I appreciate that you are reading my blog posts. Let me express my gratitude for both – your time for reading and your time for asking questions and challenging my perspective. Apparently, my content makes you think, reflect and question the status quo – a great gift for me as a writer and exactly what a blog like Sand Hearts wants to achieve.
Regarding the post on courage – your question was “how does it really look like?” “Could you share some examples from your experience?”
Of course, I can. So far, I decided not to do that too often because this blog shouldn’t be about me sharing stories of my life. On the other way, I see your point and your question, how did it come, what were the experiences that made you thinking as you think?”
It was in 2009, when I first stumbled upon the term “sales enablement.” At this time, I was at an interesting point in my career: After having an own company with a partner for several years (IT software and services sales and delivery), I worked as a freelancer, then as an IT consultant, then as a management consultant (sales and delivery in all roles). In 2005, I joined a large corporation which was at this time my customer. I started in a corporate strategy implementation function, overseeing a number of strategic initiatives from sales to production. A great starting point to learn everything about this organization, but no sales role. I wanted to go back to sales, and the opportunity occurred – leading a sales force restructuring program in 2008. Perfect! This program with all its challenges made me thinking how we supported and enabled our sales force to deliver higher numbers every year, but with a reduced sales force. Everything I found regarding sales content, training, sales infrastructure to create value for sales professionals, all that didn’t really deserve the name “support”. A few weeks later, I stumbled upon the term “sales enablement.” A friend of mine made me aware of it. I researched and tried to find a way to apply what I started to explore. My next role in 2009 was a business development role, I led a team with the aim to develop business around smart energy in the utility industry. Perfect. I could experience directly, what the salesforce would need to be more successful, and what we didn’t have. We spent countless hours to create content that was maybe already existing somewhere in the organization, but nobody knew where it could have been. So, I started my own project on sales enablement, first of all for my team. Then, I found a senior executive, who was interested in what I did (and he had a complementary challenge, and he became my most-important sponsor at this time), and I found a platform, that could build a foundation for what I tried to build.
In parallel, I found online communities on different platforms to share experiences and to learn from others. I wanted to learn as much as I could, as fast as I could. I was very aware of the fact, that I needed a quick success story, or I wouldn’t have any success at all. Then, I found via these communities an announcement for a conference in Feb 2011 in San Francisco on sales enablement – it should be the first conference on this new topic, and they were looking for key note speakers. I didn’t spend time to reflect that (could I really do that?), I immediately filled in the form and clicked the send button. There was an inner voice guiding me. I was sure I would have a story in Feb 2011…
Let’s make a long story short. The program became more and more important. I had two full time jobs in parallel and I had to make a decision: to continue my business development role, with an excellent team, nice title, nice status or to start the sales enablement adventure from scratch. That would mean a small project budget only, no team and not a lot of sponsorship in the beginning (more skepticism to be honest). It was all about leading a virtual community, inspiring others to join the program, to become part of my sales enablement vision, and to develop it together in a meaningful direction.
Interestingly, all my male colleagues and also my boss tried to guide me the other way, to play it safe, to keep my executive status, to avoid any “career risk” as they said, etc. As you can imagine, I didn’t follow their advice. I decided for the adventure. Sales enablement was exactly what I wanted to do; it was a topic where I could make sales a better place, to create value for customers, a topic where I could really make a difference, not only pioneering concepts, but creating significant business impact. It was a challenge I could only win (luckily I thought so!), but I started – from an organizational point of view – again as a program manager with a virtual team and lots of cross-functional virtual leadership challenges within a very hierarchic organization. End of 2011, I had developed the topic with my new sales enablement team to a maturity level that nobody could ignore. This situation led again to an executive position for me, but at this point, it was exactly the role I wanted to have. It was a consequence, not a goal.
And yes, I was in San Francisco at this conference, and I had a keynote there… Our project called “Spot on” was one of the rare global implementations at this time.
Was it risky? Yes, it was, more than expected.
Was it difficult? Yes, it was, more than expected.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. It was a journey of intense learning and growing
Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Always.
When I left this organization last year to take another professional challenge (same topic, but different role in another organization), one of the most-beautiful gifts came from one of my team members. He simply said, “thank you that I could grow so much with your leadership, thank you that I could learn from you.”
As I said, extremely rewarding…
The challenging, the difficult and the risky tasks, the tasks that stretch our perceived limits (limits are mainly perceptions of our mind), these are the tasks and events in life to grow personally. It takes all your leadership abilities and more, and it will require all your energy.
This is how we can learn the most, also about ourselves. Those challenges bring us to our next plateau, especially when the causes are very close to our hearts. Those challenges are our soul calling along our individual journey of growth.
Be aware that you don’t miss your next calling.
“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.”