Leadership Lessons ezine by Mark Sanborn
July 1, 2006
There is something much more important than taking action.
I recently had a troubling experience with a software provider. After downloading their software online, the install turned disastrous. While the direct cost of the software was small, the indirect cost of my time and frustration was huge. The final solution was to engage my technology consultant and pay him several times in hourly fees what the software cost.
The lesson in my experience comes from the numerous customer service representatives I dealt with in the process. By my count I either spoke with or emailed no fewer than seven different reps. They all took action: while their response time was often slow, I eventually got an email or call with suggestions to correct my problems.
In some instances, I got the same emails and similar phone calls. It was obvious that I was getting the standard responses. Unfortunately I didn’t have a standard problem.
The employees of this company all took action; none of them took responsibility. Although I was the customer, I ended up with the responsibility of solving the problem their company created. Not good, and definitely not Fred-like.
Freds take responsibility. They know that you can hide behind actions. “I sent him suggestions!” or “I called him back” are reasonable actions but in this case they didn’t lead to any solutions.
I have a long memory and I will be very cautious about doing business with this particular company again. Ironically, I got several computer generated emails asking me to assess my experience and provide feedback. My negative assessment and specific comments went unanswered. Taking action had been given to the auto responder, but the auto responder was incapable of taking responsibility.
It would have been refreshing if, at some point in the process, a representative had said, “Mr. Sanborn, I know you’re frustrated and the solutions that normally work aren’t working. You don’t need to call or email anyone else. I will personally research the situation and make sure the problem is resolved to your satisfaction.” Having said those words, or something like that, and then following up to make good on the commitment would have signaled that I was working with a Fred. And it would have recaptured my loyalty and commitment.
It didn’t end up that way. Just as Freds build loyalty, Derfs(1) destroy it. Derfs need to learn that taking action isn’t enough; to be a Fred, you’ve got to take responsibility.
(1) A Derf – the opposite of a Fred.
© 2006. Mark Sanborn. All rights reserved. Please contact us if you’d like to reprint this article.
Fred @ Work
My Father, Fred
|Nominate a FredHelp us acknowledge the Freds that we all encounter on a daily basis whether through work or in our lives outside of work. Please use the nomination form found here to tell us your Fred’s story. And please, tell a story not just, “I nominate Joe because he’s a great guy,” but tell us what actions of Joe’s make him a Fred. This kind of information will help us all become more Fred-like by providing us specific ideas and actions that we can model in our own lives. It’s a Fred-like activity in and of itself!
July 17, 2006
I just finished reading my copy of The Fred Factor. It was a gift from my sister for Fathers Day. Yes, a Fathers Day gift from my sister. Not only did I receive one, but also my mother and 3 other siblings.
I know it is not usual for someone other than a father to receive such a gift on the occasion, but there was a special reason for her thoughtfulness. Our father was a Fred, not only in the sense of the Fred Factor, but his name was Fred too!!! He passed away December 14, 2001, but had retired several years before from a company he had dedicated over 35 years to.
He was always one to be up at the crack of dawn, he always said to us kids when we were teenagers (who liked to sleep until it was noon) the morning was the best part of the day. He liked to leave early for work so he could make his morning stop at the gas station to get the newspaper for the guys at work, so they could all get the paper read before their shift was to start and he would also have coffee waiting for them.
After he retired he took a part time job at an auto parts store. Again, he was up at the crack of dawn so he could get to the store before the delivery truck would come in the morning. We told him he probably worried more about getting to the store early than the guy who actually owned it.
The saying go the extra mile pertained to my dad too. He volunteered to run auto parts all over the county to different companies, using his own car, and I am not so sure, possibly his own gas. Whenever we would say something to the effect about the wear and tear on his vehicle, or the gas expense he would always say, oh, its no big deal. We also knew it was his way of keeping in touch with old buddies, my dad never meant a stranger.
I enjoyed reading the book The Fred Factor, not only in memory of my dad, but also as a lesson to myself to strive to do my job better as a Special Needs Preschool Assistant.