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“A man’s character is like a tree, and his reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” Abraham Lincoln

Nigel Mansell, former World F1 and Indycar champion, spoke of the time when he left Lotus F1 team and joined Williams F1 as Keke Rosberg’s partner. Mansell had suffered from a poor relationship with the Lotus team manager Peter Warr, and on arrival at Williams it was evident that Warr had ‘put the poison pen’ in with Rosberg. It was a few months into their partnership that Rosberg said to Mansell, “I am sorry. I listened to what was said instead of using my own judgement.”

I, too, have suffered such back stabbing – many times. As a ‘boy’ on a pop round I changed drivers to discover that someone I had spent one day with had spread the word I was lazy, only for my new driver to assess me in one day as a hard worker. In the police some people saw my carping as work-avoidance, whereas the more alert saw it as frustration with poor working practices, and lauded my actual productivity. My better managers also saw something in me. They all agreed that I had my idiosyncrasies – I just needed managing!

It is easy to assess someone negatively based on the narrow view we have of what’s happening, and we forget that what we see is but a snapshot of their whole character, a snapshot based on the circumstances within which we see them perform. But they are people 24 hours a day, while we see them for one or two. We tend to forget that.

Try not to judge people based on how little you actually know. Look for the tree, not the shadow. The shadow is a reflection based not on reality but on the ever-changing position of the light being shone upon it. The light moves, the tree does not.

That’s actually quite profound – Lincoln was a clever chap.

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