Table of Contents
Also by Patrick Lencioni
Title Page
Copyright Page
The Fable
PART ONE - Theory
PART TWO - Practice
PART THREE - Research
PART FOUR - Testimony
The Model

Also by Patrick Lencioni
The Five Temptations of a CEO
The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Death by Meeting
Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team
Silos, Politics, and Turf Wars
The Truth About Employee Engagement
The Three Big Questions for a Frantic Family
The Advantage
The Ideal Team Player


This book is dedicated to all The Table Group consulting partners around the world who are practicing naked service with clients every day.

Vulnerability. It is one of the most undervalued and misunderstood of all human qualities.
Without the willingness to be vulnerable, we will not build deep and lasting relationships in life. That's because 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.
Yet society encourages us to avoid vulnerability, to always project strength, confidence, and poise. Although this is certainly advisable in some situations in life, when it comes to important, ongoing relationships, it stifles our ability to build trust.
For those who provide service to clients, vulnerability is particularly powerful. Those who get comfortable being vulnerable—or as I call it, naked—are rewarded with levels of client loyalty and intimacy that other service providers can only dream of.
Whenever I explain this to an audience, I am often asked, “But can't you be too vulnerable?” Surprisingly, the answer is no. Of course, if you come to your clients every day admitting that you've made yet another mistake or that you don't know how to do yet another required element of your job, that would be a serious problem. But it would be not an issue of vulnerability, but rather of competence; the problem would not lie in the admitting of so many weaknesses, but in the having of them!
Which reminds me of the flaw in that old adage never let them see you sweat. The truth is, our clients almost always know when we are sweating, often before we do. And so we have a choice. We can either pretend we're not sweaty and try to hide our weaknesses, and then watch our credibility erode. Or we can raise up our arms, acknowledge our sweatiness, and show them that we are honest and self-assured enough to be worthy of their trust.
If this is so simple in theory—and I'll be the first to admit that it is—then why do we so often resist being naked with clients?
For one, we think it will hurt our chances for success. We fail to realize that, even though clients require us to be competent enough to meet their needs, it is ultimately our honesty, humility, and selflessness that will endear us to them and allow them to trust and depend on us.
But even if we come to understand this on an intellectual level, most of us will still struggle with vulnerability because we are human beings who don't like to be weak, which means we are subject to the completely natural but irrational fears that make us uncomfortable being naked. This book is about overcoming those fears, which is not easy. It requires levels of self-sacrifice and discomfort—and, at times, real suffering—that few people are willing to endure.
So naked service is rare, which means it provides an opportunity for a powerful and tangible competitive advantage for those who embrace it. They will build stronger, stickier relationships with their clients; they'll have an easier time getting those clients to actively and enthusiastically recommend and endorse them, even without being asked; they'll have more comfortable and collaborative discussions about pricing and fees; and they'll enjoy their work much more.
But more than any of that, what makes naked service worthwhile is that it puts us in a position to more effectively help our clients, which, of course, is what providing service is all about. It is my hope that this little book helps you understand how to do just that.
Okay. Now it's time to get naked.




I can't say that I hated Michael Casey.
For one, Sister Rose Marie Hennessey had taught me in second grade that I should never hate anyone. And besides, I had never actually met Casey. I don't think you can really hate someone you haven't met, even if you ignore Sister Rose Marie's advice.
But I'm not going to lie; Michael Casey was one of my least favorite people in the world. Even the mention of his name could put me in a moderately bad mood.
And so, if you had told me a year earlier that I would spend four solid months of my professional life learning about him and his annoying little consulting firm, I would have told you it was time for me to change careers.
But that's exactly what happened, and I've lived to tell about it.


I'm Jack Bauer, and yes, I share a name with that guy on TV who saved the world every year. Unlike him, though, I'm not a superhero. I'm just a consultant.
For five years I'd been working within the strategy practice at Kendrick and Black, a prestigious, international full-service management consulting firm headquartered in San Francisco.
In addition to being one of the senior consultants in our division, I headed up sales for the strategy practice of our firm. This meant I sometimes competed for clients with Michael Casey and his firm, Lighthouse Partners.
Now, Lighthouse was a much smaller firm than ours, and they focused most of their work in the Bay Area, so we didn't run up against them in more than 5 or 10 percent of the projects that we pursued. But when we did, we lost every single time.
That's not exactly true. We won once. But a year later the client, a small start-up called DecisionTech, threw us out and hired Lighthouse, which was more painful than losing to them in the first place. What was especially painful was the fact that all of these losses occurred in our own backyard, providing particularly high-profile defeats for all of our local peers to see. This only exacerbated our bitterness toward Michael Casey.
Keep in mind that, unlike in the world of sports, when you compete against a consulting firm you almost never actually see your competitors. But you hear about them. And after listening to story after story about how amazing and smart and effective Michael Casey and his team were, I would have liked nothing more than to hear they were going out of business.
Or so I thought.


When I was first told by a colleague that Michael Casey was leaving Lighthouse and that his firm was for sale, I was ecstatic. We had finally worn him down, I decided. There was a chink in their armor after all; no one could be that good.
When I learned that he was leaving to “spend more time with his family,” my euphoria diminished a little, but not much. Spending more time with your family was one of the most commonly used phrases for papering over a performance issue. Regardless of the reason, Lighthouse was up for sale and we wouldn't have to compete with and be humiliated by them ever again.
My glee at hearing about the demise of my enemy came to an abrupt end five days later when the founder of our firm, Jim Kendrick, pulled the rug out from under me.
Keep in mind that Jim had stopped by my office only twice before. Once to formally welcome me to his firm. Another time to warn me not to screw up a project for one of our biggest clients. He wasn't known for being overly warm or tactful.
“Here's the deal, Jack. You probably know about a little consulting firm over in Half Moon Bay called Lighthouse Partners.”
“Yeah, I know them.” I said it like I had never given them a second thought.
He continued, “Well, they were desperate to be sold in a hurry, and Marty said they were probably worth the risk. So we bought them before anyone else could. And so I wanted to—”
I was shocked and felt suddenly threatened, which is probably why, before he could finish, I interrupted: “What are we going to do with them?”
“We ... ” He paused, smiling a little condescendingly at my impatience. “ ... are going to have you manage it for a while. We want you to spend five or six months overseeing the firm, which shouldn't take more than half of your daily hours. As soon as you get your hands around what's going on over there, we can integrate whatever parts of it we decide to keep into our strategy division, and figure out what to do with the rest. And if all goes well, you should be heading the strategy division by then, given that Marty will be retiring next summer.” He paused as if he were simply out of words. “Okay then.” And he left.
Just like that, my world had been turned upside down, and for the rest of the day I couldn't decide how to digest it all. As I explained to my wife that night, I should have been happy. But there was something about the situation that made me uncomfortable.
Part of it was certainly the realization that if this went poorly, my career would be considerably damaged—and that I'd have Lighthouse Partners to thank for it. Michael Casey just might continue to haunt me even after his departure.
Another reason for my discomfort was the thought of having to finally meet the man, to sit down with him face-to-face to discuss the transition.
As it turned out, that would not happen.


Casey's departure from Lighthouse turned out to be more abrupt than anyone expected. As soon as the ink was dry on the deal, he was gone.
I was relieved by this, but less than I would have expected, probably because I was suddenly suspicious about whether there was something wrong at the firm.
When I asked my boss, Marty, about the circumstances, he shrugged. “I don't know. It happened so fast, we had very little time for any due diligence. But for Kendrick, the cost was relatively low, and for some reason he thought it was worth the risk.”
I sensed Marty wasn't telling me the whole story. “Come on—you were the one pushing hard for the deal, weren't you?”
Marty smiled. “Maybe.”
“So how are these people feeling about the whole thing?”
Marty shrugged. “I really have no idea. But you'll probably find out on Wednesday.”
“Yeah.” Marty grinned. “You're meeting with the partners over at Lighthouse Wednesday morning.”
Marty was a wiry, well-dressed fifty-seven-year-old workaholic who had suddenly decided he was ready for early retirement and a chance at unlimited golf. And evidently he never had a Sister Rose Marie in second grade, because out of nowhere he remarked, “I really hate Michael Casey.”
Unlike me, Marty had actually met the man on a few occasions, and considering it was his division that Lighthouse had been beating up on for the past dozen years, I suppose his hatred could be at least partly justified.
“Phony,” “falsely modest,” and “self-righteous” were the terms Marty used to describe Casey. I can't deny that Marty's feelings influenced me—or more accurately, infected me—and encouraged my hostility toward our rival. But I didn't like losing any more than Marty did, so I had nurtured my own bitterness toward the man and his little firm during my five years at Kendrick and Black.
“What's your hypothesis about how all of this is going to pan out?” I wanted to know.
Marty took a breath and thought about it for a second. “It's hard to say for sure. But I'll tell you this: I don't see too many of their partners making it through the next year.”
“Why do you say that?”
“I don't know.” As he thought about it, he winced. “More than anything else, we just have two completely different cultures.”
I wasn't surprised by his comment, but I wanted a little more in terms of specifics. “For instance?”
This time he didn't hesitate. “From what I hear, the place is a country club.”
Marty could see that I didn't understand what he meant, so he explained. “They've got this funky office that used to be a kindergarten or preschool or something like that. I hear that their parking lot is empty by seven o'clock every night. They don't work weekends. Ever. It's a playground. Their partners would get eaten alive here.”
“Isn't that a problem for us?”
Marty shook his head and smiled. “Not really. We'll get their clients and the consultants who do all the real work. That's the reason we did the deal in the first place.”
I was starting to get a little nervous. “So, why don't you come with me Wednesday?”
Marty's eyes went wide. “Oh, I'd love to.”
I was relieved, until he continued, “But Kendrick and I agreed that this is something you need to do on your own. At least for now.” He paused. “But if you don't come back and give me a detailed, blow-by-blow account of the meetings, and a vivid and dramatic description of every detail about that damn company, I'll fire you.”
We laughed. Or at least he did. I was probably a little distracted, thinking about what would be coming on Wednesday.


As a consultant, I had always advised my clients who acquired companies to accelerate the transitions and integrations, to avoid letting problems linger or fester. “Ripping the Band-Aid off quickly” is how I liked to characterize it. But now that I was the one doing the integrating and ripping, I was starting to question that advice. Still, I had no choice.
So, forty-eight hours after the contract had been signed, I found myself driving west along the crooked highway connecting the San Francisco Bay Area to the coastal town of Half Moon Bay. That's where the twenty-five employees of Lighthouse Partners were waiting to hear what I had to say about their future. They could not have been more curious than I was.
The Lighthouse office was not exactly what Marty had described. But it was darn close.
Standing alone and apart from the rest of the small agricultural town was a tiny campus of sorts, with four rectangular buildings separated by breezeways and small, neatly manicured lawns. It had certainly once been a school of some kind (I would later learn that it had been an elementary school for the developmentally disabled who were now being mainstreamed into the school system). Today it was the home of three companies: a small wine distributor, an agricultural supply sales office, and Lighthouse Partners.
After parking my car in what had once been a playground, I immediately saw why Michael Casey had chosen the name for his company. No more than a quarter of a mile to the west was a small but unmistakable lighthouse, mostly white with three equally spaced blue stripes. I wondered why so many people, including me, liked lighthouses so much.
The school building reminded me of my own grammar school, except that this one had been spruced up and redecorated to look somewhat corporate. I was surprised—and, I'll admit, somehow pleased—to see that the bathrooms in the center of the building still had “Boys” and “Girls” signs on the outside, and that an old-fashioned drinking fountain with three separate spigots was mounted on the wall between them. I couldn't help but think about Sister Rose Marie.
Walking the corridor, I found a door with a Lighthouse sign on it and went inside.



The inside of the building did not match the exterior. A reception area and a large, fishbowl-like conference room dominated the front part of the building, which had been redone in brick and simple wood. The rest of the building and, as I would later learn, another across the quad, had been converted into open office areas. Everything was neat and simple, with desks and bookshelves along the walls, and skylights everywhere.
I was greeted by a petite, fortyish blonde woman in blue jeans who was sitting at the front desk. “Can I help you?”
Before I could answer, she continued, “Are you Jack?” Though she apparently knew who I was, she smiled politely as though I were just another visitor, maybe the FedEx guy or a caterer, but certainly not the conquering general arriving to size up the spoils of his victory.
“I'm here for a meeting with Amy Stirling and Dick Janice.” I'm pretty sure that I didn't smile, because I felt a sudden surge of self-consciousness and inferiority. I wondered if she noticed.
Without a trace of anxiety, she responded, “I'm Amy Stirling.”
Like a moron, I spoke without thinking, asking a question that was as unnecessary as it was inane. “Is this where you sit, Amy?”
She smiled in a puzzled kind of way. “No, this is the reception desk. Christa is on her honeymoon, so we're all trying to cover for her. And I was waiting for you.”
Seeming to sense my discomfort, Amy continued, “Why don't you go on into the conference room, and I'll see if I can't find Dick and Matt. Grab a drink from the kitchen if you want something.” She motioned to a doorway next to the conference room.
A minute later I was sitting alone at the oak table in the fishbowl room, opening a Diet Coke. And then it dawned on me.
So this is it. This is the physical source of the frustration and anxiety that Marty and I have been feeling.
Suddenly, I had an urge to get up and explore every nook and cranny of the office, to invisibly observe the meetings and listen in on the phone calls where they plotted to drive us crazy. That impulse was quickly and strangely replaced by an urge to leave.
I couldn't decide whether I was more afraid of confronting the little monster I had been loathing for these past few years, or of discovering that it wasn't as ugly as I had imagined. Whatever the case, it was too late to consider, because at that moment Amy and two of her colleagues walked into the room.


Dick Janice, the oldest of the partners and someone whose name I had heard a few times in the course of my sales adventures, greeted me first. He was a bigger, balder man than I had expected, in good shape for someone who looked to be half way between fifty and sixty years old. His handshake was a firm one, which didn't surprise me. Anyone under the age of seventy who hadn't changed his name from Dick back to Richard would have to be fairly tough, I figured.
Dick seemed as friendly and calm as Amy, which I found disturbing all over again. Do these people even know who I am and why I'm here?
Fortunately, the last and youngest of the partners, Matt O'Connor, gave me a nervous vibe that reconnected me with reality. A freckle-faced redhead, Matt didn't manage to smile when he shook my hand, and he looked away as soon as he could.
Dick spoke first. “Welcome to Half Moon Bay, Jack. I hope you didn't have any problem finding our strange little office.”
I assured him I hadn't, and we exchanged a few pleasantries about the weather and the blue-striped lighthouse and the school building where they worked. Then I decided to take control of the discussion.
“Okay, so how are you guys doing?” I didn't give them a chance to answer. “Things must be a little unsettling right now.”
I was afraid they were going to look at me as though they didn't know what I was talking about and say “No, actually we're good.”
Thankfully, they didn't. Dick went first, smiling painfully. “I'd say things are at an all-time low from a morale standpoint.”
The others nodded, but Amy clarified. “It's not that anyone's going to jump out a window or anything. They're just in shock, and a little worried. But they're busy, and that's good.”
“How is business these days?” I asked. Before they could respond, I felt the need to clarify. “I mean, normally I would have all that information before coming in here today. But I just found out about all this two days ago and I've been traveling, so—”
Dick interrupted, reassuringly: “Don't worry about it. We're all spinning a little right now.”
Finally, Matt spoke, in a slightly defensive tone. “We're busier than we've been in a long time, and we're completely maxed out in terms of bandwidth. We had to turn down two clients this month, good clients, because we just couldn't handle the load. But just this morning we reluctantly agreed to work with a new client, and that's going to be a push for us until a few people get back from vacation.”
Though I'm sure that I concealed my surprise, I couldn't believe what I was hearing.
At K&B, we had never turned down a client, not if they could pay us. Even if we were strapped for consultants, we would borrow someone from another practice, accelerate our hiring, or, more often than not, just work people that much harder into the evening and on weekends. This must have been what Marty was referring to when he talked about the country club.
“Well, it's great that you're busy.” I tried my best to seem sincere, but I realized that I probably came across as patronizing. Whatever. “By the way, who is your new client?”
Amy responded first. “A supply chain company in San Mateo called Boxcar.”
This time I had to work even harder to hide my reaction.
Boxcar had been one of the potential clients in our sales pipeline, and I had them rated pretty high in terms of our probability of closing them. I hadn't known they were even talking to Lighthouse.
As much as I wanted to ask about how they won the deal, I didn't want to acknowledge my own loss. I decided to let it go and change the subject.
“So, how much do you know about Kendrick and Black?”
Amy went first. “Well, I know you're headquartered in the city, and that you're a lot bigger than we are. But to be honest, I don't really know a lot about how you guys approach the market and how you work with clients. I'm assuming that you have a variety of different practices, but I couldn't say what they are and how you compare to any of the other big consulting firms out there. They all kind of blend together for me.”
I have to admit that I didn't believe her for a second. As a partner, she had to know more than that about one of her biggest competitors.
Matt chimed in before I could fill in the blanks for Amy. “You know, five or six years ago I sat next to someone on an airplane who worked in the Human Capital practice at K&B. I remember her telling me that you,” he directed his remarks at me, “have four or five offices around the country, and something like five different practices.”
I politely corrected him. “We've grown the number of offices to seven, one in London and another in Beijing, and consolidated our practices down to four. There's strategy, which is my practice. Human capital, which includes HR and team-building and organizational stuff. Finance, which includes everything from mergers and acquisitions to investments. And M&O—manufacturing and operations—which I suppose is pretty self-explanatory.”
Matt was writing all of this down as though he really had no idea.
“What's the culture at K&B like?” Dick asked.
“Well, it's very collegial and professional and client-focused,” I responded without even thinking.
“How so?” Dick wanted to know.
“Well, I hoped you weren't going to ask that, because I don't really know what any of that means. We just say it because it's printed in our brochures and on our website.”
Actually, I didn't say that. Instead, I gave him some generic pitch about working together across disciplines and going the extra mile for clients, blah blah blah. Frankly, I wasn't sure there really was a culture at K&B, other than doing whatever you had to do to keep your clients happy and paying their bills. And to me, that seemed like the best kind of culture for a consulting firm.
“What about you?” Amy asked. “How long have you been there? What is your role at the firm?”
I was actually starting to believe that she really didn't know anything about me, my firm, or what was going on here. If I had been in her shoes, sitting on the wrong side of a merger, I'd have tapped into every resource this side of the CIA to find out who and what and why things were happening. She seemed to be just going along for the ride.
“Well, I head up sales for our strategy practice. I've been at K&B for a little more than five years. Before that I served as a VP of strategic planning for a big medical device company. And before that I was at business school in Boston.” I paused, then embarrassed myself when I felt the need to add, “At Harvard.”
They seemed genuinely interested and gracious, even when I did my academic name-dropping.
Without changing his facial expression or tone of voice, Dick asked the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: “So, what do you guys plan to do with us, anyway?”
And there it was.


I paused, but not in an awkward way. If I had come to this meeting prepared to answer any question, it was this one. “That depends. Obviously we didn't acquire you without having a healthy respect for what you do. And in this business, people are your only asset, so I don't think your employees should be worried about anything.”