By Lisa Heay, Marketing Planning Manager at Heinz Marketing

One of my New Year’s resolutions was to read more professional development books. So far, I’m off to a decent start! We’re about a month and a half in to 2020 and I can say that I have read one business book. I chose Getting Naked—it piqued my interest not only because of the title, but it also came highly recommended by our leader, Matt Heinz, and there is a copy on our office library shelf. I had no excuses not to read this one.

Getting Naked is “a business fable about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty.” It’s written by Paul Lencioni, who is a New York Times best-selling business author and president and founder of The Table Group— a firm who consults to CEOs and leadership teams within organizations of all sizes. This book is 10 years old, but it’s one of those that stands the test of time.

What I found most interesting about this book is that it’s told as a story from the perspective of a business consultant, Jack, who is faced with leading the acquisition of a smaller, but oddly more successful, agency than his own. As he shadows their business, he finds they operate in a much different manner than he’s used to, but there’s no denying it’s the key to their success.

Through this story, the author learns how this smaller agency approaches their business and interactions with their clients, and as a result, comes to describe the three fears that lead service providers to undermine the trust and loyalty of their customers:

  1. Fear of losing the business
  2. Fear of being embarrassed
  3. Fear of feeling inferior

Before you stop reading because you’re not a consultant, these fears don’t apply just to those in the service industry. They’re applicable to anyone in an ongoing, relationship-based business environment. I can even see how these fears can tie to my personal relationships and how I conduct interactions with the people around me.

Fear of Losing the Business

We can likely all agree that no one wants to lose good business. However, this fear can actually hurt “our ability to keep and increase business, because it causes us to avoid doing the difficult things that engender greater loyalty and trust with the people we’re trying to serve.” If you’re trying to keep a client happy, you’re likely not giving full and honest feedback, even avoiding difficult conversations that need to be had.

It comes down to the fact that people want to know that you’re more interested in helping them succeed rather than maintaining that revenue.

Fear of Being Embarrassed

People don’t like feeling embarrassed. That’s no secret. In business even more so. Clients are paying us for our expertise. It’s not the time to embarrass yourself.

However, this fear can hinder our clients’ ability to trust us. Pushing pride aside, clients want to know that consultants won’t hold back ideas or questions we might have in order to save face. How often has someone asked a question that they preface as “This might be a dumb question, but….” – only to realize you were wondering the same thing?

Clients want transparency. They want to know that we’re more interested in helping them than making ourselves look good. Sometimes being the one to ask the “dumb” questions starts conversations that need to be had in order to get everyone on the same page. It can open the door for more thoughtful conversations and be a catalyst to building trust with that client.

Coming on board as a consultant having zero experience on this side of the fence was intimidating. I thought at the time that I needed to know it all for our clients to take me seriously. But three years in I’ve realized that clients do appreciate you saying, “I don’t know, but let’s figure it out.”

Fear of Feeling Inferior

This one, like the last, also comes from pride, but there is a difference. It’s about preserving our sense of importance relative to the client. But think about the word “service”. Serving our clients is not about feeling important in their eyes, its about doing whatever it takes to help them achieve their goals—even if that means taking the fall, owning up to mistakes, or doing the grunt work on their behalf. As the author says, “there is nothing more attractive and admirable than people who willingly and cheerfully set their egos aside and make the needs of others more important than their own.”

Naked Service

The fable ends with Jack figuring out that this smaller agency is successful because they’ve shed those three fears and, as a result, practice naked service: they are vulnerable and show levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of the client.

The author goes on to explain the principles of naked service and how to shed each of the three fears. “Tell the kind truth,” “ask dumb questions,” “make dumb suggestions,” and “admit your weaknesses and limitations” are some of those principles. It’s worth a read to get the full details.

The “getting naked” philosophy is one that we embrace here at Heinz Marketing. Our core values drive not only how we treat each other, but how we treat our clients, as well. It’s not always easy so show vulnerability with our clients, but it’s been highly appreciated and creates long-lasting relationships.

Let me know what professional development books have resonated with you. I have a resolution to uphold!