The Naked Approach to Client Service: Addressing Three Fears

“We’ve all read Getting Naked and talked about it. I’m sure you have too,” a friend and consultant from Credera commented to me over lunch recently.

I made a mental note to follow up afterwards and find out what he meant. Frankly, I was a little worried what the browser would pull up with those words entered into the search parameters …

Thankfully my Kindle quickly identified a book by best-selling author Pat Lencioni. I downloaded it and read the book on my next business trip a couple of days later. I can now highly recommend the same book to you.

The book is written as a fable, so it gets the content across by telling a story. The key messages center around how to provide service to clients in a way that overcomes their fears. The story about a management consultant is easy to follow and makes the book fun to read. This style of writing makes it feel like a cross between fiction and non-fiction.

Lencioni’s attention-grabbing title comes back to his emphasis on the importance of vulnerability and transparency in relationships. Whether you work as an internal or an external consultant, or a service provider of almost any type (think personal trainer, home builder or financial advisor for example) the model this book presents translates into how to build more authentic, sustainable relationships with clients.

The Naked Service Model is based on overcoming three fears:

  1. Fear of losing the business – This can cause service providers to do things like censor feedback and avoid difficult issues
  2. Fear of being embarrassed – This often causes service providers to hold back insights / ideas and try to hide mistakes
  3. Fear of feeling inferior – Whether conscious or unconscious, this challenges a service provider’s assumption that they must preserve their social standing with the client at all costs

At different times in my own career, I have been “the consultant” in the scenario and I have also been “the client.” I have firsthand experience with each role.

If you have not ever walked in the shoes of the other person in a consulting engagement, this book may help you get a better idea of what it is like from a different perspective. Each party has fears, needs, wants and priorities – most of which are never articulated.

Lencioni helps all parties understand what drives the other’s behaviors so everyone can let their guard down and interact with a much greater degree of transparency. Some of the principles may come more naturally for you than others, depending upon your work style, company culture and your own personality. It takes time for them to become habits.

In the spirit of letting go of the “fear of losing the business,” I can think of a time with PeopleResults just last year when our willingness to let go of a project with a client was ultimately very beneficial to the long-term relationships which formed. When tensions were running high, it was very hard to anticipate that as the eventual outcome. It took time, but I believe the clients ultimately gained respect for us because of it.

I’m looking forward to consciously practicing more principles from the Naked Service Model with our clients at PeopleResults. Much like our friends at Credera, our entire team is now discussing the book too!

Betsy Winkler is Partner at PeopleResults. She can be reached on Twitter @BetsyWinkler1 or on email at Sign up to receive their blog at Current.