Select the right words. Say them well.

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I love that story because it captures the situation in most homes. Kids are asked what their parents do for a living and they don’t have a clue. Parents describe their adult children’s jobs by saying things like, “She does something with computers, I think. “The rule in my house is all of my kids, including the 9-year-old, HAVE to be able to explain what it is I do for a living. It seems pretty basic, but it’s amazing how many people have no idea how their loved ones earn a living!

Here’s the lesson we all can learn. If those who are nearest us cannot articulate what it is we do forty-plus hours every week we probably aren’t doing a very good job of communicating that message … and if we can’t get our families to understand, is it any wonder why we sometimes have trouble out there in the big world with the same issue?

Does everyone in your workplace, and I mean EVERYONE, understand what it is the organization does? They are being asked, almost daily, where they work and what it is they do at that place. They are your first line of communication to the outside world and if they’re telling the wrong story you are falling behind every day!

The “mission statement” craze of a few years ago was meant to solve this problem, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Often a mission statement sounds like something a business theorist came up with to impress someone, not what people would actually say in explaining what their place of work is all about. I’m talking about something more basic which clearly describes what it is you do for a living.

Some businesses or organizations are easy to explain. My friends at Cold Stone Creamery (profiled this month in USA Today) can just say, “We sell super-premium ice cream.” The company has a mission statement, but for quick reference, six simple words work.

While it is more complicated than this, use as a guide what your kids will understand. They don’t have time for mission statements and spread sheets … they just want to understand what Mom or Dad do during all that time they spend at work. Using their perspective as a starting point may help you get to that very important definition. It is something that is critical for the CEO as well as the newest person on the payroll.