Don Frericks knows the exhilaration of working with a good leader and the unrelenting pain of working for a bad one. In over 30 years of corporate leadership and coaching experience, he has developed the reputation as on outstanding leader, a passionate advocate for personal and corporate change, and a well-loved personal leadership coach for various Fortune 2000 organizations and industries.
- Could you share with us a little bit about your journey, just tell us how it is that you’ve really got into this leadership path, were you put into it by accident, did it happen by chance or is this something that was a passion for you from you were a young person?
- Could you share with us maybe two or three character traits that you think leaders need to have, especially now. So, what are those two or three qualities that leaders need to have to ensure that during this time they’re still maintaining a high level of customer centricity internally and externally?
- How do you stay motivated every day?
- Can you share with us what’s the one online resource tool, website, or app that you couldn’t live without in your own business?
- Are there any other books that have had a great impact on you? Maybe a book you read recently, or even a book you read a very long time ago that has still had a great impact on you?
- Could you share with us what’s one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re either really excited about something, maybe that you’re working on to develop yourself or your people?
- Where can listeners find you online?
- Could you share with us a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you’ll tend to revert to this quote because it kind of helps to keep you refocused.
Don shared that he loves it because it’s not a normal path. He actually had three wonderful experiences working for tremendous leaders, people that just were inspiring that you wanted to follow them because they were so good with people and they helped you be the best that you could be. And what was interesting in each one of those occurrences, they were the one that hired him, but they were gone in his experience six months later. And it was so abrupt and so quick that it was a bit shocking. And the next leader that came in behind them was not as good.
And in fact, in a few cases, they were horrible; the kind of people you would say would be the bad bosses of the world. And it was such a night and day difference. It shocked him to his very core and he noticed his own behaviour, his own performance slipped. He noticed that he didn’t like it; he wasn’t engaged like he used to be. He worked at a very high level, he puts a lot of energy and heart into his work and he wasn’t doing that with these other bosses. So, he really felt like there’s something about great leadership and how it has a huge impact on other people.
And after that experience and through those experiences, he started studying tremendous leadership and extraordinary leadership and what the difference is between good and extraordinary and why it makes a huge difference on businesses.
Me: So it’s definitely been in your core, in your DNA from very early. Now, I see here on your bio also that you’re the author of the book, Best Boss Ever: The 5 Steps to rapidly develop yourself into the leader everyone wants to follow. And this podcast is called Navigating the Customer Experience as you know.
One of the things I’ve found in the years of being a customer service trainer is that leadership is very critical in customer experience because if the leaders are not on board with delivering a quality experience both internally, because it starts from within, and then of course it flows over into the external, you’re going to have a lot of challenges in the organization.
Don agreed that Yanique is right on track with thinking how dynamic a situation can be internally as he’s sure you’ve seen many times where people have talked about the power of serving the employees so that they can serve the customers so well.
Great leaders today get that, they understand that their service of their people internally needs to be taken to the next level. And that probably means getting to know your people at a level where you understand their emotional needs and understanding how they’re dealing with all the challenges with the pandemic and the other things that are happening in our environment.
So, they’re missing the point and they’re missing an opportunity to connect heart to heart with their own employees. And that will prevent their employees from reaching out to the customer in such a way that that experience, as you’re an expert in is at the highest level. And so we have to take care of our people and that’s the leader’s job.
Don shares that he thinks one of the most important aspects of extraordinary leadership is the ability to inspire and motivate others to high performance, Zenger, Folkman. John Zenger and Joe Folkman have done a tremendous amount of research in this regard. And they’ve looked at over a hundred thousand leaders around the world and from their research and their data, they have shown that statistically inspiring and motivating others to high performance is the most important aspect of extraordinary leadership.
So, it’s one of those things that you’d say, “Well, that makes sense because when I’m inspired and motivated, I do my best work.” But as a leader, “What is it that I actually do to inspire and motivate others?” He’s sure the listeners have that question like, “How do I do that at a high level?”
Number One Trait a Leader Must Have
And the number one trait that they have uncovered is making the emotional connection, similar to what he was just saying. Leaders today need to sometimes push aside their performance metrics and all of their meetings and the policies and procedures and make the emotional connection with their people, the most important thing.
And one good way that he often coaches his clients to do that is to go down and think about each person that’s on their team and to assess how much of a relationship they have with each and every one of them, high, medium, or low, and how much trust is there in that relationship, high, medium, or low, and then to ask themselves, what can they do to invest more in that person emotionally, what can they do to connect with them in a way that maybe they don’t have a connection today? It’s amazing what comes up when you start to think about it at that level, as if it’s one of the most important things you can do as a leader.
Another thing that he thinks listeners might be interested in is that the conversation around what inspires and motivates us doesn’t happen very often in business today, we’re expected to bring our own inspiration and motivation to our work, and absolutely the best employees are highly motivated.
But it’s fascinating how as you go through life, what gets your attention changes as you move from maybe a very young age to mid age, to older age things that are important change. And so, what inspires and motivates you today may be different and good leaders stay in touch with what inspires and motivates their people by connecting with the changes that happen to them throughout their life.
And so, one way to do that is just to have a candid and curious conversation with their employees and team members about what currently inspires and motivates them. He finds a lot of leaders miss this point, because it seems like something that they feel like they don’t need to talk about, but that’s the problem. It is absolutely an emotional need for people to talk about what inspires and motivates them.
Me: And you want people to also feel very comfortable sharing with you because I may not feel comfortable sharing with you what motivates or inspires me if I don’t trust you, which is what you alluded to at the beginning.
A big part of leadership is getting people to connect with you, but also for them to trust you. In terms of what inspires you, it means you’re getting very vulnerable about what you like and what you don’t like. And you typically feel more comfortable sharing that information with people who you feel you can trust, would that be fair to say?
Don agreed and stated that he loved the way Yanique put that together. Without that foundation of trust that you’re speaking of, it is very hard to have a meaningful discussion about anything that’s close to our heart, especially the things that inspire and motivate us. Vulnerability is absolutely a key and it’s one of those skills that he finds a lot of leaders actually have to work at, it doesn’t come natural for some reason, it seems like we’ve learned that when we get into the business world, we actually become less vulnerable. We become more professional, so to speak. That’s not what people are looking for, they’re looking for your heart, they’re not looking for your professionalism.
An example of a Leader with an Employee who is Underperforming
Me: Why do you think leaders who are able to pretty much get a high level of productivity from their teams. There are some leaders who are not able to get that level of productivity. So, to give you an example. Yesterday I had a friend that called me and she said that her hairdresser has an employee, the young lady does really, really good in terms of her technical skills is amazing and the business owner cannot imagine this person not being in her business.
However, when I spoke to the owner, she said to me, the lady’s interpersonal skills are extremely poor. She doesn’t know how to talk to people; she says things that comes over to be very disrespectful. The clients don’t really like dealing with her, but she, the business owner cannot imagine her business without this person in it. And so, she wanted to know if I think training could fix this person. So, from a leader perspective, if you got a call like this, from a person like this, what would you recommend?
Don shared that his gut says that he’d like to have more information about this employee. However, just the way that you posed the case study, it sounds as though the employee has been able to perform their job without meeting some of the expectations of the job around treating the customer with respect and communicating with them at a high level.
And so, if someone’s gotten away with underperforming in a certain aspect of their job, it really, to him, it seems to land on the business owner in this particular case. And the question he would have to her is like, “Are you willing to hold her accountable to a higher level, a higher standard of interaction with the customer?” If they’re not, he wouldn’t even waste the time on doing training or coaching or anything like that.
He thinks it starts with the business owner establishing clear expectations with all employees, not just this employee about how customers will be treated and the customer experience, and then literally holding them accountable. And if people can’t do what we expect them to do, and we think they’re valuable employees, then yes, training could be helpful, but only after expectations have been set. And after they attempt to hold people accountable to those expectations, what were your comments to her?
Me: So I asked her a series of questions. I asked her how long was she working with her? Before she hired her, did she get a background check to get any recommendations for how it is that she performed in previous employment? To which she said, no, she didn’t have that. But then the young lady was working with her already. So to some extent there is really no recovery where that is concerned because you have firsthand how it is she’s performing in any case.
Then I said to her, it sounds to me like some of the challenges you’re having is not necessarily with her competency to do the job, but her attitude. And if you’ve spoken to her and you’ve indicated to her that this type of behaviour is not acceptable, your customers are not in agreement with how she’s responding to him.
And she still continues to repeat the same behaviour, I’m not sure if any amount of training is going to help because at the end of the day, she has to make an intentional effort to ensure that her communication is one of the standard that you are expecting her to deliver to customers, even if she’s the greatest shampooer or whatever the technical competence is required to ensure that customers walk out feeling that the service they came for was good.
But with that tangible service comes the soft side of it; “Did she pull my hair too hard? When she was speaking over me, was she speaking too roughly to me? Did she ask me questions in a tone that was just not very accommodating?” All of those things contribute to the entire experience, even if when you’re washing the hair, you give it a really good wash. If how you’re doing it is poor, then it takes away from the whole service experience. So, my concern was that if it’s an attitude issue, I’m not sure training can fix it.
Don agreed and he was hoping that Yanique might be going that direction. It’s very difficult to train for attitude and if it isn’t attitude, no problem as Yanique suggests it might be. He thinks training can be a waste of time. He did a lot of training and development throughout his career for over 20 years and he was always amazed at how little behaviour change followed training and he thinks a big part of it was what you’re saying is that if people don’t want to change, if they don’t want to do something at a better higher level, they won’t no matter how much training we actually give them.
So you’re onto something, there is no doubt training does not make people change. People make people change. And he thinks that’s the hardest part of leadership. And that’s the hardest part of customer service is that our behaviours have to change to do it at a high level. And have you read the book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear?
He hopes that listeners will get a copy of that. He thinks James Clear does a great job talking about our habits and what you can do to change them. And if you want to be a great leader, if you want to be a great customer service manager or great at customer service, it does require us to get better. And that means to him, changing habits, that book can be very helpful.
Me: Yeah, for sure. And I mean, the reality is our success is based on the habits that we have. So, the habits that you build upon every single day. I recently did a Facebook live and the guest was talking about changing habits and one of the questions he asked me, which was so profound Don. He said to me, you noticed how since coronavirus and the pandemic, everybody has basically had to develop a new habit overnight wearing of masks because I’m sure you were not wearing a mask prior to March 13th.
So, then he says to me, where do you keep your mask? So I said, to be honest with you, I keep it in my car because over the first few weeks I kept on leaving it, I would reach to my destination and I would say, why do I look/feel out of place?
And then I’m like, “Oh, I left my mask at home and I’m not going to turn back to get it.” So in order to ensure that I always have it, I keep it in the car because I’m not wearing it anywhere. As you know, I’m not wearing it at home. So it’s clearly when I’m going on the road. And he said, you were able to develop that habit because you built it on top of other habits that you have so that you could ensure that it now became a part of your routine.
And, you know, when I looked at it from that perspective, I said, you know, that’s a very good point. Because I had to find a way to incorporate this into my normal activities to ensure that it became, as he said, a part of my routine, where do you keep your mask Don?
Don shared that he keeps his mask in the car as well. He loves Yanique’s comment about habit stacking. And he thinks that’s one of the things that James Clear points out. If you stack your habits, it’s a much easier way to start a new habit rather than starting at all by itself, because it needs some way to get going. That’s why habits are so hard. What’s the old saying about old habits are strong and jealous.
Me: If you’re accustomed to doing something for a very long time, and the reality is human beings, they put up a lot of resistance to change. When it’s new, it’s like, why should we do it this way? Even with these virtual experiences that we’re all having now, predominantly my business has been operating from home for quite some time. Even before COVID, I decided to get rid of my office space and just operate from home.
And so, even when COVID came in, it wasn’t a hard adjustment for me to start working from home. But people who are accustomed to going into an office from 9-5 every day, I’ve spoken to quite a few of my friends and even colleagues who say they don’t necessarily like working from home, they prefer the blended approach, or they want to go back out to work because they miss the interaction.
And the reason I think they’re saying that is because it’s new, it’s different; they’re not accustomed to it. It makes them feel uncomfortable. And that change makes it very difficult for us to adjust. But then I’ve had clients who said that they’ve actually had a higher level of productivity from their team members since they’ve been working from home versus when they were physically in the space.
Don stated that he fully understands what Yanique is speaking of. And he thinks we’re seeing such a change, a rapid change in the way that we do work, it’s amazing. He wants to go back to what Yanique said about attitude. He wants to make sure that listeners really get the power of this. He also had a recent customer service experience where he was going through a fast food line at a restaurant to get some dinner for his grandkids.
And as he was doing that, he recognized right away that the speed of the service was very good. And he was very pleased with how quickly they were able to take his order and get him his food. But he also noticed there was something else that was happening that really delighted him. And it was an experience where the individual who was taking his order was willing to be personable with him and ask him some questions and also allow him to ask them some questions, because there was a little bit of a wait time before he can move on to the next point in the service line.
And he really enjoyed that because they became human with one another. There wasn’t just an order being placed and an order being received. It was two people talking and he thought this young person has a great attitude back to your point of service because they wanted to connect with him. And he just thought that was so powerful.
He can’t underestimate the power in customer service of people being interested. And he loves the word curious, and that’s good, the curiosity word is so good for all of us leaders as well as customer service providers.
How Don Stays Motivated
When asked how he stays motivated, Don stated that that’s a great question. It’s very simple for him and maybe it won’t even resonate that much with your listeners because he’s going to give you an answer, it’s called purpose.
He believes that his purpose in life is to change the world one leader at a time. And what he’s trying to do is bring greater, better leaders into the world because the world right now desperately needs good servant leaders that can bring a higher level of performance in all aspects of our society. We’re so desperate for people to be peacemakers and to find ways for the world to live more in harmony, where we can take care of each other.
And so his purpose shows up every time he wakes up in the morning and he’s getting started to begin his day, he lives his life to be on purpose. And even during the difficult periods where maybe there’s challenges that he didn’t expect or challenges with certain clients or clients situations, he doesn’t let it get to him because he recognize that it’s one aspect of him being able to fulfill his purpose.
It’s not a difficulty that he needs to dread, it’s just something he needs to work around so that he can fulfill his purpose. And he thinks every time that he’s on purpose and I can tell you (Yanique) live her life on purpose, he’d like to hear how Yanique frames her purpose. It just makes such a huge difference in terms of the way that you do the work that you do.
Me: It does. It’s funny you said that because when I started this business back in 2007, 2008, I started it because I thought about what it is that I really like to do. But I also started it because I also thought about in Jamaica, which is where I live and I was born and I’ve spent all of my life, customer service is challenging.
So, Jamaican people are extremely warm and friendly, but I find that in a lot of the service businesses, you don’t necessarily get that warm and friendliness. It’s almost like you feel like you’re begging them to serve you. And so I started to think, how could I contribute to improving the quality of service in Jamaica and globally? And I started to think about a cartoon that I used to watch when I was a little girl called Care Bears. I don’t know if you know it.
So my vision for the company is “To Create a More Caring World.” And it was inspired through the Care Bears. If I could be the Care Bear with that little beam on my tummy. And I’m beaming this light out to basically, as you said to change one lead at a time, but to change each company or each team member at a time that they are converted to ensuring that in every interaction they have, whether they stay at that company that I train them in, or they leave and start their own business, or they go and work for someone else. They always ensure that they deliver a high quality of service, because I think if our service experiences improved, we’ll all have a better quality of life.
You’ll go through the day and you will feel like, “Oh my goodness, I had a great day today. I had such good interactions. People were so accommodating. Things ran so smoothly.” And of course, if you have fewer obstacles, then you’ll be less stressed. So, that’s really my purpose every day to create a more caring world and I’m that Care Bear that’s basically trying to beam my little light across on everyone. So yeah, I do get you when you say; it’s all about your purpose.
Don agreed that it’s all about your purpose and thanked Yanique for having that purpose too. What a beautiful way to live your life and to be a role model for your area. Hopefully the listeners are like, “I get that. I understand exactly why you’re doing that.” He sometimes finds people will say, “Well, I’m glad you have that purpose, but that’s not my purpose.” He always says, “We’ll fine, find your purpose. You don’t have to have my purpose.”
Me: Just figure out what it is that really drives you. There are days does, I talk to people many times and they say to me, “How do you get up and do the same thing every day? Don’t, you get bored of it? Don’t you get frustrated?” But I don’t because I understand what my why is and it drives me every single day. Every, every article I read, if I watch something on TV, if I’m talking to someone, it all goes back to service, how we serve each other.
And so, I’m always looking for opportunities. I’m always stimulated, there’s not a day that goes by that I’m not excited about doing something new in the customer experience spectrum. So I think at the end of the day, if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, then of course it doesn’t seem like work and you don’t get de-motivated or on days when your energy might not be there, you still have some desire to want to do it because you’re really passionate about it.
Don shared that he often will do some self coaching, as you kind of talk to yourself in your own head. And he will always say when he feels like there’s a level of frustration or de-motivation, or just the challenge of getting through everyday life, he’ll say, “Don, get on your purpose. Get back to your purpose. If you feel like you’re frustrated, that means that you’re just not paying enough attention to your why.” As you just called it out.
And he’s sure the listeners in Jamaica and around the world are like, “Thank you for what you do.”Without doing what you do, other people would not be telling their story. So this is why what you’re doing is so powerful.
Online Resource, App, Tool or Website Don Can’t Live Without
When asked about an online resource that he could not live without in his business, Don shared that it’s such a tough question because he uses so many. He was going to recommend to the listeners to go to www.zengerfolkman.com because they have so many resources around leadership.
There are many, many theories about what makes a good leader. And there are many, many books around leadership. It’s like a giant ocean and he finds it overwhelming, many of his clients had done, he doesn’t know what to do. There are too many things for him to focus on as a leader. And he completely gets that. And so what he often says is like, “Well, why don’t we do a 360 and get some feedback from the people that you lead, including your boss and your peers. And let’s ask them how you lead today and get their feedback.”
And Zenger Folkman has this wonderful 360 degree assessment that allows leaders to get an accurate perception of how other people see them as a leader, with that, and then you can determine how to put together an action plan to build new skills or to build the strengths that you currently have. And so they’ve written a lot of great articles and white papers about that, and all of those things reside on their website, he would highly recommend that they do that.
Books That Have Impacted Don Greatly
When asked about books that have had a great impact on him, Don shared that he used to read a whole book. He hardly does that anymore. He often read the first chapter, the last chapter, and then he’ll skim read around the middle of the book a bit. A book that he cannot seem to put down, he goes back to repeatedly over and over as a very simple book, but it’s called Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.
What a great resource, one, because it gives you that self assessment at the back of it. So you can go online and take a self assessment to kind of determine your emotional intelligence level. But two, because it gives you 66 great suggestions of how you can build your emotional intelligence through new behaviours or changing your behaviour.
And he loves that because it’s very application oriented. He love books that can get him to move in a direction that allows him to be a better person, better leader. So, he thinks Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry is one of those resources that the listeners could greatly benefit from.
What Don is Really Excited About and Is Working on Now
Don shared that he really has been inspired by their conversation today about purpose. And he’s trying to put together a masterclass on how to discover your purpose because he finds that many people have not. They haven’t had the fortunate experience he and Yanique have had where they actually have been able to define what it is. It seems to him that most people say, “I’m not exactly sure what my purpose is, and I don’t know how to find it.”
What’s the best way to decide that purpose is hard to discover. It is certainly something that is discoverable, but it doesn’t just plop into your lap because you say, “I need to know my purpose.” It takes quite a bit of work and effort and reflection and searching and soul searching. And he just would like to help people in the future with a masterclass of some sort, where they could have a methodology to be able to discover what their purpose is.
Me: So how far along is that master class? Cause I’m sure I could recommend it to quite a few people.
Don shared that he has the outline. He’s just trying to figure out and actually testing some of the things that he has put into the outline with some people that are in that stage of discovery and asking them to give him feedback, like, “Was this helpful? What worked, what didn’t work for you?” He finds that the discovery process for purpose seems to be pretty highly customized, so he’s having a tough time finalizing the approach because he thinks it has to have enough options to it, a variability to allow people to kind of modify the process to their personality and their style.
Me: Do you have a Facebook group?
Don shared that he doesn’t have a Facebook, he almost do everything through LinkedIn. He doesn’t have a particular LinkedIn group that he has sponsored yet. He shared that may that’s what he needs to do with purpose.
Me: That would be a great idea because then you would definitely be getting people who are specifically aligned with what you are trying to achieve. And then you’d be talking to the right people.
Where Can We Find Don Online
- Don shared listeners can find him at –
Website – www.donfrericks.com
LinkedIn – @donfrericks
Gift for Podcast Listeners
Don: Allow me to offer a gift to your listeners; the first chapter of my new book Best Boss Ever: https://bit.ly/DonFrericks
Quote or Saying that Don Uses During Times of Adversity or Obstacles
Don shared that it’s interesting that he read this right before they went online together today and it’s often called the Serenity Prayer. He thinks it’s actually a great quote, but it’s about helping reframe the things that we cannot change and the things we can change and helping ourselves stay focused on the things that we can change and trying to find the strength to do that.
It’s easy to get spun up today and the way that the entire world is demanding attention and the unrest and the racism that exists and all the frustration that people are experiencing with the pandemic. And many of those items we cannot directly change, but what we can change is our attitude and our emotional attachment and what we get involved with and what we don’t get involved with.
And he thinks one way to make the world a better place is to focus on the three things that you stand for is to live, love and laugh. If you bring that out, that’s something that we can all control, how we live, how we love, how we laugh. And so he thinks the serenity prayer to him makes all kinds of difference and it’s a good reminder to focus on what we can control.
Me: It’s actually a prayer that I revert to us from time to time as well. It reminds me of the law of attraction. Whatever you think about comes about. So, if you really put these affirmations and record or repeat these different positive things on a daily basis, you’re actually intentionally feeding your mind with positivity and not focusing on all the things that as you said, you don’t really have any control over. So you really want to focus on the things that you can control and try to be a positive agent of change in those areas.
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Grab the Freebie on Our Website – TOP 10 Online Business Resources for Small Business Owners
- Best Boss Ever: The 5 steps to rapidly develop yourself into the leader everyone wants to follow by Don Frericks
- Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
- Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry
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