Up Your Business - August - 2017

Eulogies Are Wasted On Dead People

Why is it that people have to die before anyone says something nice about them? Turns out you can improve your business — and your overall happiness — if you remember to acknowledge the people around you… while they’re still here.

Up Your Business is an exclusive GEARS Magazine feature in which I share stories, insights, and reflections about real business and life challenges.

Before you jump to the conclusion that I’m being disrespectful with the title of this article, please read on.

First, I know that eulogies are a tribute and a form of respect for friends and family who have died. I also know that memorial services and funerals aren’t actually for the deceased, but they’re intended to help the survivors grieve, mourn, and heal from their loss.

But why do we wait until somebody has passed before we say all those nice things that are typically recounted in a eulogy? Other than making us feel better for the moment, what good does it do?

The Backdrop

As I grow older, death and memorial services are occurring around me more frequently than in the past. It’s largely because my friends and family are getting older. Unfortunately, aging and death are integral to the cycle of life. But, in my opinion, aging is preferable to the alternative.

At any rate, I recently attended a memorial service for Don, a good friend that I saw almost every day on the tennis court. He was dynamic, athletic, healthy, and universally well liked. We were shocked to learn that Don was struck and killed while riding his bicycle home from having his routine morning coffee at our neighborhood McDonalds.

There were nearly 400 people at his memorial and, as you might expect from such a large gathering, there were an unusually large number of eulogies given that day.

As person after person expressed their remembrances, they each shared stories about how Don had touched, helped, and performed acts of kindness not only for the speakers themselves, but for others as well. They also listed his many personal accomplishments and charitable activities.

But I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before that particular memorial service: Nearly every eulogy ended with a common sentiment that went something like this, “So Don, I know you’re looking down on us and I just want you to know how much you meant to us and how much we’ll miss you.”

As I thought back over other memorials, I realized that this was likely one of the most common expressions offered in eulogies. Other than the fact that it’s become appropriate through repetition and it sounds respectful, I began to wonder why this was such a commonly repeated sentiment.

I’ve concluded that it’s primarily because we failed to tell the deceased person how much we valued them while they were still with us. In a sense, we’re mourning and apologizing for the fact that we didn’t tell them before they died — while we still could.

Isn’t it a shame that we missed the many opportunities we had during our daily routines to take just a few seconds to tell our loved one how much they meant to us. Yes, whenever they helped us or performed a special act of kindness, we probably offered a casual “thank you,” more or less in passing.

But what about truly expressing our feelings of appreciation, especially for those less-obvious times when they say or do something that touches us emotionally, or acknowledging how much we respect them for their accomplishments and the things they do for others?

Why not take a few minutes out of every day to send a note, make a call, send an email, or do the unimaginable: tell them personally how much they mean to you? Be specific whenever you can by including what they said or did and why and how it meant so much to you.

This Can Up Your Business, Too

If this idea strikes a chord with you, think of some ways you can apply it to your business. While I feel it’s more about giving out appreciation, don’t be surprised when it comes back to you 10-fold. It’s kind of like something my grandson said to me a few years ago, “Grampa, I love to give hugs because you never run out of them. Every time you give one, you get it right back.”

Begin by developing the habit of appreciating people and a sense of urgency about expressing it to them. Here are just few ways to acknowledge people within your business.

The most obvious is to thank customers. We’ve heard hundreds of times that we should send out thank you letters or cards, if not handwritten, at least through some automated process. Yes, that’s important, but what about making it a practice to offer expressions of appreciation and thanks for other, less obvious things and without expecting anything in return? Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Thank you for your patience. I’ll be able to give you my undivided attention shortly.
  • Thank you for your understanding and patience. I know we’ve inconvenienced you by not having your car ready when we expected to, but we don’t want to cut any corners when it comes to making sure it’s done right.
  • Thank you for your loyalty and for referring your friends and family to us. That’s the best compliment you could ever give us. We’ll always do our best to keep earning your trust.

I just noticed the window sticker on your car. I think the fact that you support that organization or cause is outstanding and shows how much you care.

Why not tell your team members how much you appreciate them? I’m not talking about the occasional “atta boy” or bonus. It’s time to become more appreciative of them as individuals… fellow human beings with whom you have meaningful relationships.

Ask yourself, “If for some reason I never see him or her again, what would I wish I would’ve said to or done for (fill in the name)?” This doesn’t necessarily mean the employee died… maybe he or she just quit and moved on, but in any event, you missed the opportunity to tell them how much they meant to you.

Here are some examples; the possibilities are unlimited.

  • I just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your commitment to always doing the right thing… even when nobody’s looking. I noticed how you so generously give of your own time to help other team members with their jobs when they’re struggling.
  • You’re a true professional and a credit to our industry. There’s one thing you put into every job you do: pride. And pride in your work is what sets you apart from even the best of the rest.
  • You set such a great example for the rest of the team. You’re consistently one of the top performers, but it’s your example in the little things that really add up: being on time to work, maintaining a great attitude, being a team player, and continually looking for ways to improve.

Consider some other examples of people and organizations that you haven’t acknowledged, but should. Here are some examples: a teacher, a religious leader, a mentor, a professional advisor, a former boss, a supplier, or perhaps an organization like ATRA or the chamber of commerce… the list is as extensive as your circle of contacts.

No Excuses

There’s no excuse for delaying… tomorrow could be too late. Whether in your business or your personal life, it’s all about how you relate as a human being to other humans.

Don’t wait until you’re grieving the loss of a loved one, a customer, an employee, or a significant business or personal relationship. Take time today to do something proactive to offer a tribute of appreciation whenever the opportunity presents itself. Believe me, you never know; as with the case of my friend, Don, the opportunity to do so could vanish in a moment.

By the way, by making this a habit in your life, you’ll find that you’ll bring a great deal of joy to other people. But, at the same time, you’ll personally experience exponentially more joy in your life, as well.

So, I ask you, are eulogies wasted on dead people? Whether or not you agree with that, let’s agree that it’s better to say it now than when it’s too late to make a difference.

About the Author

Thom Tschetter has served our industry for nearly four decades as a management and sales educator. He owned a chain of award-winning transmission centers in Washington State for over 25 years.

He calls on over 30 years of experience as a speaker, writer, business consultant, and certified arbitrator for topics for this feature column.

Thom is always eager to help you improve your business and your life. You can contact him by phone at (480) 773-3131 or e-mail to coachthom@gmail.com.