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Chris LoCurto

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November 15, 2011

Of Mushrooms And Honest Leaders

November 15, 2011 | By | 16 Comments">16 Comments

Here is a guest post by the incredible Robert Bruce. Robert is a web writer for Dave Ramsey and a book blogger at 101 Books. Follow him on Twitter. You can guest post as well! Read how to here.

Let’s pretend, for one second, that you are a mushroom. Work with me here, okay?

Here in mushroom land, you like it dark, because that’s the best environment for you to grow in. You also like your surroundings to be smelly—not just an unpleasant odor, but a pungent, nauseating, overwhelming stench. Think 500 cows after dinner time.

Why would you want it to stink? Well, that’s because the rancid smell means you’ve been given fertilizer—the nose-puckering nutrients you need to grow into a healthy, edible mushroom.

So, in sum, you’re a mushroom and you love living in a dark, smelly, nasty little place—because that’s where you thrive.

Now, let’s leave mushroom land and re-enter the business world, an area in which most of you are probably much more comfortable. Out here in the business world, though, many leaders mistake their employees—their team members—for mushrooms. Dave Ramsey calls it “Mushroom Communication.” In other words, “leave them in the dark and feed them manure.”

As a member of Dave’s team—and not in a position of leadership—I was immediately impressed by the open and honest communication in our company when I started working here nearly four years ago.

Having previously worked at an organization in which honest communication was nothing more than a principle to plaster on a wall, I had become leery of nearly everything leadership told me.

I grew cynical and skeptical about whether the leaders of any large organization were trustworthy. Were they telling us the truth, just telling us what we wanted to hear, or simply not telling us anything?

But the leadership on Dave’s team is incredible. I’ve often heard Dave tell us that he would rather err on the side of too much information, rather than the other way around.

He treats us like adults, because that’s what we are. If we’re not trustworthy and responsible with the information he gives us, then we shouldn’t have been hired in the first place.

And I think that’s why Dave is comfortable with over-communicating at times—because he trusts the long, rigorous interview process that brings team members on board. Once you’re on the team, you’re on the team.

Leadership doesn’t throw us down in the dark, dank cellar and bring us out once a week to feed us crap. They actually keep us informed—with real, honest facts. We actually know what’s going on in our organization—and what could be coming around the corner. What a novel concept! We actually feel like team members, not units of production.

Because of that, we’re more productive, and we get along with each other. Sure, personalities clash at times and we have disagreements. But we move forward because we know we’re all working toward the same goal. Open communication creates a healthy culture, a culture that’s attractive to job applicants. Believe me, I’ve been there.

So if you’re like me, you’re probably not a fan of the dark, and you definitely aren’t a fan of smelly crap. So please, dear leaders, remember that the next time you’re tempted to use “mushroom communication” on your staff.

Your team can, at least metaphorically speaking, smell your crap from a mile away. If you’re simply upfront and honest from the start, you might be surprised at how well they handle any news—good or bad.

Take it from me, mushroom communication really does stink.

Question: How have you seen mushroom communication played out, or what have you done to change it?

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  • http://specializingintheimpossible.wordpress.com/ Laura Johnson

    I can relate to this post…
    My boss shares tons of information with me, but when he thinks I might not like the info he has to share…he doesn’t share. That can really get in the way of me doing my job. I cannot help the business to move forward if I’m kept in the dark on some very important issues.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Absolutely!

  • http://www.medicalaccountsolutions.com Misty Gilbert

    Do you feel that you can give your employees too much information? Sometimes I feel I do. Is this possible?

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      Only on things that they might not be able to digest. P & L for example. Some team members can’t digest large numbers like that.

  • Kelli Galpin

    Great article, Chris! I can tell you that as the Director of First Impressions here at Lampo, a position that many companies might view as insignificant, I have been empowered to help not only customers and clients, but also my fellow team members. The empowerment comes from the openness of my leaders. Being included in the team meetings, and considered a fellow team member, and not just someone who answers phones, gives me the confidence to answer questions and to make sure I am sending the caller to the correct person. Because my leaders trust me with company information, I am confident in my position and I see the bigger picture. I can see that the way I greet guests, the way I answer the phone and the way I communicate with my fellow team members affects the company directly. Leaders, don’t forget to include your receptionists or any other position you might consider to be “no big deal.” If they can see the big picture, it is easier for them to be on board with you. Thanks, Chris!

    Sincerely,
    A very happy and proud Director of First Impressions

    • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

      And not only are you amazing at what you do, you’re an incredible person as well!! Thank you for always being the best front line we have!!

      • Cass

        Truly believe that it is amazing you have that down to all levels.I aspire to have such clear direction and communication..nothing is more demoralizing than feeling like you don’t matter. Putting right people in place must be key..from top down..then sharing the dreams as well as the drive. Thank you for sharing.

        • http://www.ChrisLoCurto.com Chris LoCurto

          My pleasure Cass!

  • Chris Johnston

    What are the common things that are shared and what are only a few know? In other words, where do you draw the line between transparency and confidential?

    • http://www.onehundredonebooks.wordpress.com Robert

      Chris could probably speak better on this because I’ve never been on the leadership end of this question, but I would think something that’s speculative should probably stay internal until it’s more firm. But if you know something’s coming, or if you know something has just happened, then maybe everyone should know?

      If a team member gets fired and they are all the sudden gone one day, everyone is asking…what happened? If leadership doesn’t fill them in to some degree, then that’s where gossip starts. That’s just my opinion, though. Like I said, Chris probably has better insight on that.

  • http://twitter.com/tbric Tom Brichacek (@tbric)

    We are working hard to change the mushroom communication here. (And by “we” I mean “Me” as I’m the leader) The company is rooted in need to know info, and no-one needs to know!

    I have a plan I am putting the final touches on to roll out at new year, based on Chris’ past posts involving profit sharing, communication, personalities etc…

    I have been working in small amounts on the communication thing and it is helping a lot already. I see first hand how mushroom communication doesn’t work. We have fewer problems now than we had in the past because of the small increase in communication.

    Thanks for the great post Robert. Very good job filling in for Chris. (We might not even notice he’s gone soon!)

  • http://bridgesburning.wordpress.com Bridgesburning Chris King

    Mushroom environment and hidden agenda…deadly but way too common..

    • http://clocurto.wordpress.com Chris LoCurto

      So true

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

    Great post. Working in PR, I’ve seen a lot of mushroom communication in organizations and from organizations to the media. It’s always a failure. Your communication should be rooted in principles that guide it. If your principles are true and right, your communication will be too.

    • http://clocurto.wordpress.com Chris LoCurto

      Amen brother. I bet this could be a huge issue in the PR world.

    • http://www.onehundredonebooks.wordpress.com Robert

      I can’t imagine the stuff you see in HR!