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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David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 2:33:38 PM
Re: Be one of the gang
@susan- I'm glad I helped the pizza industry. :)

I didn't put "Be One of the Gang" first, because I felt like a manager's ability to do that all the time depends on what level they are at. I do agree with Rob who posted earlier that the higher up you go, there needs to be a persona associated with being a leader. That said, there's still a way to relate that works at every level. I just didn't want people to think all I was really suggesting was that if you pretend you are not the boss it is enough.

But you are right, I think, that if you never forget your team is made up of people you are going to be successful with the rest.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 2:29:24 PM
Re: Looking forward to lunch
They would occasionally order pizza for the whole office or barbecue as a way to say thanks.


Out of curiosity, Michelle, does that work just as well as saying thank you? My general impression (and my experience reading Dilbert) says that "trinkets" don't repalce actual gratitutde. But it seems like company pass out the t-shirts, food and "perks" like candy (they even pass out candy), but that the words thank you are much more rarely used.
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 9:34:12 AM
Re: Productivity
That's a stat which makes sense. If you feel good about your position, feel appreciated and liked by your manager and colleagues, then you want to go to work and make a difference. If you don't feel that way, then perhaps you are less inclined to make any extra effort. It's just human nature!
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 9:25:15 AM
Re: "thank you"
If I've gone above and beyond, I really appreciate a "thanks." It can be as casual as an IM or email. It doesn't have to be any big deal. Being in publishing for so long, I've only rarely had cash bonuses -- although those are always welcome! So heartfelt thanks from a manager does go a long way.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 7:44:32 AM
Free Pizza
Now some of the "free lunch" invitations I've been getting recently are starting to make sense.  There is a local company offering to send a pizza to my office so I can eat while watching a webinar, I guess this is to make sure I'm ready to soak in all the information they are about to present.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 4:43:20 AM
Productivity
"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."

David, No doubt about that.  if employees are happy, they may became more enthusiastic and hence output will be more. So it's essential for employer to make them happy.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 2:00:01 AM
Re: "thank you"
it sad reality of new corporate env... but we are living in new age... everything is in the rush... to get to dead line... and forget humanity...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 1:57:52 AM
Re: Looking forward to lunch
I do not know... but most of the time I look at this problem... I'm here to work and get my paycheck... and nothing else matter... if I get thanks or not... I'm here to work and do my best...
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 1:56:02 AM
Re: Show evidence of need
interesting observation... but it all depends on many factors in play... including office politics...
moarsauce123
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moarsauce123,
User Rank: Ninja
6/1/2014 | 1:14:39 PM
Show evidence of need
That should not apply only to the work that needs to be done, but also, or even more especially to needing everyone on the team. Every team member ideally sees her or his contribution as needed. It is not enough to listen to experts on the team and the decide constantly against what they say. I am on a team like that where I try hard to make valuable contributions to quality just to have all ta shot down in favor of cramming more features in. While I'd still buy my boss and the product owner a pizza, it is that they are nice people, but not because of their business decisions.
<<   <   Page 8 / 11   >   >>
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