PP*2 ≠ FF

Protecting the Past and Perfecting the Present Does Not Equal Finding a Future.

Rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic is a behavior often seen in organizations responding to massive change.  Why is that? and why is it so prevalent in DeathCare.

It turns out our century old culture is to blame and resolving a very vulnerable “chink in our armor” will involve both frank discussion and humility. WE ARE ALL GUILTY.

Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins in their recently published book, “Focus,” posed a provocative question:

“Do you play to win– or not to lose?”

As I read the book it seemed to me that the overwhelming majority of the DeathCare profession is focused on “Not Losing”.  Ms. Halvorson labels this mindset as “Prevention Focused.” Further, ALL of our associations are fully prevention focused. My favorite phrase is:

Funeral service is a place where more time is spent on thwarting things than doing things…but in the nicest way

Prevention focused organizations and people are preoccupied with preventing bad things from happening and, as a result, spend little or no time focused on making good things happen. Activities like imagining a brighter future, how we can reengage our customers, developing exciting new skill sets and exploring opportunities for adaptation that goes beyond re-merchandising what we already do are virtually ignored or, even, dismissed. After 30 years of “Prevention Focused” leadership I think it’s time to change it up.

No, I don’t mean a full swing of the pendulum toward what Halvorson and Terri call Promotion-Focused. Rather, how about some balance? Here is a comparison of typical traits of both types.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 2.29.02 PM

This explains to me why we seem predisposed to so much doom and gloom.

Halvorson and Terri approach this topic from the perspective of managing to the type. In other words, if the profession is prevention focused then you should speak to it and motivate it by using prevention type language. I guess this is what our associations have been doing. If that were working that would be ok. BUT IT’S NOT!

As for me, I tend a little toward the prevention minded. It seems to take more than it gives. So, learning about this theory has caused me to rethink my World View. I think we need a little more winning and a lot less losing. I have been approaching things in a new way lately. Instead of harping on what is going bad and how awful it is, I ask people: “What’s working? How can we do more?” Instead of focusing so much on what is changing, let’s talk about what is not and sift out the opportunity. Instead of thinking about how we can slow down the erosion, I think about how we can rebuild and reimagine to grow margins.

Am I whistling in the cemetery? I don’t know. But it seems to be working. Not just for me but for the clients who assume similar approaches.

In my opinion the one thing people want is for their death experience to transform them in some way. Prevention minded folk will have a hard time doing that. In fact, more often than not, we leave them the way we find them. Which is one reason they look elsewhere to satisfy their needs.

How about you? Don’t you feel it’s time for a little optimism, a little energizing and at least a little self confidence?




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