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 Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2014 | 10:55:14 AM
Be one of the gang
Dave, 

I would put being one of the gang in the first place and all the other three will come along easier. When the leader of the team camouflages with the gang it's easier for the team to go the extra mile to complete a deadline that was due three weeks ago.  

Showing the way with the example, being positive, motivational and inspiring. Adding some incentives whenever there is an extra task to complete always helps.

-Susan 

P.S. FYI, before reading your article I had to go and get myself a pizza to be my Sunday reading snack, because this week seems to have been pizza week with business or cybersecurity toppings and I couldn't resist any longer. :D 

 
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Strategist
5/31/2014 | 12:29:50 PM
Re: "thank you"
such stories can have negative consequences because it demolarize people.  I think many bosses lost their humanity.  Fortunately, my last boss was very polite with me every time I did a good job she said thank you.  Sometimes, saying thank you or congratulating a person for a good job is very meaningful.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Strategist
5/31/2014 | 11:45:43 AM
Looking forward to lunch
I have worked for some thankless bosses and some who were sure to say thank you. The thankless crowd were an odd breed. They would occasionally order pizza for the whole office or barbecue as a way to say thanks. Any other times during the year were brutal. Hard work was seldom rewarded. It was a tough place to be all day.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 7:49:21 PM
Re: "thank you"
@snunyc- Crazy. The craziest part is that I suspect that the company thought people should have been MORE grateful they got a paycut and not a pink slip rather than 10% less grateful.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 7:17:35 PM
Re: "thank you"
@Alison: Hear hear! I don't really get why so many organizations are such "thankless" cultures. I worked at one privately held organization many years ago where the attitude among senior managers was just as Dave said in his post: Your salary is thanks enough, be grateful for it. Only at this company, the added insult to the injury was: And, oh, by the way, we're instituting 10% blanket pay cuts for everyone (except the c-suite) effective next payday. The very next day, the company's CFO had a brand new Audi delivered to the office parking lot on a flatbed truck and we later learned the comapny was paying the lease for that vehicle as his reward for being such a good cost cutter.

True story.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 7:16:51 PM
Re: Pizza and leadership: the unmentioned rule
The idea here is basically that the organization is made up of "cells" of no more than, say, 8 people (assuming 8 slices per pie, two slices per person)? Surely at some point they must have to meet on a larger scale...

I noticed Charlie said development teams and not just teams. I suspect they have bigger teams in other depasrtments. It seems reasonable to imagine that in development teams where agility is needed and where work can be divided.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 7:03:42 PM
Re: Pizza and leadership: the unmentioned rule
@Charlie: And, apparently, they enjoy short lines for a slice of pizza...

That is fascinating, and sensible. I'm having trouble imagining how that can possibly scale -- which shows the limits of my imagination, not the limits of the concept.

The idea here is basically that the organization is made up of "cells" of no more than, say, 8 people (assuming 8 slices per pie, two slices per person)? Surely at some point they must have to meet on a larger scale...

 

 
David Wagner
IW Pick
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 7:01:27 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
Dave Wagner has hit on a new golden rule of management, IMHO: Treat eveveryone as if you want them to buy you a pizza. 


Thanks! Maybe I should sell it as a t-shirt. :)
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 6:59:56 PM
Re: "thank you"
@snunyc- I suspect that isn't only a woman thing. I have an intense need to be liked, and I struggle when I have to make the unpopular call. I do it, but I hate it. 

But I do think it is a "nice person" thing and I think society has long given men more permission to be jerks. 

But walking the line between friend and manager is always going to be a very real issue for any real person. 
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
5/30/2014 | 6:59:03 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
@Dave: you mean like how every politician likes to tell the story of how they were raised in a log cabin? Because they think it will make them more relatable to the general public?

:)
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