5 Ways Funeral Directors Sabotage Progress

spyThe prevailing culture in funeral service is Passive Aggressive. I have talked about the “ten call man” before and how that person subversively undermines a business. But, unwittingly, owners and staff can undermine themselves.  Here are 5 ways you can commit “self-sabotage.”

  1. Never permit short cuts. It’s necessary to establish procedures and rules to avoid mistakes. But too many rules and supervision that is too tight can prevent employees from using personal judgment in situations that demand it. You need to emphasize rules but always describe and encourage achieving the desired outcome of those procedures or rules. For instance: “We always answer the phone before the third ring…BECAUSE we want the public to feel we are organized, competent and ready to care for their needs.”
  2. Make committees as large as possible. Many people feel they have to be as inclusive as possible.  But, the bigger the committee the more complicated the decision making. Worse yet, many funeral directors are predisposed to making decisions by consensus and that rarely works. Keep committees as lean as possible.  Again describe the outcome you want. I once created a committee to work on the licensee scheduling. I charged them as follows: We want a schedule that respects the need of people to be able to spend time with their family, serve those we serve with continuity, operates within our economic constraints and gives everyone at least one day off every 7 days…With clear guidelines it took a while and even some experimentation but they got it done.
  3. Allowing people to continually reopen and second – guess decisions already made. I am not an authoritarian but I learned as a parent that I had to determine which decisions I was willing to stand behind which didn’t matter. Kids pick it up fast and don’t argue much when they sense determination. When I ran Trust 100 I tried never to change things for our sales people. But when I did I needed to be resolute. Once I realized that after an 18 day grieving period people pretty much got over it I knew that part of my responsibility was to be clear and decisive.
  4. Overly advocating caution. Saboteurs seem to have an overly developed sense of what could go wrong. I once pulled in a few favors to help a client redesign a sign in order to attract more attention on a busy boulevard. The facility was located about 1/2 a block in from a busy stop light. The design was so successful that when I presented it one of the employees gasped that, “If we put that up someone is going to have an accident.” In spite of the open admission that the sign would have accomplished its purpose the concept was torpedoed in favor of caution.
  5. Sending updates too frequently. This may not be obvious but let’s remember that most people in this world are not good at handling abstracts. Furthermore, most people don’t like change. Premature updates can be distracting, give people too much opportunity to trash an immature plan and can discourage the planners by inappropriate feedback.

The solution:

  • Define the result you want
  • Keep task groups small
  • Give them clear direction in terms of outcome
  • Limit premature feedback
  • Once a decision is made DO NOT waiver unless YOU see that there might have been a mistake.  You will learn what I learned. Give people an 18 day grieving period and they will move on.


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