ihwx.0eb162fd-c841-4e3a-9619-f0b06358a0b5.200.175Until I read Mark Sanborn’s book “The Fred Factor,” I used to call this the Professionalism Assignment with my aviation job targeting students. I guess now I can change that name to the Fred Assignment.

We all know Fred. Fred is the guy or girl who always seems to be going the extra mile. And not only goes the extra mile but seems happy, truly happy to do it.

“Whatever you are, be a good one,” Abraham Lincoln

The concept of being a Fred seems to be largely lost in our society where good customer service seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. However, we find Fred’s all around us – we just need to pay attention. In fact, the week that I’m typing this entry, I ran into a “Fred,” on a United Airlines flight. Fred was a lady in this case and a flight attendant.

The first thing I noticed is that she was giving me and other passengers a good natured ribbing and just being friendly and chatting with as many of us on board as she could.

I usually sit in the exit row and this day was no different. Those of us that sit in the exit row are so used to the briefing we could give a it in our sleep. However she did not just do the usual schtick. She personally engaged all 12 of us in the two exit rows, explained how important everything was and how important our jobs would be if the plane experienced an incident.

Then she made us pull out the emergency card and read key areas, while providing detailed instructions on what to do with the door once we removed it, and why (you put it in the seat – don’t toss it outside or you could accidentally deploy the flotation or hit another evacuating passenger with it). A briefing that typically takes 30 seconds took nearly 5 minutes but we all felt fully engaged and we definitely knew that while she had a fun personality, this person took her job seriously.

Throughout the flight, she continued to be friendly and engaging and even helped a lost child who had passed his mom’s row, coming back from the lavatory. I wish I could have gotten her name, but never got a look at her name tag. All I know is that she was definitely a “Fred.”

“Nobody can prevent you from being exceptional.” (Sanborn 9). The Fred principles are:

  • Everyone makes a difference (Sanborn 8). While employers can provide training, motivational posters and encouraging words only employees can choose to do their jobs in an extraordinary way regardless of the circumstances (Sanborn 9). Ultimately it is your performance that determines your position in life (Sanborn 10). It is not your resumè, or your promises, or what you’ll do when you finally have a job that’s worthy of your talent and attention. You don’t get hired for the job you could have done (Sanborn 14).
  • Success is built on relationships (Sanborn 11). In any job or when building any business, relationship building is the most important objective because the quality of the relationship determines the quality of the product or service (Sanborn 11).
  • You must continually create value for others (Sanborn 12). Something that I tell my students all the time is, whatever you want most in life help someone else get it, and you will achieve what you want as well. This is the one of the most important skills of the 21st century. People care less about your job description. People care far more about the value you can bring to them.
  • You can reinvent yourself regularly (Sanborn 15) and you should. It is never too late to be a Fred.

In the past few weeks since I’ve read this book I have seen Fred’s everywhere. Most notably at the Apple Store, Grand Central Station in New York, most recently on United Airlines and even going to Chili’s restaurant last night. I always try to knowledge the Fred’s whenever I see them and appreciate the value that they add, and the smile they can put on a customer’s face. People want to hire and be around
Fred’s. In this section, discover your inner Fred-ishness.

Sanborn, Mark. The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary into the Extraordinary. New York: Currency/Doubleday, 2004. Print.

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