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Your “Wake Up Call” Is Here, Are You Listening?

Your “Wake Up Call” Is Here, Are You Listening?

Dr. Gustavo R. Grodnitzky has been writing and teaching about company cultures since the early 2000s. I first read his book titled “Culture Trumps Everything” in 2014 and began to realize that I was not approaching success in our company the right way. I believe that his theories and teachings still apply in business today and are critical lessons to learn especially as we work to ensure the success of our companies both now and following the Pandemic.

What is the true definition of Culture and why is it important in business and our profession?
The dictionary defines culture as a collection of behaviors and beliefs associated with a particular group. It is also the quality of a person or group of people that comes from appreciating excellence.

As an owner since 1989 after reading Dr.Gustavo’s book, I began to realize that our company culture was not effective and that it was upside down. I had been raised and always thought that our customers were our most important asset and that we should do everything to make them our #1 priority.  I had a business coach and consultant come in and conduct a 360 on me and others in management. What we learned was that our staff was afraid of failing and afraid of failing me as the owner if they made a mistake in service to our customers. Wow, what an eye-opener that was! Our culture was one of getting everything right for the customer each time and doing our best to not have our staff fail. Thus, each day, team Baue functioned with a fear of failing. This culture was not working. No staff can be motivated by fear of failure. They needed to be supported, trained to know it was ok to fail. We as owners and managers had to change our behaviors and share our failures with them too. We learned they needed more praise, encouragement, and enhanced training. They also needed to feel supported, understood, and know that they mattered to us as our first priority in every decision we made.

Today, during the worldwide pandemic, many staff and funeral service professionals around the country and the world continue to feel isolated, fearful, and alone. Some have experienced their own losses and are exhausted. We are seeing and reading about employees who are leaving our profession and companies in larger numbers more than ever before.  Our profession is part of the “Great Resignation” and at the same time, deaths are increasing, not just from the pandemic, but from an aging population.

The question we should be asking ourselves, is what are we going to do about this? We struggle to find new hires, new licensees, and those that continue on our team are tired and could be considering leaving in the future. The next generation of Millennials and Zillennials (24 years and under) are not entering our profession, nor enrolling in mortuary schools in large enough numbers to fill the losses we are experiencing. Something must give, and somebody must do something. That somebody, I believe is us! That somebody is looking back at us in the mirror every morning. Wake up funeral service! Admit we have made mistakes and go fix them!!!

As a profession, we must acknowledge that we are not managing our cultures correctly, nor do we have our licensing laws aligned with the desires and skills for future employee retention. The licensing law topic is a blog for another day. Suffice it to say that most of the licensing we require, along with the training we provide, is not aligning with what a future hire wants to attend, nor what our client family’s needs are. Is it occurring to any of us that we are misaligned in our efforts and the culture we have created? Does it concern us that our clients are arranging direct burials and direct cremations in increasing numbers, and not choosing us to help with the service or they are choosing no service at all?

I believe that we can and must do things differently going forward. My “wake up call” was in 2014. I chose to behave differently as a leader. I chose to do something about our culture to better care for our team members and show them how much they were appreciated. I chose to listen to their development and work environment needs. We changed our focus from our customers to our staff and began on a path to help them become the best leaders, caregivers, and the best event planners they could be. I do not think it was by accident that our company volume grew, nor that we became the “employer of choice” in our region for years to come. It convinced me back then as it does today, that a strong positive culture of caring more for our team members than we do for our customers was and is the right thing to do.

In June of 1912, our 26th President of the United States, Teddy Roosevelt stated “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” This quote was shared while he was speaking in Chicago, IL.

In regards to Chicago, in next week’s episode from Your Funeral Coach Talks podcast, as part of our Leadership Series, I interview Rob Paterkiewicz, CEO of Selected Independent Funeral Homes, headquartered in the greater Chicago area. Rob shares his thoughts on the key to his success as a leader and the growth Selected has seen in members and services during his tenure.  He speaks a great deal on the culture improvement he brought to the association team and why it’s critical for leaders to instill this into their organizations and companies. Rob also speaks about the changes in funeral service, his vision, and concerns for the future. I hope you will listen in.

Be well, spend some time this week showing others in your organization how much you care, want to hear their ideas, concerns, and fears.

And most of all, I hope you discover your “wake up call” as you look in the mirror tomorrow morning and think about what you want for your company’s future culture. Better yet, ask your team what they think!

If I may be of support to you, your team members, and your company, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

My best always,

Lisa Baue