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Getting NAKED
Book Review of Pat Lencioni's Getting NAKED by Hazel Jackson

Just when I thought I’d read all Pat Lencioni’s books, another simple one comes along to prove me wrong. It was also a book that I had on my shelf for over a year and had completely forgotten about, until a business partner recommended it.

A thought provoking and challenging concept, Lencioni models the principle and story on how he has built his own consulting practice. Although you only learn about this later, it is a great example of learning from someone who has actually implemented the principles rather than just talking about them.

This book is written with his classic fable approach and you will learn about the principles through a story of two competing management consulting firms. The larger and more aggressive firms acquire the smaller boutique firm and the differences in culture and successes were explored. It turns out the smaller firm has a more profitable business model, happier staff and most importantly ecstatic clients who actually pay higher rates.

The lessons of this story, albeit initially focused in my own industry, have immediate application to any business that supports B2B client relationships, or provides consultative type services to individuals.

Although you can jump straight to the last 16 pages of the book that define Naked Service, the power of reading the story helps handle objections and challenges you think about as you contemplate implementing the principles.

Naked Service Model
At its core, Naked Service boils down to the ability of a service provider to be vulnerable; embracing uncommon levels of humility, selflessness and transparency for the good of the client.

This sounds simple but goes against many of the behaviours we have been taught when sitting in front of a client. The model claims that resisting the following three fears will enable you to build unparalleled trust and loyalty with clients.

#1 Fear of Losing the Business
What a client wants more than anything is to know that you are more interested in helping them than maintaining a revenue source.

Naked Service providers refuse to be overly concerned about the possibility of losing a client, or for that matter, being undercompensated or having ideas copied by the client. They are willing to expose themselves to these situations. Being this open and focused on the client not self, is repaid with trust, loyalty and in the story countless referrals. It reminded me of a quote I totally believe in by the late Zig Ziglar.

“If you help enough other people get what they want, you’ll get what you want”

#2 Fear of Being Embarrassed

A tough one for consultants who are in fact engaging with a client for their ideas and expertise, making a mistake in front of them is instinctively to be avoided. However Lencioni, points out the power of Naked Service provides asking questions and making suggestions that could be laughably wrong. Intellectual ego is not in the way, but a sense of curiosity to help discover new ideas, or perhaps understand jargon. Client’s trust them because they realise they will not hold back, hide their mistakes, or edit themselves in order to save face.

#3 Fear of Feeling Inferior
This is very similar to #2, but with some subtle differences. If #2 is about intellectual pride, #3 is about the need to preserve our sense of importance and social standing. It’s about ego. Naked Service doesn’t need to feel important in the eyes of the client; they purposefully put themselves in a lower position. It’s not about them; it’s about the client and helps them with their business or need.

In each of these fears there are some guidelines of what needs to improve over a more vulnerable, trustworthy service.
  • Always Consult Instead of Sell
    Rather than turning up having done heaps of research and already decided what the client needs, Naked Service providers start with a consultants approach and add value from the first meeting. Exploring needs through questions and providing some instant guidance and suggestions. This approach almost kick-starts the client relationship, before any contracts or fees have exchanged hands.
  • Give Away the Business
    Building on the first approach, give away advice and don’t worry about whether this means you’ll lose the deal or the client will take your ideas and run. They might not need your services now and can manage internally, but they will always come back to you and more importantly refer you to others.
  • Tell the Kind Truth
    When confronted with a difficult message, even when you know the client will not like hearing it and it could put the project at risk, fronting up and telling them anyway, because it’s the best thing for the client.
  • Enter the Danger
    When a topic is challenging and uncomfortable, Naked Service providers see this as a green light to get involved. It’s about having the courage to fearlessly deal with a situation everyone else is avoiding – the elephant in the room.
All four of these practices support removing the #1 Fear of losing the business.
  • Ask Dumb Questions
    Be the person to ask the questions everyone else in the room is thinking, but don’t have the courage to ask. Or just be the person who challenges the status quo. Some of your questions will have no future bearing on the client’s strategy or growth, but some will make difference. It is the latter questions that everyone remembers.
  • Make Dumb Suggestions
    Go beyond dumb questions, but challenge the business with some wild suggestions and ideas. There will be failures, and you will be embarrassed, but the time you come up with a great idea will eclipse all the others.
  • Celebrate your Mistakes
    No one likes to make mistakes but Naked Service providers go out of their way to put their hand up and admit an error. They take full responsibility for the mistake and the learning that has come from it.
  • Take a Bullet for the Client
    Taking a bullet does not mean enabling a client to do the wrong thing by blindly absorbing the blame for them. It’s about finding those moments when we can humble ourselves and take some of the burden off from a client in a difficult situation, and then confront them with the kind truth. Taking a bullet is counter cultural because we are encouraged in life to deflect responsibility for problems.
  • Make Everything about the Client
    Get your ego out of the way, it’s not about you or what you’ve done before; focus your full attention into the world of the client.
  • Honor the Clients Work
    Take an active interest in the clients business, even if you aren’t naturally passionate about their industry. You need to learn to be part of their team and that can’t be faked.
  • Do the Dirty Work
    Naked Service providers take on whatever it takes within the context of their services. It might not always been the exciting part of the job, but roll up your sleeves and get it done.
  • Admit Your Weaknesses and Limitations
    This principle is perhaps the most general and all encompassing. It’s one thing to admit a single mistake; this is about sharing general weaknesses or limitations.
There is an important point to remember, that vulnerability is not an excuse for incompetence. But when an individual is competent at their job but can embrace the 3 fears and principles supporting them, they will build a huge amount of loyalty and trust. If a company culture supports this model, and gives permission for everyone to practice the principles you can build an amazing professional service firm that rivals the big boys!

- Hazel Jackson, CEO of biz-group
Listen to the podcast of Hazel Jackson on The Library, Dubai Eye 103.8 reviewing Pat Lencioni’s book Getting NAKED
Also Read; The Strategist