At some point or another, we’ve all met a ‘Fred’, needed a ‘Fred’, been helped by a ‘Fred’ or better yet have been a ‘Fred’ to someone else. So, what is a ‘Fred’? A ‘Fred’ is someone who goes above and beyond to deliver excellent service or stands out in his or her work regardless the role or circumstances. Reflect on your most memorable customer service experience or a time when met someone who provided the high-quality service that blew you away or left a lasting and positive impression on you- that was a Fred. Or think about that co-worker that always takes full accountability for getting his /her job and can still be counted on to help pick up the slack when necessary- he /she is also a “Fred”. Freds exist in every profession and provide great examples of engaged employees whose consistently outstanding performance and attitude serve as inspiration and motivation for us all.
However, in today’s environment where employee engagement is at an all-time low and many employees are struggling to stay motivated, it can be hard to be a ‘Fred’ or find a ‘Fred’. According to Gallup, only 15% of employees worldwide and 35% in the U.S. fall into the engaged category. Gallup identifies three types of employees in the workplace: engaged, not engaged, and actively disengaged. Employees who are engaged (Freds) show up as highly enthusiastic and involved about their work and workplace. Whereas employees’ people who are not engaged put in their time but are psychologically unattached to their work and company. Actively disengaged employees aren’t just unhappy at work — they are resentful that their needs aren’t being met and are acting out their unhappiness. Every day, these workers potentially undermine what their engaged coworkers accomplish.
Are You A Fred?
In his book The Fred Factor, “Mark Sanborn tells the true story of Fred, the mail carrier who passionately loves his job and genuinely cares about the people he serves. Because of that, he is constantly going the extra mile handling the mail and sometimes watching over the houses of the people on his route, treating everyone he meets as a friend. Where other might see delivering mail as monotonous drudgery, Fred sees an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he serves.
When I think of Fred, I think of those awesome frontline workers especially in health care workers who bore the brunt of the pandemic and still showed up to work every day at great risk to their own lives and that of their families showing compassion and empathy to those they cared for. I also think of those garbage collectors, teachers, public safety officers who go the extra mile despite trying circumstances and all the other everyday people who we rely on for the provision of goods and services. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always show up as a Fred. There have been times in my work life where the toxic working environments and difficult relationships with coworkers have left me feeling disengaged and resigned to doing enough to get by. But because I pride myself on doing my best, when and where I find myself struggling, I have found other ways to engage myself and relied on the support and encouragement of my inner circle to help me remember my why and get back on track.
The Fred Factor: Four Key Principles
So if you are feeling disengaged, actively disengaged or discouraged by your current work/life situation, consider using the following four principles of the “Fred Factor’ to refresh your energy and find your mojo to unleash creativity and enthusiasm in your personal and professional lives.
1.Everyone Makes A Difference: It doesn’t matter how large or even how screwed up an organization is. An individual can still make a difference within that organization. An employer can hinder exceptional performance, choose to ignore it, and not adequately recognize or encourage it. Or an employer can train employees to achieve exceptional performance and then reward it. But ultimately, only the employee can choose to do his or her job in an extraordinary way, either because of, or despite, circumstances.
2. Everything Is Built on Relationships: Here Sanborn explained that the service performed by the U.S. Postal Service of delivering his mail gave him what he paid for-nothing more, nothing less. However, the service he received from Fred was amazing because of the relationship he had with Fred. It differed from the relationships he had with any other postal carrier, before or since. Indifferent people deliver impersonal service. Service becomes personalized when a relationship exists between the provider and the customer. Fred took time to get to know and understand his customers needs and preferences. And then he used that information to provide better service and excellence.
3. You Must Continually Create Value for Others, and It Doesn’t Have to Cost a Penny: Don’t have enough money? The necessary training? The right opportunities? In other words, do you ever complain that you lack resources? Have you started believing that “more with less” is an impossibility? Then consider Fred. What resources did he have at his disposal? All Fred had was a drab blue uniform and a bag. But, he walked up and down streets with that bag full of mail, and his heart and head full of imagination. That imagination enabled him to create value for his customers, and he didn’t spend an extra dollar to do it. He just thought a little bit harder and more creatively than most other postal carriers.
4. You Can Reinvent Yourself Regularly: According to Sandborn, if Fred could bring such originality to putting mail in a box, how much more could you and I reinvent our work? He recommended that on the days when you wake up tired, and your professional commitment is wavering and just getting the job done and going home at the end of the day becomes your primary objective- think about Fred. Because if Fred the Postman could bring that kind of creativity and commitment to putting mail in a box, you and I can do as much or more to reinvent our work and rejuvenate my efforts.
At the end of the day, while we cannot control the things that happen to us, the circumstances we face, we can choose how we respond, to have a positive ‘can do” attitude and to stay engaged. Until next time, Remember, ItsALearningLife!