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The Fred Factor – by Mark Sanborn

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For many, ‘postal employee’ would be considered a negative term. It might invoke memories of long waits at the post office or inconvenient holidays. Some might even remember the rash of postal shooting sprees from the late 80s. This book has the potential to turn those negative connotations on their collective heads.

In The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn relates first-hand events from years of extraordinary service from Fred, his mail carrier. This motivated mailman took the task of mail delivery far beyond his job description. The stories of Fred and Fred-like individuals (as well as a few anti-Freds) provide enough insight for a graduate level course on customer service.

Any serious reader of motivational books will find little in this book which is new to them. The principles are strong, but are available in other places. The power of the Fred Factor is not the principles within the book but the motivation readers find to act upon them. The secret to this book is not content but perspective.

John Maxwell’s irrefutable ‘Law of the Chain’ specifies that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The law is presented as a leadership principle. It explains to leaders how to build a stronger organization: strengthen or replace your weak links.

The Fred Factor ignores this law. It even ignores the chain, or at least the majority of it. Its focus is zoomed in on one specific link: yourself. It acknowledges that your link is always significant, and then gives compelling motivation to be the strongest link you can.

This principle works regardless of the strength of the links around you. It explains how and why to excel, even in the most backwater organization.

It also teaches one truth which so many people never learn: there is always a reward for being the strongest link you can, even if the organization never notices. Fred is a great role model because he is an ordinary man doing ordinary things, but in an extraordinary manner. He is no Superman; anyone can do the same.

The other special aspect of the Fred Factor is that it applies to all people. Leadership principles are great, but they come with a prerequisite: a leader with a group to lead. Teamwork is important but it requires a team. The reader may not qualify for either of these roles but everyone is strategically positioned to be an effective Fred.

Even if you know and have mastered every principle in the book, The Fred Factor is still a worthwhile read, if just to hear the stories about Fred.

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