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What’s Inside Your Message?

Seth Godin's latest best-seller Free Prize Inside! is subtitled The Next Big Marketing Idea. Initial copies of the book were packaged in cereal boxes, illustrating the marketing concept we all learned as kids: it's not the delicious taste, it's the plastic toy at the bottom of the box that makes us want--and beg for--the cereal. As Seth puts it, "It's a marketing book for an era where the real marketing happens inside the product, not in the ad pages of a magazine." The book is full of real-life success stories and thought-provoking ideas of how to make your work remarkable.

Reading the book reminded me of the contrasting leadership styles of two former bosses. One used to walk through the office on random Friday afternoons passing out $100 bills to salespeople who had sold something that day. His idea of a free prize was $100 just for doing your job.

The other boss relied on his message to inspire the sales force. I remember an annual sales managers meeting where a hired motivational speaker used an analogy to encourage us to reach our full potential. He explained that if you place fleas in a jar, they will initially jump as high as they can. But after hitting the lid, the fleas will become conditioned to jump only as high as the lid. When the cap is removed, the fleas will continue to hop only to the height where the lid once was. It seemed like a good metaphor and we all got the point. But when our boss got up to speak, he declared the analogy inappropriate. He said, "When the people in this room bump up against the lid, they don't limit how high they jump. They just push through the lid."

I forget if I ever received $100 on a Friday afternoon, but I will always be inspired by the second leader's flea story comment. We expect managers to tell us what to do, and how to do it. But finding a leader who can tell us why--and make us want--to do something is like discovering a free prize in our cereal.

Values-based leaders Have a Vision and Convince Others To Share It. Surprise your employees with a free prize of your own.
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