What kind of shadow do you cast?
Imagine, if you will, a world without shadows … Things would look very different, bleak and bland, as there would be nothing that provides that wonderful contrast between light and shade as well as perspective.
There would also be no place to rest in the shade of large objects like trees, bushes or buildings. Shadows provide protection from the heat and glare of the sun, and are a blessing to the weary person exposed to the sun for any length of time.
The length of a shadow differs depending on the time of day, with long shadows in the morning and evening, and short shadows in the middle of the day. Every object, big and small casts a shadow. And every person cast a shadow, both physically and figuratively.
Shadows don’t do much for their owner – you can’t sit in the shade of your own shadow! - but others can benefit from your shadow.
The only way to change your physical shadow is to gain or lose weight, or grow taller (impossible for a fully grown adult), but you can do a lot about your figurative shadow …
Like your physical shadow, your figurative shadow falls on and affects those close to or around you, both in your professional and your personal life. Whether you like it or not, your words and actions for good or bad affect those around you and these form part of your shadow. What kind of effect, then, does your shadow have on those around you?
To help you assess the effect of your shadow, answer the following questions of yourself:
> Do people (work colleagues, family and friends) enjoy being in my company?
> Do people grow as a result of being around me?
> Are people inspired by being in my presence?
> Do people learn something from being in my presence?
> Are people grateful to be in my presence?
On the other side of the coin:
> Are people uncomfortable in my presence?
> Do people try to avoid being in my presence?
> Are people discouraged from being in my presence?
> Are people hampered or limited by my presence?
Practical applications of the above will bring you closer to the truth. Consider the effect your shadow has on those who accompany you in a motor vehicle when you are driving. Do you deal with the frustrations of other road users who fail to observe the laws of the road silently, or do you voice your frustrations to all in the car? If you mouth off at another motorist (who cannot hear you) or merely express a negative opinion about another road user, it may make you feel better, right or important. But it won’t do the same for you in the eyes of those in the car with you. They will store up the event in their memory banks and it will change the way they view you and the way they allow you to influence them (you’d better believe it).
The same applies in your work and home situations. If you are mouthing off negative things thinking that this demonstrates your power and importance, think again. No-one will respect you for it. On the contrary. You will lose respect and become the object of their jokes and clever comments. But you will never know that because they will be courteous and polite to your face then laugh at you with others behind your back.
Just as shadows are long in the morning, so your shadow over your children will be long when they are young. In the midday of their young adulthood, your shadow will be short, but as you and they mature, your shadow will once again lengthen. The fact is, your shadow will remain long after you have gone, but what kind of a shadow will you have left?
The higher you are in an organisation, the bigger your shadow. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your shadow only falls on those close to you. It falls on all below you. You therefore have a greater responsibility to ensure that you cast a good shadow.
Every society, every company, every home, needs people who cast good shadows so that those who stand in those shadows will benefit from them rather than seek the shade elsewhere.
Please cast a shadow that will protect people from the “heat”, that will refresh them and restore them to continue with their lives or their jobs so much the better for having been close to you!
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine (www.hrfuture.net).