Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 25 seconds

Statue If you have ever read any of Patrick Lencionis books then I know you are already a fan.  But if you aren’t already familiar with Lencioni, his latest book, “Getting Naked” might be a great place for you to start.  The book will likely evoke a very passionate response from you. In it, Lencioni talks about the three fears that can sabotage client loyalty.

According to Lencioni, the three fears are:
1)  Fear of Losing the Business
2)  Fear of Feeling Embarrassed
3)  Fear of Feeling Inferior

Lencioni points out that each of these fears can get in the way of creating an authentic client relationship. At the end of the day, it’s the authenticity that clients most want from us. I recommend that every accountant read this book for layer after layer of insight associated with each of these fears as they relate to client service.

I want to take those same fears and look at them from a different perspective. Over the years, while working with hundreds of accountants, I’ve watched these fears not only get in the way of building strong client relationships but also get in the way of building strong firms.

“Fear of Losing the Business” causes firms to hold onto clients that don’t fit with their firm goals. Both the client and your team pay the price for this irrational attachment to value-draining relationships. The client loses because the minute they became an undesirable client, your firm’s ability and interest in serving their needs is forever compromised. Similarly, when you assign your team to work with undesirable clients you send them a message about the team’s value to your firm.

“Fear of Feeling Embarrassed” causes one of the greatest sins I have witnessed in the profession; client contact hoarding. I have heard many partners talk about their discomfort with having a junior team member sit in on client meetings for fear they might say something dumb. First off, if you have an authentic relationship with your clients, they will appreciate watching you mentor your team members. Second, with a little briefing, even the most inexperienced team members can be coached to hold their questions and comments till after the meeting. We have to get over the need to be perfect and give our young people a taste of what makes this such a great profession; working closely with clients. A great way to involve your young team members is to have them act as scribe for the session. This will cause them to listen carefully to what is being said rather than zoning out because they are not engaged in the conversation.

“Fear of Feeling Inferior” is all about needing to maintain our social standing. We all enjoy being admired and respected but when the need for acknowledgement gets in the way of letting others shine, it becomes destructive. The fastest way to discourage a top performer is to keep them in a closet and not let them “spread their wings” once in a while. Being the smartest person in the room may be obvious to all, but being smart doesn’t make you successful. Success comes from helping others succeed. Include your team mates who are still developing confidence in themselves.

Getting Naked or as Lencioni says it, “providing naked service” is just as important with internal clients as it is with our external clients, if not more so. Because when we have happy team mates, we are much more likely to have happy clients. So when you read his book title, Getting Naked, A Business Fable about shedding the three fears that sabotage client loyalty, insert “team” for “client” and watch all your relationships grow.

Edi Osborne, CEO of Mentor Plus, has been a leader in training and consulting to the accounting profession for nearly 20 years. Recently named as one of the TOP 25 Thought Leaders in Public Accounting, Ms. Osborne is dedicated to helping firms make the transition from a "service centric" traditional accounting focus to a "client centric" advisory services culture. For more info go to: http://www.mentorplus.com/.

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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