Kate Zabriskie is a high-energy learning and development industry veteran with a passion for finding innovative answers to clients’ needs.
She’s a quick study with a knack for building trust, getting to the heart of an issue, and crafting viable solutions.
Kate has consulted with organizations large and small to define their corporate cultures; articulate their missions, visions, and values; and align their employees’ performance with strategic goals and objectives.
In addition to her strategic work, she’s a dynamic classroom trainer and skilled at developing one-of-a-kind interactive activities and participant-focused training programs.
Some of Kate’s clients include Toyota, Astra Zeneca, The Baltimore Ravens Cheerleaders, Georgetown University, the United States Coast Guard, the Bank of Kuwait, City of Hope, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Sodexo, Yum Brands, and Microsoft.
Kate’s diverse background is the foundation for her work and a key to Business Training Works’ success.
After college, she began her career as a trade show exhibits manager for a national defense association. There, she learned booth sales, program management, and event-planning skills.
She then moved to association and trade journal advertising sales. In that role, she became adept at quickly learning a range of industries: automotive aftermarket, petroleum, cosmetics and chemicals, and adult education.
After returning to school completing her MBA, she then joined Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). As a staff consultant, she worked on projects in the pharmaceutical and banking industries.
Her undergraduate degree in art history coupled with her graduate education then caught the attention of The Franklin Mint, and they hired her as a manager in artist relations. In that position, her responsibilities included art sourcing, art licensing, client entertaining, and contract negotiation.
Eventually, oversight of the artist relations department, the company’s video-licensing function, and the corporate museum came under her direction. Toward the end of her tenure with that organization, she also worked on a range of employee engagement and human resources projects.
Eager to start a new chapter and confident in her teaching and presentation skills, Kate approached several public seminar companies and colleges about conducting training seminars on negotiation, management skills, sales, and communication. All hired her.
While on the seminar circuit, Kate quickly became known for her engaging, high-energy style, flexible approach, ability to handle the unexpected, and talent for making learning fun.
Soon comfortable in the business and convinced she could make it on her own, Kate leveraged her experience and desire to help others succeed and formed Business Training Works.
Shortly thereafter, the phone rang, and it hasn’t stopped since.
Under Kate’s direction, the company has evolved from its inception as a one-person shop to a network of skilled facilitators, coaches, speakers, and consultants.
- The Communication Jungle: Understanding Yourself and Others
- Customer Service Excellence: How to Deliver Value to Today’s Busy Customer
- Taming the Time Monster: How to Stop Procrastinating, Start Planning, and Get More Done
- Negotiation Power Skills: How to Get What You Want Without Being a Jerk
- Power Tools: Top Executive Coaches Put You on the Fast Track to Success (chapter)
Kate’s quotes have also appeared in several textbooks: Operations Management: A Supply Chain Process Approach; Relationship Marketing: Concepts, Theories and Cases; and Contemporary Marketing.
Kate is a regular contributor to several trade magazines. In addition to those publications, her articles and interviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Detroit Free Press, Entrepreneur, Details, Fast Company, and others.
Kate holds a BA in art history from George Mason University and an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin.
An Interview with Kate
What three or four words describe your facilitation style?
Interactive, fast paced, and responsive.
Do you tend to follow “the book” or work “off the cuff?”
A little of both. I have a plan for every session, and that plan evolves throughout the day as I interact with people and learn about a group, its needs, and the participants’ mastery of various topics.
While it doesn’t happen often, I’ve been known to abandon a training plan and create something in real time if I’ve realized the initial agenda isn’t going to get the group where it is supposed to go.
If you want a facilitator who will adhere to a strict minute-by-minute timetable or someone who does eight shows a week the same way each time, I’m not a good fit for your project, and the work is better suited for another member of our team.
How do you handle disengaged participants?
I strongly believe participants should be put in the driver’s seat immediately. They’re adults and should have a say in how our time together looks.
Usually, that approach is enough to persuade even the “voluntold” to give me and the program a chance.
During the sessions I facilitate, it is unusual for people to multitask or check out. If I observe those behaviors, I adjust the program.
What are your favorite topics to facilitate?
Something participants see value in learning. Whether it’s creativity, coaching, conquering a formal table setting, or some other soft skill, I certainly know my stuff. However, that doesn’t really matter if the people I’m working with don’t think they will benefit from learning the topic.
How do you tailor your approach to meet the needs of a client?
I like to understand what a client wants to achieve. In other words, what’s supposed to be different after I leave? Once I know the practical goal or goals, I can craft a training plan that focuses on developing the skills needed to reach the objective.
Where do you find the inspiration for your programs and activities?
I’ve written close to 200 training programs since I started in this business. At that volume, it doesn’t take long to exhaust the obvious. Luckily, ideas find me everywhere. Some of my best work has come from places you wouldn’t expect: children’s stories, song lyrics, museum exhibits, dollar stores, the street of Anytown, USA, and so forth. I’m always asking myself, “how can I use this?” Or better still, “if I had to use this, how would I incorporate it?” I enjoy the unexpected and figuring out how to adapt it to my work.
What types of projects do you turn down?
Anything that I don’t do well, opportunities where I know what I can do won’t help solve the problem, and projects that will consume a disproportionate amount of time or are peripheral to our core business.
That last part might seem a little harsh, but I mean it. Time is one of my most valuable resources, and I need to be strategic about how I spend it. When I’m working with a client, I’m one hundred percent present. I need the hours available in order to do that. So, if something isn’t a good fit, it doesn’t make sense to push rocks uphill. The people who’ve worked with us for years and rely on us deserve better.
How do you stay current with what’s happening in talent development?
I’m always learning from my clients, and I read, and then I read some more. I also maintain a large network of contacts who are always willing to share information or weigh in with an opinion or idea.
When you’re not working, what are your interests?
I’m active in my community, and I have a passion for historic preservation, a strong interest in material culture, and a love of recreational travel.