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Please Put Your Own Oxygen Mask On Before Assisting Others

Written by

Memphis • June 2, 2019

by Bill Catlette

Yesterday, on International Flight Attendants Day, I was reminded of two things:


  1. My admiration and appreciation for the women (mostly) and men who work hard to assure our safety and relative comfort when traveling by commercial air.
  2. The phrase that I’ve heard them use more than five thousand times in the interest of safety: “Please put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.”


At first blush, the oxygen mask thing sounds a little selfish until you contemplate the reality that, without oxygen at cruise altitude, you will be quickly transported on a one-way journey to a destination other than the one intended. That same principle holds true for managers: We’e got to get our own act squared away before having any hope of successfully leading others. To wit, good managers take pains to always be in game form with things like:

  1. Management of Time and Priorities
  2. Having the Courage to do things like look people in the eye and tell them the truth  
  3. Having a solid process for Making and then Executing Hard Decisions
  4. Being willing to Subordinate Self-Interest for the good of the group and its mission
  5. Being ever mindful that our Professional Reputation is largely a product of setting a good example


The best leaders we’ve encountered make it their business to always have people around them who will level with them (no matter what), challenge them to get better at this stuff, and work with them to find ways of doing just that. In our business we call that coaching.

Bill Catlette

Bill Catlette, @ContentedCows is an executive coach and business author who helps clients build lasting competitive edge by eliminating blind-spots and improving leadership habits. Read more about Bill's coaching services, or contact us to discuss how we can help you or your organization. | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.