June 2008 Leadership Lessons ezine by Mark Sanborn
A Shaved Head for Fred
By Bruce Ervin Wood, PCC, SPHR
As the VP of Human Resources for NIH Federal Credit Union in Rockville, MD, helping to boost value and service to our Members (customers) adds value to their lives and to the Credit Union. In 2007, reading The Fred Factor: How passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary by Mark Sanborn opened a new opportunity to encourage our Associates (employees) to provide exceptional service to our Members.
We believe that what we pay attention to, we empower. So, we challenged our teams to pay attention to the often small and sometimes extraordinary acts that go beyond what’s in a job description with the aim of improving how we show up for each other and for our Members.
Our HR Team presented the idea as part of an incentive proposal to our Benefits Committee (made up of Associates). They were doubtful about the prospects, but endorsed our aims. Later, unsure that the program would be approved and having doubts about reaching our goal, we presented this idea as 5% of our 2007 Incentive Plan to Board Volunteers on our HR Committee. They were initially skeptical of what appeared to be a ‘fluffy’ idea. Even so, they appreciated that, unlike Return on Assets or other traditional financial measures, each Associate could see how their individual performance would directly contribute to reaching our goal. The Board approved the Plan.
To make our achievements measurable, our Learning Leader Lakeshia Dorsey and Information Technology used a survey function on our Intranet to allow Managers and all other Associates to nominate co-workers for their exceptional acts (we called them “Exceps”) or to log their own. We used the honor system. Associates judged what was or was not exceptional. One point for recording your own Excep and five points for nominating a co-worker or getting a kudo from a Member. Ophelia Acolatse, Branch Manager, noted the value to our Members, saying, “Exceps although different, are yet similar. When it comes to the service that we provide to our Members and co-workers no exceptional act outweighs the other!”
Our goal was to reach 12,500 points from May 1 to December 31 – about half a point per Associate per work day. We rolled out the program in a series of meetings and sent out email reminders. Unfortunately, it was clear from the start that even though Exceps were part of the Incentive Plan, only a few Associates got around to logging Exceps. By the end of September, we lagged a woeful 6,000 points behind the pace needed to reach our December goal.
No way we’d reach our goal unless we figured out how to energize the program. I asked Lakeshia if she thought my getting a buzz hair cut if we reached our goal would boost our results. At the next series of Associate training sessions, she put the hair cut idea out there (using a picture of the bald Doctor Evil from the Austin Powers movies).
A few taunting emails from me bragged there was absolutely no way we’d make up the gap and reach our goal, and that Associates might as well not bother logging any more Exceps. More quietly, we sent individual emails sharing the Exceps that Associates received and who logged them. Emails also thanked those who logged the Exceps. Somewhere in the mean time, it was suggested that the hair cut take place at our January 12 holiday party.
Like the brooms carrying water in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice scene from the Disney movieFantasia, the pace of Exceps logged became a flood! Susan King in Marketing noted, “I appreciated having the opportunity to thank the people that I work with for the small but important things they do for me each day… The grand prize of the head-shave was fun but I most enjoyed acknowledging my coworkers.” Chiquita Williams, ATM Specialist put it this way, “I loved the idea of the buzz cut so I made it my business to acknowledge every helpful thought I saw or have done.”
By the end of October, we not only closed the September gap, we were on pace to reach our goal. With false, counter-bravado, I acknowledged the achievement, and restated my confidence that it made no difference and that my hair was safe. Visits to most of our branches gave folks a chance to see what they were aiming to cut.
Cynthia Thompson, NIHFCU’s Loan Servicing Manager observed, “…Every week you heard Associates counting the number of EXCEPTS they could record. The people were really discussing would he, or wouldn’t he let someone cut all of his hair off. It became a company wide challenge, that most enjoyed…”
By November’s end, we were well ahead of pace, and in early December, we exceeded our goal! Not only that, our Work Climate Survey showed significant improvement in Associates’ feelings of being appreciated, our Member service scores improved slightly, and we had more people attend our holiday party than ever before. Most importantly, we reminded ourselves that we are EXCEPTIONAL. Our accomplishment reminded us that we have a choice about what we pay attention to, the failures of life or the opportunities to go beyond what is expected.
At the January 12 party, CU President/CEO Lindsay Alexander said, “No way!” would there be a Presidential pardon or reprieve from the Governor, despite my feigned entreaties. In fact, Lindsay said “Bruce, you made a bet with the staff, challenged them, and they achieved great things… There will be no reprieves from me!” The haircut was on and all seven inches of my hair was coming off! Kathy Johnston from our Mortgage Team had the most Exceps and won the honor of being my barber.
I took a seat before the group in my NIHFCU windbreaker. The DJ cued up the Darth Vader Theme from Star Wars and camera flashes lit up the night! With the first swipe of the clippers, the music changed to the “I’m too sexy for my hair” song, and joy and disbelief filled the air. Ms. Thompson noted, “…the first sweep of the clipper and the crowd broke into cheers. I got the feeling that single act generated warm feelings about the company and between the Associates…”
It was soooo cool! Joy and laughter beamed from people’s hearts. With the fall of the follicle, my wife’s smile told me she loved me – even without hair. (Later, my 17-year old daughter was stunned to see me hairless for the first time in her life. Truthfully, first seeing the reflected glow off my naked noggin caught me by surprise.)
According to Ralph Vallone, Lending Manager, “The Exceps program is unique… A peer-to peer thank you, such as an Excep, improves morale and the cohesiveness of a team.” It was worth it. Some folks believe I lost a bet and my hair. The truth is that every Associate and Member of National Institutes of Health Federal Credit Union are winners – including our presently very bald (and very proud) VP of HR.
Marketing Consultant Turns Her Co-Workers on to Fred
|Nominate a Fred
Help 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!
When Kitty Wiemelt first read The Fred Factor, she felt an immediate connection to the principals and ideas presented. After passing Fred along to her colleagues, she saw how it proved to be effective in Kitty’s office environment office as well as in the lives of her co-workers and even their clients.
A marketing consultant for Desert Pain Institute (DPI) in Mesa, Arizona, Kitty’s work focuses on promoting the comprehensive pain center and its mission to treat the whole person, relieve pain, and restore lives.
The five year-old business employs around 100 staff members, including seven fellowship trained/board certified pain medical doctors. Staff members and clients alike enjoy the impressive facility, which features a medical office, ambulatory surgery center, and rehabilitation/aquatic center. DPI also offers pain support groups for its many clients from people with back or neck pain to people facing cancer pain, age-related disorders spinal conditions and much more.
“It is an awesome facility with staff and doctors who really care,” said Kitty. “I’ve loved working with this group in marketing; it’s been an easy place to talk to the community about because they back it up with being good at what they do.”
One of the nurse practitioners on staff shared The Fred Factor with Kitty and she knew it was something that would resonate with her fellow DPI co-workers. As an expert in training and relationship marketing and founder of her own business—Winds of Change Consulting—Kitty also works as a motivational speaker and professional trainer, so she knows how to spot unique resources that can make a positive impact on a business and its staff.
After reading The Fred Factor for herself, Kitty was inspired and sent the following e-mail to her DPI co-workers:
Here’s a story of Fred the Postman that everyone loves to hear, you want to know why? It reminds us all of not only of what’s possible, but our potential as well. Excellence, wisdom, and dedication are all functioning parts of Fred’s world.
You see, Fred was this guy’s postman who always saw the person he was delivering mail to as a person, just not his client. “He went the extra mile to see deep and ask, ‘How may I make your life a bit easier?’ It wasn’t just the job he had, it was the life excellence he created by making a great job out of what he had.
What creative way today can you be a Fred and look deep into your co-worker, your patient, your family member – how can you get your energy and enthusiasm back for life?
Do look out around you today and see where you can extend YOUR POTENTIAL to the world.
Thank you for being the best of who you are and making Desert Pain Institute a great place to come to. Blessings to each of you.
Kitty’s enthusiasm and desire to improve the lives of the people around her are qualities that benefit the Desert Pain Institute’s staff and, in turn, make the clients’ experiences even more positive.
Whether it is through her career as marketing consultant or through her personal interactionsKitty Wiemelt is indeed a Fred.