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Why Every Family Needs a Mission Statement

03/22/2013 12:36 EDT | Updated 05/22/2013 05:12 EDT
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Young Family Relaxing On Sofa At Home

The next time you visit a corporate website, look at the "About Us" page. Most feature a mission statement, a few sentences or paragraphs that tell the world at large what the company does and what it wants to accomplish.

I have a theory about mission statements. I believe that they came to be as a result of countless CEOs asking countless versions of the same question: What am I trying to accomplish here? And how many times might you have muttered this as a mother? While literally or figuratively pounding your head against the wall? The mission statement is a shortcut to the answer -- a handy-dandy, quick-reference guide to what the company is all about. Or why you chose to throw birth-control caution to the wind. Once or twice. (Or four times. What was I thinking? Cue more head-pounding.)

As the boss of your family, you will likely find a mission statement handy, if for no other reason than to remind yourself of what you were thinking when you brought these people into the world. And why you shouldn't take them out. Corporately, a mission statement should address the employees, the shareholders, and the customers. Here's a quick primer on adapting those three categories to family life.

• Employees: Your employees are the members of your family. And we all know who the boss is, right?

• Shareholders: This refers to your own parents -- or any other relative or friend who has invested in you and wants you to be successful. No matter how old you are, your parents will always want to take responsibility for your successes and failures. If you are the parent of a young child and currently wondering when things get easier, it sucks to realize this.

• Customers: Who are we getting to buy from us? Our neighbours, friends, acquaintances? Everyone we interact with on a daily basis? How about the world at large?

At its most basic level, a mission statement should easily and clearly define who you are and what you do. Think of it as your family's elevator speech -- a thirty-second-or-less summary of what your business is. This might be the time you've got to introduce yourself at an indoor playground before the screaming starts.

Poke around on the Internet and do some research. Make a list of words that mean something to you, that perhaps reflect the attitudes or approaches you feel are important: commitment, knowledge, quality, weight loss, child control, or wherever your focus needs to be. String ideas together until you come up with a mission statement of your own. Mine? I worked with keywords such as know, admire, inspire, value, personal mastery, and focus. After a lot of thought, I boiled it down to this: "Do your best. People are watching."

Excerpted from Kathy Buckworth's "I Am So The Boss Of You: An 8 Step Guide To Giving Your Family "The Business"McClelland & Stewart, 2013.