February, 2002, and my hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica was upgrading its computers. And along with this upgrade, the hotel was upgrading its computer cables. Yes, computer cables, or commonly known in the IT Community as "CAT 5" cables, which is short for "Category Five". This is the standard rubberized computer cable that connects your PC or laptop into the wall. These CAT 5 cables come in many colors, like blue, grey, red, and green, and if you look closely, they even say "CAT 5" in white letters along the side. And in February, 2002, we were getting some new ones (CAT 6 perhaps?), along with the hotel-wide computer upgrade. Which means that we had hundreds of meters of "old" computer cables, and we were giving them away to anyone who wanted them.
At the time, I was the Director of Housekeeping, overseeing a team of over 100 Ladies and Gentlemen at the 430-room resort and golf course. A team who lived far from the hotel, in the hills and villages outside of the resort area of Montego Bay, and who were brought to the hotel each day by our busses that picked them up at 7:30am sharp. I once had the privilege of being invited to visit one of the villages where many of them lived, and was struck by the living conditions; many of them lived in houses with makeshift tin roofs, the earth was their floor, and their light bulbs hung on strings attached to the ceiling. And each day they would get into the resort bus and come to work at the most luxurious resort in the country and perhaps the entire Caribbean, and serve our wealthy guests with a huge genuine smile, in a posh hotel that could not possibly be any more opposite to their own homes. The massive respect and admiration I have for them remains to this day.
So when one of my Room Attendants named Diane came to see me to request a few meters of extra CAT 5 cable, I found it a bit odd. I had seen the area where she lived, and was quite certain she would not have a home computer; indeed, if memory served, she may not have even had running water. What could she possibly want with a computer cable? Did she intend to sell it? Did she have a friend somewhere in town that had a computer? My lack of understanding puzzled me. So in the most polite way I could muster, I asked her if she knew what this CAT 5 cable was, and what it was used for. And her reply has stayed with me to this day.
Diane replied, "Yeah mon, I know what it is, but I want it because outside me house me have two small trees, and if I tie de cable between dem trees, it would make a strong clothesline for me to hang de laundry". And I stared at her, stunned, humbled, and embarrassed about my own very narrow view of life, and how unappreciative I was of the blessings I had. So Diane went home that day with 3 meters of CAT 5 clothesline, and I went home with a newfound sense of gratitude, and a reminder that one person's trash is truly another person's treasure.
About the author
Steve Cokkinias is the Founder & CEO of InnSense Leadership (www.innsense.com) which he established in 2012 after a successful 17-year career in the hospitality industry that included senior positions with Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and Sheraton in the U.S.A, Caribbean, and Asia. An inspiring and sought-after speaker and executive coach, Steve has delivered energizing programs on service, leadership, and talent management to a wide range of international companies. During his 9 years as General Manager in Kuala Lumpur, his hotel was named "Best Employer in Malaysia" 4 times consecutively by Hewitt & Associates, earning him a place on Human Capital Asia's "Hot 40 - Asia's H.R. Superstars". In 2010, Steve was named Malaysia's "General Manager of the Year" by the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards. His new book, "InnSanity - Leadership Lessons from a Lifetime in Luxury Lodging", is due for release in early 2013. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow Steve on Twitter: @stevecokkinias.