The Fred Factor
The author, through stories about Fred and others like him, reveals the four basic principles that will help us bring fresh energy and creativity to our life and work. The first principle is everyone makes a difference. It doesn’t matter how large an organization is, an individual can still make a difference. Nobody can prevent you from being exceptional. (Sanborn, 2004) I’m reminded of an individual who I hired while he was still in high school. At the age of sixteen, Randy was one of the hardest working people in our manufacturing plant.
His initial job was sweeping floors within the sewing department of the facility. He was happy to be there and glad to have a job. Working in one of the lowest level jobs within the organization gave pride and meaning to this young man. His hard work and positive attitude eventually took his position to department head of our knitting operation. We see this same frame of mind with Fred the Postman. By making a positive difference in the lives of others, individuals like Fred and Randy are what every co-worker or customer enjoys. Setting a higher standard is more challenging than simply achieving the status quo.
Withstanding the criticism of those who are threatened by your achievement depends not on your title, but on your attitude. (Sanborn, 2004) The second principle states that success is built on relationships. It’s easy to see why Fred was everyone’s favorite postman. His relationship with the people on his route became a personalized service. Our mission statement at Keen Promotions is “To provide creative-proactive solutions to present and potential customers by maintaining ongoing partnerships and relationships with a commitment to trusted-quality products, timely delivery, and exceptional customer service. The key word in this statement is “relationships”. In today’s marketplace, simple selling products to customers are not enough to keep a competitive advantage. We must give personalized service and establish long term relationships. You must continually create value for others, and it doesn’t have to cost a penny. We see Fred defining this principle by his general demeanor. Fred always has a smile, a hello, and a helping hand for those customers who consider him to be a good friend not just the neighborhood postman.
Shopping at Sam’s Club, as my wife and I generally find ourselves doing over the weekends, brings to mind a clerk who didn’t greet us or even say thank you while we were checking out from shopping. I actually walked out of the store mad and had the feeling my business was not appreciated. In contrast, when shopping next door in Wal-mart just 30 minutes later, one of the nicest, most helpful persons checked out our groceries and the feeling was exactly the opposite. It doesn’t cost anything to say thank you or hope to see you soon.
In many cases, the most elementary courtesy can make all the difference in a customer’s future business. You can reinvent yourself regularly we learn is the final principle. Sanborn uses Fred as his inspiration when he is feeling life is at a low tide. He believes and rightfully so, no matter what job you hold, what industry you work in , or where you live, every morning you wake up with a clean slate. You can make your business, as well as your life, anything you choose it to be. That’s what he calls the Fred Factor. (Sanborn, 2004) We all need that person we deem the Fred Factor that inspires us during the low points in our life.
By following these principles and by learning from and teaching other “Freds,” you, too, can excel in your career and make your life extraordinary. As the author makes clear, each of us has the potential be a Fred. The Fred Factor shows us how to seize the chance to be extraordinary. It would be superb if everyone who reads The Fred Factor would adapt their own work habits to become a Fred. And just imagine the possibilities, if fellow colleagues were inspired by the difference it made, and then followed suit to also commit to that change.
This would give companies such an edge in the marketplace, as customers would certainly spend their money with teams that gave such excellent service. It isn’t easy to change certain work habits, especially if someone has been in a rut, maybe for years. But part of the potential enjoyment that could be brought about is by making others happy, is to re-invent yourself and your job. How can one change what is currently being done to give more value, and thus give more satisfaction? After reading the book some may think that this only applies to customer facing roles, particularly salesmen.
But most with a job that deals with other departments will find this works just as well and is just as important. Take time to find out how other departments work. What information is currently provided, and how it is used by others? Finding out what is important and what else could be provided can make others job easier hence most will look upon this person as a valued colleague. Continually providing value to other colleagues will breed optimism for those to ask for more participation in interesting projects that are reserved for those in higher levels.
What must always be remembered though is that the reward for adapting your work habits to the benefit of others is the satisfaction that it gives you in doing the best job that you can. If other benefits follow, then that is all well and good, but that is not the aim of the practice. The book demonstrates the importance in making everything you do significant. Four steps to create Freds. The first Find them, The Fred Factor instructs one on how to find Freds by creating a place that attracts them, how to recognize a dormant Fred, and how to hire them.
Next step Reward them, this step is self explanatory, if you want Freds to stay around you should reward them. The third step is to Educate them. The Freducation process starts with finding examples to develop the art of being extra ordinary, understanding what works, teaching The Fred Factor as a form of daily miracle working, and finally pull, don’t push people as you invite them to practice these principles. The last step is to Demonstrate. We must be the example to inspire our fellow employees. These four simple steps just happen to spell the name Fred. When you are a Fred, Freds are more likely to find you.
Maybe the greatest challenge is to put these principles and steps into the life of those who have always been the opposite of a Fred. These principles and steps are critical for anyone entering a management level job. Who has made the biggest difference in your life? Whose words and actions have uplifted and motivated you to excel? Chances are it was someone like Fred the postman. So outstanding in his service that Mark Sanborn realized this mail carrier could be an example for any person wanting to be extraordinary. References: Sanborn, M. (2004). Fred Factor. Doubleday.