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Leaders Attend Funerals

September 22, 2016

Have you ever talked yourself out of attending a funeral?
Conversations in your head go something like this…

-“The person I really care about is dead, so it won’t matter to them.”

-“There will plenty of other people present so I won’t likely get to say anything to the family, just shake their hands and hope they don’t cry on my shoulder.”

-“I’ll talk with (spouse/children) next week after the rush is over and life gets back to normal and people start to forget about their loss. After all, that will be more meaningful (for both them and myself).”

casket-picI recently attended a memorial for a dear old lady who worked in various employment roles in an educational institution, as well as volunteering with the school and other community groups. Her children all attended the school, as did a number of her grandchildren. Yet to my horror, there was no one at the service representing the school.

Maybe various leaders at the school talked themselves out of attending the memorial service… like I sometimes do.

But leaders need to attend funerals. I realize the current administration may never have worked with this elderly lady or attended school at the same time as her children or grandchildren, yet when you are one of the beneficiaries of the memorial gifts, can’t someone from the organization find a way to attend the service?

First, leaders attend funerals because it is right. This person contributed to your organization and it is appropriate for your organization to acknowledge that contribution to family and friends. At the end of a person’s life, they never say, “I wish I had spent more time at work” but sometimes they say, “I wish I had spent more time with my family” (and possibly less time at work). This is an opportunity for an organization to recognize the time and energy they gave, sometimes instead of giving to family, was appreciated.

Secondly, leaders attend funerals because they hear a person’s story from a different angle or perspective(s). As you listen, you appreciate the multiple ways the person made a difference in the world, not just in your organization. It can inspire you. Encourage you. Maybe even challenge you. There may even be stories of the person’s involvement in your organization that you never heard before that you can then pass on. These stories can become a part of your organization’s stories and culture.

Finally, leaders attend funerals because it keeps life in perspective. Not only do you hear about a different side(s) of an individual’s life, you see the big picture perspective on life itself. All of us will die at some point. No person lives forever. As a leader, the challenges of leadership you are currently facing may not appear quite as overwhelming in light of the reality of death.

As minor or major as the deceased person’s contributions to your organization, only two things remain: the memories they have left with others (good or bad) and the legacy they have left for the generations to follow.

Leaders, people are dying to see you. Are you ready to be a comfort and encouragement to the family and friends of a former colleague or employee by attending a funeral?

PS What is the most important thing you have learned attending a funeral?

 

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