Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
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5/30/2014
10:25 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
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Pizza & Leadership: 4 Lessons

If you want to be a good leader, treat your team members in a way that makes them want to buy you a pizza. Allow us to explain.

If you're reading this during lunch, you might find it useful for two reasons: You might get free pizza out of it, and you could learn to improve your leadership skills.

A Stanford research team recently examined social media sites, particularly the Reddit community Random Acts of Pizza, to determine successful strategies for inspiring altruistic behavior in online communities. What does this research have to do with leadership? Leaders in every line of work need to inspire altruistic behavior at times in order to inspire their teams.

According to Harvard Business Review, organizations with a higher level of employee enthusiasm report 22% higher productivity than their less-involved counterparts. Such companies also can be more innovative, more collaborative, and more successful than those that have low employee-morale scores.

[IT admins aren't happy with their jobs. Read IT Pros Stressed Out, Looking To Jump Ship.]

Think of it like this: You might have the power to order your team to burn the midnight oil to finish a project, but you know that the project will be more successful if your team is happily participating. Where does the pizza fit in? It doesn't hurt to order some for your team the next time you work late, but it's more than that.

The Random Acts of Pizza community on Reddit is devoted to giving pizza to people in need. People who are struggling, financially or otherwise, tell the community why they need help and hope that a kind community member will send them pizza based on their pitch. The pizza requesters on the site range from students seeking a midnight snack to the long-term unemployed fighting to make ends meet.

The Stanford team examined the posts from various perspectives, including politeness, length of post, wording, gratitude, and time of post, to see which communication strategies worked best. What they found out serves as a primer for more than how to nab free pizza. It's a guide for IT leaders who want to boost morale by appealing to their workers' sense of altruism.

Try incorporating these four lessons next time you need your team to go the extra mile:

1. Show evidence of need.
Successful pizza requests usually explain the need in detail (lost jobs, hungry kids, unexpected bills), according to the Stanford study. The longer the request, the more likely it was to be fulfilled. It also helped to add pictures, especially if they were of hungry kids or of cars needing to be fixed.

This shouldn't be surprising, and yet it's easy for leaders to hide behind seemingly arbitrary concepts, such as deadlines, rather than explain

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David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio
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Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 6:55:35 PM
Re: "thank you"
@cafzall: I like the idea of a "Thank You Culture" that should be a standard in every organization.

It's interesting to me what you say about "picking people for management-level positions that aren't only successful in handling the tactical aspects of their job, but are also people you actually like working for."

one of the things I've struggled with as a woman and as a manager is the incliniation to want to be "liked" in the workplace. i certainly want to be one of those managers that people like working for, though it has taken me some practice to realize that does not mean that everyone who works for me has to like me all the time.

I don't know if this is a particular challenge for me personally, for female managers in general, or if everyone learning to manage teams has work to overcome this tendency...

Thoughts?
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 6:49:01 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
@Rob: I don't see the two as mutually exclusive. Maybe "be one of the gang" isn't exactly the right way to phrase it--it's more about being your authentic self and above all else being human. Those leaders who truly inspire others to do their best are, in my experience, the ones who are able to show their true, authentic selves in the workplace, and strive to treat their employees with compassion and respect. In my experience, those who do that have it come back to them in spades, even in times when they have to make the tough decisions that will make some team members unhappy.

Taking this line of thinking further, even those leaders who are considered "difficult" (Steve Jobs) show their authentic selves for better or worse.

Where I have seen leaders run into toruble is when they behave the way they think managers are "supposed" to behave, or according to what's in some kind of Management 101 handbook.

To thine own self be true...

 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 6:42:08 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
@DavidC: Ha! and don't forget the beer...

Dave Wagner has hit on a new golden rule of management, IMHO: Treat eveveryone as if you want them to buy you a pizza.

I've definitely had bosses in past jobs who operated under a different philosophy: Treat everyone as if you want them to buy you a straitjacket.

;)

 
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
5/30/2014 | 6:02:26 PM
Re: Pizza and leadership: the unmentioned rule
@Charlie, I've heard the same "two pizza" rule of thumb applies at Amazon.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
5/30/2014 | 5:25:52 PM
Re: "thank you"
I've worked for two bosses who never said "thank you." It was difficult to work in that environment all the time. Needless to say, it's much easier to be productive when you know someone occasionally notices your efforts. Not looking for a parade, but a "well done" or "thanks" once in a while goes a long way.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 5:17:25 PM
Re: Pizza and leadership: the unmentioned rule
@Charlie- Wow, that's really interesting. I've known some developers who can really pack away the pizza though. That might mean teams of one. :)

Seriously though, I really like the strategy because it implies at the heart of it that a team is going to need to meet over pizza and long hours at some point and they need to know how to keep that team together. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 5:15:30 PM
Re: "thank you"
@cafzali- I think you really hit the nail on the head. Gratitude is free. And it goes really far. The fact that managers don't get this is really sad to me. Thank you should be at the center of every culture because no matter what else your culture is, it fits in. 

I personally think we get so caught up in how busy we are we often forget to be polite.
David Wagner
IW Pick
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 5:13:12 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
@jagibbons- There is no reason, in my mind, that this is an either/or proposition. If you make a tough decision that puts one group at risk or forces them to do something they don't like, then it is real leadership to go in and help them dust themselves off.

A real leader shares what they can about the decision using the same concepts I listed to build engagement and a sense of altruism from the team, but still makes the tought choices. 
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 5:09:00 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
@Rob- I think we agree. I tried to stress the notion of being relatable without necessary always relating. Think of it like a politician. Every politican has moments where they wear the power suit and talk policy, but they also make sure they have a photo op where they are in work clothes chopping wood on a ranch or having a beer in a local tavern.

You project your authority, but when it is time to ask for something (like a vote or for staying late) it is time to put on the "I'm one of you" face. 
David Wagner
IW Pick
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 5:06:15 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
@David- Agreed. I actually think companies should always buy the pizza. 

But I heard a very interesting counter argument recently. At the GDC, there was a presentation about mental disorders and the IT profession. Accoridng to the talk, 1 in 4 Americans suffers from disorders including anxiety and depression. The number is definitely 1 in 3 and some estimates have it as much as 1 in 2 in IT. The presenters argument is that the Silicon Valley style of offering free food, in-office gyms, dry cleaning, etc creates the sense that you are never allowed to leave because you don't need to. 

His argument waqs that if you don't offer the food, the gym, and the other perks and instead offer vouchers to local gyms or to buy lunch out, it encourages them to leave which is healthier.

So, while I support the company ordering the pizza, I think they should not have it delivered. 
<<   <   Page 14 / 15   >   >>
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