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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nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
6/18/2014 | 3:14:16 PM
Re: Free Pizza
@Angelfuego I think the slico of pizza as a motivator can do wonders once in a while but it cannot be termed as a long time remedy. I agree that for a company motivated personnal are always wanted than un motivated lot. But I also believe that to keep them motivated we need to think of across the board solutions and not one time motivator.
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 9:00:46 AM
Re: Free Pizza
@Angelfuego,

Yes it is similar.  I used to have a cell phone vendor who would pick up lunch and bring it to me every couple of months so that he could have an hour of my time to show me new products.  For sales people this can be a great tool especially when they are trying to work with busy customers.

 
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 8:41:49 AM
Re: Free Pizza
I guess the "gift" status depends on who you are talking to and how your company defines gifts.  I've worked for companies where I couldn't accept pens from an office supply company or meals during training courses.  It made for some odd situations leaving from a training/demo when they started serving food. 
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 12:47:03 AM
Re: Free Pizza
"It kind of reminds me of how pharmaceutical reps bring lunches to serve the medical staff at doctor's offices."

Angel, Pharmaceutical companies are famous for offering such gifts to doctors and their staffs. I think doctors are the one gets maximum gifts and perks from other peoples than salary.
Gigi3
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Gigi3,
User Rank: Ninja
6/16/2014 | 12:42:55 AM
Re: Free Pizza
"Well in some instances people are not allowed to accept gifts and this includes meals.  I've worked for companies where I had to report any gift that a vendor gave me including meals when we met to talk business.  "

SaneIT, if there some retractions then you have to follow it. Otherwise such offers are tempting.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Moderator
6/15/2014 | 9:19:49 PM
Re: Free Pizza
@SaneIt, It kind of reminds me of how pharmaceutical reps bring lunches to serve the medical staff at doctor's offices.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Moderator
6/15/2014 | 9:17:17 PM
Re: Free Pizza
@Dave, Re: " Leaders in every line of work need to inspire altruistic behavior at times in order to inspire their teams.". I agree with that statement. I also think the notion behind this statement holds true for most relationships. What you put out, you get in return. Your mere attitude and altruistic efforts can inspire others to respond to you in a similar fashion and inspire them to pay it forward to others.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Moderator
6/15/2014 | 9:13:36 PM
Re: Free Pizza
I think morale is a big motivator. A high morale is a a big motivating factor and a low morale is a downward, negative spiral that is bad for each individual and the overall company. I think low morale reflects in job performance and willingness to not be as much of a team player. Sometimes a little bit of gratitude and a slice of pizza can go a long way.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 3:43:51 PM
Re: Free Pizza
same expr. I have with the Co. I work for... Do not accept any gift... but sales reps did bring coffee....
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Ninja
6/13/2014 | 1:31:27 AM
Re: Free Pizza
SaneIT, 

Not all the lunch invitations are gifts. Many other companies --obviously not those you mentioned where they wanted everything nicely reported-- have used lunch and breakfast as a way to save time as we all have to eat at some point and also to take the opportunity to have a business meeting in a more relaxed atmosphere, where you can also use food or the service as an ince-breaker. 

Even langauge companies use the setting of a business lunch in training their business students what to expect and how to interact during a business lunch meeting. They even have the lesson in a real restaurant and all. :) 

I worked for a while in places like Mexico where breakfast meetings are very common in business. Some companies don't consider these breakfasts or lunches as a gift but as an essential part of getting closer to the client and is not seen with any second intention, as it seems was the case with the companies you referred to, or maybe I am wrong? :/ 

-Susan
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