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
7/7/2014 | 3:29:40 AM
Re: Free Pizza
"These s called official lunches do have some inside buiness as well. I worked for a firm where it was routine to take any delegation comming for visit to be taken to best hotel around with some party time as well. Much of the time the remedy works is we got the deals. So I think its a good stunt to have buisness."

Nomii, without that intention why they have to offer free lunch/dinner for us?
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 11:08:48 AM
Re: Free Pizza
thank you, human nature is an interesting... as to each his own reward... so to say...
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 10:51:33 AM
Re: Free Pizza
@Gigi I agree with you. These s called official lunches do have some inside buiness as well. I worked for a firm where it was routine to take any delegation comming for visit to be taken to best hotel around with some party time as well. Much of the time the remedy works is we got the deals. So I think its a good stunt to have buisness.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
7/3/2014 | 10:47:39 AM
Re: Free Pizza
@Batye I agree with your actions to keep employees motivated but I think these rewards are just icing on the cake, emplyees need complete cake first to be true which includes basic necessaties of life fullfilled. I believe that these rewards will defintely work for a person free of worries rather than those trying to make both ends meet.
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 7:12:02 PM
Re: Free Pizza
everything and anything could become good motivator... even printed paper on the wall... - saying employee of the day... as human nature.... of vanity :)
batye
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batye,
User Rank: Ninja
7/1/2014 | 7:10:12 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...

in my books it would be do not accept any favors you could not repay back legaly :)... simple....
StaceyE
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StaceyE,
User Rank: Apprentice
6/30/2014 | 7:21:03 PM
Re: Nice comparison, but ...
@ David

I think who is paying for the pizza is very relevent... ;)
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
6/19/2014 | 12:57:31 PM
Being the same...or not
Being like other people might work on an internet pizza giveaway but it might just backfire at the office. Especially if you suddenly try to become their buddy, understanding their problems that you really don't understand or even just don't have. It can come off as false, so be careful.

I've known managers that even think they are like everyone else they work with, except their whole team knows the manager's lifestyle is vastly different from their own, no kids, no mortage, takes exotic vacations while everyone else is struggling to pay the bills and juggle summer vacation day care and if they are lucky get to go somewhere to meet the folks that's not their hometown. It's simply harder to pull of the 'everyman' aspect when you're not.
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.

 
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