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?