Start small and mushroom

There was a term I heard a few years back about how good client-consultant relationships work. The way I heard a consultant describe it was – “As a consultant, you start small and mushroom.”

The idea here is that you rarely want to go into a client relationship with a big bang – a large team, a big scope, etc. That involves a lot of pressure and works, depending on the context, every once a rare while. Instead, you want to start with a small and interesting problem, do a fantastic job, earn trust and keep building from there. The verb “mushroom” fittingly means “increase, spread, or develop rapidly.” When you build trust with a smaller, interesting problem, you are given the opportunity to work on larger, more interesting problems with bigger teams.

This is a concept I think about from time to time. It is always tempting to seek that big break or big jump in responsibility. And, every once in a rare while, it might even happen. But, we don’t control that. And, seeking stuff we don’t control is a recipe for unhappiness.

We do, however, control our ability to start small, earn trust and mushroom – regardless of the context. This means being willing to embrace change, start afresh with a learner’s mindset and earn the responsibility to tackle bigger and most interesting challenges. And, of course, being willing to do that all over again. And again.

It is how most of us get to do work that matters.

Most importantly, it is how great teams, organizations and careers are built.