Unexpected Lessons

What have you learned today? Who did you learn it from? Sometimes lessons are right in front of us, if we would only open our eyes to them. I was recently reminded of that by Mary, the woman who, twice a month, cleans my house. I am usually at work when she arrives, but one day a few months ago, I happened to be home. That gave us the opportunity to catch-up on our kids and what was happening in our lives. During our chat, there was something she said that I can’t stop thinking about:

“It is a pleasure to clean your home. Thank you for the opportunity.”

Wait, I thought. Did she just say it is a pleasure to clean my home? My home with all its dust and clutter. The one where my son left some toothpaste in the sink. Where I constantly battle to keep the dog hair, grass and dust bunnies off my floors. I don’t like cleaning my house, and here she was not only thanking me for the opportunity, but telling me it was a pleasure to do it for me.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that unbeknownst to her, Mary had taught me many lessons about how to approach my work. Here are a few:

Never waste a minute. Mary and her colleague start cleaning the minute they walk through the door. They are dusting the bannister on the way up the stairs. They don’t walk by a surface without wiping it down. They are amazingly efficient in the way that they go about their work, which I’m certain allows them to move through my home, and on to the next, quickly.

The little things are big things. The first time I returned to my home after Mary had been there, I opened the refrigerator and noticed that she had not only wiped down the shelves, but she had carefully lined up everything in neat rows so that I could see what I had available to make dinner. I didn’t ask her to do it, she just did. She had not only exceeded my expectations, but in a strange way, it made me feel good. She had given a sense of order to what had been an otherwise chaotic day.

When she didn’t like her situation, she took control. Mary used to work for someone else – the woman who previously cleaned my home. One day I realized Mary wasn’t coming any more, but I never knew why. When my current service declined, I sought out Mary, who had started her own housecleaning business. It was only then that she shared that she didn’t like the way that customers and the employees were being treated by her previous employer, so she left. Their standards of excellence did not meet hers, and she did something about it. She would not let her integrity be compromised for a paycheck. I admire that about her.

She cares about and appreciates her customers. Mary thanked me. She always does. She told me she appreciates the opportunity to do a job and do it well. She is always happy to see my kids when they’re home from college. She is invested in me, not just as a customer, but as a person. She takes pride in her work and it shows. We’ve built a relationship of trust, and she’s worked hard to make it happen. I appreciate that about her.

At JDA, one of our core values is to relentlessly drive new learning and innovation. There are plenty of ways to learn – through classes, conferences, books, networking, the usual things we think about when we talk about professional development. But I’m not sure we always value the unexpected learning encounters we have throughout our day. Mary’s simple statement brought that into focus for me.

What lessons are you learning from the people you encounter every day? Do you have your eyes open learning from others through your daily interactions with them? This week, I challenge you to do just that, and let me know what you learned. Maybe I can learn from those lessons as well.

  2 Comments   Comment

  1. Beth, thank you for sharing how learning comes in all shapes and sizes – and that we must be open to it from all corners of the world. Mary sounds like good people to learn from to me!

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    • Thank you, Jill. Mary has much to teach me, as do the many other people I encounter as I go through my day. She gave me the reminder I needed to be open to those lessons!

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