by Mike Fernandez, Sr. Business Intelligence Consultant
In “Getting Naked”, Patrick Lencioni presents a consulting approach that maximizes value to the client while emphasizing the role of a consultant as a true servant to the client company. He does this by relating a story of how Jack, a senior consultant at Kendrick and Black (K&B), is pushed into a completely different company culture at K&H’s recently acquired company Lighthouse Partners (Lighthouse). Jack has had a somewhat adversarial relationship with Lighthouse in the past and he is not initially interested in learning about or applying their methods.
During the story, Jack is exposed directly to the way that Lighthouse works and the attitudes that their consultants bring to their clients, an approach developed over time through discussion, observation and application. Jack’s journey is not an academic one – his insight and growth come from working with Lighthouse consultants at client sites and from personal experience. At one point, he has several “teachable moments” as he leads a project using the Lighthouse approach. Jack goes from a biased outsider to a full participant – and as he progresses, he learns to appreciate the results of the different approach. As a result of his new knowledge and viewpoint, Jack creates a model for the methodology and approach. He then has the opportunity to present this model to colleagues at K&H and gains some converts along the way.
So, what does Jack learn? The final section is devoted to an overview of the model that’s used by the author’s real-life consulting company, which he calls the Three Fears. These are available in graphic form at Patrick’s website (linked at the end of the article). Simply reading the list can provide some info, but the true value comes from reading about Jack’s journey – which provides the necessary context to truly understand the reasoning and value behind this approach. That said, here are the primary points of the model…
The Three Fears and strategies to avoid them:
1) Fear of Losing the Business – the customer needs to know that we’re there to help them; avoid making our primary goal maintaining or increasing our revenue stream
- Always consult instead of sell
- Give away the business
- Tell the kind truth
- Enter the danger
2) Fear of Being Embarrassed – avoid letting a lack of complete expertise in a client’s business or scenario result in not finding and following important but perhaps not obvious information
- Ask dumb questions
- Make dumb suggestions
- Celebrate your mistakes
3) Fear of Feeling Inferior – don’t allow the need to be an “important consultant”, with certain role and duty expectations, override service to the client and acting in the client’s best interest
- Take a bullet for the client
- Make everything about the client
- Honor the client’s work
- Do the dirty work
A mindset that will help with all of the above is to always be willing to admit your weaknesses and limitations.
The Reviewer’s Experience
I found the book to have a strong message worth examining by the modern consultant – that as consultants, our purpose and focus should be on the client and what helps them. Following this approach may take us out of our comfort zones, but a quality and appreciative client can be our best advocate.
For those having difficulty with the idea of not selling their services, the story relates that having happy clients can be the best source of new clients – and that by focusing on consulting directly with the client, rather than spending time on sales, “Those clients in turn became a sales engine for the firm…and it was references from clients that shortened the sales cycle considerably.” Jack’s chapter titled “The First Fear” explains that “…It’s about building trust. And in the end, that means the client trusts them and takes care of them.”
I find the second fear to be a challenge – as a consultant, not being the expert in everything. Although not my first inclination, the times I have stepped back and asked the basic questions about specifics or situations , I was rewarded with a better understanding and with an excellent relationship with my client. This chapter provided even greater incentive to continue doing this.
The third fear, as the book notes, can be a subtle variation on the second fear, but it is different. The third fear relates to doing what needs to be done, regardless of what type of task or role it requires. My experience, like the author’s experience, is that doing some things not normally associated with the role of “Consultant” has been more instrumental in moving projects and deliverables forward than other more “high level” activities – at the right times.
I feel that this book will provide insight to a different approach that can help consultants and non-consultants build better professional relationships. This book can get you started, but as they point out, “…there is a big difference between understanding something and putting it into practice.”
Interested in learning more? Pat’s website contains information on this book and others.