Team of One: “Building an Enablement Function” w/ Katie Williams

In this episode of Coffee, Collaboration, & Enablement Team of One – Devon McDermott talks with Katie Williams about her experience building an enablement function from the ground up with a focus on working with leaders, and internal stakeholders to build, launch and elevate the enablement function.

Katie does a brilliant job of sharing:

  • What’s worked over the course of the first 8 months of her team-of-one journey.
  • Lessons learned during her team-of-one journey.

Lots of lessons learned here.

Give a listen and remain curious.

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Audio Transcript

Katie Williams
All right. Hello,

Devon McDermott
everyone. Welcome to coffee collaboration and enablement the team of one edition, where we chat with folks and learn from from everyone who’s operating as a team of one and others who may have started as a team of one and come out on the other side. I’m Devin McDermott, former solo enablement practitioner currently working with an incredible enablement team at pasado. And today’s team of one conversation, we’re going to take a look at how to build an enablement function from the ground up with a focus on working with leaders, internal stakeholders, to build, launch and elevate the enablement function, but most importantly, the guest of honor. So Joining me today is the wonderful Katie Williams. Hi,

Katie Williams
Katie. Hi, thank you for having me, Devin. Yes, we

Devon McDermott
are so excited that you’re here. And I personally always just love talking about enablement with you. So I’m thrilled that you’re here to share all of your insights and your experience with our amazing audience. So let’s get right into it. I would love for you to tell us a little bit more about yourself, where you currently work and how you got into enablement.

Katie Williams
Sure. In first seven, I have to say I am so honored to be a guest on your podcasts I’ve learned from the best people like you, you know, eight months into my enablement role, which I’ll dive into it’s so great to feel like I already have a sense of, you know, a conversation that we can have in a platform. So it’s really nice. And I work at Sandler Training. So I am a enablement team of one. And I focus on our enterprise division and operations. So like many others, I totally fell into enablement. I come from the world of learning and development. So my path was primarily first focusing on high volume onboarding of sales employees within the staffing space. And then right before COVID, after a senior leader left my l&d team, I was provided the opportunity to do some larger projects like rolling out new KPIs and performance metrics for the sales team, or identifying a technical workflow to fill a BPM

Unknown Speaker
gap.

Katie Williams
And once I got a sense of the more strategic, you know, project management, I kind of fell out of love with traditional training and more in love with the enablement piece. And so once I got to taste, I cannot look back.

Devon McDermott
I love that. And I hear that enablement like, calls to you, right? It’s like, wait, this is so exciting. I want to be there. And I also have an l&d and training background. So I love hearing from folks with that perspective versus the traditional sales background. So really, really excited to hear about your journey and to learn a little bit more about how your background has influenced the work you’re doing now. So team of one at Sandler, what are some of your core responsibilities as an enablement team of one?

Katie Williams
Yeah. So the first thing I’ll say from a large perspective is, in general, for my path and purpose in enablement. I really just set out to help Sandler evolve as a business and as a division while easing the journey for our revenue teams. My favorite quote, quote, by Rene Brown is clear as kinds and unclear is unkind. And COVID you know, massively transformed our approach to the market, which is really great. We’re doing a lot of hybrid boot camps in person and of course, virtual remote training so that he does everything right. So just kind of allowing us to evolve, continue to diversify and make it easy for the sellers to just sell more and spend less time you know, searching for content or building out their own presentations.

Devon McDermott
Amazing. I love Bernie Brown. So very, very much love that quote. Um, so some of your responsibilities were those. Were they like pre established before you joined? Or did you partner with leadership to determine what enablement would be focusing on what you’d be doing? enroll?

Katie Williams
Yeah. And it’s such a good question. And I’ll be honest, it’s still kind of being figured out, right, eight months in, you know, the first initial kind of projects I was set up on, were to launch a new content management system. So getting that done. we’re transitioning CRM this year, so a lot of technical foundations that are being built out. So with that, and with the free time where I can enable elsewhere, of course, building content, having that mix of reactive needs and being proactive about, you know, what we anticipate happening, that stuff is all kind of so on the fly, and that’s okay.

Devon McDermott
Yeah, and I like every time you tell me all of the systems you’re deploying and the strategies you’re building and like you’re doing this on your own, you’re deploying a CRM like I can’t even imagine what that must be like and we are going to dig into some of that right now as well but oh my goodness, I’m thoroughly

Katie Williams
you know what you get what you asked for it, that’s all I’ll say. It’s good to be. I like variety and I definitely get that the face that enablement is, it is Right now. Yeah.

Devon McDermott
So this is a big one, you and I talk about this a lot. But how important is leadership alignment on the purpose of enablement? And what enablement is?

Katie Williams
Yeah. And this is something that I’ve pondered, especially over the last few weeks and few months. Every everything seven, I mean, change is hard for any business. And I think we talked about this the other day, but alignment is so twofold, right? It’s first acknowledging what’s happened, where we’ve been, what mistakes we’ve learned from getting everyone on the same page in that sense, because if not everyone addresses it as a problem, then not everyone’s going to agree on a solution or a priority level. And then the second piece of alignment is where do we want to go? What is it going to take to get there, and then the most important piece me, which is their full commitment, from every party, to sacrifice in some categories to make make what would want happen in the future? Right. So I think that first piece of alignment, even from a company perspective, or a division perspective, is the first step to enablement really being able to step in and step

Unknown Speaker
up.

Devon McDermott
I couldn’t agree more and you know, one person who’s not aligned or one person who’s pulling the organization or an initiative in a different direction, can really make the whole thing just topple over. So it’s, it’s super important and change management as well. Like as enablers, we are need to be change management experts. And I think for so many people, they think it’s really easy. Well, you know, it’s not a big deal. Let’s just go figure this out. And I love your approach to full alignment continued, you know, checking in, do we have the commitment we need.

Katie Williams
So important. And the john actually talked about this the other day, but alignment horizontally as well as vertically, right? Because there’s so many different constituents, and we don’t want to operate in a vacuum. And so that takes a lot of time. And that’s one thing I’ve started to realize, in my own enablement journey is some of the things I wish I could have done from the beginning. can’t happen. And so these, these tougher conversations are had first spot on. Yeah, I call it out growing pains, right? much sweeter that way, right.

Devon McDermott
Um, I want to continue digging into alignment with leadership. So I’d love for you to share a little bit like what are some of the issues you may have had with alignment or gaining gaining that alignment or issues that you have currently? And what are some of the tactics you’ve employed to address those particular issues?

Katie Williams
Yeah, it’s a great question.

Katie Williams
I mean, a few examples of misalignment can be the priority level of a project I’m working on if content needs to be built. And sometimes I ended up climbing out another department is already working on it. Right. So misalignment in that sense, or just misalignment. And you know, I think, a mistake I made in the beginning, of course, I’m new at enablement, I switch jobs and industries within a pandemic. So the first I was excited to get projects, let’s say yes to everything right. And then I think you Munson, especially recently, it starts to get more and more difficult, say yes to everything. Without disappointing one or more parties on either side, you can start to feel like you’re losing your enablement, while you’re enabling purpose. I was recently told by a mentor of mine, to avoid WTF moments, you have to get to the WTO, or what the outcome is. And so lately, I’ve really been just driving allowing that outcome to be kind of a North Star. Because if we don’t have alignment on the outcome of something small, like a piece of content, or something big, like a technology implementation, then it’s going to impact everything that follows. So that’s been my one North Star as of lately.

Devon McDermott
That is incredible. And you mentioned that to me the other day, I put it on a post it note and I’ve had three work meetings so far this morning and have referenced it or thought about it. So it’s like all about outcomes. We talk about outcomes, but nobody wants the WTF moment. So like focusing on the WTO I mean, I think john just said in the chat, it’s gold, it’s pure gold. So kudos to him I’m torque is just incredible. Um,

Katie Williams
another thing is, besides, you know, the WTO, also qualifying our intake as much if not more than our sales team, right. And sometimes I I put a lot of pressure on myself coming from l&t going into enablement to talk to target sales, right. And one of the biggest mistakes I think a lot of people in enablement like me make in the beginning is not qualifying. Right. And so that helps me stay motivated, motivated by thinking okay, if I qualify my projects, you know, that’s what the sales people do all day, every day.

Devon McDermott
Yeah. And it gives you the the the fuel or the backing to say Notice something and that’s okay. Like that has to be okay. And something you mentioned, I keep thinking of like, you don’t have to become the catch all for all the different projects. And there’s that eagerness when you first start to be like, yes, of course,

Katie Williams
I’ll do that training,

Devon McDermott
I’ll deploy that system. And then it’s like, this is not sustainable. This does not have a drive results. And so being able to understand that within your in a very short time, you’re eight months at Sandler to say, like, Hey, we did really great stuff. Now we need to pull back, we need to focus on the outcome. So that that is awesome. And that is not an easy thing to do. And so this is one that I think about a lot and I wind up having to address fairly often. But I think we both know, when you have a leadership team that hasn’t worked with enablement or doesn’t fully understand enablement and the purpose of enablement. It can be interesting. And so I would love to know how you’ve approached educating your leadership team to the purpose and focus of the enablement function.

Katie Williams
Yeah. So I report to that align our chief revenue officer and then an SVP of performance improvement. And so of course, they are very data driven people, and they want to hear about the quantifiable goals. So anything I can quantify, within my own enablement at Sandler, or any industry thought leadership that I can provide them on the difference between successful enablement, less successful enablement and what the ROI is on that that speaks to them. And of course, starting with the end in mind, right? What is the outcome, the metrics, the revenue that we expect from this and then backwards and talk about the details that they may not essentially want to hear first and foremost, but quantifying is the best way for me to get their attention.

Unknown Speaker
Awesome. Okay.

Devon McDermott
I feel like I’m calling this our hot topic of the day, I feel like you know where I’m going with this. Because we have also spoken about this topic. It’s the enablement charter. So we both know, I think the whole community knows the enablement charter, it can be that North Star, it’s so you know, guiding principles for how we execute. But when we have that misalignment from leadership on goals and objectives, and even like, the purpose of enablement, getting that charter to stick, and even getting the cross functional resources and sneeze that we need to execute on it can be really difficult, and honestly, sometimes impossible. So how do you how have you let me start with how have you approached the charter in your current situation? What worked? What didn’t work? What are you currently doing? And what advice would you give to someone in a similar position to where you are? Yeah,

Katie Williams
it’s such a good question. And if I answered this, even a few months ago, I might have said something different like, Oh, yeah, I have a charter. Yeah, like we use it. Right. And I think it’s two conversations, right. It’s building a charter, and then it’s operationalizing a charter. So I think, of course, building a charter is a good practice. For any enablement person, it’s something I’ve attempted to do multiple times operationalizing it though, I think it’s a little bit different of a story, right? So depending on the company, depending on the environment, my division that I work in is really only two or three years old, within Sandler, so because of that, we’re in startup mode. We don’t have to clear swimmingly. And so what departments do, and it’s kind of all hands on deck type of environment, right? So the way I think of it, and I think I said this yesterday to us, Evan, but if I showed up with a charter, it’d be kind of like showing up to a barbecue with cups, where no one brought drinks, right? What do we put in it? So I think it’s still a good practice, of course, to make sure that we’re trying to understand the future state of what our charter could look like. But operationalizing it for me right now, of course, it’s just not the right time for my department or my division. So instead, what we’ve held close to is even just the project tracker, listing out the deliverables, the risks associated the commitment, next steps, and then the priority. So even looking at just the overall scope of the projects I’m working on and ensuring that there’s at least alignment on the priority. And with every leader I report to cross functionally and vertically, then that is helping me stay organized and keep the robots up within an environment that is so reactive and proactive.

Devon McDermott
I love this. And so like, as enablers, I feel like we all aspire to this perfect state or you know, making sure we’re doing things the right way. But I love your thought process and you’re kind of like work around because you’re setting the stage for the charter. Right. So like, I would love to talk to you in 10 months, 12 months and see how that project plan has evolved. See how your organization has evolved to the point of like, it’s time we’re ready. We are, you know, we are this mature, enablement organization. Really awesome. Okay. I think about this one, all the time, and I think especially for you in this new enablement role, so what do you know now that you wish you knew during the interview process, and as you were getting started in your role?

Katie Williams
I mean, just about everything, of course. But I think if I could go back in time, something things that I wish I would have done from the beginning is first qualifying my intake from beginning because of course, if you start and you say yes to everything, it’s harder to them say no, without losing your credibility, or affecting the relationships that you’ve worked so hard to build. So a little bit of backtracking, of course, it’s normal within any role or any organization, but qualifying from the beginning, I think, letting the outcome again, be my North Star. So instead of thinking WTF things, WTO, and then my brain, I mean, I don’t know the psychology stats behind this, but your brain can only shift gears so many times. So keeping a pulse on how thin we might be, right? Because at the end of the day, the reason I joined enablement is because I want to make an impact. And I want you to assess the productivity of the things we are doing and putting out there. And so of course, you get to some point where you’re putting out more than you’re able to kind of reap the rewards on or at least analyze the efficiency. So I think just managing expectations with the volume of work as well. And then again, quantifying what’s the risk if we do not feel back on our next projects, right? And how is that going to impact? You know, in a number sense? Okay,

Devon McDermott
so let’s say you’ve had an amazing career at Sandler, it’s time to started a new company, and you’re interviewing your interviewers, what if your hiring team at this new company couldn’t provide answers to those questions that you shared? How would that impact your decision? And would you take the time to educate them? Or how would you approach that situation?

Katie Williams
If they can’t give swimming lanes on enablement? Again, that is okay. We’ve addressed sometimes it takes a little bit to build that. And sometimes that’s why companies hire enablement is because they don’t have that, right. So it’s like a chicken versus the egg debate. As long as there is an alignment from the top level on where the divisional goals are, where the company’s goals are, what ways we want to measure things, then enablement, that piece can just follow up. Of course, there’s a trickle effect, right? And I think enablement is a big recipient of that trickle sometimes. So I still consider it of course, depending on how well it’s aligned as a whole. Awesome,

Devon McDermott
I love it. Okay, so our final question. And I’m going to ask this to all of our enablement team of one, folks, if you could wave a magic wand and grow your team tomorrow, what roles would you hire and why?

Katie Williams
So I was thinking of four, of course, I don’t know if I’m ready to think first, of course, I mentioned we got a new content management system this year. And we are transitioning CRMs. So a technical administrator and an operations analyst would be huge in those categories to do some of the administrative updating of the systems, of course, making sure their functionality matches the strategy that we want them to be in. And then a new CRM is huge, right? So a lot of the reporting and the functionalities of the CRM would be great to have an expert on. And then an instructional designer and an onboarding specialist, because we are growing really fast. So it’d be great to have some some help there. I’m curious to hear what the listeners say to.

Devon McDermott
Absolutely. I want to spend like a separate hour with you to talk about how you are strategizing and deploying all of this tech on your own, hopefully with a bunch of very supportive sneeze, but I am so fascinated and impressed with with all that you’ve done in eight months. It’s It’s incredible. So obviously, I’m a huge fan of yours. But so first, thank you for spending some time with us today and talking with us and letting us learn from you. And you’re doing some amazing work in the enablement world and also with trust enablement. So I want to make sure people know where they can find you how they can connect with you and how they can continue to learn from you.

Katie Williams
Yeah, thanks, Devon. And this has been so fun. I always love chatting with you and I learned so much from you. So it is again an honor to have a voice so early in my enablement career and hopefully it can benefit one person who may also be new or maybe even experience. So anyone can add me on LinkedIn, Katy Williams, I work at Sandler Training. I’m connected with seven a lot of others seem to be connected with and through the Community Trust community. I do trust them. enablement. I do role plays. So what I know now, I may not be able to be an expert on enablement yet, but I can be an expert on practicing. So john and i post monthly role plays through the community site, where we just practice things that we’ve talked about today, right, like getting leadership buy in, getting a charter built up and what those conversations sound like what leadership or sales teams, so check that community out if you’re interested in the real place. And yeah, I’ve had such an amazing times I’ve been so thank you so much.

Devon McDermott
Yes, and the role plays are so awesome. So double check that out. And finally, for all of the current and future listeners out there, if you are or have ever been in enablement team of one and want to share your experience with others, let’s talk you can send me a note on LinkedIn, reach out to me in the trust enablement community, we would love to learn from you. So thank you so much to everyone here. And of course, thank you so much, Katie. You are incredible. Thanks so much.