Can We Handle The Truth?
Article by: Jeff Harbeson, The Funeral Commander
I was recently part of a funeral home strategy session that I was asked to make two presentations, one about my view of the funeral industry in 2015 (which prompted my post last week Definition: Family vs. Consumer) and the other leadership. The post last week was about funeral professionals taking a step back, reviewing who we serve which may require us to take different views of ourselves. As part of the leadership presentation, I discussed personal accountability; that when leading we must not only demand the truth from those that follow us, but accept the truth as well.
I started thinking; what if we actually spoke the truth about our business, the business of taking care of the dead? Already at this point of the post I am certain that the Kiwi’s (see Are you a Kiwi or Eagle) have gone into full defensive posture thinking that I’m making accusations that funeral professionals are untruthful or unethical; not so. But I do think we should start having critical discussions about ourselves. So once again, I go to the dictionary: truth (noun); the true or actual state of a matter, conformity with fact or reality.
There are a myriad of reasons why as humans we don’t like the truth; the truth often exposes weakness, the truth forces us to confront reality, the truth may “offend,” sometimes the truth has consequences, and ignoring the truth may be easier than making change for course corrections.
Without a doubt, one of the most famous scenes about exposing the truth comes from the movie A Few Good Men:
Obviously, Colonel Jessup did not take kindly to being questioned about his position, honor, mission, duty or reputation. However, when Lieutenant Kaffee presses for the truth, things get ugly. The “truth” believed by Colonel Jessup is based on a misguided/twisted view of self- importance and perceived mission. When his truth was fully exposed, it was wrong…dead wrong. When watching this clip I could not help but also think: “How dare you question me? We have always done it this way.”
So back to the funeral industry. Using the analogy from A Few Good Men, when we proclaim “you can’t handle the truth” is the reality that many in the funeral industry have a similar postured view akin to Colonel Jessup? “How dare anyone question us? After all, we get called out at all hours in any weather conditions, we embalm bodies, we cremate bodies, we console loved ones, we stand vigil at visitations, we must be licensed and take CEU’s, we sponsor community events, we pay for those church fans…you need us to answer that phone, you need us to wear our matching ties, we care for the dead.”
What if we took a step back and had truthful conversations about how we actually conduct our business, realistically view our customers, our educational requirements, our products, our services, our prices, our organizations and publications…could we handle the truth? Could we have these conversations without pointing fingers making accusations about each other, having thin skin and getting “offended” rather actually take steps to collectively make our industry better?
I say we can and should. In the spirit of betterment and truthful conversation about the funeral industry, I raise my hand to pledge to tell the truth. Here are some of my own truths and thoughts about such discussions:
- I am certain of what I know, and more certain of what I don’t know…I seek council and advice from many different facets of our business.
- I am not scared of challenge, so let’s debate…I respect people that are passionate about their thoughts/positions and have the ability to articulate in a challenging but not personally demeaning manner.
- I’m not offended if you disagree with me; in fact I’m pretty hard to “offend” because the funeral industry does not define me. I’m comfortable in my own skin; I know my failures and my successes. So, if you are inclined to travel a path of “telling me what for” you are wasting your breath (or writing). If you really have something say, give me a call and we’ll talk. But if you decide to “go there” in a public way, be prepared for my public response.
- I believe when we see something that does not make sense, it should be challenged; but when we do, lets offer solutions rather than just pointing fingers.
- If you know something is wrong or doesn’t make sense, yet don’t say or do anything about it, don’t criticize those that have the intestinal fortitude to make a difference.
I am dedicating a series of posts on The Funeral Commander blog to “funeral industry truths” and I solicit your ideas of subjects that should be addressed. I’m attending yet another industry seminar/conference this week which I’m certain will provide all sorts of inspiration for discussion…I’ll report from the battlefield. So from the desk in the Command Post and heavy fog of cigar smoke; Cheers y’all! #thefuneralcommander