I would never have purchased the book Getting Naked:  A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty by Patrick Lencioni, as the title does not speak to me and I was not familiar with Mr. Lencioni’s previous work.  However in early November, I had the pleasure of hearing him speak.  As I listened, I found myself challenged, aligned and ready to read anything Mr. Lencioni had written.

The essence of the book is about being vulnerable. Sounds simple enough.  I certainly think of myself as an authentic person, willing to be real and vulnerable.  Yet in business and in life, being vulnerable can be challenging for many people.  Sometimes it requires that we admit to our lack of knowledge and our mistakes.  It might also mean we have to tell the truth when a white lie would be much easier.  It can also mean turning a client away when you are not the right fit.

In Getting Naked, Mr. Lencioni describes three fears we must walk thru to deliver naked service:

  • Fear of Losing the Business – Worrying about losing a client’s business may cause service providers and consultants to avoid the very things that ultimately engender trust and loyalty.
  • Fear of Being Embarrassed – Rooted in pride, this fear can lead service providers to withhold their best ideas from clients.
  • Fear of Feeling Inferior – To avoid feeling irrelevant or being overlooked, consultants try to achieve and preserve a high level of importance in clients’ minds.

As he spoke about the fear of losing the business, I remembered my own experience:

An acquaintance called and asked me if I would work with her mother.   I agreed.  Both mother and daughter came to the appointment.  After only fifteen minutes, I was clear that the daughter really wanted me to help her mother.  And I was equally clear that what her mother really needed was to work with her local banker, someone she dearly trusted and with whom she felt safe. 

At the end of our conversation, I looked at the mother, who had been sitting next to me with her arms crossed and with a scowling look on her face the entire meeting, and said, “I hear that the money you have is really important to you as a safety net.  I also understand you want to use this money for special things in life, and you do not need it for everyday living.  As you have spoken, it seems clear that you really trust your local banker, so I am curious as to why you would not continue to work with your banker.”  Surprised, she relaxed, smiled and said, “Do you really think I should work with my banker?”  “Yes,” I replied.  

She told me how much she appreciated our meeting and gave me a big hug.  She left my office with a clear plan on how to work with her banker.  As she was leaving, she asked me what she owed me for our time today.  “No charge” I replied. 

The mother came to see me to make her daughter happy.  I know that we could have done a great job for the mother, except that she wanted something else: to work with her banker.  This meeting did not earn me any new business or revenue.  Yet what I gained was priceless.  I went to sleep that night knowing I had done the right thing.  I had been willing to listen, to be vulnerable and say, “We are not the best fit for your needs.”

Being vulnerable does not mean throwing caution to the wind and dismissing the wisdom we have gained throughout our lifetime.  But it does mean having an open mind, and speaking the truth when the truth is what serves the highest good of everyone.  That is how strong, trusting relationships develop between us.

To continue learning about Mr. Lencioni’s book and to download his model, visit his web site at:

http://www.tablegroup.com/books/gettingnaked

One of the things I most love about being a successful CEO is being vulnerable enough to say “I don’t know it all”, which means I am open to the teachings and wisdom of others.  That creates a world of endless possibilities!  I hope you enjoy learning about Getting Naked much as I did!