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.

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

Next Page

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
1 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
<<   <   Page 6 / 11   >   >>
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 6 / 11   >   >>
Transformative CIOs Organize for Success
Transformative CIOs Organize for Success
Trying to meet today’s business technology needs with yesterday’s IT organizational structure is like driving a Model T at the Indy 500. Time for a reset.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - September 17, 2014
It doesn't matter whether your e-commerce D-Day is Black Friday, tax day, or some random Thursday when a post goes viral. Your websites need to be ready.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
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.