When you think about an overcoming the odds success story, visions of a single mom with two children working as a housekeeper don't usually come to mind. However, this humble beginning fueled my passionate determination to transform the trajectory of the lives of my children and myself.
I never imagined that at the age of twenty, I would be an unwed mother, living on welfare and food stamps in a government subsidized apartment. I knew that the conditions of my life was a reflection of the choices I'd made, however, I couldn't accept that it was a reflection of the best that I could do for my children. They deserved better. I had to expect more of myself if we were going to live better. There was no calvary of soldiers coming to save us.
Be Cautious In Giving Authority
We have to be careful about the opinions and beliefs that we buy into. I would often hear experts on the evening news recite findings from research that concluded that “the children of teen mothers would have a bleak future at best.” I would get pissed off each time I heard someone expressing a doom and gloom future for my children. I understood that they were quoting statistics but that didn't stop me from wondering to myself, “How the hell do they know what type of future my children will have?” “They don’t know anything about me or my children.” These “experts” had no idea of the burning desire in my heart to get a full-time job so that I could get off of welfare and someday move my children in a home of our own. I refused to lend my agreement to the statistics they were sharing that painted such a bleak future for my children and me.
The Decision to Redefine My Limiting Beliefs
I decided to end my allegiance to the limiting beliefs that I had about myself as a result of the poor choices I'd made. I decided to challenge the limiting beliefs in the story that I was telling myself about who I could become, what I was strong and smart enough to handle and what we were worthy of experiencing. I begin to see our circumstance as a temporary condition versus a permanent situation.
Be a Person of Excellence
When I started working as a housekeeper at the Columbia Marriott hotel, I never imagined that it was possible for me, a college drop out and single mother of two children, to experience the explosion of personal and professional growth that came as a result of working for Marriott. However, that's exactly how my story goes.
During my probationary period as a housekeeper, I discovered that the company encouraged its employees to pursue advancement opportunities that enabled them to grow and develop their skills. This information inspired my heart with hope. I made up my mind that I would do everything in my power to demonstrate to my boss's that I was capable of being and doing more.
First things first, I had to get through my probation period. Cleaning eighteen guest rooms in a eight hour shift to meet Marriott's standard was not as easy as I had expected it to be. For almost a month, I cleaned rooms on my lunch break to meet the production requirement. Taking a lunch break wasn't nearly as important to me as exceeding the standards of the job. I cleaned my assigned rooms as if my deceased Mother was going to be checking into the guest room. I started to leave personal notes in the guest room, thanking them for the opportunity to serve them and asking them to leave me a note about any special needs they had during their stay. I filled up ice buckets for those staying over for more than one night. And, I asked them to fill out a comment card about their stay on the day of departure.
Be Willing to Embrace the Unknown
The number of comment cards with my name on them increased which got the attention of my managers and the hotel's GM. A month after my probationary period ended, the housekeeping department administrative assistant resigned and I was promoted into the position. Initially, my promotion didn't sit well with several employees and my boss's boss. They didn't think that I deserved the position since I had only worked for the company a few months. In spite of the opposition that he was receiving over my promotion, my housekeeping manager stood by his decision to promote me.
Demonstrate Sincere Concern for Others
After my initial training for the job, I took it upon myself to read the department's SOP manuals so that I could become familiar with the responsibilities of a housekeeping manager. I made a copy of the housekeeping manager's position description and used it as a guide to develop the skills necessary to be a housekeeper manager. I took responsibilty for developing supportive relationships with my co-workers and my boss's boss. For example, I was responsible for completing the department's weekly work schedule, I realize that we had enough staff to rotate weekends so that each employee could have at least one entire weekend off each month. This meant a lot to the staff, especially the single mothers.
Build On What Works
I was responsible for the hotel's lost and found items. When guests called back regarding these items, I returned those that were found by a hotel team member with a comment card and a letter thanking them for staying at the hotel and how we looked forward to serving them when they returned to Columbia. I had little day to day contact with hotel guests because the housekeeping offices are in the basement of the hotel. A funny thing begin to happen. The guests that I was able to return items back to started to fill out the comment cards I'd included with their item and mail them to the corporate address on the outside of the form. Although I had minimum contact with guests on a day to day basis, I began to receive just as many comment cards with my name on them as employees having direct contact with guests throughout their shift. After several months, this got the attention of my boss's boss. He nominated me for employee of the month and I won.
Go Above and Beyond
During this time, I had taken it upon myself to become a literacy tutor. I wanted to be able to tutor one of my co-workers. I found out that he had been placed in a special education class most of his years in school. Although he had received a high school diploma, he was having a difficult time reading and understanding the checklist of his daily houseman duties. I've been reading since the age of four. I couldn't imagine my life without being able to read. Helping him improve his reading ability was one of my top ten accomplishments working for Marriott.
Another one of my top ten achievements with the company occurred that same year when I was able to rally the support of various team members throughout the hotel to conduct the hotel's first Thanksgiving food drive. In partnership with the Salvation Army, I received the names of fifteen families needing assistance from the agency and with the help of my new boss and his girlfriend, we loaded up the Thanksgiving boxes in his van and delivered them to each family on Thanksgiving eve. I was humbled by this experience. Two years prior, my children and I had received a Thanksgiving basket from the Salvation Army. The help that I received at that time inspired me to be a huge supporter of Marriott's United Way Campaign. To my surprise, at the end of 1986, I was recognized as the hotel's employee of the year.
I encourage you to take time to consider the dominant beliefs that's driving your present behavior towards your personal and professional growth. Living your life on automatic pilot has its benefits, however, when you short change yourself from living the life that your soul craves, its time to raise your self-awareness. It is only through self-awareness can you awaken to your unique ability. It is only through self-awareness can you begin to make the connection to the beliefs driving your identity, behaviors and life experiences. And, it is only through self-awareness that can you begin to transform any beliefs and behaviors that are not in alignment with your divine destiny.
Actionable steps you can take to set yourself up for success include:
- Be cautious in giving authority.
- Decide to redefine your limiting beliefs.
- Be a person of excellence.
- Be willing to embrace the unknown.
- Demonstrate sincere concern for others.
- Build on what works.
- Go above and beyond.
Tomorrow in the second part of this two-part series, I share more key moments that occurred during the second half of my career with Marriott that challenged me to face my fears, eat humble pie, inspired my passion for developing leaders and enabled me to realize a dream that many believed to be impossible. It is my hope that by sharing specific details of my story you will be inspired to tap into a greater measure of the seeds of greatness in your potential. You can do this. You are worthy of experiencing good in life. You matter.
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Note: For practical advice that's fresh, personal, relevant and speaks to the common challenges faced by most of us when we strive to move forward and live a life that inspires the best in us, read my latest book, Get Unstuck Now. Click here for details about it.