Grab a slice and ask a question––leaders eat last

Goal

Increase feedback and participation–especially among quiet voices.

What

The ‘Pizza Slice’ is an invitation to provide feedback disguised as a free lunch.

But, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Those who grab a slice, have to ask a question–one per slice.

I started using it many years ago. As a CEO, I was finding it difficult to engage in a dialogue with people in lower ranks. It worked so well that I coach it now with some of my clients. Try it and let me know how it goes.

The host has to answer all questions without filtering. S/he eats the last slice after addressing everyone’s issues.

Unlike other practices where individuals are on the spot, the Pizza Slice puts the leader on the uncomfortable situation. S/he can’t choose which questions to address neither the order. People feel in control. They are not obligated to ask questions. But, on the other hand, no one wants to say no to a lovely pizza.

How

Invite a group for a free lunch at the office. Make invitation optional. This will encourage participation and make it less intimidating.

Keep the group small (6-10 participants) to encourage participants. Buy more pizzas than needed–the idea is to allow people to ask as many questions as needed.

Seat the group in a circle with both the pizzas and the leader at the center.

Explain how the dynamic will work:

  • Everyone who grabs a slice of pizza must ask a question to the host (you)
  • The questions are asked in order–whoever grabbed the first slice goes first and so on.
  • The host must answer each question before moving to the next.
  • People can choose to ask as many questions as they want. Every slice requires people to ask one question.
  • When the group is done asking questions, the host gets the chance to eat a slice.
  • S/he can then ask questions about the exercise, but not about other topics. The idea is to create a safe space where people can ask whatever they want without feeling intimidated.

Moderation Tips

This powerful exercise that gets people to open up and share their feedback or concerns in the form of questions.

Provide some examples to encourage people to ask open-ended questions. For example, “What’s not working? What’s Working?” or “How can I be more …? What do you expect from me? If I leave, what would you like your new boss to do first?”

Like every new practice, it takes time to drive adoption. Be patient if participation is not good in the beginning. Or if the questions are too safe. Let people test the waters.

Avoid controlling who grabs how many slices or who should come next. Let the group self-regulate. Let the people decide what to do if someone breaks the rule (i.e., one person ate a slice but didn’t ask a question).

Make sure not to interrupt or dismiss anyone’s questions. The purpose of the exercise is to understand people’s worries, what everyone is thinking, but nobody is saying or fears.

I suggest you check out the Overcome the Stinky Fish exercise, as they complement each other.

Don’t forget to keep it fun and relaxed. You are just having a pizza with your team.