The following is a book review of “Getting Naked” by Patrick Lencioni

Despite the attention-getting title, showing up as you are is key to a consultancy practice.

Exposing oneself does take courage and guts, and results in great dialogue, trust and loyalty. Ego has no place in consulting and is best left in the change room.

This book by Patrick Lencioni is a story about his consulting practice and how they shone beyond competition without competitors even clueing in. Clients were loyal, no questions asked.

What was perceived by others as a small consulting practice was actually one that did no marketing or sales and in many respects was larger than others.

After the lengthy story that put things into greater context, the following messages were conveyed and can be applied accordingly. Thankfully, Kwela is already almost all the way there based on our open book and advice-giving approach with clients.

How can Kwela lead in the future and continue to show up as a first choice for existing and new clients? Below is some food for thought.

This is how Patrick Lencioni runs his business (The Table Group):

Basis of the core values: Humility

What they do: Provide naked service

Why?: Builds trust and invites them to the table for sensitive and critical discussions; kind of like business partners.

Now, what is Naked Service?

Naked Service (Defined): “To be vulnerable – to embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of a client.” This is tough as is could be seen as suffering; it requires what could be painful conversations. There are three fears that prevent consultants from building business:

1. Fear of losing the business

Clients want to know that we are more interested in serving them than maintaining revenue. They don’t want consultants to do things just to protect the business and if that is the case, it could eventually remove trust.

Naked providers don’t fear losing business, being under compensated, or having ideas misappropriated. They try to expose these areas as by doing that, they earn clients’ trust and goodwill. Clients can smell fear and like those who are direct and courageous.

2. Fear of being embarrassed

Making mistakes in front of clients can be embarrassing especially when we are charging them for expertise. Pride can easily take over and naked providers are willing to ask questions or provide advice even if they don’t make sense or are wrong. Admitting that one doesn’t know builds respect and drops ego. Clients want consultants to share ideas and be real and transparent. These qualities are much more admirable than intelligence.

3. Fear of feeling inferior

Fear is rooted in ego along with feeling a sense of importance to the client – needing to be respected and admired. Naked providers do whatever it takes to satisfy the client regardless of what position they are put in. They put their egos aside and take a nothing-to-lose approach.

Shedding the Three Fears:

1. Always Consult Instead of Sell

Turn every sales situation to an opportunity to demonstrate value by sharing ideas with prospects rather than holding back until the contract is signed – offer advice. Be generous with information. This practice puts the consultant is a position of confidence (and power) – by helping the client…their job. It’s much more effective being proactive in this regard rather than trying to motivate a sales decision.

2. Give Away the Business

Providing consulting without any expectations and the generosity leads to increased trust and increases the sales probability. The other part of this is providing the client with the last say on perceived pricing errors. It goes a long way to help a client versus always insisting on money.

3. Tell the Kind Truth

Share difficult messages without worry. Taking this risk is important as that’s the job of a consultant – serve the client needs. Of course, this should be done in a tactful way with kindness, empathy and respect. It’s important to be a truth teller – not avoider.

4. Enter the Danger

Be okay with stepping into uncomfortable situations and don’t fear it – tackle the elephant – even call people on it. Handling these potentially dangerous situations builds client respect and trust. Don’t be afraid to call things out.

5. Ask Dumb Questions

Naked consultants ask questions that others may be afraid to ask. Questions may be considered dumb but within those there is bound to be one that is crucial. Clients will remember the great questions asked over those that were not. Humility is okay. Clients want consultants to be courageous.

6. Make Dumb Suggestions

Take a risk. Put yourself in what you may perceive as potentially embarrassing situations by making suggestions that may not be perceived as “intelligent” or the norm. If you don’t, you may be risking a great idea – that is what consultants are paid for; objective thinking. If consultants hold back, they lose trust and loyalty.

7. Celebrate Your Mistakes

Call out your errors and be accountable for them – again, builds trust and loyalty. Perfection is not an expectation, but honesty and transparency is.

8. Take a Bullet for the Client

Even if you are not at fault, but there may be doubt, take the blame and accept responsibility. People are used to deflecting this so it’s a great opportunity to lead by example and show that great organizations fess up.

9. Make Everything About the Client

Put your full attention on the client and seek to understand and support the clients business. Don’t focus on your accomplishments – the client will figure all that out in due course.

10. Honour the Client’s Work

Appreciate the clients’ work and how important it is to clients. Develop an interest in it.

11. Do the Dirty Work

Be willing to do what it takes within the context of service. By doing anything, we build loyalty and gratitude; be humble.

12. Admit your Weaknesses and Limitation

Don’t cover up. Be transparent as if not, they’ll see right through you.

Be naked, expose the real you, speak from the heart and gut and suffer a client that embraces you.

All of us at Kwela do our best to live this wise advice, and think it also provides food for thought with regards to leadership behaviours. Many leaders are experts in their field, providing services for internal and/or external clients. How could your ‘clients’, and inter-departmental relationships, benefit from you getting naked?

Glen Sollors, Senior Consultant