The Power of Fred | Gagen MacDonald

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The Power of Fred

Jan 08, 2015
One of the hardest questions organizations confront is when and how to assert control of its people. Talking with Eric Ryan, the co-founder of the cleaning product company Method, clarified some of my own thinking as it relates to this issue.Something you notice quickly in talking with Eric is that he takes delight in being surprised. Perhaps this is a function of his background in creative advertising, where success is almost exclusively marked by conceiving new ways to communicate ideas. In that world, in which products are all outputs of the imagination, good management very often means getting out of employees’ way.This point was particularly salient for me in our discussion of one person: Fred.Fred is a Method scientist by day and a social media evangelist for the company by night. As Eric describes it, Fred simply loves to use his Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media to talk with the world about the products that he and the company are working on in their “fight against dirty.” “He’s essentially now a copywriter and he is creating marketing on behalf of the company, and that’s an amazing thing,” Eric says. I agree.I couldn’t help but think of Fred when Edelman recently released their annual “Trust Barometer” report. Specifically, their study found, once again, that far and away the people we trust most to help form our opinions and shape our beliefs are academic or technical experts, and “people like us.”In that sense, Fred is a perfect storm of credibility. A regular employee with bona fide scientific expertise, he has a unique ability to influence public perception of his company. As it happens, he also has a personal passion for doing so. It would be a shame if he wasn’t encouraged to act.Lots of companies hesitate to entrust their brand to their employees through social media. It’s easy to understand their trepidation. Letting go is scary. But, in today’s age, there’s no such thing as going it alone from the C-Suite or the Corporate Communication department. We need people like Fred advocating on our behalf. As Eric says, “what you can control are the people you hire and how you train them.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that sentiment.Too often, we try to assert our control at the wrong time. Rather than being more thoughtful in considering what kind of person and personality we hire, and how to steep them in our cultures, we make rushed decisions and then try to control our peoples’ actions to fit our worlds. If we spent more effort and control on the former, we’d almost certainly feel more confident letting go later on.
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