Leadership Lessons ezine by Mark Sanborn
Aug 6, 2006
I’m just back from rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. I did this trip twenty years ago with some speaker friends. At the time I thought it was the best vacation I’d ever taken, so I wondered if I would have the same experience this time.
The group included five professional speakers and 21 people with normal jobs. The organizer of the trip was my friend Al Walker, one of the speakers. The balance of the folks were friends of Al’s or friends of those friends. It was a great group of jovial people and we quickly experienced a high level of camaraderie.
The 26 of us were on two rafts operated by Diamond River Adventures. We had used Diamond on the first trip and were so impressed we became repeat customers.
If you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon, you are missing one of the seven wonders of the natural world. It is truly a visually spectacular place. But even if you’ve seen the Canyon, you’ve never experienced it the way a river trip provides.
We put in at Lee’s Ferry and spent the next 8 days covering 225 miles, eating and camping on the river, running some of the wildest rapids in the world, exploring side canyons and viewing ancient native American pictographs and pottery shards.
The biggest difference on this trip was that the water was running very muddy due to heavy rains and side canyon run-off. You get splashed a lot on the river and are almost continually wet. Normally the clear, cold water dries quickly and leaves you refreshed. On this trip the water dried and left you coated with a thin layer of mud. As my grandfather was fond of saying,it was an inconvenience but not fatal.
So where was the spirit of Fred in all of this? We had four guides: two boatmen and two “swampers” which is what future guides who are working as helpers and learning the river are called. The head boatman’s name was Sparky and the other boatman Amy. The two swampers were Chrissy and Matt.There are many companies that offer trips through the Grand Canyon. The equipment is very similar and sometimes identical. The Canyon doesn’t change. So the experience you have is determined in large part by your guides.
We were lucky: every one of our guides were “Freds.” Sparky’s given name was Mark, but his nickname was indicative of his buoyant attitude. He truly led the trip by being a thermostat rather than a thermometer. Eight days of being muddy can make even the most positive person a little cranky, but Sparky and his team helped keep spirits high through their professionalism and enthusiasm.Keep in mind that these four guides are not just responsible for navigating the river and keeping everyone safe, they also load and unload the rafts (with the assistance of those on the trip), set up the kitchen and portable bathroom unit, cook dinner and clean up, repack, narrate the history and geology of the Canyon, answer questions and offer whatever assistance they can to make for a great trip.
And yes, they even deal with the occasional goober who ends up on a trip. And while they’ll tell you funny stories about the goobers, they’re too professional to ever reveal names.
What made our guides Freds? It wasn’t just that they did their jobs, but how they did their jobs. They typified that Experience = Action + Attitude + Addition.
Action is about what you do, and our Freds worked very hard all day long. I never saw anybody drag their tail.
Attitude is about how you do what you do. The enthusiasm and vitality they brought to their work added to our enjoyment.
Addition is about the additional things they did. Foremost in my mind was sharing who they were and what they were experiencing on their journey, not just through the Grand Canyon, but through life.
The second principle of The Fred Factor is that it is all built on relationship, and the relationship each of them took time to develop with 26 very diverse and sometimes even quirky people took time and effort. But it paid off greatly.
We’re all in the business of creating experiences for others regardless of what we do, whether at work or at home. My repeat trip through the Grand Canyon was spectacular, but it reminded me that truth really is transferable, and the spirit of The Fred Factor—or whatever words you use to describe that philosophy—works as well in the wilderness as it does in the city.
Thanks Mark, Amy, Chrissy and Matt—you demonstrated the spirit of The Fred Factor on the Colorado River.
My Fred On the Road
July 27, 2006
I met a “Fred” while staying at the Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate.
I was there for a Summit where Mark Sanborn was speaking. On Saturday I went downstairs for lunch. My traveling peers had not yet checked in, so I was alone. It was just as breakfast was ending and the lunch service beginning. I was seated at a table and offered water.
My plan was to have a quick lunch and then meet my cab, as I was planning an afternoon trip to Downtown Disney. I waited about 15 minutes and no one came to take my order. Since I did have a cab coming, I decided to leave and grab something to go, vs requesting someone to wait on me.
As I was leaving, a woman asked if everything was OK, I said yes, everything was fine. I really wasn’t upset, just more concerned with time and meeting my cab. I appreciated the fact that she noticed and asked. As I exited the dining area I passed the manager. She must have inquired to my leaving, as she followed me and found me down a long hallway where I was getting cash out of my purse outside a carry out area.
I explained to her what happened, and she invited me back for lunch at her expense. I thanked her for the offer, and told her I appreciated the gesture, but time was more important to me at the moment. She accepted that and went back to the dining area. I wouldn’t have thought too much of it, had she not followed me out to ensure she was taking care of her customer.
The following morning I met my peers for breakfast in the same dining area. We had been seated and selected the buffet. The manager who had followed me, came to the table and asked about our breakfast and the service we had received so far. She then stated that she would be taking care of my breakfast and the breakfast of everyone at the table. She offered them no explanation, just made it sound as if it were her pleasure to buy our breakfast. The entire table was impressed, and wondered why I was getting such special attention. I had not told them about the lunch attempt the day prior. Once explaining what happened the day before, they were equally impressed with the amount of attention given to the situation.
When we were leaving, the manager stopped to shake my hand and once again, express her desire to ensure the service provided was acceptable and meeting our needs. I told her it was not necessary for her to provide us breakfast, she had handled the situation yesterday. She assured me it was her pleasure to do so, and she wanted me to know my stay and experience there was important to her. Most would say this alone was going above and beyond good, even great customer service.
After a long day of meetings and training sessions, I returned to my room to find a table set with fresh fruit, bottled water, and fresh cut roses. All of this was presented on linen and a hand written note card from the manager, again expressing her hopes I would enjoy my stay. Now this manager has gone out of her way to show I am important to her.
The best part of the story of my “Fred”, is that on my last day of stay, I had lunch in the same dining area, the hostess and the wait staff recalled who I was, and inquired that their manager had taken care of my needs. I assured them she had, and asked if she was available, as I wanted to thank her. They informed me she was off that day, however they wanted to also make sure their service met my needs. I found this even more impressive that not only did my “Fred” take care of me, she ensured her staff was aware and knowledgeable in the situation. She didn’t let the resolution stop with herself. It was very obvious she empowered her employees with knowledge and the ownership to make things right.
While the hotel is new, impressive decorations, and possessing beautiful grounds the most impressive to me was my Fred, the Assistant Food and Beverage Manager, Zoraida Ingles.