Moving Beyond Onboarding: FMP’s New Employees Reflect on Client Excellence
July 29, 2022 in Culture & Workforce Wellness, The Consulting Experience
By Risa Witherow
FMP puts a lot of thought and care into onboarding and socializing new employees. Upon arrival, new hires are provided with a custom, six-month plan for bringing them into the fold. This plan includes an assigned onboarding buddy, orientations led by the company’s owners, and scheduled check-ins with our human resource team, culminating in a three-part workshop series FMP likes to call Moving Beyond Onboarding (MBO).
The workshop series was designed not to mark the end of one’s onboarding, but to celebrate and continue it by deepening the connections between employees’ day-to-day client work and the larger context in which FMP operates. As part of the workshop, the members of the latest MBO cohort are asked to read Patrick Lencioni’s book, Getting Naked: A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears That Sabotage Client Loyalty. FMP, whose approach to consulting aligns with that of the book’s hero firm, Lighthouse Partners, has been using the business fable as a means of communicating its culture of client excellence to new employees for over a decade. The author discusses three “fears” that prevent consultants from fostering excellent client relationships and three to four principles for combating each fear.
After this year’s MBO workshop, we asked FMPers to share their thoughts on Lencioni’s business fable. Here’s what they had to say.
Disclaimer: Getting Naked exemplifies an approach to client service in consulting that resonates with FMP’s culture. However, some elements of the book do not align with our commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility or, more specifically, reflect our efforts to recognize and avoid bias and microaggressions in the workplace. While we continue to use this book as a discussion tool, we are now also pointing out the areas and examples of behavior that don’t resonate with our culture.
WHICH FEAR DO YOU RELATE TO THE MOST?
The Fear of Losing the Business
When you’re the main one working with a client or project, the thought that the client isn’t satisfied and chooses to move on after the contract ends or even during is the biggest fear. While there are other factors that go into those decisions, the possibility that your work was part of it is a hard pill to swallow. – Bryan Spragling
The Fear of Embarrassment
This is my most salient fear because it can be hard to recover from – once you’ve embarrassed yourself (and, by proxy, your company), the client could be less likely to take you seriously, even if it’s a one-off occurrence. I’ve never minded “doing the dirty work” so the fear of feeling inferior hasn’t been an issue for me but I definitely fear making myself and my organization look bad. – Nastassia Savage
WHICH PRINCIPLE DO YOU FEEL IS THE MOST VALUABLE?
If there must be one principle to rule them all: make everything about the client. If you take a step back and frame all tough decisions through what’s best for the client in the long term; good things will happen. – David Stein
I think the most valuable principles espoused in this book were admitting your weaknesses and limitations and doing the dirty work. These may seem like small actions but in my experience, they facilitate open communication and strong client relationships. I think each help break down barriers between consultants and clients as they show we are supporting the clients in getting where they want to go, rather than acting like “we know all”. – Nastassia Savage
While many of the principles listed in this book are valuable, I think the idea of celebrating your mistakes is especially important (though certainly challenging in practice). Being able to own your mistakes can be a way to build trust with your clients. Moreover, treating mistakes as learning opportunities can help lead to more optimal outcomes and higher-quality deliverables in the future. While mistakes are of course best avoided, when they do occur, I really like the idea of just confronting and addressing them head-on (and putting up with some of the awkwardness that inevitably follows). – Nate Voss
WHICH PRINCIPLES DO YOU ALREADY PRACTICE?
I believe I practice admitting weaknesses and limitations frequently. It’s important to know and share where your capabilities are and aren’t and to be clear about that distinction. That honesty has been very helpful with clients who work outside of my area of expertise. I also don’t mind doing the dirty work. I’m happy to take notes or schedule meetings if it’s helping the team move forward. The other principle I practice is honoring the client’s work as it is important to them and, therefore, important to me. – Nastassia Savage
I practice always consult instead of sell and make everything about the client. If the client is successful, we will be successful. It’s that simple. – Tim Brown
WHICH PRINCIPLE DO YOU FEEL IS THE MOST DIFFICULT TO PRACTICE?
Being willing to ask dumb questions is encouraged in schools, but going beyond that to making dumb suggestions is difficult. Even if you don’t have an ego, there’s an ingrained training to always project confidence and competence that has to be unlearned, at least partially. – David Stein
Admitting your weakness and limitations is probably the toughest. Nobody wants to come off as not knowing how to do something or handle a situation, but there are times when it’s just out of your depth and you have to be humble and aware enough to let the client know where you’re stumbling. – Bryan Spragling
WHAT WERE YOUR KEY TAKEAWAYS?
My biggest takeaway is that fear is not only a mind-killer, but it can be a business-killer as well. Also, not all books about business are sleep aids that could have been a tri-fold pamphlet. – David Stein
The value of being vulnerable and showing that you’re willing to learn when working with clients. It’s natural to want to prove your knowledge and worth when approaching a new task or client relationship. But there is great value in entering with a humble posture, not pretending to have all the answers, and showing you’re willing to learn. – Bryan Spragling
The principles outlined in Getting Naked urge the reader to be authentic with their clients rather than playing to the stereotype of a consultant. That is not possible unless you work for a company like FMP where high levels of trust, collaboration, and support exist. – Tim Brown
Risa Witherow joined FMP Consulting as a Human Capital Consultant in May 2021. She earned an M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and a B.S. in Communication Studies and Writing from Middle Tennessee State University. Risa has three years of experience working with clients in the public and private sectors to improve the functioning and effectiveness of their organizations and enrich the experiences had by their employees.