Tag Archives: Engagement vs Disengagement

The Fred Factor: 4 Ways to Be the Best At What You Do!

Make the Difference Word Collage
Make- the- Difference- Word -Collage

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.

Colored Pencils With Different Emotions
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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.

Different Elements of Excellence-Infographic
Different- Elements- of -Excellence-Infographic

Four Principles of the Fred Factor

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!

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Are You Engaged?

engagement3I am pretty sure that when you think or hear of the term engagement – the first thing that comes to mind is a proposal for marriage. Yes, the moment the man or woman (not so uncommon these days) pops the question and ask his/her beloved for their hand in marriage. If you thought so, you would be quite right but that’s not what I am thinking, nor is it the focus of this post.

In today’s  workplace, the term engagement  is a relatively new  buzz word used to describe the degree to which employees are motivated, happy, satisfied with the work they do, interested  in their organizations, and  display support  for  the company’s mission or their team. On the other hand, disengagement speaks a situation where employee’s behaviors and attitudes are negative, morale is low and they do the bare minimum to get by. Studies suggest that between 20-30% of employees within organizations are disengaged.  As such, one would reasonably conclude that each organization is comprised of two categories of employees – the engaged and the disengaged.

engagement2In any organization and for any manager or leader, the engaged employee is a dream. Not unlike a newly engaged person, this individual is happy, finds meaning in their work, supports the fellow members of the team and are highly productive. They are driven and they get the job done. On the flip side, are the disengaged employees. These are the unhappy ones, less motivated by the work they are doing and even less satisfied with their jobs. Usually, the disengaged employee operate at two extremes. That is, from the heavy silence and passive participation in meetings/ teams to the vocal opposition, negative attitudes/opinions they express when anything is to be done or any change is proposed. Working with them, is akin to pulling teeth and saps your energy. Because for them, it is  never just about the matter at hand, but everything else (past and present) as they are shackled by the history of their experiences. Does any of  this sound familiar or does anyone come to mind?

imagesCAMEZKVII’m sure by now you are probably making a mental note the people in your organization to whom these categories applies. But better yet, do you know where you fall? Are you engaged or not? Regardless of what your answer is, there is no need to judge or condemn these persons. The issues they struggle with are real. And however this is manifested, they need help and support from their supervisors and coworkers. I’ve not always thought so. But, I have come to learn that at some point of our work lives, we ourselves are not immune. We too risk becoming disengaged, or can slide along the continuum (engagement or disengagement) as a result of a problem with a supervisor, a small win, a big failure or just the general work environment/culture of the organization.

Which brings me to the point? What really causes an individual to become disengaged? A quick review of the literature will tell you that disengagement might be caused by one or all of the following:

  • Lack of respect from management.
  • Employee feeling that his/her  contribution or work is not valued.
  • Inadequate knowledge/understanding of company’s mission or even how they fit in.
  • Inequity and unfairness in how employees are treated(managers have favorites).
  • Poor working relationships with supervisor and managers.

imagesCAH1MI1BA case in point was my first experience with a disengaged coworker. She was a very mature, knowledgeable and competent individual who had spent over 15 years working with the company, prior to the 8+ years we worked together. After a couple of interactions, watching her body language in meetings, observing her level of responsiveness and just the negative attitude and tone with which she operated, I was pretty annoyed. She was never rude, but I wondered how someone with such a wealth of experience and maturity could be like that. And better yet, if she was so obviously unhappy with the company and the work, why didn’t she just leave? Why torture herself? Why make life and work more difficult for  the other people with whom she worked, due to the sheer amount of effort and energy, they would have to expend to work effectively with her.

imagesCA23Z6XAThough I struggled to understand why she was just like that, I came to accept that there were many others like her as well. While she was expressive,  the others were silent and passive. I  figured that, at the very least, we all had a job to do and that job paid our bills. And as long as that was true, then each of us had an obligation to give of our best efforts. That for me was simply a matter of personal integrity. I would later learn my annoyance was misplaced, for she like others who were , were not always like that. Once upon a time, she too had been engaged and she did in fact, love what she did. Unfortunately, she had, had, one too many bad experiences in the workplace –with leaders, supervisors and even customers. As a result, she no longer trusted the organization. And since everyone had a right to work, she responded as best she could to survive.

Therefore, it important that both organizations and individuals remember:

  1. imagesCAHR4550Organizations through their management teams and climate they create or foster, have an obligation to provide a “safe and enabling environment” for their employees to thrive and grow.
  2. Issues left ignored or swept under the rug- do not disappear. The buildup and may later threaten to derail even the very  best employees and the most engaged.
  3. Disengaged employees hurt organizations as much as they hurt themselves. They are likely to hurt an organizations performance and bottom line due to their levels of service and productivity.
  4. Disengaged employees can negatively affect an organization’s culture or may even negatively influence new recruits.
  5. Both organizations and individuals have to make a conscious effort to recognize and assess the levels of engagement amongst employees in their organization and in themselves.

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