CFO Book Review “Getting Naked” by Patrick Lencioni

CFO Book Review “Getting Naked” by Patrick Lencioni

If you, or your company interacts with a customer base, you inherently know that low prices and a quality product no longer guarantee success. Customers have more options than ever, and they’re using this leverage to look for something more. They want an experience; An interaction that goes beyond a simple transaction. They want to build relationships with their brands. We’re entering a world of professional intimacy that harkens back to the days of “Small Town USA”, days when the neighborhood butcher knew not only what cut of beef a customer preferred, but the names of their kids as well. We built relationships with our vendors and customers because we inherently knew that people do business with people they like, people they trust, people they know.

In Getting Naked, Lencioni teaches how to exemplify the one core trait that builds professional relationships faster than any other. “Without the willingness to be vulnerable, we will not build deep and lasting relationships in life.” Getting Naked is a book about the very real value of breaking down the walls so many of us put up when interacting with our customers and, instead, connecting with them on a human level. It’s a book about being comfortable being wrong, about worrying about the customer first, and our own ego second.

There are many lessons to be gleaned from the book. However, the lesson that stands out most prominently is that clinging to our ego prevents us from achieving our greatest business successes. Lencioni’s fictional Lighthouse Partners relies on its partners and consultants showing vulnerability and complete transparency to their clients, with the result being that they charge the richest fees in the industry, achieve the highest profitability and create unprecedented client stickiness, while minimizing the time spent on “pitching” business.

The way that Lighthouse’ consultants showed up with clients reminded me of the qualities of Level Five leadership, as detailed in Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great.” Whereas Level Five leaders “are ambitious for their company, not themselves” “naked” consultants are ambitious for their clients, not their selves, always putting their client’s interests before their own. Level Five leaders “display a compelling modesty, are self-effacing and understated.” The “naked” consultants of Lighthouse Partners check their egos at the door, when they show up at a client site.

At the end of the day, being a good service provider is simply a matter of focus. Are you focused on the best interests of yourself, or of the customer? Being focused on the customer means making some difficult choices; choices that could in fact hurt you. The irony, of course, is that working in the best interest of the customer is always the right decision and, more often than not, will reward you in ways you never would have experienced had you chosen the self-preservation mode instead. Just like personal relationships, magical things happen when you open up to the people who are important to you, and act in their best interest first. Getting Naked may be a business book, but I think it’s also a great reminder for all the relationships in our lives – professional and otherwise.

In the last chapter of the book, titled “The Model”, Lencioni summarizes the principles of “naked” consulting which center around the three fears that prevent us from building trust and loyalty with our clients. Below are the three fears and specific actions that a “naked” service provider can take to achieve client loyalty.

1. Fear of Losing the Business – What clients want more than anything is to know that we are more interested in helping them than we are in maintaining our revenue sources.
a. Consult, don’t sell.
b. Give away the business
c. Tell the kind truth.
d. Enter the danger.

2. Fear of Being Embarrassed – Naked service providers are so concerned about helping a client that they are willing to ask questions and make suggestions even if those questions and suggestions could turn out to be laughably wrong.
a. Ask dumb questions.
b. Make dumb suggestions.
c. Celebrate your mistakes.

3. Fear of Feeling Inferior – Naked service providers not only overcome their need to feel important in the eyes of their clients, but also purposefully put themselves in a lower position.
a. Take a bullet for the client.
b. Make everything about the client.
c. Honor the client’s work.
d. Do the dirty work.
e. Admit your wea