Career Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand on the Business Battlefield is the follow up to the best seller Brand Warfare. This book is a pragmatic, if cynical guide, on how to manage yourself as a brand within the company you are working for. The book is self admittedly ghost written, but contains insights from CEO David F D’Alessandro, who gives a behind the scenes look at how things really work in the corporate world. The book contains many insightful and highly entertaining stories from his own rise to power; these notes outline some of the key ideas. The main idea of this novel is that working hard and hitting deliverables is a given. This is the minimum requirement for success. However, people on the management chain spend very little time thinking about you and your accomplishments. All your thousands of hours of hard work are condensed down to a few general impressions and opinions of you. A few casual offhand remarks made about you in a promotion meeting may decide your future. It is in these few and far between brief moments where your brand and reputation are the deciding factor. This ties in to law 5 in the The 48 Laws of Power, “So much depends on reputation, guard it with your life”.
Rule 1: Try to look beyond your own navel
Instead of looking through everything through the lens of self interest, add another layer of abstraction and view your actions in the same way everyone else will view them.
- Instead of looking through everything through the lens of self interest, add another layer of abstraction and view your actions in the same way everyone else will view them.
- Don’t flatter yourself and view yourself as better than you really are rather than how you actually are. Don’t make excuses for your behavior.
- Get noticed by offering something to higher ups. Perhaps everyone wants the high profile tasks, but you can compete by taking on a more humble, yet equally essential task.
- Halo effect – associate your brand with something good. Gain access to powerful people early on.
- Think of yourself as a product. You cost the company a lot of money. Be sure to deliver the kind of high performance and reliability that is expected from a high end product: Earn money for the company, tell the truth, be discrete, keep your word, and make people want to work for you.
- In a tribe, the hunter is the most respected. Likewise, not all jobs are created equal. The jobs or orgs that directly increase the company’s bottom line are the best ones to be in. Consider a hypothetical job at google where you are working on some internal software used by the teams, versus a job where you are directly working on google ad words.
- Have a reputation for telling the truth.
- Be discrete. Don’t blab. Leaks are common place. Do not write down anything that you would not want to have published to the whole world to see. Have a reputation as someone who can actually keep a secret and have the discretion to know when to share and when not to.
- Always deliver. If you say you will meet this goal, then do it.
- Be someone that people want to work for. Be able to manage down as well as manage up. Forget management theories, treat people as individuals who are motivated in different ways. Don’t pretend to be an expert at everything. Know what you don’t know, and hire people with diverse skills who can advise you on matters in which you are not the expert.
My own thoughts: Some people I have seen are good at managing up, but bad at managing down. It gets noticed. There is high turnover and nobody wants to work for this person. This is in stark contrast to a manager whose team members will follow him across teams and even across companies.
Rule 2: Like it or not, your boss is the coauthor of your brand
- The elders of the tribe eat first. Which means you’ll do the lions share of the work, and the upper management will take the credit and reap most of the benefits. You have to pay your dues first. If you can’t accept this, start your own company.
- Your boss has the most control over your life. More so than your spouse even. You spend at least 40 hours a week at work, your boss commands your attention, your salary, what you work on, and more importantly your brand. Corporations are caste systems. Sadly, your brand is more at the mercy of subjective comments your boss says to his peers than objective measures of success. Recognize and acknowledge this power and act accordingly.
- Bosses want loyalty. Don’t go above him or behind him. Snitching to a higher up is not a good look.
- Bosses want good advice. Here you will want a balanced approach. Don’t go to either extreme of being a sycophant or a contrarian.
“Other corporate people are sycophants not because they are actively terrified, but because they are naturally conservative and risk adverse. Their quest is to remain unnoticed, for the most part. So long as they are reasonably proficient at their jobs and keep their heads down, they are less likely to be called out of class then someone who speaks his or her mind.
Their quest is to remain unnoticed, for the most part. So long as they are reasonably proficient at their jobs and keep their heads down, they are less likely to be called out of class than someone who speaks his or her mind. They want the kind of career where t hey will be rewarded with a 3% pay increase each year, good benefits, and a pension plan that makes sense. These are absoutely not the people for whom I am writing this book”.
They make take some offhand remark and overreact to it, such as one executive who commented that he enjoyed some harp music at some event, and then got confused later when he saw harps at every event that followed.
Don’t develop a reputation for being a suck up. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind and disagree with the boss. Otherwise you will be branded as mediocre.
The sycophant agrees for the sake of agreeing, while the contrarian is the exact opposite. The contrarian will develop a negative brand because every interaction is unpleasant. Bosses will spend time figuring out how to get rid of you. Contrarians think because they are smart and well educated, that this trumps all else. Not the case, as many people in a large S-tier company will be smart and well educated.
These people are just right. It takes time to strike the right balance. Work for a lot of different bosses to see who is receptive to advice and who is not. Study your own boss to see how he handles his boss. Work long enough to understand your value and have confidence in your opinions. Timing is important too. Also, disagree and commit. This is one of the Amazon leadership principles. Let your boss know you disagree and why, but also let them know you will do as you’re told.
If you’re asked to do something illegal, now is the time to go over your bosses head. You might lose your job, but better that than losing your career – your brand will forever be tainted.
Finally, you have to differentiate yourself from the rest. Pick the key moment to do so, and it will help you stand out. Don’t overdo this, otherwise you become a contrarian.
- Bosses want their brands polished. One thing that is especially helpful is to complement their weaknesses with your strengths. If boss is organized but lacks technical ability, bring technical expertise to the table. Your boss will use you, but can you use them in return? The reputation you want is as someone who is destined for greater things to come.
- What do you want from a boss? To be trusted. You will start getting opportunities. Second, you want experience and learning early on. The money will come later. You want a boss you can learn from, even if its to learn how not to behave. Even having a problem boss is helpful, because it lets you easily identify such people in the future.