Discover the Importance of the Family Mission Statement

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Mission statements have been proven time and again to be essential for businesses. They define why an organization exists and are used to inspire, engage, and motivate employees to help the company achieve its goals. 


In essence, a mission statement helps keep everyone in the company on track to fulfill the promises they’ve made to their customers. For this reason, most business owners will agree that compelling mission statements are vital to the success of their business and many have seen extraordinary changes in their companies after implementing a mission statement.


A question to be considered is whether creating family mission statement may help accomplish similar goals for your family?  At first glance, you might find this an odd idea.  After all, why would your family need one? Families should by their very nature (i.e. a group of people who love each other), want what’s best for each other, and share the same values. Shouldn’t they?


Family Shouldn’t Be Taken for Granted

Well, not always, as Jim, the founder and owner of a successful software company and an avid runner, discovered (click here to read the complete backstory). While on a run with Dave, his advisor and long-time running partner, Jim admitted that he was concerned because as the business became more successful, it created more friction in his family.


He couldn’t understand why, though. The success of the business should have made everyone happy, especially since his wife and two adult children worked in the company, and his in-laws were shareholders. The more successful the company was, the more everyone benefitted.


However, that seemed to not be the case. In fact, sometimes the opposite seemed to be true. While no one was trying to sabotage anyone else, when tensions arose, everyone seemed to forget the family values that had helped them achieve success. Everyone was acting as an individual rather than a member of a family.


Having known Jim for many years, Dave was aware that his friend was highly principled, and the company had been founded on a series of strong personal values. However, when he asked Jim if he had ever talked with his family about these values, the response was no.


Lack of Communication Can Causes Problems

Like most of us, Jim simply assumed that his family knew these things. He felt it should be obvious because everything they did and said was informed by those values. Plus, he led by example.


Dave brought up the idea of a family mission statement. At first, Jim thought Dave was asking about his company’s mission statement, which he admitted they had but only after putting quite a bit of work into developing it. He also stated that it helped keep the company on track in terms of delivering on their promises.


When Dave explained that a family mission statement and a business mission statement were different, Jim seemed a little confused. Since the business was family-owned and operated, he thought they should be the same.


While the business and family are related to each other, Dave explained, the important distinction between the two statements was perspective.


A business statement helps focus the business on upholding the value proposition, so it’s from the perspective of the customer. The family statement, on the other hand, is from the family’s perspective. In other words, what the family should expect from other members, as individuals and as a group.


Why Is a Family Mission Statement Necessary?

What’s really interesting here is that, like many of us, Jim overlooked one important fact – a family is an organization of sorts, just like a business. When it came to his business, Jim didn’t assume people “just” knew what the mission statement was. He took the time to work with his colleagues to develop an effective mission statement and then ensured that everyone was aware of it.


However, because his family was so close to him, he didn’t think he needed to “formalize” a mission statement. He didn’t even think they had to sit down and discuss what their values were. He assumed everyone knew. Furthermore, he assumed everyone agreed and was onboard, without listening to the rest of his family.


The process of writing a family mission statement doesn’t need to be quite as formal or involved as writing a business mission statement, which was one of Jim’s concerns. In fact, it’s best done in a less formal setting to strengthen the idea of family.


However, everyone does need to get involved and every person’s opinion must be heard. The goal is to determine the values by which the whole family wants to live, and that are important enough to be written down.


By getting everyone involved in the process, they will take ownership of the outcome. This is important for any long-term strategy, especially when a business is involved. It will allow you to develop a system that future generations of your family can adhere to, regardless of how their world view changes.


How to Get Everyone on Board

Jim was concerned on how to get the rest of his family to understand what he was trying to do. Dave shared an excellent analogy to use, inspired by their running.


Even though they had never formalized a “Running Mission Statement,” they still had one.  Their running group was made of people with different experiences and views of the world, they shared the belief that running was essential to a balanced healthy lifestyle.


Developing the Family Mission Statement

It’s important to remember that you can start the process by holding a Family Meeting and you should let everyone that will be attending the meeting  know ahead of time that you have some family things you’d like to discuss.


The meeting should be positive and begin by highlighting everyone’s accomplishments on both a personal and professional level. It can then segue into what you believe what some of the family’s values are.  Encouraging other family members to suggest what values they believe should be on the family’s list.


To get the discussion rolling, Dave suggested posing a few questions to the family including:

  • What are the words that describe our family’s core values?
  • What inspires us and brings us together as a family?
  • What things are truly important as a family?
  • What kinds of relationships do we want to have with each other?
  • When we look back on our family in 20 years, what would we like to say was our purpose?

Remember, like your business’ mission statement, your family mission statement doesn’t need to be long. However, you do want to put it down in writing so everyone can refer to it regularly or when they need to be reminded.


Like with a business, the goal is to make sure your family stays on track when it comes to the promises you’ve made to each other.