Funeral Industry News

Pressure ? It Turns Rough Stones Into Diamonds

October 20, 2010
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Pressure ? It Turns Rough Stones Into Diamonds

imageAs the sun poked its nose over the horizon, the dawn had already broken into a sweat. Yes, the day promised to be a scorcher. While looking over my schedule as I drank my morning coffee I could see that the day also promised to be grueling. As I pulled into traffic I did a mental rehearsal of things I had to do … things that I could not put off.

8:30 – Staff meeting to organize the day.

9:30 ? A meeting with the company banker and accountant … accounts receivable were way up the past few months and cash flow needed to be addressed in a realistic manner.

11:00 – I needed to deal with a problem seemingly fabricated by the surly new control freak (my staff?s assessment) who had just become the incumbent at a local parish where we had enjoyed … and hoped to continue … .a great relationship.

2:00 pm ? A funeral for the toddler son of a lawyer and his doctor wife … the caterers, rental people with the tent and extra chairs were already on their way according to the answering service.

To top it all off ? my wife?s parents were arriving on a late afternoon flight and needed to be picked up. My wife had gushed to her mother last night about our anniversary celebration plans including a romantic overnighter at a hotel getaway … and they just decided to fly in and check into an adjoining room … to help us celebrate …. Oh joy!

Did I mention the oppressive temperature and humidity?

I sat at my desk facing a day that promised to be ?one of those? and contemplated what to do first? One thing I learned as a young accountant articulating in a large office was to PRIORITIZE MY TASKS. I had learned (the hard way) that one needs to try (doesn?t always work) to complete one task before proceeding to the next one allowing for at least an illusion of control. Problem … This morning?s financial meeting will definitely overlap with the arrival of the afternoon service?s caterers and rental people.

That?s when the second big thing I had learned from my Chartered Accountant mentors kicked in. DELEGATE. A good funeral director knows when to delegate and who to delegate to … in order to take care of the things that are necessary at the moment. By the end of the staff meeting tasks were delegated and it looked like there was some hope for my day … despite the heat.

Next … Holy Moly! I was totally unprepared for the tirade unleashed in my direction by the new minister in town … and rather than react, I decided to let him vent as I listened in silence and remembered a dear mentor who reminded me to always IDENTIFY THE PROBLEM CAUSING THE PRESSURE. I maintained eye contact and leaned forward in my chair to engage the young minister totally as he ranted against funeral directors in particular and his lot in life in general. Thank God to my mentors for my listening skills … It turned out that his wife?s family had suffered a loss many years ago and were the victims of either a poorly trained … or unscrupulous … ?undertaker?. That background certainly explained the attitude and together we laid out a plan that we were both satisfied with … including a chance to meet our staff in an informal setting.

Next thing I knew it was 2:00 pm and half the town showed up at my chapel. I am sure the reason that the afternoon funeral went so well was because the first three ?stress? items of the day had been handled and not allowed to rule the day. As funeral professionals we spend a significant amount of our time working and although working provides us with structure, purpose, satisfaction and self-esteem, it can also be a setting of pressures which take their toll. When we approach the new workday without a plan we create our own pressures but if we slow down and take the time to prioritize and delegate we have the battle half won.

At the end of the day a staff veteran came into my office and spoke a few words that were music to my ears. He said, ?Randy, I like the way you handled today?s issues … you didn?t let the stresses get to you … you must have remembered the old adage … that pressure is the thing that turns rough stones into diamonds.?

I have never forgotten his words.

Stress is a natural part of our lives. Without challenges and pressures, our work would lack sparkle. Do not allow yourself to be overwhelmed by work-related stress, instead, learn to transcend it and learn from your experience. You can use stress, and your experience with it, to benefit you. Always prioritize the tasks, delegate where possible and listen to identify the real issues behind the pressure causing incidents.

Finally, always have an alternative plan just in case things don?t go smoothly.

I find that having an alternative option puts me in a pro-active position, rather than reactive one … just a minute … the alternative plan didn?t work either! I still had to pick up my mother-in-law! Yikes!

Pressure ? it turns rough stones into diamonds.