Almost every caring, intelligent leader I’ve met has at some point attempted to solve a morale, motivation, or engagement problem with a pizza party.
In our linear-thinking world, when faced with a problem, we often respond immediately with “we need more ____.”
- We need more people
- We need more time
- We need more money
- We need more pizza…
We come up with an answer to a problem we don’t fully understand and jump into action, applying our thinking to the symptoms of the problem, not the root. This approach is fast but rarely effective and often results in the same or similar issues coming up repeatedly.
If you’ve attempted to solve a morale issue with pizza, you may have already discovered that free pizza can create an attitude change, but it rarely lasts. And unfortunately, it often worsens the problem. Reacting to the symptoms, we then buy better pizza and maybe switch to steak. Well-intentioned, our frustration and pizza budget continue to grow.
Pizza doesn’t work because low morale and lack of motivation and engagement are symptoms of a deeper problem. For example, people may be frustrated because they don’t feel that senior leaders understand them or involve them in solving problems. In this case, the pizza party has simply reinforced the problem and perpetuated the morale and motivation issues.
To solve a problem properly, we need to get to the root of the problem before implementing a solution. First, we need to understand what is causing the symptoms. Then we can focus on solving those underlying issues.
In the case of morale, motivation, and engagement, we need to understand people and the systems in which they work. We need to ask educated questions to understand the thoughts and feelings behind their behaviour and the barriers they face. We need to partner with them to create an environment that enables them to do their best work.
That doesn’t mean there’s no place for pizza. You can throw the biggest and best pizza party in company history to celebrate the improved and sustained morale, motivation, and engagement resulting from your effective problem-solving efforts.