“In the event of a change in cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will appear above your seat. Place it over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first and then assist others.”
We’ve all heard this safety instruction after boarding a plane. It’s become so routine that many of us can recite the entire briefing. But it’s this particular section about oxygen masks that always sparks my attention.
The reason for this instruction is obvious. If I did try to help my fellow passenger with their mask before wearing my own, we both could pass out. My good intentions could end up fatal if I don’t first help myself.
This same logic often plays out in our professional lives. People in leadership positions often speak of values such as honesty, flexibility, and loyalty. But many times leaders fall well short of living up to these ideals. As those within the organization witness this double-standard, employees begin to neglect these ideals. In fact, just mentioning these undermined values can start to become an inside joke within teams and social circles.
That is why it’s so vital to put on your own oxygen mask first. To make sure that you are implementing the values, processes, or change in your own work before asking others to do so as well. It doesn’t mean that you need to be perfect. No one is. You just need to be putting forth the effort so you can actually help those around you.