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:


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!