Last week I was sitting in an airplane waiting for it to take off. Delta played its customary safety video to prepare me and my fellow passengers in the unlikely event that we should lose cabin pressure. In the video, an oxygen mask dropped out of the ceiling as the actress calmly secured her mask onto her face. She then turned to her cute little daughter who was patiently waiting for her turn to have her life saved. The scene was absurdly unrealistic. First of all, no one was gripping their shuddering armrests for dear life. No one was screaming “oh God, oh God, we are all going to die!” And the mother was prioritizing her own oxygen mask, completely ignoring the maternal instincts that would place the safety of her daughter above her own.
It made me wonder why the FAA instructs us to save ourselves before tending to our children, so I looked it up. It turns out that when cabin pressure drops out at 35,000 feet, hypoxia sets in quickly. Without oxygen, you may not be coherent enough to calm your child and get their mask on. Bottom line: the longer you deprive yourself of your needs, the harder it is to help others.
It occurred to me that there is a useful business development lesson in this safety protocol. A law firm environment encourages its workforce to prioritize client service above all else. But if lawyers do not tend to their own interests, they can easily find themselves at a plateau, dependent on their colleagues for work. Certainly, client service is essential, but we must first see to our own growth if we hope to become anything more than service partners. We can do this by spending just a few minutes every morning on our business development goals, following up on active opportunities, touching base with a few key contacts, and educating ourselves on the trends and techniques that will help us advance our objectives. Once that is done, we can dedicate the rest of the day to client needs.
So, as the safety video reminds us, do things in the right order, even when they seem counterintuitive.