Today I am excited to shared the “naked” insights of Sybil Dahan.
Two weeks ago I launched a new blog series featuring some of my fellow “naked” fans. This series was inspired by my favourite book Getting Naked by Patrick Lencioni. In fact, you’ll find references to the “naked” approach in posts such as Celebrating the Age of Transparency, Is Vulnerability a Leadership Strength?, Part 5 of 7: Are You Ready to Get Naked?, and The Beauty of Audaciousness. This book resonated for me like no other. Patrick brilliantly put to words a message and a Getting Naked Service Model that I have passionately come to believe and live by through the course of my career. Not only did it validate my approach, for which many have thought I was crazy, it re-enforced it and further shaped my methods. I advocate that everyone read this book, it is sure to transform your thinking and approach with your customers.
When a book impacts me like this one has it makes me curious to find out how it impacted others that have read it. What about the “naked” approach resonated with them the most? How is their approach similar? And how does it differ? Finally, did the book further shape their approach? I was also curious to hear examples of how the “naked” approach has enabled barriers they have encountered? What traits do they admire most in leaders, or more specifically what traits build their trust?
Two weeks ago Joe Ames, Senior Director of IT Infrastructure and Development at Lash Group shared his point of view with us. Joe shared “When companies set aside reality and keep customers at all costs it turns the relationship from one of partnership and value to both parties, to one of order taker and win-lose.” I love this! I see so many companies struggle with win-lose relationships with their clients. I believe that having the courage to be vulnerable with your clients is the best way to break this cycle and transform your relationships into trusting partnerships.
Then Ray Brown, co-founder of ClienteerHub enlightened us with his “naked” insights. Ray shared “Calling people on how they are feeling/acting/behaving is another form of nakedness. I call it “pedantic openness” and I use it a lot at times of communication or relationship breakdown. “Let’s just ask the dumb questions and stop making assumptions.” Once I get a team up the scale of maturity I often do a “Stop, Start Continue” exercise where people openly share their thoughts about one another. They make their relationships “naked”.” This level of nakedness is powerful, few have the courage to take it to this level, huge kudos to Ray.
Now, it is a huge honour for me to share the insights of one of my most cherished clients, Sybil Dahan. I had the privilege of partnering with Sybil as Commercial Director at Abbott Canada. Previous to this role Sybil was General Manager of Abbott Sweden, she achieved award winning results and recognition in the Scandinavian business community and her “naked” approach undoubtedly contributed to her accelerated success. She then came back to Canada and was a courageous advocate and enabler of improving patient experience. Sybil’s “naked” leadership approach accelerated our ability as a vendor to partner with Abbott for mutual patient-centric success. Key to the success of the “naked” approach is a client that embraces it, if your client leads through fear, this adds a layer of complexity as you need to coach your client to surrender their fear, this was not the case with Sybil.
Dawna: “What about the “naked” approach resonated with you the most?”
Sybil: “The “naked” approach, described by Patrick Lencioni, is about service providers behaving like partners instead of consultants when dealing with clients. I have noticed that service providers who behave as consultants may create solutions for clients but often enough do not own the outcome, while the ones who behave as partners work with clients to achieve a common objective and, therefore, are accountable for the results. Lencioni eloquently articulates what I have always admired in service providers who behave like partners.
In my experience, the fundamental difference lies in that partners genuinely work toward success defined by the ultimate customers, and in many cases the ultimate customers are not the clients, but the clients’ customers. What I admire most of the service providers that behave like partners is their ability to define our customers’ needs as the only measurement of success.”
Dawna: “How is your approach similar? How is it different? Finally, did the book further shape your approach?”
Sybil: “My approach is much more similar than different to Lencioni’s naked approach when dealing with customers. I aim to partner with our customers to achieve a common objective. In healthcare, the consumers of products and services are the patients while the other customers are the ones often making the decisions on behalf of the patients, e.g. healthcare professionals deciding what treatment to provide; private insurance providers or governments deciding if the treatment option is worth paying for. My approach with the decision-makers is to clarify the objectives upfront – defined and measured by the patients’ positive outcome and satisfaction – hence setting the stage in achieving a common goal.
Although Getting Naked principles focus on the concept of providing services – or products – I found myself analyzing how the naked approach can also be applied to a leader and more importantly a leadership team. That is, how can one provide the service of leading an organization to success? I came to the following conclusions:
– Fear of losing the business can be interpreted as leaders should not make their tenure all about a popularity contest and focus on their own career development. Leaders should instead focus on understanding and improving the organization’s performance, i.e. ensuring the leadership team performs well together and articulates the vision and values clearly to the entire organization, and ultimately communicating the organization’s performance – good and the not-so-good. Focusing on the organization’s successes, not your own, is what this is all about.
– Fear of being embarrassed can be interpreted as leaders should not behave as if they have all the answers and solutions. Leaders should ask the “dumb questions”, but should also ensure they are surrounded with people who can provide the answers. Leaders will face the situation of having to move forward without all the answers, so how they behave when the results come out is crucial – if the decision was not the optimal one then will the leadership’s reaction be of hiding the outcome, or deflecting the responsibility onto others, or perhaps punishing the organization for their failure? Leaders should instead take full responsibility for the failure and put mechanisms in place for the organization to learn from their mistakes. Learning from the organization’s failures, not punishing, is what this is all about.
– Fear of feeling inferior can be interpreted as leaders should not fear in participating in the every-day activities, or as some might call it “doing the dirty work”. By no means am I suggesting that leaders should become micro-managers and do their staff’s activities, but instead apply the concept that you should never ask another to do a task that yourself would not be willing to do. This is about building respect and trust because of who you are and what you can do – not to be confused with what title one holds and what was done in the past to get there.”
Dawna: “Share some examples of how your own flavor of the naked approach has enable barriers you have encountered.”
Sybil: “I do have one example that describes my flavor of the naked approach, and I must admit I have used it often to make that point.
Soon after I arrived in Sweden to lead our local affiliate, I was presented with the affiliate’s set of values (responsibility, teamwork, engagement, quality, success) yet realized no direction was given to the employees as to what to do with these values. Within months of my arrival, the leadership team drafted the vision and long-term goal for the affiliate, and began the relentless task of communicating the vision, values and long-term goal to the entire organization. The following year, I’m called to an internal meeting to assist the supply team in reaching resolution to a contractual matter. As I’m describing the solution I determined as best, an employee asks to challenge my decision – this in the presence of many of my direct reports, including his boss. The challenge was based on his belief that my decision was not in line with our vision and set of values, so I got very excited and wanted to hear more from this manager. Suffice to say that after a good debate, the manager’s recommendation became the final decision, and ultimately the right decision based on the outcome.
By focusing on the affiliate’s success – not protecting my own ego – it was possible for this manager to express his views based on agreed criteria (vision and values). By not insisting on maintaining my decision by fear of being embarrassed, it was possible for all to recognize that this manager’s recommendation was a better solution for the affiliate. The fact that I and a few of my direct reports participated in this meeting in the first place demonstrates that the leadership team was prepared to do the dirty work… Although I joked with the supply team that they were capable of reaching resolution without the leadership’s intervention in the first place.”
Dawna: “What traits do you admire most in leaders, or more specifically what traits build your trust?”
Sybil: “What I admire most in leaders is the ability to combine a strong IQ with an even stronger EQ, i.e. leaders who are visionary and strategic, demonstrate strong business acumen, are humble and inspirational, and can build a strong organizational identity. An outstanding leader ensures the leadership team, not just oneself, is leading the organization – this is perhaps the single most important attribute I look for in a leader. I believe that for this to succeed, leaders should establish a team that works well together i.e. respect among the team allowing for some disagreement, ability to quickly reach a final decision based on agreed values, obsession over communication, celebration of success and failure, and ultimately a team that has fun doing all this.”
Special thanks to Sybil for sharing her enlightening perspective. I have seen first hand through my partnership with Sybil that she walks the talk. Sybil, Ray, Joe and I would like to hear your thoughts or questions, are you ready to get naked?