Changing work environments and work cultures due to the pandemic impacted how everyone sees their careers. Amii Barnard-Bahn, Executive Coach and former Fortune Global 50 executive, returns to discuss the impact of the pandemic on promotability.
Download Amii’s free Promotability Index®: http://bit.ly/promotelegal
Read Amii’s Fast Company article: https://www.fastcompany.com/90545452/dont-shoot-the-messenger-how-to-deliver-bad-news-without-being-hated
Hundreds of leadership resources on Amii’s website here: https://www.barnardbahn.com/
Connect with Amii on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/amiibarnardbahn/
Culture of Compliance | Did the Pandemic Affect Promotability?
This transcript was assembled by hand and may contain some errors.
It has been edited for readability.
Sabrina Serafin Welcome to Frazier & Deeter’s Culture of Compliance podcast series where we discuss compliance as a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. I’m Sabrina Serafin, Partner and National Leader of Frazier & Deeter’s Process, Risk & Governance practice, and I’m excited to welcome back Amii Barnard-Bahn as our guest today.
Amii is a former Fortune Global 50 compliance executive who’s been described by Forbes as one of the top coaches for legal and compliance executives. A fellow at the Harvard Institute of Coaching, Amii is a contributor to Fast Company, a columnist at Compliance Week and she recently published a book, The PI Guidebook. Amii, welcome back to the podcast.
Amii Barnard-Bahn Thank you so much for having me, Sabrina.
Sabrina Serafin Well, we invited you back today to talk about your new book and we wanted to get your insights regarding managing your career as we emerge from this pandemic. Amii, can you give us some background about the book and particularly why you wrote it?
Amii Barnard-Bahn Absolutely, as a former chief human resources officer on top of being a compliance officer and lawyer, I have seen so much in terms of careers going up and down over the years, Sabrina.
Whether companies have been surviving or thriving are going through riffs or growth stage startups you name it, and I see who gets hired and fired or who gets retained and who leaves. So, my goal in creating this was really reverse engineering promotions and giving people tools so that they can individually help themselves, continue to move forward and progress along where they want to be in their career and organizations can be more intentional and thoughtful about who they promote and why.
Sabrina Serafin So, remind us what the five aspects of promotability are? That’s a very highly featured aspect of your book.
Amii Barnard-Bahn So, the book followed the assessment, so I created a promotability index assessment at the beginning of 2020. It’s an 82 question self-assessment, it’s free and it’s available on my website or by texting the word “PROMOTE ME” to 44222.
And anyone at any stage in their career can take the assessment and see where they line up against five elements of promotability, and, as you asked, those are self-awareness, external awareness, strategic thinking, executive presence and thought leadership. So, as I’ve seen people move along in their career, whether it’s the CEO or someone just starting out as an individual contributor, those are the five things and they’re interrelated and they overlap and they intersect. But those are the five key areas that leaders look at and companies and organizations look at when knowing who to promote.
Sabrina Serafin Thank you for that and I mentioned the pandemic earlier it’s especially interesting to think about promotability in our current environment. We are coming out of a pandemic, there’s a lot of mobility. As we record this, organizations across the country are embracing permanent remote work at historic levels. As you think about promotability, what advice do you have for professionals, in any role, who are considering moving to a permanently remote role?
Amii Barnard-Bahn You know, this issue has been around for a long time in terms of global companies. I coach from Singapore to Germany and many companies are globally distributed, especially with supply chain or key stakeholder relationships, as we know. The first thing is, remember that not all of this is completely new, there have always been clients that I’ve worked with that have had to be very strategic about how their visibility shows up with the board, with senior management, with their boss if they’re looking for a promotion.
Even visibility in the United States if you’re not at the Home Office that’s the visibility issue as well. So, using that as a baseline, yes, there are now more people who are going to be in that situation, and what I coach my clients on is having a good handle on their stakeholder relationships, doing an inventory of who are my key stakeholders, whether up, down and across in the company or organization that are absolutely key for me to have a very strong working relationship with and literally you can sit down and do it as a map, write it out and then you can grade yourself. I have an exercise in one of my newsletters on how to rate yourself in terms of influence with each of those stakeholder relationships and how to do that.
So, I think that’s important, is to know how am I doing? how much relationship credibility do I have in the bank? Because you want to build it before you need it. You don’t want to go begging, and so you don’t want to wait until there’s a problem, let’s say was legal, and you’ve not been having virtual coffee every quarter with the general counsel or your legal partner whomever it is, your chief risk, you know every company’s organized differently or HR or your best client and most difficult business client. You don’t want that first phone call to be a problem, you’d want to have already established the relationships so that you have a basis on which to have an honest discussion that’s much more solution-oriented rather than you bringing a problem to them.
The other things, I would say that, particularly with people who are new to remote work, which are not new to people who have had to be doing this for a long time, are you need a communications and visibility strategy. So, on top of the relationship and stakeholder strategy, you should also be thinking, where is it appropriate for me to be visible? Am I in the right meetings, whether they’re Zoom meetings or occasionally people are having now some in person get togethers, I’m seeing that happen a little bit more because people are feeling so out of touch and they’re not sure if they’ve really got consensus or if they’ve really gotten all of the opinions in the room. Of course, they to balance that with healthcare concerns and work visas and all kinds of things that are still emerging for us, but you should have a visibility strategy that, in an appropriate way, showcases your talents, your progress on major projects. That could look like an end of week status report in a super easy to read bullet format to your boss, or to your team.
If you’re a leader of a team, I always had everyone on my team we had a really short template, it was a one pager, give me your top three priorities of next week. What are the top three things you accomplished this week? And is there anything else I need to know? What were major meetings you had? How did they go? How can I have your back? All of that kind of stuff, so you need to think through what works for your company and your strategy in your culture, but there are ways to make sure that your noticed. I’ll say since I know you support women so much as well, Sabrina, the one mistake that women make and some men is that we think that our work is going to speak for us and that we don’t need to, “toot our own horn” and as someone recently told me, “When you don’t toot your own horn there’s no music.”
You don’t want to be obnoxious. You don’t want to have it all be about you, there is a fine line and I’m sure we all know, people who have crossed that line. But we also know people who don’t get the credit they should deserve and so finding that comfortable middle ground for you that’s authentic and that can put your achievements and progress in the right light is really important. Hopefully, you have a great boss that will help you do that, not everyone is fortunate to have that maybe you have a mentor maybe if you’re really lucky you’ve got a sponsor. But those are other things that we could talk about as well.
Sabrina Serafin I have a question that I think is on the minds of a number of individuals in this situation, but are you likely to hurt your chances for promotion if you work from home the majority of time when others opt to be in person?
Amii Barnard-Bahn This is not going to be the answer anyone wants to hear, but the answer is yes. There is a proximity bias and proximity bias means you’re around, I see you, I’m the boss and I literally see you sitting at your desk or running to meetings, and I’m talking about when we all used to be in the office but there’s going to be some who knows what version of that coming up with some people in the office. I already know some people coming back to work, I see some of my clients I’m like “Oh, you’re in the office today,” they’re like, “Yeah, we’ve kind of gotten up to 25% now.”
There are those drive bys and I remember being in a law firm and whoever was at their desk at five o’clock on a Friday, “Oh, can you handle this? I’m going to go off for the weekend with my family and this hearing is on Monday morning, we’re going to take an extra day.” That kind of stuff. Now, those aren’t the fun assignments, but they can help get you promoted, because if you’re helping out a partner and you’re the one who’s there. So, I’m afraid it is and that can be a disadvantage for women. I’m very concerned, because women take on greater childcare responsibilities and elder care responsibilities, and there are a lot of health issues out there and so companies need to also be aware of how they’re promoting people on what criteria they’re using. My hope is that they will truly look at output and outcomes, as opposed to facetime, but there is a neurological and just hardwired human nature thing about seeing someone, feeling they’re available and being with them, that can impact promotion. So, that’s why your earlier question around what do we do about a strategy, visibility – do that. If you need to work from home permanently and your company is allowing it, then I think you just have to double down on the relationships and on your strategy and finding some way, if you can to visit occasionally, just like my global clients do. They would go on a tour and make sure their clients were happy, their internal clients, their business partners on the executive team, for example. So, those are some of my thoughts.
Sabrina Serafin Amii, thank you for being blunt. Now, let’s talk specifically about compliance professionals; we’ve talked about remote workers on a general basis, but are there any aspects of promotability that are particularly important for people in a role, like internal audit or compliance? I’ll give you an example, are there any mistakes that you see compliance professionals tending to make that limit their career potential?
Amii Barnard-Bahn There are probably two that are the most popular since I do coach a lot of chief compliance and audit officers. The first is over indexing on credentials over relationships, I wrote an article for Harvard Business Review about this, which is that promotions aren’t just about your skills they’re about your relationships. And so, people are welcome to look that up and I give several suggestions in there on how to strengthen your relationships if that may be something that you’ve done. It’s tough, Sabrina, because those of us who have gone and gotten our exams and our degrees were trained to think in terms of credentials and we’re rewarded for that for a very long time in our career, about up until our 40s. Then you hit a wall if you’re not paying attention and, in my view, to where you might still mentally be feeling you’re hitting all the dots but it’s really been around relationships and your credentials at that point. If you’re good at your job, if you’re doing your job it then flips, in terms of promotability, to who do you know? Do they like you? Do they feel that you’re their guide by their side that’s helping them prevent problems and that’s where it switches to.
The second, I think risk for risk officers and governance professionals like auditors and lawyers and compliance officers and HR people as well, is how they use their governance power is one way, I might put it. We don’t always feel empowered, but we do have the ability to raise mistakes and issues to the board and to regulators and to others, and how we do that is very important.
I wrote another piece for Fast Company around delivering bad news and how not to shoot the messenger, because we’re in a canary in the coal mines situation where we’re often the first to see stuff that can go wrong and it’s not always news that senior management wants to hear, especially during a pandemic, and so it is a risky profession to use upon. So, my goal in a lot of the governance professionals that I coach is to help them understand the neuroscience behind delivering bad news, how you can deliver it in a way that’s effective for the company to avoid or mitigate problems and where you don’t have political backlash to yourself.
Sabrina Serafin Great points, Amii and thank you for joining us today. As we wrap up, do you have any closing thoughts you’d like to share?
Amii Barnard-Bahn I will close with a quote by one of my favorite business thinkers, Peter Drucker, who said, “You should not change yourself, but create yourself.” That means build around your strengths and remove bad habits and I say that’s really what coaching is all about, and the reason I like that is a recent study found that hard skills or technical knowledge now only has a lifespan of four to six years.
That means all of our relationship skills and the key elements that I described in the promotability index are going to be more important over time. Knowing where your strengths are and how to continually improve them is really imperative to continuing a learner mindset, I think, to making your job stay interesting. As well as being promotable and I use promotabilities to bring a two and a very broad sense it doesn’t necessarily mean literally getting a promotion, it means not being expendable. To put it one way, it means you can even stay a technical expert, but just be the best technical expert you can be and just keep learning, keep adding value, and I think just again being a lifelong learner.
Sabrina Serafin Wonderful advice, Amii, and thank you for joining us again. And to our listeners, thank you for listening to Frazier & Deeter’s Culture of Compliance podcast. Please join us for our next episode, as we continue to discuss transforming compliance requirements into investments in your business.