Being clear about your personal or organizational mission can catapult you toward success. It will give you focus and help you to know what work is inside and outside of your niche, and keep you on track. So, whether you are a small business owner or solopreneur or a nonprofit executive, this next exercise will help you clarify your mission.

Mission statements don't need to be long, boring or dust collectors. They can be vibrant statements that actually give you direction. This quick mission statement guide can be used as a personal or organizational exercise to help you gain focus.

Here's are two examples of a good mission statement: Brentwood Community Service Center provides basic need services to the homeless of Brentwood, Ohio so that they may become self sufficient and get back on their feet.

Patty Sadallah is the Dream Partner Catalyst that provides coaching and consulting services to woman owned small businesses and non profits nationally by moving them forward to focus, plan and take actions step by step toward their visionary goals so that they may achieve their dreams.

Let's break it down. There are 4 key elements here:

1. WHAT do they do? They provide basic need services. Most people understand 'basic needs' to be food, clothing and shelter. Most organizations DO a lot of things, so the trick here is to find the one or two words that really capture what you do. Patty provides coaching and consulting services as a Dream Partner Catalyst.

2. For WHOM do they do that? This organization serves the homeless of Brentwood, OH, and in Patty’s example, women owned small businesses and nonprofits. Notice that there are 2 boundaries here. There are a type of person and a geographical boundary. Most people and organizations tend to what to do it all for everyone. A 5 person staff cannot serve 'the world' or even 'the State'. What is your realistic boundary? Also, there is a direct customer and an indirect beneficiary. You may work with ex-cons that are re-entering society and the community is the indirect beneficiary.

3. What is their GUIDING VALUE? Now this is the most important element. Most people have a hard time choosing one guiding value, but it is really important that you do. In Brentwood's case, their guiding value is self sufficiency. In Patty’s example the guiding value is moving them forward. The value will help them to decide which services are IN and which are OUT. For example this organization will not help homeless people fill out welfare papers. But, it may ask that they work around the office in exchange for their food and shelter. In Patty’s case, she doesn’t spend much time looking back with clients. It’s all about moving forward.

4. What is the SUCCESS MEASURE? How do you know that you are successful? Brentwood's success measure is to be ‘back on their feet'. In Patty’s example the success measure is ‘achieving their dream’. When a person is no longer homeless and can take care of themselves, they are considered to be 'back on their feet'. The key is that all of these elements need to work together. Like a pull toy where you pull the string and all of the legs and arms move together, the elements need to compliment each other to make sense. So, if the success measure was to make a lot of money, that wouldn't fit with the rest of the elements.

So, here's the exercise. This can be done for an organization, as the example above demonstrates, or for your personal mission. It's a terrific career focusing exercise if you want some clarity about a future job direction.
1. Write the 4 questions above on a piece of paper. Your challenge now is to answer the questions in one or two words. Not one or two sentences, one or two words. You can begin by brainstorming a lot of words in these categories, but you must boil it down to one or two words in each element area.

2. When you are happy with your one to two word answers, make it a sentence. Don't edit for eloquence right away. The key is to really like the elements first and worry about making sound good later.

3. Next, edit it. You may want to have someone else edit it for coherence when you are happy with the elements.

Now it's time to see if your sentence passes our two tests. Does your statement pass the elevator and the uniqueness tests?

The ride up an elevator is short, usually about 30 seconds. If a perfect stranger boarded the elevator with you and asked you what your mission was and you answered with your statement, would they nod with interest and understanding? Or would they glaze off without a clue? The latter may occur if you use too many jargon words or include too many value words and not enough action words. Test you statement out on people who don't work in your field to see if you've captured it simply enough.

The uniqueness test asks the question; could this statement be said about anyone else? Would all people or organizations in my field have this statement? What makes US different? The best missions pass both tests. Effective missions are powerful tools to move you and your organization forward.

Author's Bio: 

Patty Sadallah has 29 years experience as an organization development consultant and executive coach. She is a Dream Partner Catalyst and coaches and consults nonprofits and women owned small business owners around issues of focus and planning, moving them toward her dreams. Find out more about her coaching and consulting at

She is also the President/Founder of the Redwood Sisterhood, an international women's support community that offers personal and professional development learning opportunities, community bartering through time banking and fun networking events. Here, she brings together the talents and the needs of women and allows these connections to strengthen and uplift the membership. Learn more at (

Additional Resources on Women in Business can be found at:

Website Directory for Women in Business
Articles on Women in Business
Products Women in Business
Discussion Board
Patty Sadallah, the Official Guide to Women in Business