Safety Last: Mission Statements that Motivate

May 19, 2010 § Leave a comment


It’s a business cliche – the benign, committee-composed, sanitized, safe, yawn-fest of a mission statement that seems to propagate across so many organizations. It usually goes something like this: “Our mission is to be the respected leader in our industry by serving our customers with integrity and best-in-class service.” Huh? Okay, it is safe, but If your mission statement sounds like it could have popped out of a random mission statement generator then you’ve missed the point, and an important opportunity.

If there is no actual mission in the mission statement then it isn’t really important, is it? It isn’t going to magically motivate anyone or clarify any employee’s judgment when faced with a decision. How does “dedication to serving excellence” help any CEO map out strategy? What kind of compass is “aspiring to world-class performance” when you’re trying to set direction for a company culture and brand?

Hit the dictionary and you’ll come up with mission = “a specific task with which a person or a group is charged”. Now that sounds simple enough. It doesn’t mention safety. It doesn’t mention committee-think or not offending anybody. It does say specific – I like that.

So rather than harp on about how to write a mission statement I’m just going to offer up a few I’d love to encounter in the wild:

1) Our mission is to take our clients’ businesses from $1 million in revenue to $10 million in revenue – then introduce them to people who can take them further.

2) We are dedicated to cleaning up other people’s ecological messes in a profitable way without dumping our garbage in anyone else’s lawn.

3) Our company’s purpose is to build lawnmowers that make you want to mow the neighbor’s lawn too.

4) Our mission is to get customers from point A to point B, efficiently and safely, without ever forgetting they are people, not freight.

5) We are here to lovingly build furniture that your great-grandchildren will fight over.

6) Our mission is to brighten the world with lights that use less energy.

7) Our mission used to be to make household products that make life better for homemakers, now that we’re big we’ve amended that to also make life better for our employees, our communities and our planet.

8) We were put on this earth to design shoes that make you feel sexy.

9) Writing elegant software that makes your job more fun is our mission.

10) Our mission is to make beautiful kites so that more people look up at the sky and smile.

Got a mission statement that doesn’t play it safe?
What’s the most specific, riskiest, or useful mission statement you’ve encountered?

Talk, Talk, Talk, Draw, Draw, Draw

May 16, 2010 § 2 Comments

Julie stuart - Making Ideas Visible
Wow, it feels like I just started podcasting and I’m already up to episode number, now wait a second, let me get my calculator, tap… tap.. tap.., carry the one, oh yeah there it is – episode three! I know, big milestone right? But it is a big transition to go from “I’m thinking about starting a podcast” to actually have guests planned in advance – it’s exciting too! Especially when you’ve got some interesting guests on deck – and I do ;)

Tomorrow is going to be cool Julie Stuart will be joining me for episode 3 – Julie has a very cool and unique job: she is a visual facilitator, in other words she makes ideas visible. Combine the skills of a meeting facilitator, an illustrator and a mind-mapper – mix them all up with a big smile and you’re getting into Julie’s territory. When I first stumbled across her website I was wowed – I had never heard of anyone doing a job like that before! It takes talent to draw, to move ideas into images, and a lot of people with that talent would run screaming from the room if you asked them to draw while standing in the middle of a room full of people – not to mention a room full of high-powered executives. Julie’s created a brand for herself that is not only unique, but highly effective – she’s notched clients like the CDC, GE Energy, ConAgra and the National Wildlife Federation. You better believe I’m going to ask how she’s taken her talents and woven them into such an effective brand story. You don’t want to miss this one!

For those of you not familiar with Blog Talk Radio, the show is presented live and you can call in with questions. Shortly after the show is done the recording is available to download or stream at your convenience. My show is live Mondays at 10:30am EST http://www.blogtalkradio.com/david-cohen and the Call-in Number if you want to ask a question is (347) 989-8132. I hope you’ll chime in!

Finding empathy in the dark

May 4, 2010 § 2 Comments

Finding Empathy In The Dark
Marsha, Thank you for inviting me to tour Dialog in the Dark – it was an extraordinary exhibition and an extraordinary experience. As a visual artist the thought of living without sight is frankly terrifying and it was with no small amount of apprehension that I embarked on the tour, but I am so glad that I have experienced this. To be adrift in the dark was not how I imagined it, the presence of the other members of my group were reassuring and our steadfast guide, Erik, was a true comfort. A beacon in the dark, his voice was our guide and no light was necessary for him to steer us away from danger and into a new appreciation of the palette of our senses and a new gratitude for the one sense that we temporarily set aside for that short time. We were tourists in his world, safe in knowing that ours was just a door and a curtain away, but enriched to have stumbled together in the dark. I hope anyone who might read this will go take part in this moving experience and learn that we don’t need our eyes to see each others’ humanity.

-David

Stepping up to the mic. Well, the headset, actually.

May 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve taken the plunge and quietly launched a podcast. This is my first time as host of my own show on BlogTalkRadio.com. I’ve been fortunate to be a guest on several podcasts in the past, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely so I figured why not?

For this first time out I discuss two of my staples: the Awful-to-Awesome scale and The Everest Question. For future shows I hope to do less monologues and more interviews. I’ll be foraging for interesting entrepreneurs who have built personal brands based on …unusual blends of skills, unique visions, driving passions and more. I hope you’ll check out this and future shows.

Right Brain resurgent

April 15, 2010 § 6 Comments

So where are the posts, David? Yes friends, I’ve been a little delinquent in my writing, but inspired today by a post written by the awesome Fabeku, I decided to just show up.

Now I don’t want you to think I’ve been idle in my absence. I’ve actually been putting out a fair amount of content, but it has been of a more whimsical and decidedly visual bent. I’ve been a doodling fiend. If you’re interested you can check out the magic marker output (along with the occasional picture shot on the go from my phone) by visiting my posterous at http://davidscohen.posterous.com.

I’ve been enjoying this resurgence of my creativity, and frankly a little nervous about ramping up the degree to which I show the world my soft and silly side, but the fact is I preach authenticity in branding, and by gum I mean to practice it as well. (and how often do you get to say “by gum”?) I expect that the current flood of doodle inspiration will abate a bit over time, but it has been bottled up for a while and it feels good to let the drawings flow and not get too judgmental about them. I’ve picked some fairly humble materials to work with too: basically I’ve been drawing on 4″ x 6″ blank index cards and mostly using Sharpies, pens and highlighters. Sometimes I’ll use nicer art markers too – the highlighter palette is a bit limited. I keep it all on the desk so I can take my doodle breaks, scan them and tweet them to the world. So far, the world hasn’t complained, and I’m grateful for that.

I’m also cooking up a new website for Equation Arts. It’s not quite done yet, but I think it will be a better expression of who I am. Here’s a hint of things to come:
There will also be a lot of the color orange ( I love orange), and some crossover doodles will make their appearance there as well.

I hope that people who connect with me know that I’m a big believer that we all have something special to offer the world and each other, but sometimes we find ourselves framed in the wrong context – that “something special” ends up hidden, muffled, suppressed – unable to shine. So the new website is for me a shift in context toward something more authentic. I hope you’ll stick with me through the transition. Thanks! And remember…

Looking for work? Get fired!

March 17, 2010 § 4 Comments

These days I’m often asked to speak to career groups. There are a lot of folks in transition these days and many have never experienced a job climate quite like the one they find themselves in today. It’s a tough spot. One piece of advice that I often hear given to job seekers is to treat the job search like a job: set goals, have a plan, give yourself a quota of activity to accomplish daily, and don’t fall into a rut of inactivity. All good sound advice, but there is one vital piece missing: this is not a job you want, in fact this is a job from which you want to be fired!

Getting fired?! It’s appalling, embarrassing, humiliating… unless it is getting fired from the job of being an “A” Number One Unemployed Job Seeker. There’s nothing humiliating about losing that job title. So what do you do when you’re TRYING to get fired? Well naturally, you break some rules. But you don’t just break them quiet-like – you make some noise, you call attention to yourself. If you want to get fired you have to get noticed. Get noticed breaking the rules.

There is a dangerous rhythm that the job seeker can fall into: a cycle of online searching, sending resumes, filling out application forms, and visiting career groups. It can feel like a job, it can feel like progress, but if you’re not getting results it’s not progress. Break the rules, change the pattern. Get noisy. Start a blog, become a twitter networker, pick an issue in your industry that you care about and take a stand, do it vocally, don’t be benign. Instead of standing in line at the career fair, break the rules – organize your own event. Instead of waiting to get the sales job, break the rules – bring your target company a customer – you’ll get some attention, bring them 3 and you’ll get hired.

These days being good at what you do, being qualified and experienced are only enough to get you the opportunity to stand in line. It’s not differentiation, it’s another resume in the pile. Get out of line, break the rules, find another door, or a whole new line. These are risky times to play it safe. Get passionate, get creative, and by all means when it comes to the job of job seeking, get fired.

Another Diva Toolbox article and a few questions

February 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

I had a nice chat with Janet Powers yesterday – Janet is the Diva extraordinaire behind Diva Toolbox™, a site which has been gracious enough to post a few of my scribblings – the latest being The Title That Used To Be Your Brand. Janet shared with me some of the stats on my past articles and asked if I might be interested in joining their growing family of podcasters under the umbrella of Diva Toolbox Radio (a BlogTalkRadio partnership).

I love the Diva Toolbox™ motto: “Within you lies the ability to do anything. Find it.” I think it is a great thought for everyone. The mission of Diva Toolbox™ is to “empower, educate, and entertain women”, but that is a message for men and women alike. I’m delighted that according to Janet my posts have been well received in the almost entirely female Diva community so I’m strongly considering taking her up on the podcast concept, but I feel that what I do here isn’t exclusively for one gender, nor would my content necessarily change for the audience.

Since you know I’m an advocate for listening to your community and asking for feedback on your brand my questions to my readers of this blog are: Would you like to not just read, but listen to some of my ideas too? And if so, do you think the Diva Toolbox would be a good vehicle for that conversation? Please tweet me @davidscohen or post a comment with your thoughts. Thanks!