Saturday, August 30, 2008

Winning the boxing game: Art of personal branding

Boxing game: During my workshop on technical leadership, we have a session dedicated for understanding “influencing without authority” as Influence is one of the three Is critical for technical leader (see 3I model). Another term I use for this is “Personal brand”. Rajesh Setty introduces this concept beautifully in his eBook Personal Brand for Technology Professionals. Whether we like it or not, people around us – inside organization and outside – are boxing us with various labels such as software engineer, consultant, good for nothing, terror etc. Similarly, we are boxing others as well. However, unlike competitive boxing, this boxing game can have win-win outcome. Do people around you (who matter to you) remember you with the right kind of box? Do you have a personal brand in the organization?

Image of “Personal brand”: When I asked this question about personal brand in the last workshop, one participant answered, “Personal brand is a necessary evil.” What came as a bigger surprise was that most others (budding technical leaders) agreed with this opinion. So I asked, “How will people in other projects come to know that here is an expert whom we should invite for technical review?” The answer was, “My actions should speak for themselves. I don’t want to boast about myself.”

Art of personal branding: Well, “necessary evil” may sound like an extreme view. But the truth is, most technologists don’t consider “brand building” as an important activity. It is no surprise that many of them find it difficult to grow as technical leaders. When you grow as an architect or principal engineer, you don’t get a large team reporting to you. In fact, you may be an individual contributor. This means your span of control is not large. However, organization expects you to create significant value by assisting delivery teams, by grooming and mentoring juniors, through innovation and by assisting in business development. So, to excel as a technical leader, you have to learn the art of personal branding and start enjoying the boxing game.
And don’t forget to read the classic essay by Tom Peters “The brand called you”.

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