How to Live Your Mission Statement

These are the four lessons the Kielburger brothers have learned from the biggest names in business.

Co-founder of the WE Organization Craig Kielburger

“When it comes to hiring the best talent, recruiting them to join your company, retaining them and engaging them, make sure that you are waving a flag of what you care about,” says Craig Kielburger.

Millennials and Gen Z-ers joining the workforce expect the leaders of their organizations to honor their mission statements and for those statements to focus on social impact. Though they may be easy to forget as we go through our days of meetings, emails, and crises, a strong mission statement can serve as an important reminder to stay inspired and think about the big picture.

At FEI’s 2019 Financial Leadership Summit, New York Times Best-Selling Author and Co-founder of the WE Organization Craig Kielburger shared the lessons he and his brother Marc have learned from leaders like Oprah Winfrey, Desmond Tutu, and Richard Branson that will inspire you to revisit your mission statement and make a difference at your own organization.

Always know what your customers want

The new generations of employees are seeking companies and mentors who share their passion for making a difference. Understanding this has been one of billionaire Richard Branson’s secrets to success. Branson explained to Kielburger that the key to staying current is knowing what your customers and, equally importantly, employees want most. “It’s that purpose in their lives, it’s the brands they wear, the items they purchase, and the jobs they go to.”

Measure the impact

Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu once told Kielburger, “The newspaper, that’s God’s to-do list, delivered right to your front door every morning.” At the time, Kielburger was actively avoiding the news. Tutu’s message served as a reminder to Kielburger that, though the challenges we face individually, as an organization, and even as a world can feel overwhelming, we can make the choice to reinterpret problems as opportunities.

After giving away nearly a billion dollars, philanthropist and eBay founder Jeff Skoll realized that there were very few ways for him to measure the impact of his efforts. Skoll’s solution was to create a film company, producing movies like Green Book, The Help, and Lincoln, to broaden his reach, inspire and engage, and measure the impact of his spending.

Kielburger described a time that he approached Skoll with a problem, and “honestly, just hoped he would write a check and solve the problem.” But, like Desmond Tutu, Skoll explained to Kielburger, “Where you see a problem, you should see an asset.”

Looking at the problem as an opportunity led ­ Kielburger to wonder, “Why is it that, in the for-profit world, there’s an amazing amount of rigor: the penny-pinching, the tracking of every single dollar. But in the non-profit world, we still operate with this belief that you drop a coin in a cup and it goes somewhere somehow to help some person at some point?” As a result, the Kielburgers began looking at different accounting systems and teamed up with Microsoft to build an innovative inventory management system.

“At the end of the day, what you do is actually so incredibly important,” Kielburger told the audience. “There’s a lot of inspiration, there are a lot fancy speeches, there are a lot of moments on Oprah where people high-five and say ‘let’s build schools!’ But, at the end of the day, it’s about the measurements.”

Give back as a team

Kielburger encourages leaders to inject their organization’s mission into team building activities. “We live in an era where companies try to build team spirit by having one of those fancy consultants come in and maybe you fall and catch each other.” Kielburger urged the audience to save their money. “Instead, have them lift a roof together. Give back in a really inspiring way as a team. That builds team spirit. That gets people tweeting like crazy and hashtagging and putting it up on LinkedIn and saying ‘this is a great place where I want to work.’”

Data is power

Kielburger and his brother began working with Oprah Winfrey as teenagers. They quickly learned that Winfrey was an extraordinarily efficient and data-driven CEO.  “She challenged us, asking for a complete census of the entire village where we just built a school and wanted to know how many kids were not in school. And then, she said ‘I want you to fix it.’”

As all senior-level financial executives know, accurate data is key to performing the calculations necessary to carry out your mission statement.

Kielburger encounters countless young people looking to make a difference. Many, he says, have goals like Doctors Without Borders. “It really should be called logistics without borders,” he says. “Where are the financial analysts without borders? Where are the actuaries without borders? I realize it doesn’t roll off the tongue as well but, in reality, those are the people. The financial controllers are the quiet heroes who enable all we do around the world.”

“If someone wants to change the world,” he says, “go get a business degree. Go get a finance degree. Go get an accounting degree. Because if you want to change the world, that’s how you actually do it.”

To attract and retain the next generation of employees and to feel more fulfilled in your role, revisit your organization’s mission statement. If the mission statement isn’t inspiring, doesn’t reflect the organization’s core values, or doesn’t serve the greater good, consider suggesting a re-brand. Kielburger told the audience, “It’s about inspiring employees, not asking them to hang their values like their coats on the side at the office but instead telling them ‘this is a great place to make a difference.’”