Leadership Hack: The Pizza Model for Happy and Productive Teams

Adi Oz
Adi Oz
Apr 10, 2019 · 6 min read
Photo by Miguel Andrade on Unsplash

My first year as a manager in a software company was very challenging.
Not only was I managing six people directly, but three of them decided to quit during that year.

It was easy to think that they all left because of me, but that was not the case. The fact was that each one of them that left told me:

“You’re a great manager, you’re not the reason I’m leaving”

When the first team member left, that phrase was a compliment to me. This was because we had a good relationship and I knew he was thinking about leaving before I became his manager. So that one is totally not on me.
The reasons for him leaving were because he didn’t get many chances to create impact and he usually got very simple tasks that were not part of the core product in the company.

When the second team member left, it was harder to find anyone else to blame. There was a disconnect between the feedback I was receiving both from my managers and my team members and the reality of people leaving my team.

When the third team member left, it was a hard blow to the stomach. There was no way to rationalize how three team members left the team and that it had no relation to me. For days my colleagues tried to assist and gave me some ideas but they had no practical answers that fit my type of management.

So many thoughts were starting to appear in my head, and I kept thinking to myself:

“Am I as good manager as they told me?”
“What am I missing in the puzzle?”
“Maybe I’m not a good fit for a managerial position?”

The conquest for self-improvement

It was just when the weekend vacation has started when I found myself taking proactive actions for improving my skills, starting with reading books about management. Although I was really motivated to start reading them, I starting to neglect a book after book because they tend to show high-level situations without going deeper into details.

I felt it was the right time to explore the relationship between my team, myself and the workplace to find practical answers. The change in my managerial perception came a few months after starting to read about psychology, exploring human nature and also doing my own research looking for the main reasons why people quit their job. Suddenly, getting so much data grew my confidence to a point that made me create the concept of the pizza model for happy and productive team members.

Since sketching this model back in 2015, I was able to improve my managerial abilities and achieve better results with productive and satisfied team members that I admire.

If you want to become a better manager, try and use the Pizza Model. There are high chances you’ll find it useful.

The Model

The Pizza model can be broken into four different sections, which represent four different aspects of an employee’s needs.

H&P team member pizza slices — aspire for 4/4

The social aspect of the employees plays a big role in their contentment. We should make people love their Monday mornings at work with their colleagues, it can start by doing something fun together every week. we also want to make sure to eat breakfast or lunch together with our team.
Going out after work to drink a beer or a play an instrument will be a norma. We should know each members’ interests and create the right atmosphere to achieve a true friendship among our team.

Workaholism doesn’t last! As managers, we need to make sure that our employees have a good work-life balance. They should enjoy their weekends, spend time with their families and follow their dreams in parallel to the company goals. Encourage them to invest time in their hobbies. If they are not doing that, ask them what bothers them in life and be a good listener.

Part of the idea of working is getting paid for the contribution to your workplace.

While some people are satisfied with getting a contribution to their work… all of us are motivated by our salary and additional benefits the workplace gives us.

There are many ways to compensate our employees. As managers, we should know in advance that our employees are happy with what they earn. While some require a larger weekly salary, others will want to get company stocks.
When we cannot achieve the desired monetary compensation in the form of an increased salary or stock options, we need to be more creative. For example, offer employees who have been working hard two tickets for a night at the movies. You will see an immediate impact on their motivation.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

“Insanity Is Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Again and Expecting Different Results” Albert Einstein

Know your team members skills, learn what gives them motivation and make sure to show them a professional self-improvement vision. Meaning that each team member should always have goals around subjects that will both make him motivated and will contribute to the company’s success. The motivation will decrease if his daily job will consist of more and more comfort and known tasks.

We live in a world of FOMO (fear of missing out) and that means that if our employees are doing the same thing over and over again, it will lead in negative thoughts about what they can learn in other places.

Putting the Pizza Model to use

Each individual has a different motivation scale, the happy team member pizza slices may vary between our team members. For example, you can see below the model I draw for one of my previous team members:

example for an individual happy team member

I could spend hours of trying to speak with the CFO about increasing his salary, making sure he has a good work-life balance, etc…

None of these will matter if I wouldn’t create an environment that will make him study new skills. It was my job to connect him to people in our company that are more experienced and also giving him more time to learn by himself. We celebrated small wins together so he can really feel that every day he learns something new and gains more knowledge. This was his main motivation.

How I Bake my pizza

The way I use the model today in our agile world is by creating a yearly pizza tray that fits each one of my employees.

Note that exactly like our environment, people constantly change themselves and their priorities, from time to time the toppings and their percentage will change accordingly.

If you are in a leading position aspire that all your team members will be satisfied with the aspects of the Pizza model.
I’m creating yearly goals based on the model together with my team.
Asking them:

“ From a scale of 1–10 how happy are you waking up to go to work?”

If the answer is 8 or below, find the gap together and fill the pizza with the relevant toppings.

I want to share my huge appreciation to my friends that gave me constant feedback about this article and especially to tomerpacific, the Pizza Model might never be published without your mentoring and you pushing forward to complete it.

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Adi Oz

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Adi Oz

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