"Hush, my dear," he said. "Don't speak so loud, or you will be overheard--and I should be ruined. I'm supposed to be a Great Wizard."
"And aren't you?" she asked.
"Not a bit of it, my dear; I'm just a common man."
"You're more than that," said the Scarecrow, in a grieved tone; "you're a humbug."
"Exactly so!" declared the little man, rubbing his hands together as if it pleased him. "I am a humbug."
-Excerpt from The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Those of us familiar with the movie are familiar with the "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain line. We've all known people who pose to be one thing but are exposed later to be something else. As a project manager and as a consultant, I've seen my fair share of "humbugs" posing to be wizards.
Often, we get blindsided by the fact that there was a curtain in the first place. In the role of office politicians, our job is to identify when and where curtains exist between the "image" and the "reality." It's generally not that hard to expose if one knows what to look for:
- How does the person in question treat others who are not present? More than one co-worker has exposed their curtain by "taking me into their confidence" by bad-mouthing others on day one. That's a huge warning sign that the snake will rear his/her ugly head against me some day.
- How does this person's behavior change in the presence of those whose organizational power and influence is higher or lower than theirs? People without curtains tend to treat people consistently regardless of organizational position.
- What exterior signals does this person give to draw attention to themselves? Note that there's a difference between a strong personal brand (e.g., wearing a bow tie every day) and drawing attention to a $2,000 suit.
- How does this person behave in meetings? Are they interested and engaged in what other people have to say? Are they late? Leave early?
- Do they verbally draw attention to their own press? I knew a law enforcement officer who rose high in the ranks who talked about his own ethics all the time. His behavior soon negated his own press releases.
- Do they change their behavior during or after a conflict? Once corrected or reprimanded, are they grateful or resentful of the feedback?
These are just a few of the "curtains" to look for to determine whether the "wizard" in your life is really hiding a humbug behind the curtain. The ability to identify this is key in both human relations and branding. What are you doing to identify and pull back the curtain before it's too late?