Who comes first?

For a long time, the mantra every manager in (especially) a service company chanted was ‘the customer comes first, the customer comes first’. No matter what or how we do it and what toll it may take on our teams, the customer comes first.

Work-wellbeing and leadership

Here and there over the last year or two, when I have perused through my LinkedIn account, instead of seeing slogans about how the customer comes first, I have noticed more and more slogans users have liked and shared related to work-wellbeing and leadership – not management, leadership.

For some time now it has been apparent that the slogan is no longer “the customer first”, but “the employees first”, customers will follow; happy employees will maintain and gain customers.

But how do we do that, when it has become apparent in conversation with my (Esimiehestä johtajaksi-) colleagues that we all now and then feel like a deer in headlights with too many things to do in too little time; being constantly tired and trying to see how many things we can juggle at the same time?

The number one advice for a leader

During our now 6-month long leadership development program, we have heard several excellent guest speakers such as Director-General Taina Susiluoto of The Ministry of Employment and the Economy and CEO Kari Onniselkä of Ramboll Finland describing their journey to a leadership position.

When asked, what is the advice or tips they could share that has helped them succeed as leaders and during difficult decisions, the first and most common answer has been: you must think about yourself and your well-being, otherwise you will burn out and cannot function as a leader.

What was that again?

We all (well, me at least since I asked the question) expected to essentially get a Golden Ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory that would help us in somehow managing our days better and instead all they say ‘you have to think about yourself and take care of yourself’. How is this going to help me in dealing with the hard situations I may encounter at work?

This led me to think: Can a leader think Me First?

The easy answer is yes. But rarely are things this black and white.

The trend and competition of “who has slept the least” seems to be passing (even though it sadly surfaces every now and then) and people are moving toward a more balanced life to the extent they can. Even some media personalities, such as Huffington Post’s founder Arianna Huffington has taken as a new passion project: sleep – which we all need a larger amount of than we get in order to function. And we need to function well as leaders. If we are not taking care of ourselves, and sometimes put Me First, we cannot effectively lead others. It’s like they instruct on every flight about the oxygen masks: help yourself first to help others.

So maybe the questions should be: When can a leader think Me First? And why is it ok for a leader to think Me First?

The thing we all in management or any kind of a leadership position must do is carefully think about and recognize the situations when to put Me First. Knowing that is the mark of a good leader.

Katriina Laine
Head of Global Sales Development