Want To Be Promoted? Be An Ally

August 12th, 2023

It’s proven men who excel at allyship improve their EQ and their communication skills get better. They’re seen as more inclusive leaders which leads to more promotions in most modern workplaces.

Our single biggest ask for Allies is to be loud and proud.  Say something like this at least once per day in mixed audience: “You know what I learned from Abigail today, how to negotiate two-tier pricing.” That is obviously an example but the key is for the Ally to say who and how she exposed/taught/added value, to be specific and to say it a lot. 

I consider myself to be very fortunate to work with a CEO who I see and hear doing EXACTLY this consistently.  I have heard Tito evangelize a fellow colleague CEO of a start-up in the EXACT right way to the exact perfect audience.  He supports her in a vital way by bringing up her amazing work and company with VCs.  He explains why what she does matters and I watch them take notes.  This is allyship that I have never ever seen in my entire life and trust me, I have been in a lot of rooms with CEOs.  This proves it can be done and I can tell you – it makes everyone in the room better. 

There are other things one can do if he wants to be an ally including:

  • Educate himself – don’t make us explain it (there are lots of books on this topic)
    • GIVE AND TAKE by Adam Grant (top rated Wharton professor)
    • Athena Rising and Good Guys by Brad Johnson and David Smith Professors at the US Naval Academy
  • Acknowledge that he has had advantages – white men like white men, white men with similar backgrounds bond more quickly than black women and white men bond and that is absolutely ok.  What is not ok, is pretending that isn’t the case.
  • Own allyship – they don’t delegate it to HR or DEI or their “Chief of Staff”
  • Give support in the moment – no slacking support or texting it – he says it out loud for everyone to hear. “Everything I know about building and testing optical assemblies I learned from Chantelle.”
  • Be a confidant who shares information, gives useful feedback and knows that he will be better off for his investment in allyship. 

Obviously, there are things one should not do if their goal is to be an authentic and valuable ally:                                                                                      

  • Do not be a “performative ally” (this is an HBS term).  This one can be very tempting.  Be nice, say kind things and move on about the day.  This will do nothing productive or meaningful.
  • Don’t confuse the word Ally.  It is a verb more often than a noun.  Decisive, public action will drive systematic progress and that allyship will change lives.