Episode 224: Emily Drew on Investing in Leadership Enablement
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Shawnna Sumaoang: Hi, and welcome to the Sales Enablement PRO podcast. I am Shawnna Sumaoang. Sales enablement is a constantly evolving space and we’re here to help professionals stay up to date on the latest trends and best practices so that they can be more effective in their jobs. Today, I’m excited to have Emily Drew from Salesforce join us. Emily, I would love for you to introduce yourself, your role, and your organization to our audience.
Emily Drew: Hi Shawnna, I am absolutely thrilled to be here today first and foremost. My name is Emily. My role is senior director for the world’s largest job title coming at you, the Global Sales Leader Excellence Program which I can dive into a little bit later with you. I’m originally Irish as you can hopefully tell from the accent but based just outside London and have a pretty varied background. I started off doing a little bit of teaching abroad in Asia, transitioned into sales and marketing roles, and then I found my true calling in the world of enablement and coaching about seven years ago and that’s led me to my current role at Salesforce. For those that don’t know, Salesforce is a pretty profound CRM solution and I’ve been working there for the last number of years.
SS: We’re very excited to have you on the podcast today, Emily. As you mentioned in your introduction, one of your areas of expertise is leadership enablement from your experience, working with different leaders across your organization, what are some of the qualities that make for a great leader?
ED: That’s a brilliant question and I have two responses because I think some leadership qualities are role agnostic. Regardless of whether you’re a sales leader or a BDR manager or a supervisor in a supermarket, for example, that is a really important success. Those are things like being visionary, being a great listener, being a great coach, having the ability to have great empathy, and having the ability to engage with and build strong relationships with others. Those are some of the leadership-agnostic ones. For sales and solutions, more specifically, this is a question I spoke about a lot with my peers as we introduced the concept of leadership enablement for sales leaders at Salesforce and as a result, came up with this sales leader excellence model. This involved the creation of three key pillars that constitute greatness in a leader in the sales space and they are one, my personal favorite, being a great talent multiplier, so investing and understanding, developing your people, and establishing psychological safety. The next one is a business leader, so that’s all things, pipe gen, forecasting, execution, and being and knowing how to flex those in different ways as you move up the leadership ladder. Lastly, being a trusted partner. Being able to engage with influence, gained the trust of your customers. I think it is really important to have those broad leadership qualities as a leader, but when your sales or solutions leader you need those extra nuances and levels of expertise as well.
SS: I think those are absolutely key components that make up a great leader. I love those. How can leadership enablement help leaders across the business really harness these characteristics to more effectively lead their teams?
ED: I look back to 5 or 6 years ago when we didn’t have this in place and what the world was like, certainly at Salesforce, and it was very, very different. What I always think about is you can’t be what you can’t see. We were asking our account executives or people who are under leaders to do things and act in a certain way and be a certain way, but then they were kind of looking up and saying, well my leader doesn’t necessarily do things in that way or thinking that way or coach me to act that way. I think when you enable, I use this analogy of the life jacket when you’re on a flight and you’re a parent, you’re supposed to put your life jacket on first and you then are set up to be safe and take care of your children, for example. So in the case of the leader if you set them up for success and provide them the ability to become excellent at what they do and equipped to better coach and enable and encourage their teams that has just such a waterfall effect and enables everyone beneath them to see greatness in action to aspire towards that level of greatness and everyone’s on the same page and able to work towards being ever more productive.
SS: I think that’s phenomenal. Now, what does leadership enablement actually look like in practice? What are some of the core components of leadership enablement programs that you’ve deployed?
ED: Another great question. Shawnna, you’re on a roll. First of all, I mentioned it earlier, but you need to define what you’re aspiring towards. That sales leader excellence model that I spoke about, creating a robust framework to define what the great competencies the aspiring leaders to work is first and foremost because then you can develop all of the enablement programs around that and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing at salesforce. We defined what great looks like across those three pillars and within those three pillars, there are many, many different competencies and all the programs tie back to that. An example of a big program I’ve been involved in is overhauling or essentially we’ve been creating an onboarding journey for our leaders and some of the ways that are a little bit different maybe from enablement we might have done with ICs, is that it’s very, very interactive and engaging. When new leader joins the organization, they go through some of the more standard workshop activities and lots of online learning but that’s supplemented by them being given a coach to work with 1 to 1 on a biweekly basis to help see them through their entire onboarding journey. That culminates at the six-month mark in their journey where they present on a panel, sort of a capstone event, where they reflect on their six months in leadership, they relate it to that model and how they’re exhibiting greater excellence across all of those key pillars and it’s a really good opportunity for them to demonstrate all they’ve learned all they’ve gained, how far they’ve come.
Another part of the onboarding journey that’s been important is the provision of mentors. Using another program, like the Leader Excellence Academy, we take our most talented top-performing leaders and have them act as mentors to our new starters so that their coach, their mentor, all the standard enablement, and they’re also brought together in coaching circles to discuss, debate, reflect on the most pertinent topics that arise when you’re a new leader. Stuff from how you drive pipe gen efforts as a leader, how you engage with your customers when you’re elevated from an IC to a leadership role, performance management, and having a safe space to explore that is great. I think with leader enablement you need to be a bit more hands-on in one way with the coaching element, but you also need to be a bit more hands-off in other ways, in less death by PowerPoint sessions for them and more allowing them to learn from their peers as well as from more talented leaders. I think the onboarding program has been a huge one and the coaching program of which I’m a part. We established a whole coaching practice for leadership whereby in every region there’s a coach assigned to work 1 to 1 with those new leaders, in need leaders, our leaders of leaders, and to help them not only heightened their self-awareness to become better leaders but also to guide them through and towards excellence on that model that I referenced earlier. That’s been a huge one.
The one I’m most excited about because it’s my it’s become my full-time job is our Leader Excellence Academy and what that encompasses as I sort of touched earlier is we take our top 10% of leaders at various levels and we take them through this year-long program that is all designed to prep them for their next roles. If they’re in the first line, we prepare them to move to the second line. Lots of training, investment coaching, and in turn they help us and our mentors and enablers for the wider organization, and that’s been an absolute game changer because its peers teaching peers, there are levels of credibility there that could never have been possible before, and it’s allowed us to scale. We’re not a huge enablement team, so to have this wealth of people bought into helping and supporting has been amazing. There are some other great programs and experiential learning which I’m less involved with but are working well and it’s basically taking people out of the business away for a few days to somewhere we call the ranch and doing lots of really hands-on practical application of learning. It’s working well but quite different from what I’ve done historically when I worked primarily with ICs.
SS: Absolutely those programs do sound amazing. Now, leaders are often very busy when it comes to their schedules and I imagine it can be difficult to convince them to make time for their own development and learning. How have you gained buy-in with different leaders to make time for enablement programs like these?
ED: I have to tell you if I rewound around three years ago, I was really struggling with this. When I didn’t have a role that was solely focused on leader enablement and I would run an ad hoc leader training event, no one would show up, or if they did they were very disengaged. That’s very different now. Now we’re in a place where we can’t keep up with the demand from leaders and that’s been achieved in a few key ways. I think the first one is building trust and the best way that I would recommend that people try and apply this if they’re enablers with the leadership team is by using a coaching approach. Building key relationships with leaders of all levels through coaching them through, getting to know them, listening, and deeply understanding what’s going on for them in their world. The other one is piloting. What I did with the program in the UK&I for coaching is we piloted there and there was another peer of mine doing the same in America, we were like, let’s try this out, let’s run a few programs, see what the feedback is and they proved really successful. Then to go forward to all the other leaders and be like, hey your peers in the UK&I I have done this and they’ve seen XY results, this is the quality of feedback for them, would you like this done for you and that’s exactly what’s happened. Word of mouth has meant that the reputation and the perception of leadership enablement have shifted. The things I hear a lot are you really understand us, you really understand our role, you understand our pain points and you provide us great levels of value also. I mentioned it already, but coaching is key. Just making that a central pillar of how you enable leaders and peer learning, peer mentorship, all of that is so vital and sponsorship from senior leaders, of course, to get bums on seats for certain sessions is always helpful. What I love about that is I’ve had to do that less and less now, people organically want to engage because they feel like they’re getting value
SS: Absolutely. When organizations invest in leadership enablement in the way that they’ve done at Salesforce, what are some of the impacts that you’ve seen actually trickle down, maybe even into performance within your organization?
ED: It’s pretty profound. When I first came into this role, my focus was on enabling first-line leaders and what was really interesting to see was the knock-on effect, the qualitative and quantitative results that demonstrated the success of that not only with their AEs, but often with their leader because they were taking learnings and their enablement and it was influencing leaders above them, their peers and different roles and all of that. I think the key thing, I have a slide that I often bring up, minus the numbers, but I’ll give you some of the headlines on it. Focusing on leadership enablement has had a huge increase in the pipeline of the leaders that have been actively involved in the leadership programs and enablement we’ve provided them. We’ve seen a stronger uplift in deal closures and deals closing more quickly, and more efficiently and that’s linked directly to deal coaching workshops we’ve led with leaders and had them run with their teams. We’ve seen the development of a coaching culture, which is a knock-on effect in creating this sense of psychological safety on teams, and that in turn has meant reduced attrition, both among leaders themselves and their AEs.
We’ve also seen a reduction and performance management issues because one of the most prevailing issues I suppose that I walked into and saw time and time again with leaders dealing with underperformers and not knowing how to tackle that. Our offering this sort of well-rounded leadership enablement journey for them inclusive of how to have difficult conversations, and how to coach your team has resulted in retaining more people returning and improving the performance of those who were previously struggling a little bit. These are some of the best things. My personal favorite going back to that talent multiplier pillar is seeing survey results and people’s satisfaction and enjoyment at working for Salesforce in a sales role, increasing and increasing.
SS: I think that is phenomenal. Last question for you, Emily. To close, how can leadership enablement help create a more people-centric culture in an organization?
ED: I’m going to kind of tackle that in two ways. Firstly they have to want to create a more people-centric culture, so we have to aim to hire people for whom that talent multiplier element of leadership that I keep referring back to its importance. It is very hard if someone is not by their nature people-centric or talent multiplier to turn around to be that. Once they’re in there, the enablement provided to them has to marry up with rewarding them and encouraging them, providing them the skill set, and the mindset necessary to deliver on that. All of the enablement that I try to deliver, whether it’s on business leader, pipe gen, or forecasting, for that matter, will always try and weave in elements of how important as a leader it is to be authentic, to show vulnerability and adopt a growth mindset because that has such a waterfall effect on the wider leadership and sales organization. I think when we invest the time, invest the money, invest the people to enable and coach our leaders to become more coach-like, inspirational, to better listen and empathize, all those skills that I mentioned as being important to a leader in any sphere of influence has a profound impact on their teams the wider organization.
When we have our culture, and our values displayed on our company website, I mean any company in the world, those need to be lived and breathed by our leaders. Otherwise, how can we expect our ICs or people joining the company to really feel that they’re true and lived and breathed by everyone? One message that I’m lucky enough in the role to be able to call on very senior execs to come and speak to some of the more junior leaders and one of them said recently that his ethos is leaving people better than you found them. That’s something that I am trying to have underpinned everything we do in terms of developing our leaders. They should be focused on leaving their teams, their peers, and their customers better than they found them and by virtue of that fact they’re very likely to have more successful teams, customers hit their quotas in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if they had a different approach.
SS: I love that philosophy as well. Always leave it better than you found it. Emily, thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate your insights.
ED: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been wonderful.
SS: To our audience, thanks for listening. For more insights, tips, and expertise from sales enablement leaders, visit salesenablement.pro. If there is something you’d like to share or a topic you’d like to learn more about, please let us know we’d love to hear from you.