The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn

The Fred Factor

RATING: 7/10…READ: July 12, 2011

A great motivational book. The Fred Factor details the life and work Lessons from Fred, a Postman who turned an ordinary job into the extraordinary. If you’re bored at your job and looking for meaning in your life or work, start here

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Part I: What’s a Fred?

Make each day your masterpiece –Joshua Wooden, father of John Wooden

As a professional speaker, I am particularly adept at finding and pointing out what’s “wrong” with customer service and business in general. Finding examples of what’s “right” or even praiseworthy is much harder.

Principle 1: Everyone Makes a Difference

A mediocre employer can hinder exceptional performance, choose to ignore it, and not adequately recognize or encourage it. Or an excellent employer can train employees to achieve exceptional performance and then reward it. Ultimately though, only the employee can choose to do his or her job in an extraordinary way, regardless of the circumstances.

At the end of the day, the only question that matters is, what kind of difference did you make?

Where others might have seen delivering mail as monotonous drudgery, Fred saw an opportunity to make the lives of his customers more enjoyable.

-“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep the streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

There are no insignificant or ordinary jobs when they’re performed by significant and extraordinary people.

“Work gives people dignity” is only one half the equation; the other half we weren’t told was “people give work dignity; there are no unimportant jobs, just people who feel unimportant doing their jobs.”

“There is more credit and satisfaction being a first-rate truck driver than a tenth rate executive.” (B.C. Forbes)

While position never determines performance, ultimately performance determines position in life. That’s because position is based on results rather than intentions. It’s about actually doing what others usually only talk about.

Faithfully doing your best, independent of the support, acknowledgment, or reward of others, is a key determinant in a fulfilling career.

Principle 2: Success Is Built On Relationships

Indifferent people deliver impersonal service.

Relationship building is the most important objective because the quality of the relationship determines the quality of the product or service.

+Leaders succeed when the recognize that their employees are human

+Technology succeeds when it recognizes that its users are human

+Employees like Fred the Postman succeed when they recognize their work involves interacting with human beings.

Principle 3: You must Continually Create Value For Others, and It Doesn’t Have to Cost a Penny

My intent is to refocus their attention from being employed to being “employable.”

Employable means having a skill set that makes you desirable to any employer, regardless of industry or geographic location.

-The most critical skill is the ability to create value for customers and colleagues without spending money to do it. The trick is to replace money with imagination, to substitute creativity for capital.

Sanborn’s Maxim says that the faster you try to solve a problem with money, the less likely it will be the best solution.

With enough money anyone can buy his or her way out of a problem. The challenge is to outthink rather than to outspend the competition.

The truth is that we compete against our own potential every day. And most of us fall short of what we are capable of doing or being.

At the end of the day, Fred has beaten a silent opponent that threatens his potential, just as it threatens yours and mine. That competitor is mediocrity, a willingness to do just enough and nothing more to get by.

And while this competitor may not beat you out for a job promotion or take away corporate market share, mediocrity will just as surely diminish the quality of your performance and the meaning you derive from it.

Principle 4: You Can Reinvent Yourself Regularly

If Fred could bring such originality to putting mail in a box, how much more could you and I do to bring originality to what we do? How can we reinvent ourselves and our work.

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.


The way to move through life joyfully and successfully is by focusing on what you give rather then on what you get.

You don’t do the right thing just because you have to do it. You do it because it is the right thing to do.

“All work is honorable. Always do your best because someone is watching.” (Colin Powell)

Part 2: Becoming a Fred

One thing seems common to all human beings: a passion for significance.

Everyone wants to count, to know that what he or she does each day isn’t simply a means of making a living, but “a living of making meaning.”

Convert your job into one you love, not by doing a different job, but by doing the one you have differently.

Most people think they get ahead in life by learning something new. I believe you can also get ahead by going back to the basics of success. I believe that having the most fun doing your best work it at the top of the list. Think lessons learned in Kindergarten.

-Do the right thing for the right reason: If you expect praise and recognition, it will seldom come. If, however, you go about doing the right thing, knowing that the doing is its own reward, you’ll be fulfilled whether or not you get recognition from others.

Your Possibilities are Endless: people are inspired by other people doing inspiring things.

Did you wake up this morning intending to change the world?

-you change the world of another driver when you allow her to change lanes abruptly without blaring your horn, recognizing that she too, is human and fallible.

-you also change the world of a coworker, a customer, a vendor, or a cafeteria worker with your smile or your frown

-No these aren’t dramatic changes. They won’t alter the course of world affairs or bring a cure for AIDS. But who’s to say that these little changes don’t have a cumulative, profound effect in the lives of others and, ultimately, in your own life?

The most important question to ask yourself is, What kind of difference did I make?

Even better than random acts of Kindness, why not “Practice Acts of the Extraordinary Regularly?”

When can you make a difference? At every opportunity! If your attempts at being a Fred become an oppressive duty, you’re bound to fail. You’re making a difference because, like most of the Freds I’ve encountered, you want to and you can.

We must make time in our schedules to determine how we can change our ordinary actions into extraordinary ones.

Just as athletes prepare for competition in pregame meetings, we, too, should prepare for our daily activities with pregame thought.

Success is built one relationship at a time

Freds don’t use people as a means to an end; they use relationships to build a foundation for success.

So they become students of social psychology. They understand that strong relationships create loyalty and are the basis of partnerships and teamwork.

The quality of a relationship is related directly to the amount of time invested in it.

Be real; forget “fake it until you make it.” The intent is to become who you want to be by acting as if you are already that person. The only problem with that strategy is that you’re a fake!

Try this alternative: Always do your best at being yourself. You should always aim to improve, try new things, and add value, but let these actions come out of who you really are.

The prerequisite for relationship building is trust.

Be Interested (Not just interesting): It may be true that interesting people attract attention, but I believe that interested people attract appreciation.

The need to be understood is one of the highest human needs

Say what you’ll do, and do what you say OR don’t make promises you can’t keep.

Lots of small things cumulatively make a big difference

What percentage of your interactions with others is transactional as opposed to relational?

Relational interactions emphasize the importance of how people are treated in the process of achieving results.

Learn how to be your own alchemist

If you serve French fries, make sure they’re the best in the world

Freds compete successfully by offering better ideas, products, and services than their competitors

What are you doing to add an artistic flourish to your products or services?

What can you do to add a little enjoyment to another’s day? Tell jokes? A little magic trick? Etc.

One of the most powerful things anybody can do to achieve Fred status is this: solve a problem you didn’t create.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so. Freds are honest when they don’t know the answer to a question and will do everything in their power to find the right answer.

“To do the common thing uncommonly well.” (H.J. Heinz)

-A sad employee left his job of many years

-Most days he worked were like the day before

-He wasn’t disliked by colleagues, but he won’t be missed

-And while he made good money, he felt quite poor

-He always did what he was paid to do and nothing more

-And he did without having much fun.

-He performed his job the way he lived his life

-He did it the way it had always been done

Acting out of obligation is a good way to short-circuit what being a Fred is all about.

+Whom do you admire the most? Which of their skills and characteristics would you like to develop in your life?

If you just copy what other capable people are doing, you’ll only do as well as they do. They key is to adapt, to take good ideas from every source and then apply them with your own special flair.

Turning the ordinary into the extraordinary happens one act at a time.

Compete with yourself: keep track (don’t keep score) of those ordinary things that you attempt to make extraordinary as well as the results they create.

Part 3: Developing Other Freds

Find: Is your organization a Fred-magnet? If you really want your company to be world-class, it must become the kind of place that attracts Freds.

-When you trust people with time—the most valuable asset—to reveal their talents, you’ll see just how many Freds there are in your organization.

-Hiring Freds: who are your heroes? Why? –Why would anyone do more than necessary? Tell me three things that you think would delight most customers/clients/customers. What is service?

Reward: Reward good behavior with appropriate rewards—praising good behavior, not just throwing money at someone.

-when you don’t see much meaning in what you do, you won’t bring much value to what you do.

-Be specific with praise. Cite increased production, sales, etc.

Educate: “The brighter you are, the more you have to learn” (Don Herold)

-Your interests focus your awareness: record in writing all ideas and examples. If you run across them in your reading, highlight them. Create a Fred File.

-Dissect and debrief why something worked

-Pull, don’t push: the best Freducators are themselves Freds.

Demonstrate: “You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips (Oliver Goldsmith)

-The essential question: “Is there anything I can do for you while you’re here?”

-Inspire, but don’t intimidate: Fred inspires people like you and me because he’s an ordinary guy doing an extraordinary job. If he was seen as a superhero, people would be intimidated.

-What can you do to involve others in purposeful acts of “Fredness”?

-Forget the foolish saying, “Those who can, do; and those who can’t teach.” The reality? Those who do best teach best. The man or woman who can demonstrate a lesson with his or her life most powerfully impacts others.

Part 4: For the Love of Fred

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit (Aristotle)

Do good and you’ll feel good. Pursuing good feelings as a means to an end doesn’t work.

The best never rest: “I take care of people who don’t always know what I’ve done for them. But if nobody else knows, I do. So my personal commitment is to do the best I can. And you know what? It doesn’t take much extra time or effort to do what I do.”

Treat customers and others as friends: “I don’t think of them as postal customers, but as friends who appreciate me for helping make their lives a little easier.”

The impact you have on others is the reward

Live the golden rule: lose the me, me, me.

Fear nothing except to waste the moment: “Look to every day as a new day, and make each day better than the last. Even on my days off, I have goals, and I feel like I need to get a lot done. If I feel like I wasted the day, I don’t quite sleep quite as well at night.”

Love is the commitment to treat a person with dignity and kindness regardless of how you feel about him or her.