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Chris LoCurto

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September 7, 2011

Do You Use ‘Mushroom Communication’ With Your Team?

September 7, 2011 | By | 25 Comments">25 Comments

If you’re like me, communication is something that you struggle with. For me, that’s really funny because I am a public speaker, educator and blogger. So you would think it wouldn’t be a problem. It is.

In Please…Say Something! I discuss a meeting I had 10 years ago with one of my sales team, who shared with me how I wasn’t communicating very well. I assumed my team knew what was in my head. How could they possibly know what I wasn’t sharing with them? As I discovered what I was doing wrong, I went to work on over-sharing as much as I could with the team.

Over-sharing, however, tends to be an issue for a lot of leaders. Some, for the same reason as me, but others because they think it’s unnecessary. Many believe their team members should be on a need-to-know basis—only giving them information as the leader(s) sees fit. I agree that your team should be on a need-to-know basis…because they NEED TO KNOW!

We call not over-sharing Mushroom Communication—leaving your people in the dark and feeding them manure. It is a terrible way to lead your team. It leaves them feeling uninformed, undervalued, left out, unable to successfully do their job, and worried that something’s going on that might affect them and they don’t know about it. Lack of communication is a top reason why people leave a company to go somewhere they feel they can be champions.

So how can you change? Well, it starts by understanding there’s an issue. Here are a few steps to turn it around:

  • Discuss it – Talk with your long-term team members and ask them what they think of your communication. Tell them to be brutally honest because you are trying to improve your leadership and make their lives easier. Ask what steps you can take to make it better.
  • Write it – Put in writing what it is you want to communicate with your team members. This will help you visualize what you’re telling them and see the areas that need more information. Look it over and ask yourself if you would be able to do their job with the amount of information you’ve provided.
  • Question it – In every meeting you have, always ask: Does that make sense? Do you have any questions? Is there anything else you need to be successful on this?

As you do these steps, it will give your team the feeling that you really do want them to succeed. It will also allow them the opportunity to speak up and get all the information necessary.

Great communication takes time to get right. It’s been a decade since I first started, and I’m still working on being a great communicator. Do I mess up? Of course I do. But I’m way better than I was 10 years ago.

Question: What techniques have you used to make you a better communicator?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/machteld.geuskens Machteld Geuskens

    Hi Chis, I didn’t read this post till now… but my current PhD research, in philosophy, is inspired by experiencing mushroom communication, and wanting to show the world what is wrong with it. Do you have literature you can refer me to? Where does the term come from? Thank you! M

  • http://lgthaxton.wordpress.com Louise Thaxton

    This is a great post! I have struggled with “communication” for some time – and only within the last few years do I feel like I have made progress.

    I somehow think that the team can read my mind!

    One of the things I have started doing is after a team meeting – to send out an e-mail – highlighting what we discussed – clarifying any points I thought maybe were NOT clear – and then asking…….”….does this make sense to you?”

    And sometimes they can read my mind…..(scary)

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      That’s the way to do it!

  • http://twitter.com/mahez007 Uma Maheswaran S (@mahez007)

    To be a better communicator, a leader must first understand the pulse of his team. He must speak to their heart.

    He should ensure that his communication has the below three components without fail:

    Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

    — Ethos is the credibility of whoever is referenced in thehis communication…”according to so and so..etc.”

    — Logos is the logical and intellectual aspect of the communication.

    — Pathos is the emotional or feeling aspect of the communication that moves someone.

  • http://medicalaccountsolutions.wordpress.com medicalaccountsolutions

    Chris, I struggle at knowing what is a “need to know” basis. I have been told many times, you communicate more than I would to an employee or about that. Can you really communicate too much? I have always felt the more you are aware and informed the better equipped you are as an individual to do your part and act with insight. Any tips?

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      The only thing that I consider to be information you don’t share is anything that the team member can’t digest. P & L for example is something that a lot of team members can’t get a real grasp around, and might not understand the risk/reward numbers for an Entrepreneur. Otherwise, if the information has anything to do with making that team member successful, it needs to be shared. Plain and simple.

      It’s so good to have you back Misty!

  • http://ginasmom.wordpress.com ginasmom

    Just because it’s so clear in my mind, others can’t read it, and they actually need for me to spell it out, and possibly do it in a variety of ways. A great concept when put into practice. Since internalizing this, it’s made it a little easier to for me to communicate, as i constantly remind myself that’s it’s a very good thing that nobody can read my mind.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Hahaha…amen sister!

  • http://ericspeir.com/ Eric Speir

    I struggle with communicating as well. I just found myself in a situation today where I thought that everyone knew what I knew and I was wrong. I’m learning to over-communicate and to be clear about what I expect from people. Another thing that I do is to write things down and to make an agenda for every meeting. It really helps in communicating with other people.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      I like it. Anything to jog the brain on what needs to be shared.

  • http://twitter.com/ColetteMarx Colette Marx (@ColetteMarx)

    Chris, really good points! Communication is important in all walks of life, yet it’s a skill that few have been able to master effectively.

    A couple suggestions to help improve communication between team members would be to have an open door policy, where they feel comfortable asking questions (because we all know the only dumb question is the one not asked), and having a 5 minute white board team meeting.

    In that meeting, all the tasks of the week are put up on a dry erase board that need to be accomplished, and then are prioritized so the most important tasks are completed first. This helps eliminate overlapping and the team will see areas where they can help each other out as well as knowing what everyone is working on.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Great stuff Colette!

  • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com specializingintheimpossible

    I tend to be an over-sharer….mostly because I want no misunderstandings. I seek to come to an understanding; not push my viewpoint or “win”.
    I would be interested to read if you have any tips for over-sharers :)

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Keep doing it!! That’s fantastic and exactly what your team needs.

  • http://twitter.com/AccuContrive AccuContrive (@AccuContrive)

    Chris, thanks for this post.

    Your suggestion works in both directions: If one is stuck with upper leadership not communicating properly, then he can start the change from bottom up, simply by starting to continually and consistently asking for priorities, requirements, rules, goals and so on… usually, a change from bottom up takes longer to gain traction than the other way around, but it is usually living longer, since when it comes from top down it comes from authority, while when it comes from bottom up it comes from a passionate person with an open heart and a learning mind.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      So true!

  • http://www.cabinart.net Jana Botkin

    What are the reasons for a leader not communicating? I’m guessing these:
    1. too busy
    2. not knowing how to be concise so choosing not to take the time
    3. assuming (as you wrote in “Please. . .Say Something”)
    4. not giving a rip
    5. coming from the viewpoint that a good employee will figure things out on their own
    6. not giving it a thought because of #1 or #3

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      All real reasons!

    • http://www.facebook.com/machteld.geuskens Machteld Geuskens

      I have the terrible feeling that sometimes people actually don’t share because they feel they ought not. The trouble with this, is that even the nicest people feel that they should not share certain things, because it is knowledge which is not properly had by others, given that they don’t need it. But the thing is that there is such a thing as serendipity. If you share, you find others know more than you thought, and that they appreciate that you share, and even more so, you find that you get somewhere, together. So telling employees “irrelevant” things pays off. In SO MANY WAYS. I can understand a lack of time, etc etc. But there should always be time. Interestingly, those good people WILL tell many boring anecdotes. And employees want them to shut up, and inform them about real stuff. So in fact there is time….!!

  • http://theretrospectiveentrepreneur.wordpress.com the retrospective entrepreneur

    Chris I understand and agree with what you are saying here. However, it’s a bit like trying to push water up hill. Over many years and in many companies I have conducted climate surveys and what comes out top of the gripes? Poor communication, whether it’s a well founded belief or not). There are those in companies who like to encourage others to believe they know more than they do (for reasons of self-aggrandizement) and there are just some folk who wouldn’t believe God or Allah if they appeared in front of them and offered them the secrets of life. Certainly, don’t let this stop anyone from trying to improve their team communications but we can’t change human nature.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      I totally agree with your assessment, but I do believe that people can change. They just need to see that changing is better for them in the long run. It takes time, but they can do it. In 20 years of leading people, I’ve shed a ton of bad habits. Still have a lot to go. :-)

      Thanks Tony!

    • Chris Johnston

      I agree with Tony. Often the perception of communication effectiveness is in the ear of the beholder. Unless you really have an in-synch group dynamic, you can be all over the place when it comes to reported effectiveness. .

      Also think of couples. You can have a great communicator and yet the receiver may depending on the circumstances of the moment believe it is over communication, not enough communication or worst case receive the wrong message. Groups tend to fragment the intended message even more.

      Now I will admit I thrive on receiving detail when it is something I in which I have an interest. But on the other side, I can be poor at sharing it.

  • http://joelfortner.wordpress.com Joel Fortner

    I definitely am of the over communicate crop. Some tips that help me communicate better are working to truly understand team members, tailoring my communication to each person and as you said, asking if it makes sense. Sure, some people may say it makes sense when upon further review it doesn’t. A helpful tip for dealing with that is leaving them with an open door, meaning ensuring the know they can follow-up with me if they need more information or clarification. Leaving them wondering is unacceptable in my mind. The overarching element to the communication approach you and I clearly agree on is servant leadership – taking responsibility to ensure their success by putting keeping their needs the top priority.

    • http://Chrislocurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Amen brother!