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Stories can change something normal into something extraordinary

Posted by  Ronald van Domburg —July 22, 2014
Filed in Anecdotes, Business storytelling

A few months ago, in my car on the way to see a client, I heard an interview on the radio. There was this lady who had been nominated for the title ‘Cleaning Lady of the Year’.

The woman told the journalist about her work in a way that completely surprised me. She was so enthusiastic, so full of passion and energy. This woman loved cleaning.

Happy cleaning lady

Her career began when her house was so spic and span that there was simply nothing to do anymore, and her husband begged her to find a job as a cleaning lady. So she took a job at a primary school, cleaning the classrooms.

Stories can change something normal into something special

The arrangement was that the schoolkids would do some tidying before going home and the woman would take care of the rest.

To encourage the children in their cleaning, the woman would write a few compliments on the blackboard along with her name, and perhaps a little drawing.

For the kids, it became a sport to clean up their room as much as possible. In the morning, they couldn’t wait to enter the classroom to see what had been written on the blackboard this time.

What struck me the most about the woman’s story was the reaction of the journalist. At the beginning of the interview, he asked her some critical questions, as journalists do.

But at a certain point he became fully disarmed by her grace, enthusiasm and openness. He was unable to remain detached. He was touched by the woman’s professional yet utterly human story.

The cleaning lady’s little story is an example of how you can turn something normal into something special – how you can work in such a way that even the most ‘boring’ task becomes extraordinary.

Great stories can be found everywhere

This little anecdote also proves that great stories can be found everywhere. They don’t just exist in great movies or literature. We can look around us and find such stories in everyday life. I call them little pearls.

It is the collection of these little pearls and the use of them at just the right moment that makes my life richer and more meaningful.

Now, whenever I sit down at my desk to do some chore, such as my tax administration, I ask myself: How can I do this task in a way that makes it just as enjoyable as the way in which the cleaning lady does her work?

About  Ronald van Domburg

Ronald is a leader in the field of organisational change. He is based in the Netherlands and uses stories to help leaders cut through all the noise that happens in any change initiative. Find out about upcoming Netherlands Storytelling for Leaders workshops here.

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