Naked and vulnerable people build trust faster — @patricklencioni

Book Highlights: “Getting Naked” by Patrick Lencioni

Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni

This book was recommended as THE must-read for anyone involved in service sales by Jack Daly, himself a sales guru. The message is simple:

“Vulnerability… there is no better way to earn a person’s trust than by putting ourselves in a position of unprotected weakness and demonstrating that we believe they will support us.”

This is irrelevant in individual transactions, but hyper-applicable to anyone who’s in the business of giving ongoing, relationship-based advice or services. At it’s core, this approach requires us to:

“…embrace uncommon levels of humility, selflessness, and transparency for the good of a client.”

Three common fears get in the way of vulnerability:

Fear of losing the business

Losing the business can come from incompetent service. No level of vulnerability can help there. Other ways to lose business come from the client:

  1. thinking they don’t need us anymore; or
  2. feeling offended or insulted.

If we believe this, logic dictates that we should:

  1. avoid delivering excess value so that we’re still needed; and
  2. avoid saying anything overly bold or client threatening.

At the risk of offending all of my friends who have ever worked in management consulting, I cannot overstate how pervasive those attitudes are in professional services. I must confess my own regression to at least one of those protectionist havens in some situations this past year. However, it is precisely when this safety is thrown to the winds that the real magic happens.

Don’t sell; just start helping

The best and most rewarding work I’ve done always came from just trying to help.

“Let’s do something small and see how it goes… if we decide there’s a fit, we can talk details from there (as opposed to long proposals).”

Have some templates

“Here’s what we believe a successful model looks like; let’s see if any of this can be helpful to you”

Have the confidence to something bold

When there’s something odd or disruptive going on, tolerate it long enough to assess / confirm it, but then take bold action (ex. team member who repeatedly shuts down and disrupts discussions → can intervene out in the open, but be sure to have concrete examples of how it shows up and how it affects the team).

SIDE NOTE: effective trust-building exercise = everyone go around a circle and tell each person one thing they love about them, and one thing they could work on.

Fear of being embarrassed

None of us enjoy looking like idiots, but it’s the cost of ensuring we’re fully informed. When in doubt, speak up. Ask lots of questions, even dumb and simple questions (SIDE NOTE: when you hire an operations consultant, they will often spend the bulk of their discovery phase walking around and asking about pedantic basics).

Perhaps the biggest trust builder is admitting mistakes, especially when they are way down the line and new information now invalidates tons of your prior work or strong beliefs that you previously held.

Fear of feeling inferior

Social media creates an odd dynamic of inferiority-avoidance because we are able to present an aspirational version of ourselves. In the real world, inferiority-avoidance is easily spotted. It can can take the form of eccentric inflation of one’s achievements, or excess disparagement of others (see: 2016 US Election). While these attempts at intimidation may work in the short run, they tend to fail over time, and absolutely shatter trust.

The exact opposite behaviour builds trust. Taking a hypothetical bullet for an individual can endear you. The same goes for doing the dirty work that nobody else wants to.

Finally, elevate the client. Ultimately, a consulting client generously makes an advisor’s very existence possible, and should be treated as such. Simple norms such as a culture of support, and never speaking disparagingly about a client can go a long way to ensuring this remains the case.

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