to CONTROVERSIES and read those. Do you still think they are living their mission statement?

    CSX Transportation, you may recall the Runaway Train Incident. Wikipedia explains: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSX_8888_incident
    Seems like there have been others, but can’t find them. They are better than they once were. I give them that much, to date.

    Ford has plenty of negative and positiive history, so I will skip them.

    Harley Davidson. Read the Financial Crisis, which had to Harley Davidson threatening to move out of Milwaukee, as I recall. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harley-Davidson#Financial_crisis

    Nike Inc. Read Human Rights Concerns from Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nike,_Inc.#Human_rights_concerns
    Not to mention other controversies listed. You will see how they treat the world.

    U.S. Army. Recruiting Logo: “Army Strong” Motto: “This We’ll Defend”

    U.S. Army Mission: The United States Army serves as the land-based branch of the U.S. military. §3062 of Title 10 US Code defines the purpose of the army as:

    preserving the peace and security and providing for the defense of the United States, the Commonwealths and possessions and any areas occupied by the United States
    supporting the national policies
    implementing the national objectives
    overcoming any nations responsible for aggressive acts that imperil the peace and security of the United States

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  2. My guess is when she decided to “try something different” somewhere in the paperwork she filled out, they gave her an idea she was offering up her life. Not that I believe many recruits understand fully that idea, for young people expect to live forever, no matter what they do, don’t they?

    Not so much ladies, but many guys have decided to “try the Army” to “do something different” with their lives. Some to grow up, some to become a man, or other equally sounding, thoughtless decision. I’ve known a few people who claim the Army changed their lives for the better and it was the best decision they ever made. Most left once their tour ended;a few served to retirement time. If you are in for 10 years, I am almost certain you have re-enlisted at least once, possibly twice. By then, especially if you’ve been to Afghanistan, you understand the “life and death” nature of the Army. Since you said “military” without identifying the branch of service she was in, I chose the Army, because it commonly has a life and death combat role.

    If the military had not felt she was in the right place for her and them, I doubt they would have allowed her to re-enlist. They had no qualms about refusing her re-enlistment, once it did not serve the military’s purpose. Based on what you report in your post, she seemed happy enough with her military life to stay, had they allowed her to do so. But you, expert that you are, say you can’t help but believe the military “was not the right place for her.”

    I’ve never been in the military, was classified 4F, back in the days of the Draft, but come out of a military family background, which I will skip here. I’ve applied at Barnes & Noble, never to hear from them. Not sure about Advanced Auto Parts. I am amazed you did not check Chevron’s background before posting their mission statement. Perhaps you meant a different Chevron? CSX, they’re the local guys and they do seem to be trying, so I applaud that one. Ford, I’ve owned a couple of their cars, which served me so well, they helped me save money by lasting so long. Harley Davidson, I’ve lost a lot of respect for in recent years, after years of promoting them as the best over Japanese motocycles. I’ve never been a motorcycle person. It’s sad to see where they’re headed today. Nike Inc. for some reason I’ve never been able to support a company that identifies so much with its logo, over-the-top marketing, and for me, prices so high, I won’t buy their products. Their Human Rights record and related matters, which have come to my attention, has led me to further reject their products. They strike me as more about exploitation than about their mission statement.

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  3. A mission statement is often not representative of the company that claims the statement. I hope I’ve given you enough examples of that, based on the companies you chose. If you’ve always been able to take positions with companies or agencies whose mission statements have dove-tailed with your own philosophy and beliefs, then you are part of a lucky minority. I wish I could say that isn’t so, but it’s true.

    Have you ever noticed, it’s not usually the wealthy and college educated who go off to war to sacrifice their lives? Do you ever notice in your field that a number of jobs people can be trained to do, require a college education today to apply? In this economy, I will read a mission statement, but I’m also looking for employers with job openings. In a world where I am being told the typical worker will change jobs at least 5 or 6 times during a career, isn’t the phrase of the day “be prepared to try something different”? If your field is eliminated, do you have a choice?

    After today, I will continue to read, but I will do my best to comment no more. Some people have a mission from birth, many never do, or find their mission along the road of life; sometimes by trying something different, even when that “different” seems crazy. The lady seems to fit that last group. Some brilliant people have risen from such decisions. I apologize I cannot name any of these persons at present. I hope the lady finds something worthy of whatever her mission is in life, since the military has chosen to reject her out of necessity. A lot of us have been rejected out of what we have been told is necessity. The mission statement didn’t stop that event. The mission statement didn’t cause the companies to feel much obligation toward us or their communities. Many, maybe even most of us, will have to “try something different.”

    🙂 My mission statement: “I Will Survive” (With apologies to Gloria Gaynor for usurping the title to her famous song.)

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    • I always appreciate my readers and those that take the time to share their thoughts. I agree that many companies have not lived up to their mission statements, but the statements reveal what the founders or leaders hope the company becomes. Thanks for your thoughtful input.

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  4. My apologies. The world irritates me a bit more with each passing year. I must be getting old. 😉 I better find a job in 2012, so I will be dedicated to fulfilling a mission statement at least 8 hours a day, while coming home too tired to do TOO MUCH thinking. Work will keep you younger than you think!

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