“…transparency and modesty – qualities that are immensely more attractive than intelligence.”
Getting Naked, page 199
It used to be that, “he who held the knowledge held the power”. Google changed that. If you have an internet connection, you have access to limitless amounts of data – more “knowledge” than anyone could possibly need in a lifetime. What used to be scarce, and therefore valuable, is now available in abundance. The world-wide web democratized information. But there’s a new scarcity and, as Patrick Lencioni brilliantly outlines in Getting Naked, it’s one that, when harnessed, can be incredibly powerful and lucrative.
If you, or your company interacts with a customer base, you inherently know what we’ve been talking about for a while – 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 neighbourhood 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, page vii
Vulnerability. Removing the armour of infallibility, and getting real. 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.
Lencioni explains that there are three fears that hold us back from being vulnerable (aka “naked”) in front of our customers:
Fear #1: Fear of losing the business
Fear #2: Fear of being embarrassed
Fear #3: Fear of feeling inferior
While all understandable, living within these three fears all be ensures that your relationships with your customers will never transcend a basic transaction. Through the process of overcoming these three fears, we elevate ourselves above the “transactional relationship” with our customer, and into the vaulted air of “trusted advisor”. Whether your “customer” is an outside client or your boss, if you’re working, then someone is paying you for your time and overcoming these three fears can dramatically improve your professional life. The following two GEMs are but a taste of all the practical solutions found in Getting Naked.
GEM # 1
Enter the Dragon
“Starting with the CEO, they went around the room and told him what they thought his most valuable attribute was for the team, and then they went around and told him the one thing they thought he should work on.”
Getting Naked, page 94
There’s an expression in the improvisational acting world (improv) known as “Enter the Danger”. In improv situations, sometimes a player will do or say something bizarre; something totally at odds with the rest of the situation. As one of the other players in the scene, you have a choice to either embrace the outburst and run with it (entering the danger), or to ignore it and steer the scene back to more familiar territory. You can imagine which option leads to richer scenes.
As human beings, our tendency can be to try to gloss over things that make us uncomfortable. When experiencing unappreciated or unproductive behaviour in a staff meeting, for example, we may choose to ignore the “elephant in the room”, and discuss it quietly with a co-worker afterwards. Nothing could be more toxic. And yet, we experience situations like this every day.
One strong tip to “Getting Naked” is to address these situations as they come up. To “enter the danger”, so to speak. To address the elephants. Yes, it’s scary. Yes, it stretches you, and may lead to an uncomfortable moment. Ultimately though, if you’re entering the danger with the intention of bettering the situation, the team around you will thank you for it. We all want to improve these things. We just need to be willing to get our hands dirty. (and, from personal experience, I will tell you there is an incredible exhilaration that comes from successfully entering the danger and making an improvement.)
GEM # 2
Tell the Kind Truth
“It’s not that they go out of their way to tick off their clients. It’s just that they’re so focused on saying and doing whatever is in the best interests of those clients that they stop worrying about the repercussions.”
Getting Naked, page 154
Point blank question: Are you a yes-man, or do you tell the honest truth? Think it through, honestly. If your client, (or boss) comes to you looking for validation on something, do you give it to them unconditionally, or do you tell them what you really think? Lencioni calls the latter, “telling the kind truth”, and it can be an invaluable service that you provide to the “customers” in your life.
I have one client who has great self confidence. He’s a talented sales-rep-turned-manager and he has a lot to offer to his team. He’s also incredibly strong in his opinions. (So much so that they can sometimes be conveyed as fact). And that can be a little intimidating for people on his team. I would wager that he hears “yes”, a lot more often than he hears true opinion. The irony is that he is actually quite interested in the opinions and pushback of his staff. He just doesn’t present himself that way.
We certainly don’t want to be mean or disparaging in our “truth telling”, but we can provide so much more value if we are willing to extend ourselves a little beyond our comfort zone. Similar to the idea of “entering the danger”, we need to give our honest opinion and feedback when asked for it. The recipient will respect you for it.
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.