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November 5, 2018

Are you working for a Mushroom Leader?

“I never saw your future only your possibilities” – Billy, counselor at The Refuge

Coaching youth sports for over 20 years created some of my favorite life memories. Youthful souls, hungry to learn and full of energy. I view my role as coach with this simple objective: learning how to compete, win and lose well is foundational to a successful life. The accelerated learning loop of athletics might be its greatest asset. Attempt, fail, assess, adjust, try again. That loop can happen dozens of times in one game. Learning to compete requires mental resiliency, the common trait among top career professionals.

Years back when my sons were in grade school, a new director took over the town baseball program. Their first action was changing the names of the teams from the Cubs, Pirates and Tigers to the Raspberries, Blueberries and Strawberries. Yes, this is a true story, you can’t make this up. Their next move, we were no longer to keep score and statistics. The purpose was to avoid exposing kids to failure and act like some protective bubble from the reality of life. The change was initiated out of fear for the children’s’ feelings and emotional state. Irrational and ridiculous, right? When the kid strikes out at the plate, it’s impossible for their peers and parents to unsee what just happened. In life, when has any good come from hiding a failed attempt? The essence of a great athletic experience that comes from embracing outcomes with encouragement and proper guidance, was destroyed. The response was overwhelmingly negative, and the director was replaced, thankfully, the following year.

At various industry speaking events, I focus on helping operators improve their recruiting efforts. I am shocked at the large numbers of companies that refuse to share financials, profit and loss statements, with employees. When asking them “Why?” the responses range from “confidentiality” to “the people’s inability to handle it” or “it’s just not our traditional way”.  These responses are rooted in an irrational fear of some sort, you can see it in their eyes. A more honest answer might be, operators either feel guilty because of the high profits they are making and low compensations they are paying their employees or embarrassment of the low profits the company is generating as it negatively reflects their poor leadership. Not sharing financials is called the “Mushroom Management” approach, avoiding the facts and not allowing the crucial conversations to take place. Consistently the results are disengaged people and high turnover rates, mixed with mediocre talent, delivering low profits.

“We live two lives; the one we learn with and the one we live with.”

Naming a sports team the Raspberries and not keeping score or stats is equally as ridiculous as not being transparent with your financials. Being human means we often do not act not in our best interest, but rather in the interest of serving our ego and emotional state. Our subconscious mind’s favorite tool in this ploy psychologists call “duration neglect”, in which we craft stories about the experiences of our past to support our emotional state. Simply put, we lie to ourselves. And worse, we make future decisions based on those lies. Don’t kid yourself, duration neglect is a pervasive human trait. Resist the natural response of applying the concept to someone else and take the tough look in the mirror. Collecting facts and tracking how activity impacts financials is the best duration neglect defense. Financials don’t lie, making them the ultimate report card.

Employees can hold their own fault and responsibility fulfilling a role supporting the Mushroom Management model. As it requires a codependency of employees willing to lie about how great the company and its leaders are, in return the leaders don’t hold them accountable. If you are in a position where you cannot define your impact and value in hard numbers daily, you are likely in some form of Mushroom Company, or Mushroom Position. National Sales positions are famous for lacking clarity between their daily actions and market share and profit gains. Key buying decisions are made in the local market, what is your impact on the company beyond the next golf best ball tourney? A person’s unhealthy fear of change and exploring a better career path is a vote of confidence for the Mushroom business model and being treated this way. If you find yourself in this business model take action. Create your own measurements, tie them to a financial result. Request 360 feedback from peers and leadership. Develop your own mini-MBA, reading and studying books a minimum of 4 hours per week. Personal development done well should increase your income by 20% per year minimum and increase your efficiency by more than the 4 hours per week you are carving out to study. Call our team, we can help get you started.

Leadership – it comes down to trust and impact. Either you trust the people that make up your company, or you don’t. The actions of a prevailing trust culture are easy to identify – everyone in the company understands how their daily efforts impact the P&L and want to be measured and rewarded based on that clear outline. Open conversations regarding the professional’s current skills and talent, including both successes and failures, are welcomed. Leadership, in turn, requires constant feedback, increasing their self-awareness acting to grow and improve to close their leadership gaps. Great professionals take advantage and look forward to their failures, knowing their approach will drive significant personal growth on the other side.

The choice is simple: allow everyone to keep score and individual statistics through financial transparency, or keep telling lies. Regardless of whether or not your head is buried in the sand, there are winners and losers. I guess, you could always change your name to the Raspberries.

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