"Gartner research has shown a strong CIO brand can be a very effective way to make IT influential, strategic, and deliver higher levels of business success,” says Gartner analyst Marcus Darbyshire.
Yet, he observes, not many CIOs “actively manage their brands” and their reasons for not doing so varies.
One is they are busy, says Darbyshire, who joined Gartner two years ago after holding ICT management roles, most recently as CIO of South East Water in Melbourne. “There is also the perception that it is only for extroverts or job seekers or an indulgent self-promotion enterprise.” Others may feel they will be seen to be preparing to leave the organisation.
Sometimes it is also a case of where they are in their careers, he says. There is more interest, for instance, from a new CIO “looking to make an impression” than some senior CIOs, “until the day they may start looking at a new role”.
CIOs who don't create their own personal brand will have one created for them by peers and users… and it may be less than flattering
“Many just don’t understand what is possible and how to do that,” says Darbyshire, who ran a workshop on “Building your personal brand – unleashing your value”, at the recent Gartner Symposium in Gold Coast, Australia.
“CIOs who don't create their own personal brand will have one created for them by peers and users… and it may be less than flattering,” he points out.
“Developing the CIO brand is very much like celebrating the successes of your achievements within the IT department,” he adds. “It is a powerful way to communicate the good things that are happening within IT.”
So what are some of the steps CIOs can take to establish or improve their brand?
Darbyshire says the first step is to understand the five elements of a personal brand.
The first is purpose, “why people follow you”. Second is social style, “the way people see you”. The third is communications, “the way people hear you”. The fourth is history, “how people evaluate you over a long period”. The fifth is versatility, “the way people relate to you and how you relate to them”.
The next step is a “brand discovery exercise”. For this, Darbyshire uses the Johari Window assessment, where a person describes himself or herself from a list of adjectives, and then asks friends and colleagues to describe them from the same list.
“It is like a virtual 360-degree assessment of words to describe you,” explains Darbyshire. These are then matched with four quadrants to understand if the CIO’s self-perception of their brand equals to how others see them and where their blind spots are.
After the self-discovery phase is the building of a “personal brand statement”.
“What is the CIO’s unique value proposition, and what is unique about them that is different to their competitors? What is their core expertise? ”
This is followed by identifying channels to promote their personal brand, says Darbyshire.
Social media is a good channel to promote your brand, says Darbyshire.
If there is only one social network they can pick, he advises LinkedIn.“Grow your connections, aim for 500-plus connections. Make sure you get recommendations from your bosses and colleagues over a period of time.”
Make sure you have a corporate looking photograph on your LinkedIn profile, he states. “The photo should convey energy and personality.”
As well as ensuring your résumé is up to date, he advises sharing articles of interest.“Continually use LinkedIn every day to see what is happening in your professional network, to see who is looking at your profile.”
Claudia Vidal, general manager business operations at UniServices, says the message resonates with her experience as CIO, but at the same time stresses there needs to be a reality check when working on one’s personal brand.
“Building and taking care of the brand is not just having a nice LinkedIn profile,” she says. For sure you have got to have a brand – what you are good at, how do you add value to the company, and contribute where you are now and where you would like to be next.
“You need to understand your brand, and link your brand to reputation and be true to your values."
Darbyshire, on the other hand, says CIOs who are not comfortable with social media might take more traditional approaches such as speaking at an event, updating their business card or writing a blog. When he was a CIO, Darbyshire also served as a reference customer for successful IT projects that the vendors wanted to release to the media. He says doing this not only highlighted his personal brand as CIO, but also that of his IT team and the organisation he worked for.
“It just depends on what they are comfortable with. That is the next step as part of their workshop – to really set their personal brand in a statement that is unique to them.”
Everybody has a personal band, he says, but only some people manage their brands well. “Continue to refine your brand sentiments and live those principles in your actions, and then align your social styles to your physical and online networks as well,” he says.
He recommends CIOs to focus on “one adjacent, internal IT market” to further develop one’s brand. This could be sales, marketing or product development depending on which will provide “the best opportunity for success”.
The business of building and maintaining a personal brand is continuous. “A brand is not built in a day,” says Darbyshire. “You need to allocate time in your calendar to demonstrate and promote your brand messages.”
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