If you manage projects for an organization, you work hard leading teams and working with others to meet your company’s grand mission and vision. And working toward a clear vision that you can get behind makes your job exciting, motivating, meaningful and fun—even during the challenging periods.
But do you have a mission or vision for your career? Even if you work for companies your entire life, you are in the process of building your own personal industry complete with core values, dreams and financial goals. Successful people know this, and they establish mission and vision statements throughout their professional lives. These statements act as a recognition that each of us, in the end, is the real nurturer and driver of our working lives.
A personal mission and vision statement gives you something to strive for at every stage of your career. Consider these statements inner beacons that tell you whether you’re on the right path or not—and whether the values of an organization align well enough with yours.
So how do you go about creating a mission and vision statement? (And what’s the difference between each one?)
We turned to Project Manager Coach and LiquidPlanner blog contributor Susanne Madsen to take us through the steps. This Q&A is set up to help you create a mission and vision statement that can turbocharge your career goals and aspirations.
LiquidPlanner: What is a vision and mission statement?
Susanne: A vision and mission statement is a paragraph that encapsulates everything you would like to be, do, and have in your career.
It defines what success and excellence look like to you. It expresses your vision for where you want to be in the future and it reflects your values, goals, and purpose and how you want to operate.
Everyone’s will look different, but here’s an example:
“My vision is to be an honest, empathetic and impactful project leader and to be recognized internationally within my industry. I am committed to growing as a leader and delivering value-added projects to the end users. My mission is to create and lead a dream team where everyone is playing to their strengths.”
Q: What’s the difference between a vision and a mission statement?
A: Vision and mission statements are very similar but they have their differences. Let’s take a deeper look:
A vision statement:
- Describes what you want to achieve in the future.
- Answers the question “Where do I want to be?”
- Defines the optimal desired future state—the mental picture—of what you want to achieve over time, say in five, ten or more years.
- Inspires you to give your best and shapes your understanding of why you are doing what you do.
Example: “My vision is a world where everyone is contributing with their full potential; where each person uses their intrinsic genius and leadership to deliver outstanding value-added projects.”
A mission statement:
- Describes what you want now and how you will achieve your long term aspiration.
- Is more concerned with the present state, not the future. It answers the questions of:
- “What do I do?”
- “How do I do it?”
- “Who do I do it for?”
- “What makes me different”
- “What is the benefit?”
- It talks about the present leading to the future, and how you will get to where you want to be.
“My mission is to help project managers transform into impactful project leaders.”
In order to get the most value from this exercise I suggest you combine the two into a vision and mission statement. Define the overall essence of what you want to achieve and then look at what you are doing to achieve it.
Q: What makes a good vision and mission statement?
A: Here’s a list of what goes into a combined vision and mission statement.
- A good vision and mission statement is concise and motivating.
- It’s easy to memorize and repeat.
- It should be clear, engaging, realistic, and describe a bright future.
- It should furthermore state your intentions, summarize your values, and demonstrate your commitment to living up to these values.
When you’re in the right job, your vision and mission statement should align with the values, culture and possibilities of the organization you currently work for. If not, you’ll have to be honest and assess if the job is still a good match for you. With a strong vision and mission statement, it’s easier for you to evaluate in which industry and company you should invest your time and energy.
Q: So, how do I go about writing a mission statement?
A: Find quiet place where you feel at ease and where you will not be interrupted. Then follow the below steps and guiding questions.
Step 1: Answer the following questions as honestly as you can.
- What personal qualities do you most want to focus on?
- How can you use and display these qualities in a working environment?
- What are the most important values you want to express at work?
Step 2: Imagine yourself five years from now.
- Imagine that you are managing and leading the project of your dreams. Envision that everything is exactly the way you want it to be: the type of project you are running, its size and complexity, the people involved, and your own capabilities as a project manager and leader. Imagine that you are every bit as successful as you want to be. Feel it and see it.
- Keep picturing yourself in the future, and be as specific as possible in your observations. Where exactly are you? What are you doing? Who are you interfacing with? What does the project look like? How big is it? How are you feeling? Why do you want to be exactly where you are? What is the bigger impact you are having?
- Draw a picture of yourself and your surroundings five years from now. Draw the elements you see, feel and hear. Use as many colors as you want and be as detailed as possible.
Step 3: Sum up your vision and mission.
- Write to the following questions:
- How can you sum up your vision and mission as a project manager?
- What are the things you ultimately want to achieve?
- Who do you want to be? What do you want to do?
- What is the impact you would like to have and how would you like to be perceived?
- What will need to happen in order for you to feel proud of your progress as a project manager in five years’ time?
Now, take everything—the envisioning, writing, drawing, dreaming—and use the language and imagery to write your own vision and mission statement. Give yourself as many drafts as you need to refine it. Remember it should express the values that you would like to live and work by, and that above all you must feel excited and inspired by it when you read it out loud.
Review your vision and mission statement.
As your view of yourself and the future changes, it is important that you review, update and refine your vision and mission statement at least once every six months. If you feel really inspired, you may even want to expand it with more detail and turn it into a personal development plan.
There’s almost nothing you can do for your career success than give yourself a clear roadmap for where you want to go and how to get there!
Looking for more project management tips? Read our eBook, How to Manage Chaos: Advice on Project Management and Workplace Conundrums.