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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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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