Archives for August 2012

Are You A Dictator Or Incompetent

Are you perceived as a dictator or incompetent?  This Interesting blog post from Columbia Business School Tells us how to know.

Through the three studies, Iyengar and Chua found that striking a balance is key: more decision-making power for employees increased perceived leadership effectiveness and agreeableness of managers, but too much freedom caused managers’ images as effective leaders to suffer because they were perceived as being less conscientious….More at Columbia Ideas at Work : Feature : Tiptoeing+Toward+Freedom

“Price-Led Costing” the Wave of The Future

A few weeks ago in the Creedy Commentary I contrasted the conventional and prevailing DeathCare pricing strategy that is now outdated: Cost-Led Pricing with the more customer-centric Price-Led Costing favored by more and more B2C companies and, more recently, B2B companies.

As our profession relentlessly marches toward commoditization and price becomes the sole determinant of choice in more and more markets the need for a change in our approach becomes glaringly important.  Who will survive?  It is likely to be those that master this aspect of market strategy in spite of its complexity.

There is a long history of companies that became obsessively focused on cost at the expense of providing a product or service of value to the customer. The fact is, you can make a pizza so cheap that no one is willing to eat it.

Here is an article from the Pricing Society that does a better job of explaining Price-Led Costing than I did.

The more usual way is to take the costs and then determine the price; and although that method may be scientific in the narrow sense, it is not scientific in the broad sense, because what earthly use is it to know the cost if it tells you that you cannot manufacture at a price at which the article can be sold?

[price-led costing] explicitly understands that … price determines … costs, and does not let … costs dictate… price. You must do your cost accounting BEFORE providing the service (what Toyota calls Target Costing). Historical costs don’t matter, it’s only future costs that count.  Click here To Read The Full article “Price-Led Costing: The Wave of The Future

What I would do:

Go back and review the articles relative to pricing strategy on the Creedy Commentary.  Begin working with your team to really try and decide which parts of your organization represent “the baby” and which are really only bathwater and start throwing the bathwater out.

Here are links to The Creedy Commentary Articles you should review.

A Broken Business Model

A Competitive Fortress

Licensing Laws: Barrier to Survival


The Dirty Little Secret

An oft quoted phrase from “Alice in Wonderland” is: “If you don’t know where you are going any road will get you there.”  

What few people realize is that there is a step before knowing where you are going.


I love people who know who they are.  They are comfortable in their own skins.  They are relaxed and they are, typically, very competent.  But right now there is a lot of angst in deathcare as we THINK we have to struggle to find who we have to become.  I suspect that if we believed more in what we do we would find we already have that answer.

Unfortunately, I also suspect that many in our industry don’t really like who we are.  So they dress it up into something else.  But that’s another story for another time

When I’m in a mischievous mood, I will sometimes ask managers and workers in a company, “What does the CEO actually do?” It’s not unusual to get a panicked stare as my answer, followed by some trite response, like “Well, he sets the direction of the company.”

So, I ask, “What is the direction of the company?” We are inundated with direction and vision statements that would all serve as good examples of what my high school civics teacher called ‘glittering generalities.’ They are well-meaning, but often sound just like every other company’s vision statement. For these statements to become more than lovely aspirations something is missing.  To Read More…

What I would do:

The stakes are getting higher every day.  We, as an industry AND as a profession, are at a point and possibly past a point where we, as individuals, need to decide whether we should get in or get out.  The opportunity for our future is extraordinary.  But it will take commitment, it will take passion, it will take painful choices and it will take sacrifice.  The rewards won’t necessarily be priceless but they will be far greater than my generation experienced during its career.  What are those rewards?

  • Purpose
  • Meaningful career
  • Community respect
  • Impacting lives
  • And, oh yes, financial

So, if I were you I would start thinking about whether it was time for you to get in or get out.

Your Employees: An Untapped Resource

Perhaps the single strongest reason I have been harping on leadership over supervision is the damage the latter does to “knowledge” workers.  and funeral directors are knowledge workers.  The “Carrot and Stick” approach that most if not all of the manufacturing style monitoring systems now being deployed will ultimately be counterproductive IF it is not led be good leaders.  And, Frankly, there are precious few positive leadership models in funeral service.

Remember, Passive Aggressive cultures are defined by behaviors that thwart progress “But in the nicest way”.  So, just because your team may like working together does not necessarily mean it is functioning at peak performance.

the costs of under-utilized employees are far deeper than just the waste of payroll dollars. People who are underutilized by their managers described their experience as “frustrating” and “exhausting.” Inevitably, the most talented employees quit, leaving you with an expensive turnover problem. The less confident staff often “quit-and-stay” leaving you with a more destructive moral problem as disillusioned employees infect the culture.

Smart executives understand that the cheapest way to fuel growth is to first tap deeply into the resources they already have. Stretching and engaging your existing talent is also the highest-octane fuel source, as people who are deeply utilized describe the experience as “a bit exhausting but totally exhilarating.”…More at Smart Leaders Get More Out of the Employees They Have – Liz – Blogs

Must have leadership traits

These 3 traits, if you don’t have them, are ones you need to develop.

If you do have these traits they are worthy of fine tuning.

When I was a kid, the children in our neighborhood would play in a nearby park every evening. Our undisputed leader was a boy barely a year older than I was, I think. He introduced the new kids to everyone, taught them the rules of games we played, and made sure no one felt left out. We also trusted him blindly because he had our backs whenever we messed up.

None of the leadership lessons that I have learned, unlearned, or relearned ever since have left as indelible an impact as the ones I learnt as a child. Three, in particular, stand out:…More at Three Leadership Traits that Never Go Out of Style – Vineet Nayar

skills you will need

Knowing your job isn’t enough any more.  Whether you are a doctor lawyer or indian chief it’s the soft skills that will make the difference.

Soft And Steady Saves The Day

How you talk to people, how you handle them, makes it harder or easier for you to meet your goal. Hard skills are technical abilities that you can typically learn at school. But soft skills are quiet little deal makers that also help to determine your fate.  They are primarily personality driven — you know, those things that you did NOT learn at the university (at least not in class).

Here are a few questions to help you lock into a few soft skills:…More at Hard Skill, Soft Skill: Which One Matters Most?

What I would do:

Read the article and answer the questions.  If I worry that my people skills are lacking ask my colleagues or my wife or someone who knows me best.  Ask them where I can improve.  Ask them to hold me accountable.

Leadership Lesson: An Illustration in Mentoring

What does it take to be a mentor?

What does it take to be mentored?

Mentoring is not sitting back in a wingback chair smoking a pipe.  It is active and proactive.  It is thinking on your feet.  Thinking ahead and having a Clear and Distinct picture of your goal in mind.

This article vividly illustrates the work of a mentor.


Now, I hate to say it, but this conversation absolutely held me spell bound for about the next twenty minutes.  They got right into the topic and his active listening, probing questions, support, and light hearted approach to a tough topic; he was able to get her to see some very difficult concepts.

This was truly mentoring at its best – the presence of the mentor fueling the mentoree’s burning desire to learn.  He fed her information like feeding wood to a fire. …More at Ray the Mentor: A Lesson in Leadership – .

What I would Do:

If you are a mentor to someone read this article, as I have, several times.  If you are being mentored then you and your mentor should read it together to see if you are in alignment.  Remember it is the person who is being mentored who has the responsibility.

I never had a good mentor.  I regret that.  My mentoring came from self study and pestering people I admire.  Interestingly, people are pretty good about helping you along the way.  I am always amazed at how many world class authors are willing to take my call and answer my questions.  Now that I am older and have my own field of expertise it is a privilege to pay it forward.

The Danger of Success

“Let thine eye be single” says the bible.

Success is what we all strive for and we know (or should know) that focus is the thing that gets us there fastest.

Conversely as Greg Mckeown points out, success can be distracting and represents a danger in and of itself.

If success is a catalyst for failure because it leads to the “undisciplined pursuit of more,” then one simple antidote is the disciplined pursuit of less. Not just haphazardly saying no, but purposefully, deliberately, and strategically eliminating the nonessentials. Not just once a year as part of a planning meeting, but constantly reducing, focusing and simplifying. Not just getting rid of the obvious time wasters, but being willing to cut out really terrific opportunities as well. Few appear to have the courage to live this principle, which may be why it differentiates successful people and organizations from the very successful ones….More at The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown – Harvard Business

What I would do:

I think this is a “Be ever wary” kind of thing.  I mentioned recently the need for leaders to be responsible for making sure that their organizations were focused on “Making The Main Thing The Main Thing”.  

As I have grown older it has become a practice to regularly thank god for not making me rich.  I can only imagine the money I would have squandered on rabbit trails (distractions) had I had it to spend and now I realize I could have potentially lost focus altogether.

So, I would build clarity around the main thing.  Do you know what your main thing is?

Know Thyself If You Want To Succeed

This is an interesting article with an even more interesting self-diagnostic.

 If you want to be more successful — at anything — than you are right now, you need to know yourself and your skills. And when you fall short of your goals, you need to know why. This should be no problem; after all, who knows you better than you do?

And yet your own ratings of your personality traits — for instance, how open-minded, conscientious, or impulsive you are — correlate with the impressions of other people (who know you well) at around .40. In other words, how you see yourself and how other people see you are only very modestly correlated.

At the root of the problem is the human brain itself. There’s a lot going on in there, but just because it’s your brain doesn’t mean you know what it’s doing….More at You Are (Probably) Wrong About You – Heidi Grant Halvorson …

What I would do:

Take the self diagnostic and get your act together.

When It Costs Too Much NOT To Change

We can use all kinds of fancy financial terms but there is a point when it costs more NOT to change than it is to go ahead and start.  Much of DeathCare is well past that point.  This article underscores that observation

Sometimes, it’s scary to change, to innovate the way you do things. Because we tend to cling to the familiar, even when it’s not all that comfortable. It’s like doing your company finances on a yellow note pad, because it’s familiar.  When your 10 year old business would be better served by a simple accounting database. But that means you, and your team has to learn something new — and that takes effort.

If you’re willing to dive in, then innovation can show up in the simplest changes — they just have to be consistent and relevant.

Here’s my question: When does it cost you too much to stay the same?…More at Staying The Same Costs Too Much

What I Would Do:

As I see it you have several choices:

  1. Sell
  2. Hold on long enough to close it up and head home
  3. Truly reinvent yourself.  The feature video this week…How Not To Overserve Your Customers…will help you start thinking about this as will the Creedy Commentary Article associated with it.