Wednesday, November 17, 2010
The Fred Factor
Have you heard of THE FRED FACTOR? It’s a book by motivational speaker Mark Sanborn, published in 2004 by Doubleday.
The intriguing title caught my interest as well as the following statement on the front cover: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. My days had recently seemed a bit ho-hum, and I wondered if the little book—only 112 pages in length and seemingly an easy read--could add a little zip to my life. Plus, I was looking for a topic for this blog and decided THE FRED FACTOR might be a win-win on both counts.
Upon learning Sanborn traveled in his job, Fred suggested a way to ensure piled up mail wouldn’t alert unsavory passersby when the home was vacant. As the new homeowner got to know more people in the area, he soon learned the postal carrier provided extraordinary service for all the customers on his route. Time after time, neighbors recounted tales of the many ways Fred went above and beyond in his job.
Mark began to share stories about this outstanding postal employee when he spoke to business and civic groups around the country and, before long, realized the impact Fred’s example had on others. Many told of Freds in their lives or their own desire to be a Fred to others, and the idea for the book began to take shape. Eventually, Sanborn developed a program based on the Mission Statement: Be a Fred…continually create new value for those you live and work with through dedication, passion and creativity.
In his book, Sanborn lists Four Fred Principles. I’ve added some thoughts about how the principles can apply to the writing life, and I hope you’ll share others that come to mind.
1. Everyone makes a difference. In a nutshell, always do your best, no matter what job you’re doing. Fred wasn’t the CEO of a company or even a sales rep or marketing expert, but he positively impacted every customer on his route and looked for ways to help others and provide outstanding service. Sanborn writes, “People give work dignity. There are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant doing their jobs.”
As writers, we need to value what we produce, whether a technical piece in our day job or newsletter for a school PTO. Likewise we need to embrace even our initial attempts to create works of fiction. Although our early stories may not be ready for publication, they have value and provide the foundation upon which we can build. In the same way, when we critique another writer’s work, we need to point out strengths and offer constructive criticism and suggestions for improvement that affirm and empower.
2. Everything is built on relationships. Sanborn writes, “Indifferent people deliver impersonal service. Service becomes personalized when a relationship exists between the provider and the customer.”
Carrying that business model into the writing world, we can see how some authors establish a lasting relationship with their readers. Whether through Facebook or Twitter or on a blog like Seekerville, the relationship is not based solely on selling a book, but on interest in their readers.
Hopefully, all of us in Seekerville have reaped the benefits of this blog where we have come together as friends who share a love for the written word. In the past three years, we have supported one another when life hands us a lemon and celebrated when we've turned that lemon into lemonade. Personally, my life has been enriched because of all of you, and I pray we'll be together for years and years to come.
3. You must continually create value for others. According to Sanborn, “Fred mastered the most important job skill of the twenty-first century: the ability to create value for customers without spending more money to do it.” He goes on to say that we compete against ourselves everyday, and if we fall short, often it's because of mediocrity, which he calls “a willingness to do just enough and nothing more to get by.”
Writers must ensure the end product is quality work and never fall short of the mark. Their readers deserve the best. Our blog readers do as well.
4. You can reinvent yourself regularly. No matter our circumstances, Sanborn reminds us that everyday is a new start and opportunities abound.
Lines fold and a genre that is hot today may be hard to sell next year so writers need to be open to change. Francine Rivers is a perfect example. After embracing her new faith in God, Francine changed from writing secular romance to the inspirational genre, which led her to write one of my all time favorite reads, REDEEMING LOVE.
According to Sanborn, “…the way to move through life joyfully and successfully is by focusing on what you give rather an on what you get.” Good advice for all of us to remember.
Years ago, I made a personal commitment to thank people who clean public areas, such as janitors in shopping malls, airports and highway rest stops. I appreciate the job they do and tell them so whenever I have a chance.
I also thank store cashiers, especially when lines are long and I know they’ve been on their feet for a number of hours. Three delightful ladies helped me in three different stores on Saturday, but one cashier stood out from the rest. She had been on the job since 8 AM that morning, and although it was after 6 PM at night, the cashier went out of her way to find coupons for me to use on a number of items I wanted to purchase. When I voiced my amazement at her cheerful manner and thoughtful service, she said she worked two jobs and, with the downturn in the economy, was happy to be employed. She was definitely a Fred.
Sanborn points out that being a Fred often produces a ripple effect. Recently that point was brought home to me. A woman—a Fred--in my church made a two-year commitment to move north to care for her sister who has Alzheimer. Amazed by her sacrifice, I decided to support her with weekly letters of encouragement. Often she writes back and mentions how my notes come at times when she feels most burdened or alone and offer her comfort and support to carry on. Interestingly, she also mentions a younger sister who turned her back on God some years ago. This younger sister has noticed my regular correspondence and has started to question the reason behind my actions, which provides opportunities for the older sister to talk about the Lord. My seemingly inconsequential notes are being used to not only support the lady I know, but also to be an example of outreach done in Christian love to her unbelieving sister.
Not long ago, I worked with a person—I’ll call her Jane—on a business project that, while it affected her company in a positive way, was not something she was required to do. Jane, who is shy and unassuming, gave it her all, and the project was a huge success. I knew she hadn’t shared her achievement with others with whom she worked so I sent a note informing the supervisor of Jane’s herculean efforts and the positive benefits her work had achieved. The supervision sent back an immediate email response. She heaped praise on her employee and thanked me for alerting her to the exceptional job Jane had done. She had also sent a courtesy copy to the company CEO, which provided Jane—a Fred who had gone above and beyond—to be recognized for her work.
Since reading THE FRED FACTOR, my outlook has changed. I’m now searching for Fred moments when I can reach out to others to improve their lives. In hopes of fostering that spirit within my family, I created a Fred Chart and have encouraged my family to make note of times they have been a Fred. Hopefully, the spirit of the postal worker who went above and beyond will spread from my family to neighbors and friends as we tell others about the small ways we are trying to affect change.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reach out to those around us, to do the best job no matter what that job might be and to make the world a better place for all. Do you have a Fred story to share? Have you been a Fred or have you been touched by a Fred? Has this blog sparked ideas about how you, as a writer, can incorporate The Fred Factor into your life?
Share your Fred story or leave a comment to be entered into a drawing for a book of your choice—either Protecting Her Child, Christmas Peril, or Countdown to Death—plus a $10 Starbuck’s gift card.
The coffee’s on and the breakfast bar is open. Today’s specials include Eggs and Tomatoes Florentine, Ham and Cheese Puff, French Toast Casserole, Sausage and bacon, Almond-Pear Coffee Cake, and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins. Plus, grits! Enjoy!
Wishing you abundant blessings,
To learn more about Mark Sanborn and The Fred Factor, visit his web site:
Join me on Saturday when I add the final segment of a continuing Thanksgiving Tale of Terror, created by the Craftie Ladies of Suspense, http://www.ladiesofsuspense.blogspot.com/.