Your Oxygen Mask First

In the event of a rapid cabin depressurization oxygen masks will drop from your overhead control panel.

I like to tell stories sometimes. I like to think of them as those bits of wisdom I carry with me. I want to share this one story which most can readily identify with and may not have ever thought of in terms of leadership.

Most of us have flown on commercial jets at one point or another, some more than others. Having worked on military aircraft I am always pumped to fly, scared a bit, and a little anxious! I grab the airplane emergency sheet in the seat-back as soon as I sit down. I want to know what type airplane I am on; I prefer Boeing jets above all others!

I listen intently for the Captain to tell the Flight Attendants to, “Prepare for push back.” It signals the Flight Attendant’s safety speech which I absolutely love to intently listen to like every flight is my first! I can almost repeat it verbatim, I hope you cannot hear my grinding gears in my mind!

“In the event of a rapid cabin depressurization oxygen masks will drop from your overhead control panel. Sharply pull the mask and bag to you to activate the flow of oxygen. Place the mask over your nose and mouth. Pull the straps on either sides to secure the mask on your face and breathe normally.” Now comes the leadership part, “Please put your mask on before assisting others.”

Please put your mask on before assisting others. I always envision a strapping twenty-something man worried about his wife or young child. He is willing to sacrifice his own good to protect them. Most will think his action heroic and appropriate. I see things a bit differently.

As leaders we are charged with the health of our organization and the well-being of those who work for us (Do not worry a blog for this topic will follow). Back to being a leader who needs to consider organizational health and human well-being. The most important part of this equation is the leader. Please do not scrunch your brow and think me crazy.

The reason you have to put your mask on first in the case of rapid depressurization is so you are able to assist others. If you are passed out from oxygen deprivation you are the one who needs assistance. Put your mask on first so you are able to help others.

Being a leader is similar. A leader must take care of them self. To make decisions in the best interest of the organization and people a leader must be at peak performance. A leader can only be as effective as they are healthy them self. When I say healthy I am not merely meaning physical health, I mean every aspect of health. A leader’s body, mind, and soul must be healthy to successfully lead. A leader must maintain healthy moral beliefs and ethical standards. Leaders must also keep professional and personal relationship viable.

When the oxygen mask drops a leader must recognize something has gone wrong in life. It is not being selfish to stop and take care of issues which need attention in the immediate here and now. Great leaders can see unhealthy issues coming and have developed countless skills and strategies to resolve them before there is a problem. Perhaps I will revisit this topic later to discuss some of the not-so-mystical strategies and skills to head off doom and gloom!

My point here is this; leaders are required to be at their best 24/7. When leaders let issues make them unhealthy we get to read about their fall in the headlines. Go to any news media outlet after you read this and you will see plenty of fallen and potentially falling leaders. These fallen leaders could have stopped, assessed their health, and overcome the negativity raining down on them.

Strategy 1 to develop skills to maintain health is to stop, assess your situation, and ask yourself, “Hmmmm, how would I like to read about this in the headlines?”

Lead Change in the World

Lead People, Manage Things, Develop Strategies to Blend the Two.                        Gary Wood Jr


People are smart and they know what it feels like to be managed, or what most term as being micro-managed. It most assuredly is not a welcome feeling because it robs an individual of their humanity. What is a reasonable solution? In this context of dehumanizing people, managers and leaders have a daunting task. It really is about how people are treated, not only in the workplace, but in life itself.

I believe in a simple rule for understanding managing and leading. Manage things. Lead people.

Things are managed, like commodities, objects with value which must be controlled to minimize loss and maximize profit. Profit is not necessarily monetary and many can ponder the many different ways profit can be realized, still not the point here, right now. A manager oversees objects like machines or even process because things are not always tangibles.

People are led through several types of leadership. Because we are human and have those nasty things called emotions which have been formed through our life experiences, therefore it is necessary for us all to be led. We all have our own set of perspectives and biases which drive our emotions from moment to moment. Effective leaders understand this and know there is no one-size-fits-all method for leading people. Often times when a leader or manager attempts to create the level playing field their attempts at developing fairness end in a mix of success for some and failure for others.

Leading people starts by understanding each individual’s motivation for doing some task. Why do people do what they do? In my post Hey! See Me? See Me! The Art of Recognition I mentioned people go to work to make money, money provides the ability to meet our needs and desires. There are more motivating factors than just money. People go to work to have social interactions and to pursue interests, these are aspects which fulfill or need to be a part of something, feel valued, and as part of  our journey towards self-realization. It is ever so important for leaders and managers to understand the motivating factors which drive people.

Intrinsic vs. Extrinsic motivation theories are very applicable to leadership principles, strategies, and tactics. It is crucial to understand which direction a motivation is coming from, whether it be from internal drive or external needs and desires. A strategy which may be successful is to understand where a person finds their individual motivation, perhaps it is a single mother who wants to raise her child to be a productive and respectful adult citizen or maybe it is a person who wants a new car and is willing to work long hours and overtime to get what they want. Once the root of motivation becomes clear tactics which manipulate those driving factors become apparent, but I caution it is easy to fall into a trap because there are always emotions tied to motivation, even extrinsic motivation.

Unless you are a soothe-sayer who can predict the future or read minds, it is safe to say understanding an individual’s motivational factors is no easy undertaking. Now, imagine being a leader of several to many people and it becomes necessary to understand all of them in order to guide and develop their abilities to complete tasks which effect the organization’s bottom line. I must say this from my own experience, it is an ugly, dirty, and smelly challenge because there is a very fine thin line between knowing someone professionally and personally.

As leaders and managers the task is to first take into account the best interests of the organization. Honestly, if leaders and managers do not put the organization first, there likely will not be an organization for long. It is so much more though than just taking the organization’s position as the most important strategy because there are many factors which contribute to the overall success of an organization. Believe me, it does not matter much if an organization makes a thing or provides a service there will always be one constant variable, people.

More to follow….


Welcome to the Journey

Happy Hump Day! I’ll keep this a brief as possible for the first blog attempt!

I love the exclamation mark because it typifies my passion in my writing! I may overuse it most times, but I am passionate about the topics and if I’m taking the time to write about it then it warrants the appropriate punctuation.

Leading takes courage. It takes the conscious decision each moment of our lives to stop and decide to do the right thing. There’s no judgement here because I understand there is truly no shared reality and what’s right for me is definitely not necessarily right for you. True leadership puts others before our selves.

Short and simple for the first post. Check out my profile and send me a message. I love stimulating conversation, but beware of what you ask because you just might get an answer, but surely will get an opinion!