Naked, but for the sauna
You know that hesitation, standing on the jetty, looking at the cold water? Picturing getting up from the water and back into the sauna does not entirely help. The threshold to overcome is tangible, though only real in your mind. Take a deep breath. Practise is the only thing that will make it easier.
As a consultant there are thresholds made by fear everywhere. Recognising it as fear might be hard, but Patrick Lencioni gives us tools for understanding the origins of our emotions. In his book Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding The Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty he divides them into the fear of losing the business, being inferior and feeling embarrassed. Strategies that both challenge those fears, and benefits the customer are listed in the book. This is what I took with me from reading his work.
The fear of feeling embarrassed makes us withhold ourselves from the customer. Asking questions that might be dumb aids the customer by making sure that everyone actually understand what is going on and that nothing important is missed. The outside perspective from a consultant will also bring a company new insights. But that only works if the consultant has the courage to share their thoughts, even if they seem obvious or silly. Celebrating our mistakes also fight this fear and makes it easier to try things out, for us and those around us.
The fear of losing the business holds us back from giving everything. It can be in terms of giving help to a prospect customer that ends up being all they need from us. Or having our honesty bring a customer relationship to an end. The solution is to jump into the cold water. If you enter a situation where something feels off, bring it up. It is only by getting naked that the consultant can point out that the emperor has no clothes. But we tell the kind truth. It is not about embarrassing the emperor, it is about getting him a better tailor. Start helping the prospect customer before any contract is in place. Show that you bring value before negotiating the rate. Then you know that it is you, and not your CV, the customer wants. And everyone knows you can make a difference, since you already did.
The fear of being inferior is the foundation of the imposter syndrome. The naked consultant solves this by taking pride in not being proud. If something needs to be done, we will do it. If there is a way to save the customer’s face by taking the proverbial bullet, we will do it. This is enabled by a true interest in the customer's work. Success for the customer’s company should always be closest to our heart. Only work with customers where you can share their passion. This way we have something to focus on instead of our ego. It is our ego that fears being inferior.
Being in a kind environment help us battle all of this. I wrote earlier that practise is the only thing that makes sauna and cold baths easier. I did not mention the crowd of friends cheering you on from the door to the changing room. I know that I am not enough. But when in a good environment, my team and I got this, when working together.
The DevOps report tells us that the number of elite performing companies have increased between 2018 and 2019. At the same time the medium and low performing group is still more than half of the respondents. The IT-industry needs nakedness. For those ready to jump into the cold water there will be plenty to do for a very long time. And I will fight my fears every day, as a consultant and employee, for the joy of seeing progress.
From my Finnish friends I have learned that in the sauna I am not naked, I just don’t wear any clothes. As a professional it is the other way around — I am fully clothed, but completely naked.
This is a slightly modified version of a post that I originally wrote on LinkedIn.