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.

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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Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/12/2014 | 3:46:27 AM
Re: Free Pizza
"I don't doubt that they want my business, why invite me if they weren't trying to sell me something?  I tend not to take advantage of these offers though.  "

saneIT, how peoples can resist their offer? For business they will do all sorts of canvassing, offer commissions, gifts etc.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/10/2014 | 11:46:38 PM
Re: Be one of the gang
Dave, 

Indeed. And all that makes up Leadership 101: In Search for The Friday's Pizza. :D 

-Susan
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/9/2014 | 4:41:18 PM
Re: Be one of the gang
Another thing that proves to be sucessful is to never forget you were not born being a boos. Most likely you climbed the career ladder passing through all the steps your employees are at today. 

@Susan- True! I think I'd also add rember that you weren't born to be the boss either. It isn't like the divine right of kings. You can be replaced by people who are better at it than you.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 7:31:27 AM
Re: Free Pizza
I don't doubt that they want my business, why invite me if they weren't trying to sell me something?  I tend not to take advantage of these offers though.  If I know there is no way I'm buying what they are selling or I'm not interested at all I don't go and eat on their tab.  I know some companies that have policies about accepting anything from a potential vendor so sometimes it surprises me that these offers are coming through so frequently. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 3:40:50 AM
Re: Be one of the gang
Dave, 

Another thing that proves to be sucessful is to never forget you were not born being a boos. Most likely you climbed the career ladder passing through all the steps your employees are at today. 

Remember that keeps you being one of the gang at the same time that you have the tools to lead your gang. Otherwise, you weren't the boss. :D

Plus, you can be an inspiration and role model for your employees, and maybe one day one of them becomes a boss and remembers you as their example and inpiration.

In other words, you can be a good influence creating future good bosses. 

Having a good memory, then, will also buy you a lot of pizza. :) 

-Susan 
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/9/2014 | 3:21:58 AM
Re: Free Pizza
"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."

SaneIT, there are two reasons for such invitation and begging. First is they have to fill the seat with certain level of peoples and secondly there after they may be behind you for the business.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/5/2014 | 7:36:04 AM
Re: Free Pizza
That may be true, I can't say that I would put it past a desperate sales person to bribe a customer.  I've had lunches at some very nice restaurants where a presenter droned on an no one paid any attention but then I've been to others where I felt like I didn't have time to eat because I was too busy asking questions and was caught up in the presentation.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 8:59:03 PM
Sugar Coated Reality
Hi David   It is certainly great to see you here Sir.    I am getting familiar with the site, and it great to see a familiar face in the crowd.

I really like this first piece, and I really can relate to the first principle of getting your workers to buy pizza for the boss.

Show evidence of need - it would be so nice to hear the truth ( that layoffs will be the result ) of a unsuccessful project.  Because it (layoffs) will happen whether you "sugar coat reality" or not.
vnewman2
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vnewman2,
User Rank: Ninja
6/4/2014 | 8:14:53 PM
Re: Leadership personality
@impactnow: My advice to all the micromanagers out there - and you know who you are, or do you? - is if you don't like the work style of your subordinate, it is best not to delegate the task and just do it yourself.  Or at least provide step-by-step instructions on how you want something done.  And if you don't, then do not expect someone with a different set of skills, knowledge and abilities (read: every other person in the world) to complete a task in the same way you think is best.

Why is it some managers just want to work with clones of themselves?  I mean it's their show and they are entitled to run it how they want, but seriously now...get over yourselves.
David Wagner
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David Wagner,
User Rank: Strategist
6/4/2014 | 3:59:46 PM
Re: Free Pizza
@SaneIT- I think you are hitting on the difference between a gift and a bribe. A gift is something you give to someone for doing something that you know they'd have done anyway. it is designed to show appreciation. A bribe is when you give somethign to someone to do something you know they wouldn't do otherwise.

When it comes to online content or sale pitches or any of those sorts of things, the difference has to do with the event and not the gift. It is so hard to tell until it is too late. I think the degree of desperation in the sales pitch is the only way.
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