Few of us like to think of ourselves as cogs in a machine. No where is that more true than in the C suite where a man or woman is hired to embody an idea or concept and lead an organization.
Yet so much of their interview, so much of how a man or woman is measured translates into two things:
Do you have what I believe are the requisite skills and experience that will need to execute in this role.
Do I trust you.
Of the two, usually by the time of the interview, what a firm is really doing is confirming your assertions that you have the requisite experience and looking you square in the eye to see if they believe you.
No wonder interviewing has become such an unsatisfactory way of evaluating potential hires. In most cases, it has turned into "business blind dating" . . . and we know how unsatisfying most blind dates have turned out.
What if I told you that there was one question you could ask that would allow you to identify the special people, the ones that should grade out head and shoulders above the others, would you be interested in using that question in your interview, whether you were a potential employer or C suite hire?
Here's the question:
"Are you familiar with our firm's mission and what does it mean to you?"
There's only one problem with asking this question of Potential C-Suite Hires
There's only one problem . . . Most corporate mission statements are as dry as sand and equally inspiring.
Here are a few examples that may yield defensive responses:
"Serving Others. For Customers, A Better Life. For Shareholders, A Superior Return. For Employees, Respect and Opportunity" (Yawn)
"To provide our policyholders with as near perfect protection, as near perfect service as is humanly possible and to do so at the lowest possible cost.” (I guess it wasn't good enough to provide policyholders with the right protection; they had to give themselves some wiggle room)
"Helping our customers manage document workflow and increase efficiency through best-in-class products and services. Fostering the growth and development of our employees. Providing a distinct advantage to our suppliers as a distribution channel of choice. Growing shareholder value through strong execution of our strategies." (Are you excited?)
"It is the policy of xxxxx to provide products and services to the market which meet or exceed the reasonable expectations of our customers. Satisfying our customers with the appropriate level of quality is a primary goal and a fundamental element of our business mission." (Not a mission statement. It is a policy statement, hence a goal).
Let me contrast these with:
"(Our) mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use (us) to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them."
“to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.”
"We enable businesses to thrive and economies to prosper, helping people fulfill their hopes and dreams and realize their ambitions."
When did business stop believing in becoming bold and breathtakingly great? In our search for meaning, do you think we will be more inspired by offering a leader the opportunity to help a firm become "near perfect" or "helping businesses thrive, economies prosper and people fulfill hopes and dreams?" Do mission statements that could be used in a greeting card help attract exceptional leaders or cause them to be repelled?
And, if you tell me that the mission statement means nothing and the last time it was referred to by management was during the last century, what are you telling the public about your words having meaning?
Mission statements should be a rallying point for everyone to be extraordinary so that your firm can be extraordinary. If they ave no meaning to you, take it off your website and abandon the lie. However if they do have meaning, ask potential hires if they are familiar with your firm's mission (first tip off of adequate preparation) and what that mission means to them.
And if you are looking at a firm as a potential employer, ask the people you meet with about the firm's mission and what it means to them. You will learn something about the leadership of the organization and its congruence with its avowed values.