Oxygen
The Inspired Leader

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First

As a coach, I often conduct 360 reviews for my clients. After years of doing these interviews, what I've discovered is that when we are driving hard 24/7, multi-tasking at meetings, and forcing ourselves to keep working even on sick and vacation days, we are far from impressive to those who work with us. If you've fallen into a pattern of sacrificing your own well-being for work, admitting it to yourself is an honest first step. Then, sit down with yourself and write down the "operating rules" you have for yourself.
February 2, 2012

We all know the drill, if there’s an emergency on an airplane and YOU’RE travelling with kids, put YOUR own oxygen mask on first.  Why?  Because if we pass out, we are in no position to help anyone else survive.  It makes sense, doesn’t it?  This commonsense rule of the skies applies on the ground as well.  You’ll be of little to no use to the people who depend upon you if you don’t take care of yourself first.  The logic works, but it’s still a hard lesson for people to practice.

As a coach, I often conduct 360 reviews for my clients.  At first I was surprised at the consistency of the feedback, but after years of doing these interviews, what I’ve discovered is that when we are driving hard 24/7, multi-tasking at meetings, and forcing ourselves to keep working even on sick and vacation days, we are far from impressive to those who work with us.  Without exception, overwork and sacrificing one’s own health and well-being on a consistent basis raise more concern than admiration or respect.  You may have inspiring ideas, but no one wants to be you!  Taking this a step further, Millennials often look “up” at the pace and approach of senior leaders who are in the overwork mode and decide that they don’t want opportunities that come at such a price.

If you’ve fallen into a pattern of sacrificing your own well-being for work, admitting it to yourself is an honest first step.  Then, sit down with yourself and write down the “operating rules” you have for yourself.  You may be surprised to find that your own relentless high standards are driving you just as hard as your company’s expectations.  Next, ask yourself:  If I was being more strategic about how I’m managing my time and work, what would I do differently?  See if you can make one or two small changes to get yourself started.

I highly recommend a book called The Power of Full Engagement by two doctors, Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, who studied what top performers do that allows them to sustain peak results.  The book is full of great exercises to help you find your best solutions.  No time for a book?  Try the Harvard Business Review article: The Making of a Corporate Athlete by the same authors.

I hope this is enough to get you started on putting on your metaphorical mask first!  I know you’ll be a more inspiring leader and a healthier, happier person if you do.

I look forward to seeing you at a breakfast panel hosted by my friend, Donna Friedman Meir next Tuesday, February 7 at the Kidscreen Summit.

Very best,

Kate

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