Dr. Sandeep is a well-known HR and leadership consultant with a strong track record and with impeccable credentials. A Doctorate from IIM Ahmedabad (his paper was accepted in one of the world’s top journals) and an author of The Making of a CEO, Sandeep is unassuming and believes in letting his work do the talking. I had a fantastic conversation with him and his views on personal branding are immensely valuable to anyone wanting to stay the course. He is a great example of something you had established credibility over the years, one step at a time.
- What according to you is personal branding?
Everyone has a brand. Knowingly or unknowingly. How you articulate who you are and project yourself will help you build a personal brand. A personal brand is someone who has deep knowledge in a domain and is supportive of helping others succeed. A personal brand is a thought leader and a professional. The person focuses on a niche area. Personal branding is about how people perceive you and what is your reality. For example, a customer buys a soap, say a brand like Dove. It offers a smooth and milky experience and promises to remove rashes. However, if the brand doesn’t live up to its promise, there is an image-reality gap. It applies to individuals as well. You need to ask if the image you are projecting, and the reality are matching and if it is really you.
2. Do you consider yourself a personal brand?How do you know it?
I believe there needs to be some level of recognition. If there is a need among your audiences, they will reach out and you know your personal brand is working. If the personal brand is followed for his or her work, that is another indicator. You can also gain from professional networking.
3. What does one do to go about building a personal brand?
Many personal brands like Steve Jobs have built credibility over time. When you look back at their journeys, you can connect the dots. When you think harder about what you practice, you will know if your journey is connected or not. Human resources and consulting is my area of passion. Finding that passion was important to me. I gained credibility due to my involvement in research and consulting and these two merged well.
4. What are the attributes of a personal brand? And what do people associate your brand with?
I would say that people see me as a thought leader and innovator in my field. They feel I was ahead of the times, bring new ideas, am easy to work with and they enjoy working with me.
5. Based on your observations and learning who according to you is a personal brand?
Tony Robbins is one person that comes to my mind. He is an author, motivational speaker and coach. He has been consistent in his image. We can look up to his work and he has a well-developed network.I am motivated by his expertise and the imagery he has built. I have worked with Infosys and to me Narayan Murthy is a personal brand. His thinking, integrity, data orientation, ability to speak up for what is right and his leadership in the Indian IT industry has been aspects to look up to Kerala’s V Guard founder Kochouseph Chittilappilly whose work in philanthropy is widely respected including his action of donating his kidney demonstrated that he is consistent with his image as a giver.
6. What characteristics do you admire about them?What steps did you take to build your brand?
I was conscious about what I would like to be. I knew I had to build a strong network and leveraged Linkedin primarily. Also began writing on the subject. As an active member of NHRD and with my research background I served as the editor for their journal for an issue as well. I have also widely published in professional journals. That apart I have taught at B-schools including IIM Ahmedabad. The association with research rubs off on you. It is important to have a strong professional network – to connect and support them when needed and gain mutual respect.Consulting also helps you in branding as I work with different professionals. Lastly, writing a book gives you good leverage as your thoughts are out in the open. My book was published by Penguin Publishers.
7. How do you know it is working?What challenges did you face while building a personal brand?What techniques did you use?
According to me, there are two types of personal branding; an outside-in branding and an inside-out branding. Most of us work with big brands like Infosys or IBM and companies don’t bother about your personal brands. However, your internal brand is important – very key to your success. Internal brand is built through hard work, adding value and being recognized as a high performer. If the image-reality gap is bigger, it can get tough internally to prove your value each day. One mistake I probably made during the early parts of my career was tojob hop – which on reflection wasn’t a great move. Those quick shifts should not be done unless you have stabilized your career.
8. What did you gain in the process? What did you lose?
Personal branding is an investment in terms of time, extending beyond work hours and on weekends. For example, teaching. Sometimes, you work late into the night and it can compromise time you spend with your family. Importantly, you need to enjoy what you are doing. You are not doing it primarily to build brand, the purpose is higher.
9. How can someone starting from scratch build a personal brand? What is the first step he or she must take?
You need to specialize to be known. If for example, you want to excel in technology, then you need to look at one area and say, become an expert in Java or UI/UX. Once you garner knowledge then you become more valued. A hollow drum makes noise, it is not music. You need to really invest in learning a trade. Second, build a network and be available on say, Linkedin. If you have a point of view, share it. Third, build your internal brand. How you treat others and strangers will reflect if you are reliable, trustworthy and hard working. The difficulty is in sustaining what you do over time.
10. If you had the opportunity to change something about the way you built your personal brand, what would that be?
Maybe I could have done much more on twitter. Could have invested also in building the professional network beyond the country as well.
11. What is your recipe for personal branding success?
You need to define your story and ask yourself what you want to be. You can’t be everything – so you need to define it. In my case, I wanted to be known as a consultant and innovator in my area. There is no story without the concept, which is central to everything. My advice is – have confidence and believe in yourself.
12. With COVID19 and other crises what steps can personal brands take?
It is important to be sensitive. Celebrities continue to do what they best – share their at-home engagements and workouts. Some people criticize it and wonderhow it will be perceived. They pass comments and it can impact their brand. It helps to be aware of the situation, be aligned with your area of expertise. They say that George Bush Jr.despite all that was said about his intelligence and personality,he still won. To me, his brand was aligned with his actions. What he spoke, he delivered and there were no inconsistencies.
13. Finally, a question about millennials and personal branding. What must youngsters be doing differently or be aware?
I feel there is a little bit of the ‘’herd mentality” among this group.Everyone trying to be the same…that won’t help. You need to add that unique flavor to the curry to make it tasty. Find your niche and work on it. Only focus on that aspect. There are lots of talented people out there. Be sure to showcase who you are as a brand.
Liked this interview? Please do share your feedback and comments.
Keen to get ahead with your personal brand? Here are some resources:
- Take a FREE assessment on personal branding.
- Refer to the 3C model on Personal Branding
- Sign up for a 60-minute personalized chat on personal branding
- Personal branding for corporate communicators
Missed the earlier episodes? Read the interviews with Muqbil Ahmar, Tinu Cherian Abraham, Joseph Fernandez, Christina Daniels,Karthik Srinivasan,Gautam Ghosh, Alexander Michael Gittens, Mubeen Azeez, ItzikAmiel, Mangal D Karnad and Abhijit Bhadurionline and share your thoughts.