David Collingwood, Head of Operations for Funeralcare, talks about the ‘exceptional’ role Funeralcare colleagues play in dealing with difficult situations
Our colleagues are faced with extremely challenging, emotional situations day in, day out – having to deal with a family who’s lost a child, having to deal with a funeral of someone who’s lived on this planet for 87 years and no-one is attending.
This is what makes Funeralcare people unique – they give a little bit of themselves every time.
The Manchester Arena attack was certainly one of the most challenging incidents our colleagues have had to deal with.
As a leader you’ve got to be reactive but there are times when you lead from the front and the judgement has to come from your gut – this was definitely one of those times.
You don’t take over – you simply talk to them about what could be happening and make sure everyone is in touch.
We couldn’t expect our colleagues to do something that we weren’t prepared to do as leaders so we were part of the team who attended Manchester Arena. Over the next day and into the night our guys stepped up and did their job absolutely professionally.
My colleagues’ professionalism and positivity was a real standout for me.
There is no other business in the North West that could’ve done what we did in the way we did it.
You never get used to doing what we do. If you’re hardened to it you don’t give yourself to the families you look after.
But it was so important to keep in contact with colleagues over the course of that evening, making sure that everyone was comfortable, everyone was ok. For the next two or three days they all got a call from me or Tony Molyneux – regional operations director. I said to them: ‘It’s alright to feel odd about this, it’s alright to feel shocked.’
In the same way I got a call from my boss, Robert MacLachlan. The most cathartic thing is for people to be able to talk about what they’ve seen, what they’ve done and what they feel.
It’s the leaders eat last scenario. You eat once your team are fed and watered and looked after. It’s the right thing for any person to do whether you’re a leader or not.
I’ve written personal messages to every team and individual involved. It’s so important people feel appreciated and are recognised.
What they did was hugely exceptional. They’ve represented our Co-op in a way that I’m ever so proud of.
After such a terrible situation many just shrugged their shoulders and said: ‘that’s what we do’ – I’ve heard that so many times. There are no words to describe how incredible Funeralcare colleagues are.