Hiring funeral directors: Do you look for IQ or EQ?



Over the years that I hired funeral directors to work at our funeral home I looked for various traits that I felt would help a funeral home in a community of my size.  I certainly knew that I needed professional staff that was excellent in the preparation room.  But, I also needed staff that could be very good in dealing with people while making funeral arrangements and also professional staff that could represent our firm in the business community as well.


If you can hire someone who can do all of those things really well then there is no doubt you have found the “Pot of Gold” at the end of the Rainbow.  More than likely you can find potential staff that are good at those and other traits but at different levels of performance.  In a staff of five or six funeral directors I tried to find people who were exceptional in one of those areas and could be trained to be very good in traits that they were maybe lacking in at the time of the job interview or job offer.  Having complimentary funeral directors on our funeral home team seemed to work very well in our community.


Over the years, in all employment fields, there seems to be a question of what is better. . . hiring someone with exceptional intelligence or hiring someone, maybe not as intellectually intelligent, but a person that could be very good at a lot of things.  Sometimes we called such a person a “Multi-tasker”.


I never thought much of that philosophy or knew that it was much of a debate until I became a board member of a Big Ten university, the University of Minnesota. While I knew what an “Intelligence Quotient” or IQ was, I had heard nothing of something that was bandied about a lot on campus –  the idea of an “Emotional Intelligence Quotient” or EQ. (sometimes referred to as EI or “Emotional Intelligence”)


As I learned more about “EQ” I realized that people that had a high EQ would probably make great funeral directors.  The characteristics of high EQ seemed to be exactly what I was looking for in “well-rounded” professional staff.  Especially the idea that these people had “strong self-awareness” and “empathy towards others”.  Those features and the ability to “express oneself assertively” without being over dominating were characteristics that I looked for in funeral directors.  For instance, I told a lot of funeral directors that we are “directors”. . . the family is looking to us, so “direct them”.  Those that could do that with self-awareness, empathy, and being non-dominant generally turned out to be excellent professionals.


So, IQ is a measure that can be somewhat quantitative for each person.   Generally accepted in 1912 it assigned a score to each individual as a score of “estimated intelligence”.  I think it has been proven that each score does have some representation of one’s intelligence, however I also believe that it has never been scientifically proven that one’s IQ score is reflective of their success in society.


On the other hand, while difficult to measure EQ does have some, as this Wikipedia reference refers to, sense or relationship between EQ characteristics and leadership.  Here’s what Wikipedia says:


Late in 1998, Goleman’s Harvard Business Review article entitled “What Makes a Leader?” caught the attention of senior management at Johnson & Johnson’s Consumer Companies (JJCC). The article spoke to the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EI) in leadership success, and cited several studies that demonstrated that EI is often the distinguishing factor between great leaders and average leaders. JJCC funded a study which concluded that there was a strong relationship between superior performing leaders and emotional competence, supporting theorist’s suggestions that the social, emotional and relational competency set commonly referred to as Emotional Intelligence, is a distinguishing factor in leadership performance.”


Also, while an IQ score may be difficult to improve upon because it is a measurement of “estimated intelligence”, one’s EQ can potentially be improved upon.


Here is an article that I came upon recently relating the “9 Characteristics of Emotionally Intelligent People” as well as giving us five ways that a person may improve on their own Emotional Intelligence.   I think it is a great short read and also think you will agree with me that someone with the characteristics listed would make an excellent funeral director.


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