Words On Words

Originally published on Monday, January 6, 2004 in The Miami Herald

Author narrows focus with second 'Warfare'

David D'Alessandro, CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, demonstrates the importance of protecting your image, reputation and perception at work.


BookCareer Warfare: 10 Rules for Building a Successful Personal Brand and Fighting to Keep It. David F. D'Alessandro, Michele Owens. McGraw-Hill. 216 pages. $21.95

When you read a book, you are, at least in the virtual sense, spending time with another human being. Sometimes it's a colorless, ''objective'' lecturer, other times a witty, gregarious, eager-to-please character. In every case, it's an objectification, exaggeration or distillation of the intelligence that produced the book.

Upon reading Career Warfare, I realized that I ''knew'' its author, David D'Alessandro, having reviewed his previous primer, Brand Warfare, in 2002. D'Alessandro, CEO of John Hancock Financial Services, didn't have a background in finance or economics, having risen instead through the ranks of marketing and public relations, which is atypical, if not unheard of, in this field. In his earlier book, it was clear that D'Alessandro's communications experience played a defining role in his success.

This time, he narrows the focus, honing in on executives and interpersonal dynamics. With advice and examples of how to differentiate one's personal brand -- clearly his area of expertise -- D'Alessandro warmly and wittily conveys practical experience, along with his self-effacing skepticism of touchy-feely corporate platitudes.

Accepting that most people are motivated by their own interests, rather than altruism or ''what's good for the company,'' he uses anecdotes and examples to demonstrate the importance of protecting the personal brand in the form of image, reputation and perception. He also offers dry, wise observations on senior managers' needs and perquisites.

D'Alessandro writes: "The fact of the matter is all bosses will use you. In their eyes, you are primarily an instrument to help them further their own careers. The real question is whether or not you are smart enough to use them. The elders of the tribe eat first. And if you cannot accept that, there is only one thing to do: Start your own organization, so you'll be at the top of the food chain. Where ambitious people get a case of the stupids is by staying in a comfortable place long after they have already gained whatever knowledge and power they were going to gain.''

In fact, his other claims to fame (beyond his tenure at Hancock and being an author) are his confrontations with the U.S. Olympics Committee and executives of NBC, the network that televises the Games. With his company a leading sponsor of Olympic broadcasts, D'Alessandro has been a thorn in their sides by demanding higher standards of behavior by USOC members. NBC, threatened by a controversy that could jeopardize its multibillion-dollar investment, has railed against the John Hancock CEO's temerity to criticize their sub-Olympian ethics, but D'Alessandro has stood his ground. When you walk it like you talk it, you're building your brand — and ''Make the right enemies'' is D'Alessandro's seventh rule.











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