Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, May 6, 2020
Updated: Monday, May 4, 2020
Funeral professionals have a challenging job under normal circumstances; these are not normal circumstances. Covid-19 has simply turned the world upside down. As a psychologist who works with funeral homes and also works in one, I want to offer several suggestions for dealing with the additional stress created by the current epidemic. Many of these ideas come from my work on the Finding Resilience program sponsored by Homesteaders. You can download free materials here.
Professionals in a wide variety of fields consider it a badge of honor to wear many hats in their business. However, I don’t know of any professionals who wear more hats than funeral directors.
Within a single week, you might be expected to demonstrate knowledge of:
- Event Planning
- Funding Options
- Infectious Disease
- Workplace Regulations
- Grief Support
- Religious Traditions
- Reconstruction, Cosmetology, & Hair Dressing
- …and countless other tasks.
In the last few months, you have also had to add “remote videographer,” “social distancing expert,” “Covid-19 expert,” and “creative rituals coordinator”. Not only are all of these duties happening under significant time pressure, but also in the midst of continually changing state and local regulations. It’s no wonder that funeral directors are feeling the effects of compassion fatigue and/or burnout.
Ideally it is best to make relatively small changes to reduce feelings of burnout before it becomes overwhelming. These changes may include hiring additional staff, delegating responsibilities to others, or finding a colleague to cover during much-needed time off. Funeral professionals experiencing profound burnout, anxiety or depression may seek professional help from their physician or a therapist. Hopefully, you may only need a few “course adjustments” to keep you on a productive, lower-stress path. Here are my suggestions for reducing stress under normal circumstances as well as during the current crisis.
SAY “NO” TO NON-ESSENTIAL TASKS
Especially now, there are going to be some tasks that should be postponed. There may be certain types of long-range planning or reviewing production options that are best left to another time. Even better, it is an ideal time to eliminate some of your daily and weekly tasks that don’t impact your business operations or your quality of service to families. I call this process “smart subtraction”. By reviewing your daily and weekly schedule, you may find tasks that can be eliminated, automated, or outsourced.
MAKE SLEEP A PRIORITY
My work schedule has shifted. I have tried to have “fun nights” with my wife and three daughters, and I have had to adjust to extended family living with us for the last two months. This has destroyed my regular sleep schedule (and I don’t even have to go on middle-of-the-night death calls). When you add the economic stress and uncertainty to changes in daily habits, it is difficult to stay on a regular schedule and get quality sleep. Here are a few tips to help make it more likely that you can fall asleep.
- Avoid drinking too much before bedtime.
Alcohol may initially help you fall asleep, but you may be more likely to wake up in the middle of the night.
- Try to reduce your use of screens in the hour or two before bedtime.
This includes phones, tablets, computers, and televisions. There is a considerable amount of research that suggests certain wavelengths of light emitted from screens that mimic daylight – which is exactly what you don’t want to be viewing just before bed.
- If possible where you live, try to get some light exercise.
Even walking a mile or two can help reduce stress.
Practicing your personal spiritual rituals (and especially gratitude) are ideal just before bed to put you in the right mindset.
WRITE IT DOWN
Recording thoughts and experiences – especially about things that inspire gratitude – can be helpful for people who routinely experience stressful workplace situations. This does not have to be a regular journal or even complete sentences. Doodling and writing short bulleted lists of your thoughts and feelings can work just as well.
DON’T JUST DO SOMETHING, SIT THERE
Practicing meditation and mindful activities can often seem so counter-intuitive. When my thoughts are racing around my brain at record speed, it can be difficult to be still and try to not think of anything. Thankfully, there are many different forms of mindfulness and meditation. It can help to try a meditation app or focus on slow, deep breathing. Mindfulness can also come from your religious practices such as focusing on meaningful scripture. Establishing a regular time to practice mindfulness can train your brain to transition more quickly.
LISTEN TO MUSIC
I am “old school” when it comes to music. I still have a large pack of CDs in my car and I actually listen to them. I have one CD with “In Case of Spiritual Emergency” written on it. It’s a personal compilation of Eric Clapton, Paul Simon, John Hiatt, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and other favorites. I never cease to be amazed at how the right songs can lift my mood, refocus my mind, and give me a more balanced perspective. I’m not sure what should be on your “In Case of Spiritual Emergency” CD, but I encourage you to create that playlist.
KNOW YOU ARE NEEDED
I have been talking with many funeral professionals across the country and the most consistent reactions I hear include sadness. Funeral professionals are feeling sad that they are not able to provide the full range of funeral rituals and events to bereaved families. They are sad that people are dying alone. And they are sad that families are not receiving the benefits of funeral rituals including support and healing.
I know you can’t do your job the way you would like, but please know that you continue to provide an invaluable service. You may not be able to give someone a hug, but your simple presence and compassion (even if expressed through a video chat) are still a vital service to grieving families. Thank you for the sacrifices of your own potential safety to serve others. Thank you for the innovative ways you have created to meet the needs of the bereaved. Do your best to care for yourself. The world needs you more than ever.
Jason Troyer, PhD., specializes in helping death care professionals serve their families better. Additional resources unique to death care are available in his Finding Resilience program.
Circumstances like a pandemic require extra care for yourself and your colleagues. "Stress prevention and management is critical for responders to stay well and to continue to help in the situation." Use the support resources from the CDC available by both call and text, and work together to stay healthy.
Dr. Jason Troyer is a grief expert, author, former psychology professor, and therapist. He provides grief support newsletters, Facebook content, and informational videos at www.GriefPlan.com/funeral. He also provides community presentations, professional workshops, and trainings on behalf of funeral homes and cemeteries. Dr. Troyer can be reached at DrJasonTroyer@gmail.com.
tips and tools
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Updated: Thursday, April 9, 2020
On top of our individual concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic, we are inundated with good and bad information, helpful tips, fake news, political sniping and unfounded scary rumors. We are staying home and doing what the CDC and health officials recommend. And we are afraid.
We crave “leadership of frankness and vigor,” and yet that attribute may seem in short supply today, although there are occasional glimpses. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt expressed that phrase in his first inaugural speech in March 1933 in the depth of the Great Depression:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.
We expect leaders to lead. We will follow leaders who are frank and through vigorous action show that they care about us. We will support those leaders and we will do the right things. We need leaders who communicate reassurance and offer light in an ever-darkening world. As we face unthinkable conditions, that may seem difficult right now. However, it is imperative that leaders speak realistically and frankly, while remembering to be positive and appropriately hopeful.
Whether you are the leader of a family, a community organization, a corporation, a nonprofit or a government, your job is to convey leadership through actions and the words you choose. You need to make hard decisions, be honest in your communications, and all the while “be careful not to scare the hell out of people,” as Dinesh Paliwal, President and CEO of Harman International, told Wall Street Journal.
This is particularly important in the funeral and cremation professions. In a recent webinar coordinated by webCemeteries.com, industry leaders reminded participants about the pivotal societal role that funeral professionals play in serving families. They note that in times of war, terrorist attacks, economic depressions and recessions, and now global pandemic, funeral advisors are called upon to comfort families in what is already an extremely stressful time.
At this time of crisis, funeral profession leaders say it is imperative to adhere to the values and principles of service to families that have always driven the funeral profession. Address your fears and the fears of families. Establish rapport and build the trust that families need at the time of a loved one’s death. Reassure families you will be with them and then live up to that promise, even if you must rely on videoconferencing instead of face-to-face meetings, and photographs and virtual tours of your properties, instead of in-person visits.
Adapt, and demonstrate caring responsibility in the worst of times, they say.
Frank, Vigorous Leaders in History
History’s strongest leaders have led us honestly and communicated their commitment eloquently in times of crisis.
President Abraham Lincoln, who saw seven Southern states secede between November 6, 1860, the day he was elected, and his inauguration March 4, 1861, appealed to Americans’ “better angels,” as he worked to prevent our nation from tearing further apart. Lincoln ended his inaugural address by saying:
I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
President Ronald Reagan spoke directly about the importance of honesty and openness on January 28, 1986, the day the space shuttle Challenger exploded before the eyes of millions worldwide who watched it on TV. He reminded our nation and the world of an undaunted commitment to science. He spoke of hope.
I’ve always had great faith in and respect for our space program, and what happened today does nothing to diminish it. We don't hide our space program. We don't keep secrets and cover things up. We do it all up front and in public. That's the way freedom is, and we wouldn't change it for a minute.
We'll continue our quest in space. There will be more shuttle flights and more shuttle crews and, yes, more volunteers, more civilians, more teachers in space. Nothing ends here; our hopes and our journeys continue.
South African President Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid revolutionary and political prisoner who became the first democratically elected president of South Africa and its first black president, spoke directly of fear.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Leaders in the funeral and cremation professions can address their own fears, then help fill the emotional tanks of colleagues, families and friends, offering a beacon of hope.
Words that Echo Eerily Today
Perhaps the leadership and words of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, provide the most apt instruction for today’s COVID-19 pandemic. During the Crimean War, between 1853 to 1856, more soldiers were dying from infections than from battle injuries. Nightingale and her team of nurses reduced the death count by two thirds by improving the unsanitary conditions at a British hospital.
“Wise and humane management of the patient is the best safeguard against infection,” Nightingale said.
Even more illuminating today are these words from this “Lady with the Lamp” who said,
“How very little can be done under the spirit of fear.”
Communications with frankness and vigor, indeed.
Be safe. Help others to move past the fear. Be that inspirational leader.
This post is excerpted from Kathy Schaeffer Consulting, LLC blog post of the same name. You can read the original and more post and leadership, professional development, and public relations on their publicly available blog: http://www.ksapr.com/ksa-blog.
Current circumstances impel us to design creative solutions and offer new options. There is no playbook—only your ongoing commitment to promote connection and healthy grief for the families you serve. Thank you for making the extra effort and please stay safe and healthy.
Some leadership resources to grow your skills:
Kathy Schaeffer, principal of Kathy Schaeffer Consulting, LLC (KSC), has run her own public relations firm for 25 years, helping clients win in the “court of public opinion.” Kathy helps nonprofit, association and corporate clients build public awareness, generate public support, mend reputations and navigate crises. She advises leaders on messaging and communicating in the public arena – whether the environment is positive or fraught with crisis, opposition or political sensitivity. Kathy’s services include strategic communications counsel, messaging, community support-building, writing, and media and presentation training. A lifelong Chicagoan, Kathy founded her firm in downtown Chicago in 1994, advising clients in an array of areas, including health care, economic development, tax policy, education and philanthropy. She and her team earned numerous accolades and awards, including the prestigious Platinum Award from the Publicity Club of Chicago. Kathy now splits her time between Michigan and Illinois..
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, February 5, 2020
Updated: Monday, February 3, 2020
In 2020, maintaining and keeping good quality talent on your team isn’t just a want, it’s an absolute need. It’s what’s going to determine your success and the foundation of your business moving into this next decade.
This next generation needs a purpose, something that fires them up and gets them out of bed in the morning. Yes, millennials want to make a living, but they want to make a meaningful living. According to Forbes, millennials ranked meaningful work as one of the top needs they have from their workplace.
The Harsh Reality
“People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.”
If leaders and those in positions of power can take this quote by Marcus Buckingham to heart, I believe we would see so much more retention amongst our profession.
Here are some harsh realities:
These are some powerful statistics that mean if we aren’t encouraging a culture of growth, this next generation has no problem going to find it elsewhere.
How connected do you think your employees are to your company? If we are being honest with ourselves, there are plenty of areas we can improve in this category.
According to a study done by Gallup in 2017, 230,000 employees were surveyed in 142 countries on their current engagement. Employees fall into one of three categories:
- Not Engaged
- Actively Disengaged
Only 13% of employees they surveyed were truly passionate and motivated by the work they did every day. An astounding 63% were not engaged, and 24% were actively disengaged.
The impact of a disengaged employee can negatively impact your business in the following ways:
- They’ll be cutting corners, which results in poor decision making
- There will be no drive and no focus, which results in less creativity
- They simply don’t care, which results in negative customer reviews
- Less productivity requires more staff, which results in over-hiring with a lower ROI.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do about the actively disengaged. They just need a path out. However, the statistics show that around 63% have the potential to be engaged if we put the effort in to putting meaning behind what they are doing.
What category would you put most of your employees in? Do they fall into the popular category not engaged? Maybe it’s time to rethink how you’re motivating your employees. Do you share a common purpose that they can buy into with passion? How often do you give praise? Could it be time to put more incentive compensation plans in place? Purpose and incentive are the keys to motivating engagement.
Once we have worked to get our employees into the “engaged” category, the positive benefits have an astounding impact. Statistics show that 50% will post messages on social media and 24% are more likely to help boost sales than disengaged employees. Find ways to bring meaning back so that your employees live in the engaged category, and your firm is guaranteed to reap the benefits.
Create Your Plan
Hire the Right People
Obviously, all this talk about having engaged employees is only possible if we hire the right people from the get-go that are naturally motivated. Service attitude is a big thing we look for at JCG. Recognize if they have the natural ability to go above and beyond to exceed a customer’s expectations. Are they good listeners, do they care, are they genuinely interested in other people and have a desire to always be learning? You can teach service aptitude (the ability recognize service opportunities), but you can’t teach attitude (the desire to serve).
Onboarding and Training
Develop a welcome program that makes them remember their first day. Decorate their desk with a welcome sign, write an internal spotlight, or take them to lunch with your team. Remember, their first day of work is one way to set the tone for their engagement. Spend a lot of effort on helping them to understand WHY you do what you do and how they bring value to that purpose. The first few weeks are critical to employee engagement. The more they buy in early, the more likely they are to want to stick around.
Initial training an on-going training is essential to employee engagement. You must teach them skills to be successful. Have a minimum standard for customer service expectations in writing and don’t train just once. Reinforce the expectations as often as weekly. This includes modeling, observing, and measuring behavior.
Retention and Relationships
Employees are more engaged when they are recognized, so communicate! Provide for feedback, and even ask for feedback yourself. Peer recognition is another way to keep employees engaged. Set up a quarterly award that gets everyone involved to recognize their peers. Feedback is the key, as this next generation craves it.
So where should we start? A good place to assess where your engagement is at is to survey your staff about their happiness at work. Ask about if they feel valued, and if they appreciate the kind of feedback they get.
It might be a rude awakening, but we all have to start somewhere. Getting the data is the only way you can grow from today into reaping the benefits of having engaged employees long into the future.
Want to learn more about increase employee engagement and improve customer service? Join Lori Salberg and more cremation rockstars in Las Vegas for CANA’s 2020 Cremation Symposium, February 26-28. Lori will present on “Developing a Collaborative Growth Culture” to re-invigorate organizations by fully engaging employees, improving performance of the business overall.
See what else we have planned and register for CANA's 2020 Cremation Symposium: goCANA.org/CGT
Lori Salberg, Director of J3Tech Solutions a Division of Johnson Consulting Group, joined Johnson Consulting Group in 2017, bringing experience in cemetery, funeral home, and pre-need sales management. Along with sales and operations management, Lori directed the development of two propriety cemetery and funeral home enterprise software systems.
Lori began her career in 2001 as a Family Service Counselor for the Catholic Cemeteries in San Jose. She quickly moved into management and rose to Associate Director of three cemetery locations. In 2010, Lori furthered her career as General Manager of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and Holy Angels Funeral and Cremation Center in Hayward, CA, where she also joined the Catholic Management Services leadership team. As Director of Administration and IT, Lori brought management expertise and software solutions to cemetery and funeral home clients. In 2015, Lori joined PlotBox as VP of Sales. Lori contributed to the development of a SaaS cemetery software program, and was principally responsible for introducing it to the US market.
She is a frequent speaker at many state and regional industry events and an article contributor to many industry magazines. She is also a member of the ICCFA Sales and Marketing Committee, which plans and oversees the Annual World Wide Sales Conference each January. Lori balances her passion for helping clients prepare for the future with raising her three children, Catalina, JJ, and Lyla. She spends a lot of weekends at dance competitions and little league baseball tournaments.
Posted By Administration,
Wednesday, January 30, 2019
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2019
I had the pleasure of presenting for CANA in 2009, and the past ten years have seen changes across the business world. What’s new or different about leadership today? And what are the biggest challenges leaders face in their businesses and communities?
In my work I advise hundreds of leaders each year. From their experiences, questions, hopes and fears, combined with the assessments of those they lead about what their leaders do well and what they do poorly, I’ve compiled eight challenges I hear most often and some suggestions about what to do to find your solution:
- Use of outdated time management thinking.
The research is clear: multitasking is a myth – switching between two tasks can take up to 40% longer to complete both. Life balance doesn’t make sense either. It is about life design: devoting the right number of hours and energy to the most important things. It is time to reexamine outdated beliefs about time management and productivity. The ability to focus intently (“single-tasking”) on what is important should be at the top of your productivity list. And don’t feel guilty if your life isn’t balanced if it is well designed.
- Treating those they lead as “followers.”
When asked what I think is the biggest change in leadership, my answer is followers. Those we lead increasingly resist thinking of themselves as followers, and for good reason. This is a limiting term that poorly represents the relationship we need. Employees want to be (and deserve to be) thought of as contributors, colleagues and team members. The concept of “following” to those we lead is as negatively tinged as referring to those in customer service as “servile.” Unless you’re a religious guru, you are better served leading a team of contributors than a band of followers.
- Fear of the great unknown.
No leader likes uncertainty but today the size and impact of the unknown can be more devastating than in the past. Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote the definitive book about overconfidence in our ability to predict, anticipate and plan. He describes the improbable black swan: an unpredictable or unforeseen event, typically one with extreme consequences. Many leaders act as if black swans never happen, or can be avoided, but leadership is as much about taking action in the face of the unknown as it is gathering information to eliminate the unknown and mitigate consequences. No leader is clairvoyant, so he or she must accept the real limitations of knowledge about the future and act accordingly.
- A false dichotomy of ethics.
Trying to separate personal ethics from professional ethics is a bad idea. There are just ethics, and trying to apply two different standards isn’t just confusing, it is wrong. Why would you trust someone at work that you know to be a conniving liar in his or her personal life? And why would you allow something that you know is wrong to happen at work? One psychologist calls it the normalization of deviance: making it acceptable to do at work what is wrong to do outside work. Leaders work hard to create what I conversely call the “normalization of integrity.” Without clearly defined values that are lived and observed by others, ethics slip dangerously.
- Overemphasis on generational differences.
Not that long ago leaders often seemed to ignore generational differences. The pendulum has swung to another extreme. There seems to be a belief that everyone is so different we can’t effectively lead! Generations are different, and understanding those differences can provide effective tools for communication and collaborating better. At the same time people regardless of age share much in common: the need to belong to a winning team, meaning in their work, satisfaction in the jobs they do, and much more. Leaders must balance understanding and using differences and unifying their teams with shared interests and beliefs.
- Employee engagement.
It is as important as competing for talent, a common dilemma according to my clients. One of the biggest myths I encounter is the belief that if you just get the best people on your team, your job is done. John Wooden wisely noted that he didn’t want the best players on his team. He wanted the players that made his team best. That points to the importance of engagement and teamwork. Talent is a start, but it is never enough. Divisive star players and disengaged genius are both liabilities. Good leaders find the best people and then focus on keeping them engaged.
- Lack of preparation to successfully lead.
My research shows that only one in four leaders feels prepared when they assume formal leadership positions. Leaders need to learn to lead before they get their marching orders, not after. And that isn’t accomplished just through books and coursework but through real world projects and assignments where leadership skills are developed. If you don’t give your team members a chance to lead before they become formal leaders, they will lack the skills and confidence to lead when they move into management.
- Business model innovation.
While speaking to a global technology company, I learned that their executives were more worried about innovation in business models than the impact of technology. A business model is the way a company makes money, and can be used defensively against competitors, to reinvigorate revenues in declining markets, or as a way of exploring new opportunities. Few business models are exempt from the need to be revisited and revised regularly. Business model innovation is increasing at lightning speed and may well be the single greatest high level business challenge leaders face.
Which of these challenges are you facing? And what are you doing to meet them head on?
Here’s a final thought: no challenge + no change = boredom. You might wish for fewer challenges than you currently face, but ultimately dealing with challenge and change is the essence of leadership.
Want to talk leadership? CANA’s 2019 Cremation Symposium highlights business innovation tactics, maintaining your leadership edge, hiring well, and mentoring across generations. Mark won’t be joining us, but we have experts from across our profession to talk these issues and more. Join us next week in Las Vegas!.
Excerpted from The Cremationist, Vol 52, Issue 4: “10 Challenges Leaders Face” by Mark Sanborn.
, CSP, CPAE is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio for leadership development. He is an award-winning speaker, internationally recognized authority on leadership and the author of the bestselling books The Fred Factor and You Don’t Need a Title to be a Leader. To obtain additional information for improving yourself your business (including free resources), visit www.marksanborn.com