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Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty Hardcover – February 2, 2010
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Written in the same dynamic style as his previous bestsellers including The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni illustrates the principles of inspiring client loyalty through a fascinating business fable. He explains the theory of vulnerability in depth and presents concrete steps for putting it to work in any organization. The story follows a small consulting firm, Lighthouse Partners, which often beats out big-name competitors for top clients. One such competitor buys out Lighthouse and learns important lessons about what it means to provide value to its clients.
Amazon Exclusive: Q&A with Patrick Lencioni
A: Naked consulting is a term that refers to the idea of being vulnerable with clients, being completely open and honest with no sense of pretense or cover. The concept comes from the approach that we adopted more than a decade ago to work with our clients at The Table Group. We help CEOs and their teams build healthy organizations, and we found that by being completely transparent and vulnerable with clients, we built levels of trust and loyalty that blew us away. Q: What makes naked service different from the way most people provide service?
A: So many service providers and consultants feel the need to demonstrate that they have the right answers and that they don’t make mistakes. Not only do clients see this as inauthentic, they often feel that they are being condescended to and manipulated. We’ve found that what clients really want is honesty and humility. Q: What are the three fears?
A: People spend most of their lives trying to avoid awkward and painful situations –which is why it is no surprise that we are all susceptible to the three fears that sabotage client loyalty. They include: 1) Fear of Losing the Business – No service provider wants to lose clients or revenue. Interestingly, it is this very notion that prevents many service providers from having the difficult conversations that actually build greater loyalty and trust. Clients want to know that their service providers are more interested in helping succeed in business than protecting their revenue source. 2) Fear of Being Embarrassed – This fear is rooted in pride. No one likes to publicly make mistakes, endure scrutiny or be embarrassed. Naked service providers are willing to ask questions and make suggestions even if those questions and suggestions turn out to be laughably wrong. Clients trust naked service providers because they know that they will not hold back their ideas, hide their mistakes, or edit themselves to save face. 3) Fear of Being Inferior – Similar to the previous fear, this one is rooted in ego. Fear of being inferior is not about being intellectually wrong (as in Fear of being Embarrassed) it is about preserving social standing with the client. Naked service providers are able to overcome the need to feel important in the eyes of their client and basically do whatever a client needs to help the client improve – even if that calls for the service provider to be overlooked or temporarily looked down upon. Q: What is the impact of naked service on a firm’s bottom line?
A: Consulting or service firms that practice the naked approach will find it easier to retain clients through greater trust and loyalty. That is the first and most obvious benefit. But they’ll also be able to attract clients better because naked service begins before a client actually becomes a client. It allows firms to be more open, more generous and less desperate in the sales process, and creates great differentiation from more traditional sales approaches. Finally, firms that practice the naked approach will attract and retain the right kind of consultants and professionals who yearn for an honest, natural way of working, both with clients and with one another.
From Publishers Weekly
Author, speaker and management consultant Lencioni (The Three Signs of a Miserable Job) preaches a business model that may seem antithetical to many, which he calls "getting naked": being unafraid to show vulnerability, admit ignorance, and ask the dumb questions when dealing with clients. Lencioni's central argument is that by focusing on sales, rather than communication, consultants miss the key part of their job-consulting-and therefore lose out on valuable long-term client relationships. Presented mostly as a parable about a management consultant trying to reconcile two firms in a merger, Lencioni's latest is entertaining as well as informative, with a message that sticks (heavy-handed though it may be). Straightforward and widely applicable, Lencioni's advice should prove useful not only for business consultants, but anyone trying to build long-term client relationships. END
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Once I got past the information being presented as a fable, I have to say that content-wise, I already belonged to the choir that Lencioni is preaching to, I just didn't know it. And his advice can help me push it a little more. So I can highly recommend the book. Leave your numbers, metrics and measurements aside for a bit and read this to help put them in some context.
I have worked with big engineering and science clients for several years now, so I'm pretty used to feeling dumb. With a clientele like I've worked with, trying to come across as a know-it-all would be impossible and pathetic. I would be seen through in an instant. So I've long since conquered any fear of feeling inferior or being embarrassed. In these complex, collaborative environments it is critical to get over yourself and focus on the work.
What I I've added to my thinking after this read is the attitude of "always be consulting" (to crib a line from Glengarry Glen Ross), or what Lencioni refers to as giving away the business. Don't waste time talking about what you can do, just start doing it. I now see myself, as a consultant, as part of my employer's "offense". At the point I'm called in to a project, we have the ball and our job is to advance it as soon and as far as we can. As long as we can keep doing that, there's no need for sales, which is the "defense" of the business. Sales' job is to get the ball back over to us when we don't have it.
When he talks about consultants "doing the dirty work", "taking a bullet" and "making everything about the client" it is this view of my role as an "offensive" player in my business that ties it together for me. These things are done with a smile because they advance the ball, aka the client's interests.
In this book (which caught my attention with the provocative title...otherwise I likely would never have picked it up), Lencioni addresses the institutional assumption that transparency with our clients will reduce the value proposition of our provided service. He speaks of three dominant fears [Fear losing business, fear of being embarrassed, fear of feeling inferior] that often drive a service provider to a position of asserting strength when there is none. This may have been par for the course in a previous generation, but the rapidly shifting landscape of business on a global scale today requires "fresh eyes" on nearly every situation. If a "fear of losing the business" causes a service provider to "play it safe" rather than press hard for a client's benefit...then the service provider has ceased to be a significant value to the client. [Now I will resist the temptation to address all of the material...since doing so might convince you to skip the read entirely].
We live in a culture where transparency (or at least the concept of it) is "in vogue," and therefore is often marketed...even when it is not embraced. Companies/consultants may speak of partnership with a client and a mutual learning experience or "conversation," but what they usually mean is a dedicated vulnerable "moment" before they revert to previous experience, education, history, or models. (This happened recently with a sales professional who called on my company and presented himself as the subject-matter expert on workflow in my business...but really had no experience in my business...only experience selling to other businesses like mine. Because of this book...I spotted the approach (which I have used innumerable times myself) and was better able to position myself in the conversation.
So, is the book worth a read? Yes. While I would give it 4.5 stars...there are some who would rate it higher and some a little lower. It provoked an interesting period of self-examination and some points of affirmation...as well as "poked me in the chest" on my approach in some areas. No leader would waste his time by reading this, and I would recommend it without reservation.