You Are the Help Until Help Arrives (Or “In the Absence of Orders, Initiate Appropriate Action”)

This past weekend I attended a workshop on how to prepare for an active shooter/killer situation.

It’s an upsetting fact of the world we live in—but a fact nonetheless—that workshops of this kind are an important resource.

Among the many important and interesting things, I learned:

You are the help until help arrives.

What does this mean?

In a situation of this kind, it means it’s your responsibility to know your exits, to think through how to blockade doors, to fight if necessary.

I’m not going to write more on this, as it’s not my area of expertise—but I cannot recommend attending a workshop, of this kind, highly enough.

What I am going to do is to demonstrate how this idea can and should be applied in a business context.

In fact, I wrote about it in my book, How to Wow, under the heading “In the Absence of Orders, Initiate Appropriate Action.”

What does this mean?

In the Marine Corps (in which my brother served) it meant—essentially—if something needs doing, do it. Don’t shrug it off because it’s not your responsibility.

What might this look like in a business setting?

Many years ago, I had a client who was a trainee stockbroker at one of Manhattan’s larger firms.

One day he was in the men’s room, which was littered with paper towels. He began picking them up.

At that moment, one of the directors—a fairly Zeus-like figure—came in the bathroom and asked him what he was doing. He said he was picking up paper towels. The director asked why. He said because they were on the floor. The director pointed out that this wasn’t his job. My client agreed but said that should a client come in; it would give them a poor impression of the firm.

Suffice to say that while this did not gain him immediate access to a corner office, his display of initiative did a lot to enhance his reputation with those occupying corner offices.  

And while this might seem like a frivolous example when compared with taking the initiative in the face of an active shooter, what it does is exemplify a mindset that is worth adopting in numerous situations:

You are the help until help arrives.


For more on the value of taking the initiative, take a look at “You Get What You Give” (Or “Hoarders Never Finish First”).