Last week, I spent the three and a half working days of the shortened Christmas week hunkered down in the conference room with our Director of Sales, Bob. In the throes of planning for 2016, my sister Sara walks into the room with a question on an order that needed to be fulfilled. After a quick conversation on the topic at hand, Bob and I take a brief mental break to fill Sara in on our 2016 planning.
One conversation leads to the next, and about five minutes later Bob says, “Sara, who do you want to be when you grow up?” Not asking in a literal way, he wanted to get her thinking about her future role at our family business (she graduated and joined our business full time only 6 months ago). Now this is a question that he has asked me, I don’t even know how many times and we have had conversations about. But this time as he asked Sara, it got me thinking again, especially as it related to the coming year… What am I going to work on this year to become one step closer to “what I want to be when I grow up”?
In 2016, I’m going to work on my role as a leader.
Being a leader is important. When you are a leader, people work for you and not against you. When you are a leader and make others feel valued, they express the same tendencies to those they work with (including customers/families!). When you are a leader you make sacrifices and empower others to succeed.
For a funeral director, being a leader is often a role that one is thrust into simply because of the title. Members of the community a leadership position to a funeral director because of education, professional environment, socio-economic status, and more. With that being said, I am sure that you can think of a couple of leaders who are indeed leaders in the community, but probably not very good ones.
So how do I become a good leader?
I did what any true millennial would do… I googled it. “Leader v. boss” “Characteristics of leaders” “Bad Habits of Bosses” – you name it, it’s in my browser history.
Then, I came across a TED Talk by Simon Sinek. To give you a little background on Sinek – he is an author of the book “Start with Why”, and has the most well-known TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action”. However, I found the talk “Why good leaders make you feel safe” a little more applicable to my 2016 resolution.
So for anyone who shares an interest becoming a better leader, keep reading for some takeaways of Sinek’s TED Talk with my own spin on how it relates to the funeral industry:
External Environment is Dangerous Constantly, there are outside elements trying to take down your business. Sinek referred to ups and downs of the economy, competition and technologies. Doesn’t this sound wildly familiar… kind of like families spending less money on funeral services (ie ups and downs of the economy); Walmart, Amazon, Costco, cremation societies and casket stores selling caskets (competition); and cremation (ie new technology)?!? All these things are trying to reduce our opportunity for success…
Internal Environment is Key Sinek says, “If you get the environment right, every person will do remarkable things.” Any person working within your funeral home must feel safe. And any person who makes a decision within any organization, must never be fearful of their leader or any internal repercussions of decisions they make. Creating a “safe” internal environment leads staff members to combine talents and strengths, and “work tirelessly to face the dangers outside and seize opportunity.”
Picture this… you hire a high school student part time to wash cars and take care of daily maintenance around the funeral home. This kid has discovered your funeral home has a Facebook site from people “checking in”, but the funeral home has never officially set it up. On his own time, the student takes that page and adds imagery, your logo, information about the funeral home and now shows you the page… you’re at a crossroads, what avenue do you take?!? Your responses are the following:
Take that down immediately, we don’t want a Facebook site. Your job here is solely as we set for you.
Wow, I know nothing about social media, but this is great! Can we sit down together so you can teach me about how it works? Maybe with some guidance you can become our social media manager for the funeral home.
The choice is yours. The true leader will create a safe environment so that others can be creative and try new things. In doing so, those following will be empowered, take ownership of what they create, have “buy-in”, and ”work tirelessly to face the dangers and seize the opportunity.” In a safe environment, internal workers will focus all energy fighting those external elements.
Mentor, Coach & Believe in the People Sinek draws the parallel that being a good leader is like being a parent – you would never fire your child for getting a “C” on his or her report card, would you? No. You would counsel, mentor, coach or find help for the child until the “C” turns into an acceptable grade. The same goes for people – put the person before the numbers. You may suffer slightly in the short term, but the long term benefits far outweigh the short term losses. This also feeds into creating that “safe environment” where people don’t expend negative energy internally within the organization, because they are fearful of losing their job. Again, all their energy is spent fighting external elements provided that person feels safe.
So with all this being said, recognize the external dangers intruding your business; create safety in your controllable, internal environment; and finally mentor, coach and believe in those who work in your business. This is what I will be working on doing in 2016.
I would recommend anyone who’s looking to become a better leader to watch the video.