Every action, plan, and decision you make reflects your character.
It’s obvious to those around you, more than you know.
While it’s not wise to make quick judgments, it’s equally possible to see a person’s character reveal itself pretty quickly.
I recall watching a sports story that made headlines some time ago. A talented football player gave an energetic interview right after a great play put him in the spotlight. The problem was that he used the time to tout himself, discount the opposing team’s player, and not mention the assistance of his teammates.
He received quite a bit of backlash for his self-focus. His answer was to tell people not to judge someone’s character by what they do on the ball field, but instead what they do off of it for family and the community.
I don’t think we really have a choice of when others judge our character. They may form an opinion while we are “on stage,” and then form a different one when they see us in the hallway. We’re “on duty” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We can’t compartmentalize “in character” actions of “out of character” actions. It’s ALL part of our character.
To be fair, it’s tough if you are a public figure, especially a celebrity. For every fan delighted to get an autograph or selfie with you, there will be one or more that missed out or felt you slighted them. You are going to make the occasional mistake, and you cannot be all things that all people want. But it’s important to be aware that people will, and do, make determinations pretty quickly, and often based on small behaviors, particularly if they see a pattern over time.
“Time out! I want to behave badly for a few minutes!”
I once had a boss with a fiery temper. He’d have a tantrum when things didn’t go as expected…slamming doors, pitching a fit, calling us names. One time he came back in and said, “I apologize. That tantrum was entirely out of character for me.”
My colleagues and I shared knowing glances. We knew this behavior actually WAS in character for him. We experienced it daily. It was a core part of his chosen behaviors.
Maintaining our best self – character in service to others, all the time – demands we not give in to the times we want to be selfish. We must be intentional to align our plans, decisions, and actions to our defined servant purpose, values, and behaviors? What would that look like in observable behaviors? What feedback can you invite from others about what behaviors they would say are not serving your character well? What new behaviors would they like to see?
Would that mean that after speaking, we make sure to linger in the room and converse with as many people as we can instead of bolting to “recover” in our own room? Would it mean that we jump in to help the support staff with a “menial” task when a deadline is looming rather than acting like it’s beneath us? Would it mean making some sincere, humble apologies for past patterns around the office?
Do all you can to define what kind of character and values you want to hold yourself to, then live as closely to that as possible. Very likely even the effort will be seen, and even if you make occasional mistakes, people will know that is “out of character” for you.