Defining your Mission Essential Task List

What must you or your organization do to make money and meet your mission?
By Scott Mann, Rooftop Leadership Training
February 2, 2019 Updated: February 2, 2019

I have a friend, Jerry, who works with leaders all over the country. He helps corporate leaders and Fortune 100 companies prepare to win and win on purpose. He is really talented in that. Right out of the gate, he sits down with the leadership and he says, “What is it that rings the bell for your organization? What are the things that if you don’t do, money doesn’t come in? You don’t achieve your mission.”

He asked me that same question as I was coming out of the military six years ago. “What rings the bell for Rooftop Leadership?”

That really struck me because, at that point, my wife and I hadn’t really discussed it. And it took me back to a very similar term that we use in the military. Until then, I had not brought this term forward into the civilian world. We call it the METL, the mission essential task list.

Every organization in the military has one at the higher levels. The 7th Special Forces Group where I served had a METL. That mission essential task list is reduced to a handful of absolutely critical tasks that you must do to be successful at your mission.

For example, 7th Special Forces Group must be able to conduct unconventional warfare. 7th Special Forces Group must be able to conduct foreign internal defense and direct action missions. These are critical tasks that we must do down range in Central and South America as well as rural Afghanistan. If we don’t do, the nation suffers. They’re that important.

Everything else is built around those tasks. The supporting tasks for the METL would be transporting our equipment and our people overseas, training support, securing supplies and resources. There are all kinds of supporting tasks that are extremely important, but the mission essential task list is at the epicenter of what our organization does. And as my friend Jerry says, these things “ring the bell.”

As I worked with Jerry on this, what I found was that in order to achieve our mission of “restoring responsible servant leadership to America,” Rooftop Leadership must:

1. Help corporate clients and entrepreneurs find a way to make better human connections.

2. Present from the stage.

3. Consult with coaching clients.

That’s our METL. Those are the things that ring the bell for our company.

Getting clear on that changed everything in our business. It helped me determine where my focus had to be and the focus of my team had to be. Identifying your METL can change your business as well.

I want you to build the METL for your organization. Whether you’re a nonprofit, a small business, or a Fortune 100 company, ask what are your core tasks that feed your mission? What are the things that ring the bell?

I believe you should be collaborative in the development of your mission essential task list. I’ve found that the development of your mission essential task list is not as effective if you do it alone. You need your key leaders in the room. You need the thoughts and ideas of the relevant people in your organization.

Does it make the conversation harder? Absolutely.

But if you leave them out of this process, then they’re not going to buy into the METL.

Ask them this question: “What rings the bell for our organization? What must we absolutely do at the highest level to ensure that we are successful as an organization?” If you have a mission statement, look at it. Put it on the wall where it’s staring back at you. Nesting into that mission, what are the mission essential tasks that you must do?

I suggest you keep it at three to five. Anything beyond that becomes a supporting task of your METL.

Under each task of your METL, note those supporting tasks that must be accomplished to achieve your METL. What are the things that need to happen to deliver on your three to five ring-the-bell tasks? Build those out.

For example, if one of my METL tasks is that we must be able to deliver keynotes from the stage on leadership, then what are the supporting tasks? We must have an effective marketing plan. We must be able to have audiovisual in place. We must be able to coordinate in real time with the hosts. All of those supporting tasks need to be nested in a sequenced way for us build out our METL. That becomes how we operate and everybody can rally around that.

My “try this” challenge for you is to develop, in a collaborative way, your own organizational METL. Early in the year is a great time to do it. You’ll be amazed at the conversation that comes out of that, the connection that you make with your team, and the unified vision that you have.

A mission essential task list can really add clarity and purpose to where you’re going with your organization.

Give it a try. Determine what “rings the bell.” Thanks for what you do. And I’ll see you on the rooftop.

Scott Mann is a former Green Beret who specialized in unconventional, high-impact missions and relationship building. He is the founder of Rooftop Leadership and appears frequently on TV and many syndicated radio programs. For more information, visit RooftopLeadership.com

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