Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First: The Importance of Self-Care

By Patricia Kobela, Regional Director of Sales, Chartwell Hotels, and member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

We’ve all heard it from flight attendants hundreds of times: In case of an emergency, make sure your own oxygen mask is secured before helping others. But the lesson is applicable to many scenarios in life, such as working through a pandemic, like we’ve been doing for the past nine months. In order to take care of your team, you have to take care of yourself.

On a recent call, members of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB) discussed how they take care of themselves while trying to help their teams as well. Here are takeaways from our discussion:


We are all struggling right now, which means it’s extra-important to be kind to yourself and make sure you are in a good place. SAB members shared the many ways that they are practicing self-care.

“In order to be a great leader and display positive leadership, you’ve got to lead yourself,” one SAB member said. “That ability to recognize and control your emotions is the most valuable skill that a person could have. If you recognize you’re about to go the other way and reel yourself in, that’s important.”

“You’ve got to fill your own cup before you can give to others,” another member said. “Checking in with myself first helps me to be a better leader.”

Another SAB member added: “I look to see what I can do first thing in the morning to make myself feel accomplished on a personal and professional level, and then I do it.”

Another member said that seeing her team succeed and celebrate personal wins reminds her that she doesn’t always have to be the person solving everyone’s problems. And, as we are working from home and getting on multiple video calls every day, fatigue sets in for everyone. You need to relax your eyes and your brain. “We have to get out for 10 minutes and walk the dog,” one member said. “It’s okay to clear your head for a few minutes when that’s what you need. The other day I got a call when I was walking my dog, and it turned out to be a vendor that I could talk to and not have to put up a front that we were in an office.”

Another member added: “Now that I’m home all day long, I respect and understand more what my wife went through for 14 years as a stay-at-home mom. It’s tough, and you’ve got to be willing to change yourself in order to get a work-life balance that works for you.”


After you’ve taken care of yourself, then it’s time to take care of others, whether they’re teammates or customers. As one SAB member said, sometimes salespeople ask customers how they are doing only because it’s a societal norm — but people can tell when someone truly cares about their wellbeing. “People can see through it when you’re not paying attention,” the member said. “Your personality may not have had to have been empathetic, but it’s time for all of us to try to be better at it. You need to be able to see yourself, that you are actually showing empathy.”

Another member added: “It’s important from a sales standpoint to keep the relationships going. We’re not talking to them about business right now because they don’t have any, so what I think our salespeople out there need to do is just have a good relationship with our clients and show them empathy and come up with good things to talk to them about.”

Sales leaders need to have empathy not just for clients but also for their teams, who may be struggling. “Companies that can show empathy is key,” one member said. “I’ve noticed the ones that make sure they’re giving employees the time they need, and not assuming that just because you’re working out of your house, you’re available to work 10 hours a day.”

Another SAB member said that it’s important to show compassion when team members are demoralized about losing business. “We had a huge cancellation in November,” the member said, “and we had to tell them that it’s not their fault, because people take it as such a personal responsibility, even though there’s nothing they can do about it. We have to stay positive and say that it’s okay if you’re not hitting your goal.”


While our experiences may be different, we’re all going through similar things right now, which can help us relate to each other in a different way, SAB members said. “We’re all coming out of this with a survivor complex,” one member said. “Whether it’s on the hotel side or the customer side, it’s been traumatic for a lot of people and their businesses.”

Another member added that sharing a medical issue he discovered due to the pandemic has helped him bond with his team more closely, because it turns out that many of them were going through similar health issues. “I’m glad I spoke about it,” the member said. “It’s things like this that wind up making the biggest impact. On our employee surveys, the biggest thing mentioned was open discussions like this.”

Another member said that he has found that getting his team together each week to discuss whatever they want has been very helpful. “At one point, I said that we didn’t have to have the meeting every week if it was too much,” the member said. “But they all said, ‘No, this is my safe place that I can talk to my peers that are experiencing the same thing I am.’ Letting people share with each other in the same situation helps tremendously. We have to help each other.”

Even though we’re all in the same scenario, not everyone wants or needs the same things to cope, which is why it’s important to understand who you are working with and what they need. One SAB member said that, as an example, while they tried to make everyone feel included on a Zoom lunch hour, one person thought it was a waste of time to sit and watch people eat. “I thought it was interesting to see that they wanted to make sure she didn’t feel detached, but she felt like her time was precious and she wasn’t able to balance it the way she wants,” the member said. “We have to recognize the difference in people and what motivates them, as well as what’s different about their own situations. Support people in the way that they want to be supported.”

Categories: Sales
Insight Type: Articles