Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

Put Your Mask On First

You may have heard these words before and not given them much thought.  Today, you have an opportunity to think about them from a fresh perspective.

If you are traveling with children, or are seated next to someone who needs assistance, place the mask on yourself first, then offer assistance. Continue using the mask until advised by a uniformed crew member to remove it.

This is part of the safety briefing that I have heard way too many times in recent days. Upon a quick review of my flight activity on United’s website I was a little surprised to realize that I have flown almost 92,000 miles on United or another Star Alliance carrier since the beginning of the year. And I have flown another 15,000 miles on other carriers in that time.

You hear basically the same safety briefing on every flight. They are fairly dry and emotionless. Unlike some of the funny stuff you hear coming out of Southwest Airlines, United doesn’t see a lot of benefit in humor.

The part about the oxygen mask caused me to pause and ponder a bit recently. The flight attendant asks you to place your mask over your face FIRST. You are asked to do that BEFORE you offer assistance to your children or anyone else who may need your help. I am not sure about you, but that is a concept that would be hard and seem at odds with the heart of a loving father if my children or grandchildren were onboard with me.

What is the Leadership Lesson?

The leadership lesson is that we must realize it is important as leaders that we focus on ourselves from time to time in order that we will have sufficient energy and resources to lead and be a force for change and growth in those around us.

How do we do that?

Here are 5 things that you can do to put your oxygen mask on first:

Go to bed early tonight — There is nothing quite as rejuvenating as a good night’s sleep. Do yourself a favor. Go to bed early tonight and don’t set an alarm for tomorrow morning. I know that not everyone has the kind of job where that is a possibility for you. But, most folks have “Sick Days.” Some folks call them “Mental Health Days” and if you have the opportunity to take one, then take it!

Clear your calendar for 24 hours — Meetings, meetings, meetings. That is all we seem to do these days. Wouldn’t it be nice to take a break from that? If you can, block time on your calendar and mark it “Private” so that someone else doesn’t schedule something on your calendar. Then reclaim this time for the benefit of those you care about the most. Redeem this time and spend it with someone you love.

Read a good book — When was the last time you read a good book? You know, something totally unrelated to work and business. I am currently working my way through the Jack Reacher series. They have absolutely nothing to do with anything job related. But boy are they fun to get lost in for a little while each evening before bedtime.

Take an on-line class — Enrichment courses are available at your local community college. Sign-up for a class that has nothing to do with work. Have you ever thought about becoming a better photographer? Take a class. Have you ever wanted to paint or sculpt? Take a class. Is there a novel inside you? Take a class and learn how to write the next great American novel.

Sharpen your sword — I wouldn’t be much of a leadership coach if I didn’t provide one piece of encouragement that will directly affect your leadership skills. So, read a leadership book. Join a group focused on leadership on LinkedIn. Get a leadership coach to help sharpen your skills as a leader.

It is not an accident that 4 out of the 5 items listed above are not directly related to leadership. There are many voices telling us to get better at work. Today, I want to be a voice today to say that it is “OK” to get better on the inside as well.
Photo credit: skyfaller / Photo / CC BY-SA

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