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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.

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.

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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
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
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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.
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 8:19:17 PM
Re: Pizza & Leadership
@Zerox203: Well said indded: Maybe ultimately, the real lesson is that you ought to try and learn from everything that you do, and be mindful of where else in life you can apply those benefits to maximize your time here on earth.

And, yes, pizza can be a VERY profound thing..

Dave's post, and your comment here, were like lightbulbs going off in my head, and you've made obvious what I hadn't before considered, which is how fundamentally most of us really do want to support one another. 

What I wonder, then, is what happens to leaders in particular, but really to so many in the workplace, where the innate human qualities of altruism and empathy get so far removed from how people behave at work.

Is this evidence of yet another evolutionary trait of establishing dominance over turf, as wolves and the big cats would do, for example? Why doesn't the desire to good in business outweigh the compulision to push others out of the way?
Susan_Nunziata
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Susan_Nunziata,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 8:13:11 PM
Re: When the Moon Hits Your Eye
@Lufu: this is even more true for me now that I'm gluten-free. 

I've been thinking alot about what Dave talks about here, though, as far as how many leaders I've worked for that I would sincerely want to buy a pizza for. Fortunately, at the moment I'd buy pizza every week for my leaders, but it hasn't always been like that. 

It also makes me wonder if I've been the kind of leader in my management posititions that would inspire my people to want to buy me pizza...

(don't worry, Dave, Curt & Sara--you don't have to answer that.)
LUFU
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LUFU,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 6:15:38 PM
When the Moon Hits Your Eye
While I enjoy a good pie as much as the other person, what I always found more rewarding and encouraging was a sincere "Thank you" or getting "Credit where credit is due" from either my boss or my co-workers.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
6/2/2014 | 4:14:07 PM
Re: Pizza & Leadership
Basically, what we can glean from this is really not all that surprising. If you keep looking at social research like this, you'll run up against a common theme pretty often; most human interactions are related. Just like with wolves and their baring of teeth, we're prone to a small set of reactions that we use for a variety of situations. Maybe you wouldn't think that a manager ought to seek altruism from his team members, but the truth is that 'charity' comes from a sense of community. I've read that our desire to help other people is the same desire that drives primate family groups - the idea is that, someone else's family being healthy is almost as important to your children's future as your family being healthy. In that sense, it makes perfect sense that managers ought to try and drum up a healthy environment of charity and community in the workplace!

Funny how you can always draw parallels from two seemingly unrelated things - and sometimes they can even help you see things you couldn't otherwise. Curt (Franklin) wrote on article last year on EnterpriseEfficiency about applying lessons from woodworking to IT, and the results there were just as useful as the ones you have here, Dave. Maybe ultimately, the real lesson is that you ought to try and learn from everything that you do, and be mindful of where else in life you can apply those benefits to maximize your time here on earth. Maybe that's a little melodramatic of a lesson to get out of pizza, but then again, I think we all know that pizza can be a very profound thing.




Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
6/2/2014 | 4:12:40 PM
Re: Free Pizza
It really is smart. Innovative and it would make people smile, for a low cost.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 2:51:10 PM
Re: Free Pizza
@SaneIT- Wow, that's a really smart idea. People are less grumpy when fed. Pizza is the perfect food. People listen better when they have something in their hands. This is brilliant.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 2:48:06 PM
Re: Productivity
@Gigi3- 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 Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/2/2014 | 2:44:06 PM
Re: Show evidence of need
Every team member ideally sees her or his contribution as needed.


@moarsauce123- How is that accomplished? Are we supposed to assume it? Is management supposed to help us realize it? I'm willing to say maybe we're all whiny brats and should just assume we are all needed or we'd be fired. But that seems like a tough life (though maybe i'm a whiny brat).
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