“Would you stay with us if you’d won the Lottery?”


Didier Marlier

June 28, 2012

From Disruption to Engagement

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“Would you stay in this job if you’d win the Lottery?” This is the question I have started to ask our young and promising talents in the Enablers network… It came to me after reading a recent article in the Brazilian newspaper “Globo”: All employees from the restaurant Cervantes, located in a luxurious neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro, did not show up to their jobs and announced they were walking away. The reason was that they had, each, made a healthy 635’000 R$ (approx. 300’000 €) by winning collectively at the Lottery.

What would I do, what would my partners do, what would our younger associates do, what would you do if such an unexpected treasure was landing on your door step, one early morning? Would you, would they, would I walk away or stay and continue work?

Not so long ago, I was commenting this with a Brazilian participant to a strategic marketing workshop we were running with our friends of StratX (http://stratxcorporate.com/). He reminded me of the powerful metaphor of the samba schools:

  • Thousands of people working the whole year through, the vast majority unpaid, just for the pride of taking part to the Carnival parade under the colours of their school
  • 4 to 6’000 people delivering top performance when they are acting together for the first time during the competition (samba schools are so big with 6’000 members that they can’t find a place where to practice jointly. So they have to perform at perception during their first attempt which is the competition).
  • Rating is done in a particularly unforgiving process: all schools start with a maximum of points (270 from memory). They can only loose points by showing slight imperfections. So they eyes of the judges are scrutinizing the 6’000 participants with the hope of finding the mistake that will justify a lower grade. Some years ago, one school lost the title simply because one of the 4’000 participants had forgotten to take his watch off while the allegory was about Roman times…
  • And to make things worse, not only do the people who trained for a whole year, have do be perfect, but they also have to integrate wealthy foreigners, some of them totally oblivious to what the spirit of samba schools is and, even drunk at times (but they are paying a healthy price to participate which sponsors part of the spending)

Were the 20 waiters who walked away from their jobs, without notice, the same that those who dedicate all of their leisure time without a single penny of financial compensation to their pride and passion of Carnival? At least they live in the same city of Rio de Janeiro.

So what can we learn here, as leaders?

  • Providing employment isn’t enough. We need to inspire our people with a higher Sense of Purpose… Against all odds, my admired Brazilian business partner, Carmen Migueles, almost burst into tears out of emotion some months ago, when we were working for a chemical company… Through discussion she had understood that these people were, more than anything else, in the business of potentially solving the problem of hunger in Brazil and maybe for the whole world. That is a higher purpose than “being in the specialty chemical business”… That is about leading through Pathos.
  • “Clarity creates its own energy” likes to say our partner, Michael Newman. The “good old days” when people expected and were expected to be told and deliver are gone. Nowadays leaders must co-create clarity, meaning and a sense of ownership if they wish to engage their people… This is what leading through Logos means.
  • How were the waiters treated in their jobs at the Cervantes for walking away so suddenly? Leaders create or destroy value through their behaviours. That is what leading through Ethos is all about.

A young partner of ours, to whom I was asking “Would you stay with us if you had won the Lottery?”, just sent me the following picture as a response. I found it moving and challenging. I’ll keep it on my desk to remind myself that my partners will stay as long as our work fulfills their Deep Intent, that it supports their development and… makes them happy!



  1. Chris Parker

    Dear Didier,

    Inspiring post, thank you. I particularly loved the quote from Michael: “Clarity creates it’s own energy.” That is so true, both in your personal and professional life.

    Kind regards,

  2. Victor Seco

    Hello Didier
    Very good post. It makes clear what Pathos, Logos and Ethos mean. The 20 waiters of the Brazilian restaurant, as Amy Wrzesniewski said, have no “calling”. They only have “job” work orientation. The non paid samba school participants have, indeed, an extra size calling.
    I like very much the quote of the last foto.
    Kind regards
    Victor Seco

    • Didier Marlier

      Thank you Victor, I think I will learn to summarize my thoughts with you 😉 In a few words, you extracted the key message of this all post. Thank you very much for the feedback! Didier

  3. Luiz Antônio Dourado Gonçalves

    What was said in the text and in Victor’s comments are both true. Yet hard to follow since sometimes money needs becomes a higher priority. Because of that the waiters probably took the job they had. That is why we do not see more people following the last phrase.
    Thanks for the inspiring words.



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