Strategic CIO // IT Strategy
Commentary
5/30/2014
10:25 AM
David Wagner
David Wagner
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

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.

the reason certain work needs to get done by a certain time. For example, "We need to get this done by the end of this week, or a factory will sit idle and people will get laid off," is a much more effective message than telling employees, "We have to get this in next week, because the project is three weeks behind schedule."

2. Show gratitude.
The study showed that of 19 types of politeness measured (such as saying "please," greeting people, deference to social standing, and apologies), only one showed a statistical impact on success rates: gratitude. Too many leaders don't bother saying thank you and mistake the paycheck for thanks enough. A little gratitude goes a long way toward making employees feel valued.

3. Be positive.
Not surprisingly, posts on a site where people ask for food tend to be negative and sad. Surprisingly, the Stanford study found that the posts that conveyed optimism and a positive attitude were more successful in getting a pizza than the downers. Sometimes, less "needy" individuals (like those asking for pizza for a birthday party, for example) had better results than those expressing great need. When it's time to rally your troops around a project or work event that you know they aren't going to like, try emphasizing the good news instead of the bad.

4. Be one of the gang.
The Stanford study showed that members of the Reddit community were more likely to help those who they thought were like them in some way. It's easy for leaders, especially those high up the ladder, to assume a persona that lifts them above the group. If you do that, be prepared to have it backfire at key moments of need unless you can also cultivate some aspect of "sameness." It works even better if you are actually able to relate to your employees. Even if you can't, do your best to cultivate a personality your team can relate to.

It should be easier for a leader to inspire a team than it is for people to get perfect strangers to buy them pizzas. You have the advantage of personal contact, a built-in understanding of why a team member might need to deliver at a given moment, and significantly more access to what makes them likely to get involved. But you also have the handicap that your behavior is monitored 40 hours (or more) a week by your team. If you want to be a good leader, you might want to consider treating your team members as if you always want them to buy you a pizza. Maybe they will. If they don't, at least they'll be more likely to work hard for you.

What inspires you at work? Which leadership traits have you found to be least effective in your IT organization? Tell us all about them in the comments section below.

Our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue -- our 26th ranking of technology innovators -- shines a spotlight on businesses that are succeeding because of their digital strategies. We take a close at look at the top five companies in this year's ranking and the eight winners of our Business Innovation awards, and offer 20 great ideas that you can use in your company. We also provide a ranked list of our Elite 100 innovators. Read our InformationWeek Elite 100 issue today.

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
Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 10 / 15   >   >>
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 7:15:01 AM
Re: Free Pizza
@Gigi3, that is true.  I get invitations from established vendors with "limited" seating for lunch seminars then I have them calling and more or less begging me to come out the week before the seminar, probably because they need to fill seats to justify the expense.  Sometimes the meeting gives me the feeling that I should have just stayed in the office because I could have read through a set of technical documents faster but in others people engage and it moves away from being a dry sales pitch.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 1:33:56 AM
Re: Productivity
"I would agree with you. I think even most managers would agree with you in the abstract. It is one of those self-evident points of management that managers always get wrong in real life. I wonder where we get the disconnect? And how do we fix it?"

David, they are disconnecting where there is a communication gap or when they fail to understand certain emotions. The best way is get socialized and always be as a good listener for them.
Gigi3
100%
0%
Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 1:31:39 AM
Re: 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."

saneIT, it can be the other way too. I mean, attracting more audience for the webinar by offering snacks and Pizzas
impactnow
50%
50%
impactnow,
User Rank: Ninja
6/3/2014 | 1:05:42 PM
Leadership personality
The management style that is least productive is micromanaging all it does is build distrust. I think all the tips are very beneficial especially being part of the gang and always remembering to say thank you. Sometimes management depends on big events for big impact but really it's the events of every day that shape employee morale.
SaneIT
50%
50%
SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/3/2014 | 7:07:13 AM
Re: Free Pizza
I haven't taken them up on the offer yet because they haven't had a seminar that I was interested in but the first one that comes up that sounds interesting to me I'm going to give it a try.  It does make me wonder how many people are out there doing this though since there seems to be some solid experiences with food and meetings.
cafzali
50%
50%
cafzali,
User Rank: Moderator
6/2/2014 | 9:51:06 PM
Re: "thank you"
@snunyc It's been my experience that this is a more common struggle for female managers. I think the most common reason this is the case is because there are fewer women managers, period. In other words, when something's not really unique, there's no associated pressure to be a good representation of a new trend; you can just take on the style that you believe works for you and your organization and that's that.

One of the things I've observed is that you can have a male manager that can be a nightmare to work for, but he's not likely to get labeled as much as a famele manager who people may not like. When a male is like that, it's just sort of taken as a given that a certain percentage are that way. But when women are like that, it's seen as a problem they need to remedy.

The other basic reason this is a struggle is we in America tack on all these extra things to workers and managers besides their performance. If you got rid of most of it and just looked at whether a person or manager was good at their job and if they could get along with the necessary people, then life would be much simpler. And, in reality, those are the things that should really matter.
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 8:33:40 PM
Re: "thank you"
@Pedro: Good for you, you are lucky. Now, I am too. I've long since left that organization and walked away with important lessons about human behavior that I would have rather not had but I am probably better off for knowing them. 

What also troubles me is how some employers seem to feel that they can take advantage of difficult economic times - when the job market is weak - to treat their employees poorly, knowing they have few options to walk away. These same employers will tend to treat people well only when there are too many jobs and too few people to fill them.

This to me, is the most egregious behavior of all. Because it has nothing to do with inherent humanity and everything to do with the bottom line. 
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 8:27:40 PM
Re: Show evidence of need
@moarsauce123: entirely relate to the frustration you're experiencing. In some organiations, it seems, only a select few are "allowed" to have ideas, and the rest are considered as simply meant to do the work that the "idea people" tell them to do. This is an unfortuante reality in many organizations. In fact, a good friend of mine just quit her dev job of 8 years for this very reason, after a while it becomes too much of a fight.

I recommend buying your bosses pizza and then calling a meeting in which you get to tell them all your ideas while their mouths are full of pizza, so they can't interrupt or shoot down your ideas.

;)
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 8:23:48 PM
Re: Free Pizza
@Lorna, @SaneIT: This is genius marketing and with the availability in certain cities of services such as SpoonRocket, pretty soon we won't be limited to just pizza. Although, of course, pizza is a can't-miss favorite, second only to coffee IMHO.
Susan_Nunziata
50%
50%
Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 8:22:08 PM
Re: "thank you"
@Alison: yes, if a suitcase full of cash is not an option, a heartfelt Thank You is always my second choice.
<<   <   Page 10 / 15   >   >>
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Dec. 9, 2014
Apps will make or break the tablet as a work device, but don't shortchange critical factors related to hardware, security, peripherals, and integration.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of December 14, 2014. Be here for the show and for the incredible Friday Afternoon Conversation that runs beside the program.
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.