file3361293995004“That means your hard drive is failing,” said the Apple tech rep on the phone. “Do you have a backup hard drive you can connect?”

Hearing that my MacBook hard drive failed, when I just started a week of training in New York, nearly sent me into an anxiety attack. For a trainer on the road their computer is their number one tool. Not only, in my case at least, is all of my training material on the computer but I also use it to run all of the other elements of my life. How was I going to get through the next three days of training with out my laptop? That’s like asking someone to build a house without a hammer.

When I told the Apple rep that my backup hard drive was sitting in my home office, 2000 miles away, but that I needed my computer to work this week I definitely felt like he understood me. He helped me find the closest Apple Store to my hotel in Manhattan and within minutes I disconnected the phone and was often running.

Ryan Green was my Genius Bar tech support guy at the Grand Central Station Apple Store. To this day I cannot thank the guy enough. While he was not able to recover my failing hard drive (he’s tech support, not Jesus) he quickly installed a program that allowed him to do some magic and was still able to copy the files from my failing drive. Then he grabbed a backup hard drive to save as much of my data as we could, and patiently helped copy files from the failing HD.

During that process he provided cables and advice that would allow me to connect my iPad to a digital projector so I could continue training the next day without my laptop. I thanked him profusely and told him I was sending him a copy of my aviation security textbook (seems he’s a trivia buff and likes to trump friends with trivia – he thought airport security would be a good subject for that) He did not ask for this, I just decided that it was the least I could do. Before I even made the walk back to my hotel room I received an email saying that the hard drive had already been replaced and the computer was ready for pick up the next morning, before my training class would even start.

Why is Ryan a Fred? While his technical skills were exemplary, in fact he continued to help other customers while also helping me, it was the fact that he seemed genuinely concerned. He seemed just as concerned as I was about the potential loss of all of my data. That’s what makes the difference. He did not sit there and ask me stupid questions from some script, he listened to the problem and then solved it.

A “Fred,” cares. A Fred cares by building a relationship, not just providing a service.

Success is built one relationship at a time – here are the 7 B’s of Relationship Building (Sanborn 45).

  1. Be Real (Sanborn 45). It is not about sucking up or trying to fake sincerity. It truly is about being yourself. And if your self happens to be a jerk then you can decide to be someone else. You are the one in control of that choice.
  2. Be interested (Sanborn 46). Show genuine interest in others. Ask questions, identify their needs and help them meet their needs.
  3. Be a better listener (Sanborn 46), rather than just waiting for your turn to tell them how awesome you think you are.
  4. Be empathic (Sanborn 47). Dr. Stephen Covey called this the 5th habit – seek first to understand then to be understood, which is the habit of empathic listening. It means to feel as another feels.
  5. Be honest (Sanborn 47). Do not create expectations that you cannot fulfill. Do not over promise and under deliver or as the famous Top Gun line goes don’t let your mouth write checks your butt can’t cash. Better to tell somebody upfront your limitations and clarify expectations than lead them on to disappointment further down the road.
  6. Be helpful (Sanborn 48). You may not be able to fully solve someone’s problem but maybe you can help them out and help them solve a little bit of it, as Ryan did by helping me use my iPad to train.
  7. Be prompt (Sanborn 48). There is another old saying that comes out of the military: if you’re early you’re on time, if you’re on time you’re late, and if you’re late, you’re fired. Time our most precious commodity. We all get the same amount, no more no less. Don’t waste other people’s time.

Previously, we talked about: Colin Powell. Before he was ever chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the Secretary of State he worked at a Pepsi plant as a kid. By the end of the summer he went from mopping up sticky syrup to becoming a shift leader, mainly because he volunteered when others would not and he did a good job no matter the task (Sanborn 23). It taught him an important lesson. “All work is honorable, always do your best because someone is watching.” This is an important lesson about being a Fred.

Too often I see my students or people working some “Mcjob” and they are definitely not giving it 100% because they feel the job is beneath them. They do not understand is that no job is beneath doing well. People are watching. Even the Biblical parable of the talents, in Matthew 25:14-30, says that if you do well with a little, you will be given more. It works the same way in industry. Don’t expect to be trusted with large amounts of responsibility when you have not proven that you can be trusted with little amounts.

Everyone from Mark Sanborn, to Abraham Maslow, to Anthony Robbins says that all human beings desire significance. So why wait for some mythical dream job or dream occasion? Ryan at the Apple Store had a tremendous amount of significance for me that night and I imagine he does with many of Apple’s customers. And I am still talking about it weeks later. You can choose to be significant wherever you are.

One of the true ironies of life is that if you expect praise and recognition and you work with the intent of receiving it, it will elude  you (Sanborn 31). However if you go about doing the right thing, not even worrying about being rewarded, you will be fulfilled whether or not you get recognition from others (Sanborn 31).

In fact, you don’t even have to have a job to be a Fred. You can make a difference in someone’s day just by letting another driver in front of you, smiling at people that you see and even greeting them with a friendly hello (Sanborn 35). Buy coffee for the person in line behind you, take a few extra minutes with your kids, perhaps take notice of something they would like you to recognize about them. And then expect nothing in return.

Decide where you will be a Fred. Will it be with your customers or clients, with family or friends, how about your boss? There is an old saying, “be the difference you want to see in the world” (yes, I know it was also used in the movie Bruce Almighty) What is amazing is the more you change and the more Fred-like you become, the more Fred-like other people become. It is the difference in noticing everything that’s bad to noticing everything that’s good.

” It takes about the same amount of time to be a nice guy as it does to be a jerk,” and that’s from the guy who wrote a song about a cheeseburger. (Jimmy Buffet for you non-parrot heads out there). You have the time – what’s your choice?

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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