Having heard from CIO and CTO headhunter Alan Mumby in a previous article, and finding out how people on the hiring side view personal branding for CIOs, let's now turn our attention to the mechanics of personal branding.
To shed light on this important aspect of career development, I interviewed three experts: Bill Limond, who as interim CIO, relies on personal branding to get his next job; Jennifer Holloway, personal branding specialist and author of the book "Personal Branding for Brits"; and Will Kintish, business networking consultant, LinkedIn trainer, and author of the book "Business Networking - The Survival Guide."
Pat Brans: Bill Limond, what is the importance of reputation for IT directors?
Bill Limond: Reputation, and above all credibility, are essential within your organisation to enable you get the job done. And of course, if you're looking to move up to a bigger role, reputation and credibility are vital in or outside the organisation.
For an Interim CIO like myself, who moves from organisation to organisation, reputation is crucial. I live or die by it. I need my 'personal brand' to sell myself. I'm only as good as my last role.
The obverse is that a bad reputation makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to operate and get things done, let alone justify a place at the top. For an interim CIO like me a bad reputation would mean instant death. I would no longer be able to operate as an interim CIO or consultant.
I do not have a Big 6 name to protect me, so I need my personal brand.
PB: What are some ways of developing a good reputation?
BL: Above all the CIO must first deliver great, highly functional, secure, cost-effective IT Systems and Services that are invaluable to the Business and Clients. This underpins everything that the CIO aims or plans to do.
Focus on the business and client needs, but make sure that the information assets and systems are secure. Support, lead, and prod the business in its journey to transform and compete in today's increasingly digital world.
It's a great time to be a CIO. There's so much happening with mobile, consumerisation, BYOD, social media, cloud computing, and Big Data.
On the other hand, because IT touches everybody nowadays, everybody is an expert. So the CIO has to work harder to distinguish himself or herself.
PB: Jennifer Holloway, what's the first thing you would tell a CIO about personal branding?
Jennifer Holloway: If you have a job and think the only reason you'd promote your personal brand is to get another job, think again. Promoting your brand is what you need to do to ensure you keep the job you have.
CIOs are very capable at getting the job done, but it's not just about "what" they have to offer – they need to be able to tell people "who" they are alongside that. Because IT directors are so technically minded, they only think of the what. The problem is people buy people which is all about the who.
If the who is fantastic you can get away with your what being less than 100%. You can actually get a lot more buy-in to your brand if you sell the who. It's not all about, "Look at me. I have the technical knowledge." You've got to have to the whole package. And that's what brand is: the whole package.
PB: How does one build the who?
JH: When I work with people there are six key areas to help us work the who and the what together. The who part comes from things like your drivers, your values, and your behaviours. The what part is a bit more about your skills and strengths - and to an extent, your image. It's what I call your packaging, which is how you're selling your brand.
Then the last bit to play its part in your personal brand is reputation. It's deciding what you want to be known for, which can be a who thing or it can be a what thing.
Thinking about yourself in those six areas can be harder than you might think. When I ask people to tell me what they're great at, people will often have a generalised answer. But as soon as you dig down into the detail, they often get stuck.
It's the same when I ask people about their values. They are usually very much aware of what I call their top line values. For instance they might say, "Jennifer, I know my key value. It's honesty. Yes, that's it. Honesty is my number one value." However, when I ask what they really mean by honestythey say, "Oh, I don't know. I've never really thought about it."
It's worth mulling it over though because honesty comes in many different varieties - everything from not telling a lie to telling it like it is when you're asked. Honesty can also be telling it like it is even when you're not asked. Honesty can be not breaking rules. Honesty can be being true to yourself. Honesty can be what you want other people to give you.
Finding out about your own who is a good exercise, because it involves asking yourself questions you've never had to answer or never wanted to think about before.
But if you take the fact that personal branding is so intrinsic to your career, and your ability to do your job, and your ability to get opportunities, actually time spent now on these difficult questions is time very well spent.
It's an investment that will make smooth running later on.
Pat Brans: A lot of technical people resist personal branding, because that they don't want to be fake.
Jennifer Holloway: I don't want them to be fake either. That goes against everything that personal branding is about: being yourself, but being the best version of that you can be.
The trouble is, programmes like "The Apprentice" have created this perception that promoting your brand means going out there and being blatant and arrogant and saying, "I'm not just good. I'm the best."
It's good TV. But between you and me (and all your readers), I watch it and I find it quite amusing. But it builds the wrong perception.
What people need to understand is that promoting your personal brand is not about blowing your trumpet full blast. It's about putting out lots of little subtle messages in a positive way, so that every time I come into contact with your brand, whether that's by email, your LinkedIn profile, in a conversation on the phone or in person, I get a consistent picture of who you are, what you do, and who you do it for.
As a consultant and coach, I look for the best version of you. The point is, it's still most definitely you. Since that's your starting point, everything that follows should be authentic.
An example I give is Matt, a guy I worked with. Matt was in the HR field, and had reached one level below the board only to get stuck there. For years and years and years he didn't move.
A new managing director came on board, spotted Matt's potential, and promoted him. The new MD said to me, "I need you to work with this guy. He hides his light under a bushel like nobody I've ever met. I've spotted it and promoted him. The trouble is, if nobody else sees what I've seen I'm going to look like a complete idiot. So I need you to help Matt blow his own trumpet."
Matt's view was, "I shouldn't have to do this, because I do a great job and that should be enough. My work should speak for itself."
This is a common perception. I said: "You're absolutely right. Your work should speak for itself. But in reality it doesn't work that way."
Modesty is indeed a virtue but you can take it too far and while you're busy being a shrinking violet, your colleagues and competitors are getting promotions and winning contracts that should have been yours.
In actual fact, instead of trumpeting your brand like a latter day Louis Armstrong, what you need to be doing is leveraging a skill we Brits have in spades: subtlety.
If every time someone comes into contact with you - whether in person, on the phone or online - they get a nugget of information with a consistent, clear message, they can start to piece it all together into a bigger picture of what and who they're buying.
Being authentic must remain a cornerstone of any personal brand but sometimes who we are includes things that may cause offence to others - or at least make them think you are not their cup of tea. Accept that, while some people are going to buy into you big time, others won't like what you have to offer. But they're probably not the people you want to be working alongside anyway.
PB: As you know, I also spoke with headhunter Alan Mumby about personal branding. One of the things he pointed out is that reputation is more important these days, because it's easy to find out who knows you and then call that person to get an opinion on you. Do you have anything to say about that to CIOs?
JH: Yes, I do. I'll say it through an example.
I know a CEO who, when he's going to be interviewing someone for a job, goes on to LinkedIn to see how they're connected. He then phones any contacts they have in common and asks those people what they think of the candidate. Their response - good and bad - goes a long way in helping him to make his decision to hire.
PB: Will Kintish, this brings me to one of your favourite subjects. You talk about the seven worst mistakes people make when using LinkedIn. What are they?
Will Kintish: The first worst mistake is sending a curt invitation to connect. When you use the default message LinkedIn suggestions; "I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn", it's very impersonal. Personalise the message and indicate how you know the other person and why you want to connect.
The second mistake is having an unprofessional or incomplete profile. Spend time developing your profile and keeping it up to date. It will provide the basis for the first impression many people get of you.
The third mistake is having bad online manners. When someone invites you to connect, instead of just accepting, send them a message to thank them and say a little more if appropriate. When somebody accepts your invitation, you should do the same thing. Send them a personalised thank you message. And when you get an invitation from somebody you don't recognise, send them a message to ask them to remind you how you know each other, or if they you don't know each other, why they want to connect.
The fourth mistake is not asking for introductions correctly. Instead of using the introduction system offered by LinkedIn, get in touch with your level 1 contact to ask them how well they know the person you are trying to get to know. Ask them to suggest ways of making the introduction.
The fifth mistake is not updating your status box. You should stay on peoples' minds by posting regular updates to your status box. Make sure the updates are pertinent though.
The sixth mistake is not using the group opportunities. There are well over a million LinkedIn groups. Chances are, you'll find several that fit your interests. Being connected to groups also allows you to contact people you don't know.
The seventh mistake is linking in with the wrong people. You want to be relatively open to connect. After all, that's the whole value of LinkedIn. However, you shouldn't just automatically connect with anybody who invites you.
When you connect with somebody you are allowing them to look at your list of contacts. You are also showing the world you have some connection with this person. Make sure you only connect with people you trust to see your contacts and with people you won't be ashamed of.
Use LinkedIn to help you build your personal brand. But above all, be careful not to make the mistakes that would wind up tainting your image.