How Promotable Are You?

with Amii Barnard-Bahn


Fortune Global 50 Executive Amii Barnard-Bahn consults C-Suite executives and leaders at Global companies like Bank of the West, Adobe, and the Gap. She’s been recognized by Forbes as one of the top coaches for legal and compliance executives and she is a fellow member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 coaches. She also guest lectures at Stanford and UC Berkeley, is a contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Compliance Week, and a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Coaching.

How Do I Get To That Next Level?

Amii’s genius can be seen as she recounts the twisting steps she took on her impressive career journey. No matter what position she was in, she was considering how her present role made her feel, and what she could take with her for her next role. As you are creating your career, you may be considering what you need to do now in order to get to where you want to be. By reverse-engineering her own experiences and the experiences of others, Amii has created an index for promotability.

Amii’s 5 elements of promotability include:

External awareness
Strategic thinking
Executive presence
Thought leadership
As Amii explains, each of these elements are interconnected and build on each other. At their core, they ask the questions, “What do I want? What do I think I’m really good at? What could I work on right now in order to get what I want three years from now?”

Careers Aren’t Linear

Amii saw very early on in her career that every job is temporary. It’s important to be prepared for what may come next. But how do we do that?! Amii has found if we aren’t investing in these 5 elements of promotability, we’re not investing in ourselves. If we aren’t investing in ourselves, we’re not going to be prepared for opportunities as they arise within our current organization. And if we find ourselves in an unfortunate transition, even if we choose to leave, we’re not as well prepared to go and seize new opportunities. According to Amii, now is the best time to reflect on where we are and where we’re hoping to go. From there Amii has shown us how we can course correct as needed, but it all starts with investing in ourselves.

Investing in Yourself

Amii said it best: there’s never a bad time to invest in yourself. The velocity of change of the past few years has been exceptional, which Amii points out can be very disorienting. She created this promotability index as a grounding spot for people to feel a sense of control. Some people are surrounded by a great support network. But if you aren’t, Amii wants to make sure you feel empowered to invest in yourself on your own.

What Fills My Bucket?

One of the main questions Amii asked as she navigated her career was essentially, “What fills my bucket?” With each of these elements of promotability, you can choose to work on different things at different points in your life. After all, Amii firmly believes performance management should be a personal exploration for your whole life. It all boils down to what inspires and engages you? And more to the point, what doesn’t? This helps us to know what to say no to.

External Awareness

I know we’re all wondering, what’s the most important element to get me promoted? According to our expert, Amii, it’s External Awareness. Amii has seen first hand from employers how the degree to which you know yourself can impact your ability to observe and be aware of how you’re impacting others. This is really what external awareness is all about. In her conversations with executives, Amii has seen that a key determining factor in many executing promotions is your ability to play well with others. (You know I love it when we come back to the importance of relationships!)

The Number One Tip

If you’re building the courage to initiate a conversation with your boss about a promotion, here are some of Amii’s quick tips:

Do it!
Pick your time wisely
Use your emotional intelligence to find a time when your boss will be most receptive to a conversation.
Prepare in advance
Gather talking points and data around why you should be promoted. Be observant of who has been promoted in your company and what their career trajectory was.
Don’t go in fighting
This puts your boss on the defensive, so instead keep it a conversation
Amii shows us the goal isn’t the promotion, but rather to find out:

Your boss’ perspective of you
Whether they would ever promote you
What the system you’re in requires for that promotion
By creating a psychologically safe space for your manager to completely open up and be honest with you, Amii reveals you can really learn a lot. After all, promotions aren’t something that’s done to you, it’s something you create with others.

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