If you had to redo your corporate mission statement in 2020, would it change?

If you had to redo your corporate mission statement in 2020, would it change?

I think we call agree that 2020 has been a sh*tshow, but there also have been some very important issues that have taken a spotlight that probably would have a major impact on our corporate mission and vision statements. Besides the social justice conversation, the political division continues to grow, and of course workplace health and wellness kind of continues to suck up the oxygen in the room!

Coinbase, a technology company that created a platform to buy and trade cryptocurrency, decided to redo their corporate mission statement, primarily because political division and social justice ideas, being discussed in the workplace, were kind of disrupting their culture and not in a positive way.

Here are some of the aspects of the new Coinbase mission statement:

Play like a championship team

  • Be company first: We act as #OneCoinbase, putting the company’s goals ahead of any particular team or individual goals.
  • Act in service of the greater mission: We have united as a team to try and accomplish something that none of us could have done on our own.
  • Default to trust: We assume positive intent amongst our teammates, and assume ignorance over malice. We have each other’s backs.
  • Focus on what unites us, not what divides us: We help create a sense of cohesion and unity, by focusing on what we have in common, not where we disagree, especially when it’s unrelated to our work.
  • Sustained high performance: As compared to a family, where everyone is included regardless of performance, a championship team makes a concerted effort to raise the bar on talent, including changing out team members when needed.

Focus on building

We focus on the things that help us achieve our mission:

  • Build great products: The vast majority of the impact we have will be from the products we create, which are used by millions of people.
  • Source amazing talent: We create job opportunities for top people, including those from underrepresented backgrounds who don’t have equal access to opportunities, with things like diverse slates (Rooney rule) on senior hires, and casting a wide net to find top talent.
  • Fair talent practices: We work to reduce unconscious bias in interviews, using things like structured interviews, and ensure fair practices in how we pay and promote. We have a pay for performance culture, which means that your rewards and promotions are linked to your overall contribution to the mission and company goals.
  • Enable belonging for everyone: We work to create an environment where everyone is welcome and can do their best work, regardless of background, sexual orientation, race, gender, age, etc.

We focus minimally on causes not directly related to the mission:

  • Policy decisions: If there is a bill introduced around crypto, we may engage here, but we normally wouldn’t engage in policy decisions around healthcare or education for example.
  • Non-profit work: We will do some work here with our Pledge 1% program and GiveCrypto.org, but this is about 1% of our efforts. We are a for-profit business. When we make profit, we can use that to hire more great people, and build even more. We shouldn’t ever shy away from making profit, because with more resources we can have a greater impact on the world.
  • Broader societal issues: We don’t engage here when issues are unrelated to our core mission, because we believe impact only comes with focus.
  • Political causes: We don’t advocate for any particular causes or candidates internally that are unrelated to our mission, because it is a distraction from our mission. Even if we all agree something is a problem, we may not all agree on the solution.

The reason is that while I think these efforts are well-intentioned, they have the potential to destroy a lot of value at most companies, both by being a distraction and by creating internal division. 

I appreciate that Coinbase CEO, Brian Armstrong, is working to try and protect the corporate culture that Coinbase had prior to all the issues that have taken center stage in 2020. I think most leadership teams probably feel the same way, “Can’t we just have it like it was before!?” Wasn’t that better?

Well, it probably was better for the leaders and a good number of employees, but it also wasn’t good for a bunch of others. Many of these conversations were needed, and our hope is this will lead to even a better, stronger culture moving forward. I’m not naive, though, some of this will destroy some companies. It’s never all good or all bad.

I actually like the focus on work, when you are at work. It’s a very GenX/Baby Boomer thinking. The younger you are, the more you want your work life to reflect your personal life and beliefs. Some of that is just simple nativity. Some of that is probably a better way to work.

What I know, as a leader, is that we can’t have non-stop division within our workplaces and thing that will lead to a successful company. It won’t. So, we have some choices to make. We can decide to only hire people who think just like we think. Which sounds like the opposite of inclusion. Or we can work really hard to help our employees understand that having people around us that might have different beliefs is a positive thing if we really work to get to know the other person.