There are two kinds of people in the world – those who love mission statements and those who hate them. I hate them. For me, crafting a mission statement ranks somewhere near vision boards and manifestos on my “things that are a waste of time” list. (Yes, I have a list. Or I would if having the list weren’t also on the list.)
The reason mission statements are a waste of time isn’t because they can’t be valuable. It’s because we write them without clearly understanding why. We don’t have a purpose, other than “all good leaders do it”.
Two things mission statements and declarations have in common (and one they don’t)
To hold ourselves to our purpose in writing down our vision, we decided to toss out the mission statement in favor of something more meaningful to us – a declaration.
A declaration is similar to a mission statement in a few ways. They both help you understand your highest priorities and quickly communicate that to someone else. But a declaration has something even the best mission statements don’t have – a bias toward action (hat tip to Scott Belsky for introducing us to that concept).
When you create your nation’s declaration, you are not simply writing down everything you believe and why you believe it. You are declaring your true intentions and your plan to back up those intentions with clear and focused action. You are inviting other people to take action with you. You are clearly stating that you are committed and able to back up your commitment with whatever it takes to create the vision you want to see in the world.
THE TWO TYPES OF DECLARATIONS
There are two types of declarations. One is an overall declaration that covers the entire, broad-scope vision of your company. We put together one of these for Treacy’s nation when we first started her project. Each of us signed our names to it to show our commitment to doing whatever it takes to give her nation every possible chance to succeed.
The second type of declaration is specific to an initiative you are doing within your nation to accomplish a goal. We’re going to focus on this type of declaration today because it has more immediate applications to what you’re trying to accomplish.
For Treacy’s nation, we’re launching with three separate initiatives. The first is an “11 amazing days” list-building census to gather the people together in one place so that we can teach them the concepts they need to know to initiate change in their own lives. The second is an intensive workshop called “The Light Room” where Treacy guides people through their own relationship-changing work. And finally, there is the one-on-one work she does with families through her photography.
For each of these initiatives, we’ve written one short declaration, designed to clearly communicate the goals and the action people can take to get involved. They are:
11 days from now, we will have scientifically disproven one self-sabotaging theory that is holding you back from having a deeper relationship with a person you love…or even with yourself. It’s free. Get started here.
What if your mental picture of life and relationships isn’t the whole story? What if those images are actually negatives that need to be fully developed in order to see the true picture? Discover how you can use visual proof to improve your relationships and enrich your life experience. Join Treacy in the Light Room.
Getting your picture taken professionally isn’t about putting pictures of your smiling family up on the wall. It’s about capturing a memorable experience and then surrounding yourself with the truth of your most treasured relationships every single day. Find out more about how Treacy captures your family relationships in photographs.
Each of these declarations can stand alone, or be used to develop other ways of communicating (such as graphics, tweets, or sign-up incentives).
THE PARTS AND PIECES OF AN EFFECTIVE DECLARATION
A compelling declaration has three things (sometimes four). First, it has one or two things that you need to know about your nation’s intention. Second, it clearly shows what’s in it for the person you’re sharing it with. And finally, it gives a clear call-to-action.
The two things about the two things
I ran across this the other day, and I am now so compelled by this concept of “two things”. According to economist Glen Whitman, there are only two things you really need to know about any given subject; everything else is either the application of the two things, or it’s just not important.
For example, the two things about nation-building are:
1. An organized communal pursuit of a Great Good
2. Of the people, by the people, and for the people
And the two things about declarations are:
1. Clear intention
2. Bias toward action
If you can distill your nation’s intention into two things, writing any declaration (and getting people to participate) will be a downhill battle.
What’s in it for them?
It’s easy to get so caught up in the Great Good you’re trying to accomplish that you forget that humans are need-fillers. We perceive a need, and everything we do is a strategy to fill that need (read Gwen Bell’s excellent Reverb for more on that). In other words, no one is going to participate in your nation unless it is filling a perceived need in their lives.
For all of Treacy’s initiatives, the need is to find an effective solution for methodically changing relationships with people we care about, including ourselves. The reason this need is a good one is because it is something Treacy is sincerely passionate about, it is a need that is dearly felt (in other words, people know they have it without having to be educated or persuaded), and it’s something that she’s developed a clear strategy for fixing.
If you’re familiar with marketing-speak, you’ve probably heard the term “call-to-action”. Here’s how I see it. If you want me to do something, it’s not my responsibility to figure out what you want me to do. It is your responsibility to ask for it. If you’re writing a blog post, hoping that someone who reads it ends up signing up for your email list, stop wishing. Ask. If you’re talking about your product with the hope that someone will take the hint and buy it, stop. Just ask. It’s a surprisingly effective and genuine way to communicate.
In addition to that, it makes sure that your declaration has a bias toward action, which is the main thing that sets a declaration apart from a mission statement or manifesto. It’s what makes this worth doing right now, rather than if/when you get a chance to slow-dance with your purpose and vision.
You don’t always have to have every piece of your declaration when you’re giving your elevator pitch or asking someone to do something, but having it in your mind will help you take focused action toward your next initiative and compel other people to do the same.