Something That the Airlines Have Right

We’ve all heard it:

“In the event of an emergency a mask will drop from overhead. Please place your mask on first before assisting anyone else.”

While it’s ostensibly about procedures for safety on a flight, the reality is that it has a potentially deeper and more profound meaning—taking care of yourself to be able to take care of others.

In early April, I had the pleasure and privilege of being a part of a panel at the PRSA Counselors to Higher Education conference in Washington D.C. with Renell Wynn, Vice Chancellor of Communications & Marketing at the University of Denver, and Ray Betzner, Assistant Vice President of University Communications at Temple University. We focused on helping senior communicators at universities and colleges think about what they can do to help build positive cultures in their organizations. While we talked about many aspects of being a strong chief communicator, we spent a good amount of time talking about the essential need to take care of yourself to be a good leader and taking care of your teams.

The reality is that as communicators, we are often the first and last line of defense in any contentious situation. We get the worried calls from presidents and colleagues. We get the probing questions from reporters. We get the responsibility of managing all of the moving parts and disparate personalities. And what we often forget is that we need to take care of ourselves.

We need to not feel guilty about taking time and doing the things that keep us clear and focused. It keeps us sharp for the times that we need to shine and rise to the moment. Most importantly, it gives us the presence of mind to think about our own teams and building the right culture for our organization.

We’ve seen the airlines (yeah, I’m talking to you, United) get it wrong and wrong again. But when it comes to the notion of taking care of yourself first so that you can be ready to take care of others, they got it right.