“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”- Abraham Lincoln
Unfortunately you might know a person who says one thing and then does another. He tells everyone how many hours he works. To hear him tell it he is the backbone of the entire company. Then you start noticing that he comes in at 9:30 am and he is gone by 3:45 pm every day. He doesn’t answer his blackberry after 3:45 pm either. These are not exactly the actions of someone who works long hours. The correct answer is not necessarily that he should work 14 hours a day.
To draw from the quote above, his tree and his shadow do not match. The tree is who he really is, a person who works from 9:30 am until 3:45 pm. Who knows? Maybe he completes all of his work in record time. His shadow is distorted. The reason? He has tried to tell you one thing and the truth that you witness is completely different. To keep with the tree metaphor, it is like he is describing himself as a redwood and casting the shadow of a sapling.
When you first met him he told you that he works really hard and puts in long hours. At first you probably gave him the benefit of the doubt. You took him at his word. You thought he was a redwood. Then you observed him in action and saw something completely different. He cast a different shadow. The sapling shadow.
There might not be anything wrong with his actions. He may be completely fulfilling all of his job requirements, maybe he works part time. The fact that he works fewer hours does not mean he is not a good conscientious worker. The problem is his words; he is not portraying himself to you accurately.
OK, what does this have to do with you? What is going on with your tree and your shadow, do they match? How do you know? Pay attention to how you describe yourself and pay attention to how you behave. Can you look yourself in the eye and say that you are in alignment?
Remember that you can always ask others. You don’t have to tell them about trees and shadows (but you can), but you do want to know if are a redwood with a redwood sized shadow.
On that note, perhaps it is time to step away from the office and see some real trees!