Oxygen Masks

In Case of Emergency

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

I pretty much ignore the monologue from the flight crew before the plane takes off. I do note the nearest exit and buckle up. The rest I kind of tune out. You know the part where they talk about unexpected turbulence and the masks falling down from the ceiling. Well, I got to thinking about that today; especially the part about “if you are traveling with a child or seated next to someone who may need assistance, make sure you put your own mask on first then assist the person next to you.”

Well, we are in turbulent times and for many businesses, the oxygen masks have ominously appeared from the ceiling. And many of the executives I know are running up and down the isles exhorting everyone to put on their masks, cut costs, work harder, hug customers and stay home if you get the flu. They are mask-less themselves though. Which brings me to my principal thought. During these hard times, why are we as leaders not investing in ourselves? We should be. But it’s counter intuitive isn’t it? Times are tough, we’ve asked everyone to sacrifice so what’s the perception if we decide to go to that leadership seminar, enroll in that networking meeting, take that MBA business course or form that advisory board? Yet that’s exactly what we should do – put our own mask on first, then help others.

Many leaders and managers seem to instinctively cut those things that will actually help the company through hard times; marketing, training, PR, advertising, etc. Yet, if we were really doing our jobs as leaders we would be cutting costs just as vigorously during the “boom years” and so there really isn’t much more to cut in a downturn except, of course, to right size to the market/revenues if the economy causes shrinkage. Why drastically cut training, development, marketing or effective branding? What are we trying to save by doing that? Just at the time we need new thinking, a fresh world view, the help of a mastermind group and the support of a large business network, we find ourselves shutting down. The great companies, those that are surviving and thriving, are investing in their leadership and marketing. Perhaps at a reduced rate that better matches the market, but more likely they have shifted the investment to move the company into new products and services.

So what are you doing to make sure you invest in your key employees? How are you positioning your company in the market and letting the market know about that position? What are you doing to generate new ideas and innovate business processes, services and products?