January 2010 Leadership Lessons ezine by Mark Sanborn
Happy New Year!
January is a month filled with hope and positive expectation. The old year is behind us and the New Year is ahead and full of potential. All over the world people like you and I contemplate changes and improvements to their lives.My challenge to you: live like Fred. The Fred Factor ( http://www.fredfactor.com ) has sold 1.2 million copies worldwide and as most of you readers know, it is about my former postal carrier Fred Shea, an individual who turned the ordinary job of delivering the mail into an extraordinary service.
Most would consider The Fred Factor a book about customer service, and to a large extent it is. I wrote it, however, as a book of business philosophy because I believe the principles Fred embodies are applicable to any business in general and not just the customer service function in particular.
For the past several years I’ve spoken to national sales meetings about how to sell like Fred and addressed numerous audiences of leaders about how to lead like Fred. As I’ve always believed, truth is transferrable and a valid principle can be applied to any area of life.
So what would it be like if in the year ahead you lived like Fred? Frankly, I’m not concerned with you embracing the wording (sure, “live like Fred” does sound a little corny), but I would like you to embrace the essence of the book’s message. Consider these four principles from the book:
Everybody makes a difference; the only question at the end of the day is what kind of difference did you make? There really is no “neutral.” As you live life you either positively or negatively affect others. Some believe that disengagement from those around them is a kind of neutral zone, but regrettably, most people experience that disengagement as indifference.
Living like Fred means choosing to make a positive difference-however large or small–whenever you can. It means framing difference making as an incredible opportunity, and not an oppressive obligation or something you “have to do.” You don’t. You choose the impact you have and it isn’t dependent on your title, position or status. It is about the decisions you make and the actions you take.
Will you consistently seek opportunities to be a positive difference maker this year?
Life is built on relationships. I can speak from personal experience. Lying in bed recovering from cancer surgery and watching the financial markets crash a year ago put it all in clear perspective for me: I had my faith, family and friends. Everything else was icing on the cake and, frankly, at the time quite uncertain.
For me, my relationships had always been primary and I was particularly thankful for that at the time. Crisis has the ability to separate the wheat from the chaff in one’s life, and I vividly recall how grateful I was (and still am) for the important relationships in my life.
Relationships can often be difficult and require time and effort, yet they intertwine with the experiences of our lives to make us who we are.
What relationships need attention in your life in the year ahead?
You can add value to anything you do and it doesn’t have to cost a nickel. In these economically challenging times, the good news is that we can often out-think rather than out-spend our problems and challenges. Little things done with attention and creativity can be powerful, and sometimes more powerful than the expensive and grandiose gesture.
My friend Rick works at the convenience store where I buy USA Today each morning. He sets one aside and has it ready for me when I come it. He’s an upbeat fellow with a positive outlook who always adds a good word to the transaction. I also buy all my gas there despite the plethora of stations nearby. Why? Because Rick is a value creator.
What new value do you plan to create this year?
You can re-invent yourself every day. This morning I thought of my departed friend Ray Pelletier, a speaker and author who used to say “Every day is January 1!” He believed in the promise of new beginnings every day. How easy it is, however, to get into the rut of doing what we’ve always done the way we’ve always done it. One of the great joys of life is knowing that we awake and start each day “tabula rasa,” with a “blank slate.” Our words and actions write the script for each day. No matter how good or bad yesterday was, we get to try it all again each morning. In that sense every day is January 1, a new beginning.
Will you replicate your past or reinvent your future in 2010?
One of the best parts of my work as an author and speaker is being reminded of those four principles every day. Knowing them is easy, but living them is much harder. We all need to be reminded of the principles that make life rich and encouraged to practice them regularly. My hope is that in this short column I’ve reminded and encouraged you, because I believe there are great benefits for all of us who choose to live like Fred in the year ahead.