I am so excited to share with you my interview with the one and only Amii Barnard-Bahn. She’s here to talk about promotions – how to get more money, how to position yourself for the next level, and how to build the career of your dreams.
Today I am here with Amii Barnard-Bahn. She is an Executive Coach, a former Chief Compliance Officer, and Chief Human Resources Officer who Forbes magazine called, “one of the top coaches for legal and compliance executives.”
You just put out a fantastic new book called The Promotability Index. Can you tell us a bit about what the Promotability Index is, how you came up with it and how people can use it?
Absolutely. I believe in radical self-reliance in your career. You want to be committed to your company while you’re there. You want to do your best job you want to learn, but ultimately we rent our jobs. They’re temporary. And as long as we have that mindset, we’re, future-proofing our career because we need to make sure that we’re continually learning new skills, whether they’re compliance-related or whether they’re leadership-related, or general application.
I created the book because while I was in HR, I saw who got promoted, who got fired, who stayed, who went, who we retained, and people that should’ve gotten promoted, that didn’t.
I was highly motivated to reverse engineer that process as best I could and that’s how the Promotability Index was born.
In the book, you identify five elements that make people promotable. Why don’t you tell us what are those five elements?
I start with self-awareness – that’s the first one. The second is external awareness. The third is strategic thinking and the degree to which others view you as a strategic thinker, the fourth is executive presence, and the fifth is thought leadership.
Each one of those becomes more important the more senior you get in your career. For example, if you’re just starting your career, you probably need to build your relationships and work on your self-awareness, your external awareness, and stakeholder relationships. But if you are already in the C-suite and you want to have a board, a corporate board seat at some point, your thought leadership is going to be critical, and that is sharing your expertise beyond your niche and your immediate organization that you’re working for.
I would think that external awareness would be the most important one for a lot of people because you need to be aware of really what’s going on in your business and paying attention to who the most important stakeholders are and who has all of the soft power. For instance, people who really have influence may not have the most important title. You believe that self-awareness is even more important.
I’d say that for me self-awareness is just baseline. I see some people that are inaccurate about how they come across. So, I feel like if you don’t have that, you can’t even then begin to work very well on external awareness.
Let’s go into something that people are dealing with right now. So many people were promised a promotion last year but are now dealing with hiring freezes. Depending on the industry, some companies have had massive layoffs. What do you tell people to do if their promotion has been put on hold or they feel like they’ve proven themselves and they’re ready for that promotion, but the business is in an uncomfortable place?
Yeah, not easy. Sometimes I think you have to decide whether to go or stay. Sometimes there’s simply not a place to promote you into. I had that experience in my own career where I was young, naïve – I was probably in my 30’s and I realized suddenly, oh, they don’t have a job to promote me into.
I talked to frustrated compliance people and sometimes I say “Well, what’s your org chart like?” “How have you been doing financially?” “How’s your 10K?” “Are you growing?” “How many people can your company afford in your area, in your structure?” And you know, a good bit of the time, they haven’t thought that through. They’re only thinking about themself and they only think about, “but I’m working hard. I’m getting better. I’m getting stronger. I should get more money.” It doesn’t work that way.
That’s such a smart point. If you have somebody in the CCO role who’s been there three years and has another 15 years of career but isn’t interested in going anywhere, you don’t have anywhere to go, but sideways or up somewhere else.
I would say to people, if they’d been promised a promotion, I’d have the conversation. Have a constructive, open, friendly dialogue. You don’t want to burn bridges. This is your reference.
You need to look at it and say, “am I willing to stay? Are there very valid reasons to stay?” Such as I’m the primary breadwinner for my family and I have two kids that I have to get through college. So I’m going to suck it up for two more years, even if it’s, even if it’s flat because it’s comfortable and I have a good quality of life. I need to prioritize my family and work. That’s a noble reason to stay.
Let’s talk about remote working and promotability. If you are permanently remote, or if you are partially remote, how does that affect your promotability and how do you really make sure that people are aware of what you’re doing when there is this proximity bias to talk to the people in the office?
You have to have a strategy to be visible. You have to have a visibility strategy with your boss and with the extended executive team. People who are remote have to be thinking, “how often do I talk to my boss? How am I going to stay connected? How am I going t
o demonstrate my value?”
Create what I call a stakeholder map. Rank your stakeholders by A, B, C. “A” people are people I have to talk to every two weeks, either an email update, a one-on-one, or make sure that I speak at least once in a large meeting. 90% of life is showing up. If you don’t contribute, you’re not showing up, especially on Zoom.
Last question – a lot of people are afraid to even bring up the salary negotiation. How do you have the beginning of that conversation without it being too terrifying?
A common mistake employees make is confusing promotion with compensation. These are two completely different conversations, and you’ll get much better results if you handle them that way.
Compensation is retroactive. It’s frequently predicated on how well the company performs, which is out of your locus of control. What I find a lot more helpful is to have a true career development discussion, completely segregated from compensation.
The annual review is a terrifying moment for managers. They hate it. They know they don’t have enough money to go around often. It’s challenging. It’s very challenging. That is not a great time to have a developmental conversation with your boss.
It’s much better to have a conversation in August or September when it’s developmental and forward-looking. Ask “what should I be learning? Am I focused on the right things? What does the company need right now? What do you see are the problems our customers are going to have three years from now? What are your goals? And how can I help you get there?” I see tons of opportunities globally.
More information about Amii and your free Promotability Assessment can be found at www.barnardbahn.com.