Every CIO and technology executive has a personal brand, even if they’re not aware of it. Many CIOs are well-known in the industry and among their peers, some for being in high-profile positions for recognizable brands, others for their accomplishments that have been publicized in the media.
Each CIO’s personal brand has an impact on their ability to retain and attract talent at a time when coveted IT skills and business acumen are tough to find. “As leaders, we must recognize that we have significant influence over others for many hours per day,” says Karen Gibson, SVP, Business Transformation at Quidel.
Gibson, who is a Chair and will be speaking at the 2019 San Diego Technology Executive Leadership Summit, notes how it is important for executives to obtain feedback on how they are viewed not only from trusted business leaders and peers, but also from people who have worked for them.
By gathering this feedback, this can help CIOs and technology executives to identify what they are currently known for and to help guide them for the capabilities they’d like to be associated with. “The advice I’ll more often give CIOs is to figure out the classic four P’s of advertising and apply it to themselves: product, price, promotion, and placement,” says Bob Concannon, Senior Client Partner, CIO/IT Officers Practice at Korn Ferry.
Concannon, who is an Advisory Board member and a speaker at the San Diego summit, points out that CIOs under the Product segment should identify what their personal characteristics are– “perhaps you’re an extrovert or an introvert, you’re gregarious or not, you’re left brain or right brain. These are extremes and you may fall somewhere between those extremes. You don’t have to be an extrovert but if you’re on the other end of that and your brand is that of being more introverted, or more thoughtful, then what’s unique about that as it relates to you, and what is your value proposition for that part of your personal brand,” says Concannon.
“The promotional part of your personal brand is big – many executives neglect the digital brand they have, whether you pay conscious attention to that or not. How do you market yourself digitally? Does your LinkedIn profile reflect your brand? On the flip side of digital, into the analog side, how do you market yourself in person to your boss, to the heads of the business units, and ultimately to the board?” Don’t forget that the companies you choose to work for are also part of your personal brand and people will bring judgements about you based on those decisions of where you work and have worked. When given the choice, always take the better-known corporate brand choice,” Concannon adds.
One of the ways in which CIOs can leverage their personal brands is by motivating both existing team members and sought-after IT professionals. “A charismatic or inspirational CIO does become known as someone for whom others will aspire to work, and will inspire others to achieve greatness, especially in today’s socially connected world,” says Scott Cadwalader, Managing Partner at Diligent Partners, LLC.
“He or she may be known as the bold leader, the inspirational leader, the mentor or the futurist,” says Cadwalader, who is also an Advisory Board member and a speaker at the San Diego summit. “As important as it is to develop a reputation among IT professionals several levels below you, it is just as important for your peers and colleagues in other companies to believe in you, because when they do, the savvy ones will refer the best talent they know to you, with the confidence that you will do the same for them,” Cadwalader adds.
Continuous Learning and Skills Improvement
There are always areas that CIOs can focus on improving to strengthen their personal brands. “If you’re a more engineering-oriented CIO, that person may not pay enough attention to their communication skills because generally they rely on their technical skills to speak for them,” notes Concannon. “But they may not be getting promoted quickly enough or they still may not have a seat at the table because they haven’t paid attention to that part of their brand. For the business-oriented CIO that may have grown out of marketing or program management, they’re probably better at communications, but had better come up to speed on technology to balance out their personal brand” Concannon adds.
For her part, Gibson says there are a few personal branding techniques that have served her well in her career.
#1 - Be present outside of work. “One of the key things I promised myself when I moved back to San Diego was to interact more with the community and industry through volunteer and networking activities,” says Gibson. “I joined the SIM board because I was passionate about developing the next generation of IT leaders, and SIM is committed to that through our events and our scholarships. I also get to network with fun people that have the same professional interests and challenges. Every interaction is a potential recruiting opportunity to find new talent – even if you don’t have an immediate opening, you may have one in the future,” she adds.
#2 – Focus on leadership values. “It’s very important that your direct leadership team shares the same leadership values (e.g. Is IT a service business or a business partner, focus on results, leading edge or bleeding edge technology, ability to drive change, how people are treated, etc.),” says Gibson. “They are an extension of your brand representing you throughout the organization and the community.”
#3 – Connect - Listen more and talk less. “Today’s IT professionals have many options, but most want work that is meaningful and impactful,” notes Gibson. “Help your employees connect the dots so they understand the value of their work to the team and the organization. Have a coffee with someone you met via a networking event and give them your time or advice.”
In the end, a CIO’s brand is only valuable if they are authentic leaders. Executives should own who they are, including their strengths and weaknesses, says Gibson.
“Whatever your brand may be – as a transformational leader, as a rising star or as a turnaround expert – you can only strengthen your brand by increasing market awareness of your accomplishments, your thought leadership and the business value you generate for your companies,” says Cadwalader. “How you express yourself and how you give credit to others are as important as anything else. Whether your brand is known for driving innovation with leading edge technologies, inspiring others to act or for flawless execution, people need to know what makes you unique. You need to continuously and egolessly praise your company’s accomplishments, your team’s accomplishments and voice your thought leadership on timely issues -- on LinkedIn, at industry events like HMG Strategy summits, among your peers and in the media.”
To learn more about the topics that will be discussed at the 2019 San Diego Technology Executive Summit and the speakers who will be presenting, click here.