helping build dynamic orgs to thrive in complexity

Book Review, Coaching

Our coaching philosophy: Coaching Naked!

We want to be different in the market in how we deliver value to our clients, going further and beyond in pushing ourselves to delivering that value. Agility is about behaviour. If you don’t help your own people establish, nurture and sustain these behaviours in your organization system, then our coaching is quite useless and we don’t want it to be.

Over the years, we have seen several horror stories of systems falling apart or becoming mediocre after the coach leaves. In our opinion, this is a fundamental flaw of the coach, who did not allow the system to own the problem and retain the learnings required. The coach should enable the team to internalize the problem-solving process and to build upon the clients’ own solutions. We have also seen challenges when senior management or executives leave. In this case, if there is a sufficient mass of people integrating agile as a way of work, this might survive such leadership change or morph to retain some value.

Two books have influenced my thoughts a lot and there are countless others that I fail to mention here. From ‘Humble Consulting’, here is an extract that resonates…

Organizations face challenges today that are too messy and complicated for consultants to simply play doctor: run a few tests, offer a neat diagnosis of the “problem,” and recommend a solution. Edgar Schein argues that consultants have to jettison the old idea of professional distance and work with their clients in a more personal way, emphasizing authentic openness, curiosity, and humility.

— About Edgar Schein and his book “Humble Consulting”

Coaching Naked

So we aren’t really showing up, nude for work. We are going to show up in a way where we are transparent in what we do, and also make sure that you own your bit, in order to derive maximum value from the work that we do with you and for you.

Our approach was also highly influenced by Patrick Lencioni’s book “Getting Naked“. It is a highly recommended read of what a client could and should expect from a coach (I refrain from using the “C” word – consulting – which is used in the book, but only as meaning coaching, teaching, facilitating and mentoring and not as “doing the client’s work for them and we can milk them all the way to the bank for several years”). We have been influenced also by Edgar Schein and his work “Humble Consulting”

I have extracted a Q&A from the books details on below which sets the tone for the remaining part of the article:

Q: Why do you use the term ‘naked’ and where does it come from?
A: Naked consulting is a term that refers to the idea of being vulnerable with clients, being completely open and honest with no sense of pretense or cover. The concept comes from the approach that we adopted more than a decade ago, to work with our clients at The Table Group. We help CEOs and their teams build healthy organizations, and we found that by being completely transparent and vulnerable with clients, we built levels of trust and loyalty that blew us away.

Q: What makes naked service different from the way most people provide service?
A: So many service providers and consultants feel the need to demonstrate that they have the right answers and that they don’t make mistakes. Not only do clients see this as inauthentic, they often feel that they are being condescended to and manipulated. We’ve found that what clients really want is honesty and humility.

Q: What are the three fears?
A: People spend most of their lives trying to avoid awkward and painful situations –which is why it is no surprise that we are all susceptible to the three fears that sabotage client loyalty. They include:

1) Fear of Losing the Business – No service provider wants to lose clients or revenue. Interestingly, it is this very notion that prevents many service providers from having the difficult conversations that actually build greater loyalty and trust. Clients want to know that their service providers are more interested in helping succeed in business than protecting their revenue source.

2) Fear of Being Embarrassed – This fear is rooted in pride. No one likes to publicly make mistakes, endure scrutiny or be embarrassed. Naked service providers are willing to ask questions and make suggestions even if those questions and suggestions turn out to be laughably wrong. Clients trust naked service providers because they know that they will not hold back their ideas, hide their mistakes, or edit themselves to save face.

3) Fear of Being Inferior – Similar to the previous fear, this one is rooted in ego. Fear of being inferior is not about being intellectually wrong (as in Fear of being Embarrassed) it is about preserving social standing with the client. Naked service providers are able to overcome the need to feel important in the eyes of their client and basically do whatever a client needs to help the client improve – even if that calls for the service provider to be overlooked or temporarily looked down upon.

Q: What is the impact of naked service on a firm’s bottom line?
A: Consulting or service firms that practice the naked approach will find it easier to retain clients through greater trust and loyalty. That is the first and most obvious benefit. But they’ll also be able to attract clients better because naked service begins before a client actually becomes a client. It allows firms to be more open, more generous and less desperate in the sales process, and creates great differentiation from more traditional sales approaches. Finally, firms that practice the naked approach will attract and retain the right kind of consultants and professionals who yearn for an honest, natural way of working, both with clients and with one another.

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