A MacDonald’s Employee Jumped Through a Window to Save a Customer. Here’s What Every Leader Can Learn



In December, a woman at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Eden Prairie near Minneapolis began choking on a chicken nugget. Sydney Raley, an exceptionally quick-witted 15-year-old employee, jumped through the drive-thru window to offer assistance, telling the woman’s daughter to dial 911. Raley got the woman out of the car and performed the Heimlich maneuver, enlisting a bystander to help her. They managed to dislodge the nugget, saving the woman’s life.

It sounds like a scene from a teenage Christmas movie, but it actually happened. And there’s a lot every entrepreneur, CEO, and team leader can learn from the incident.

1. Good customer service makes all the difference.

Things could have unfolded very differently except for one small thing. After Raley handed the customer part of her order, she stuck her head back out the drive-thru window to explain that the rest would be coming shortly. Without that simple gesture of courtesy and good service, Raley wouldn’t have known so quickly that the woman was in distress and might not have saved her.

2. Training saves lives.

How did an adolescent know exactly what to do in a life-threatening emergency? Because she was trained to know. Four years ago, at age 11, she’d taken a Red Cross babysitter class, and “all that training immediately kicked in,” she said. 

This raises a few questions. Do you know the Heimlich maneuver? Do your employees? What about CPR? Do you and they know what to do in case of a fire or flood? Raley’s story demonstrates how even brief training can turn you and your employees into a very valuable resource if an emergency occurs. It’s well worth the time and effort to get this training for them, for yourself, and perhaps for your family as well. If you ever happen to choke on something or have a cardiac event, you may be very glad that you did.

3. We aren’t all alike, and that’s a good thing.

When emergency responders arrived on the scene, they gave Raley an unexpected gift–$100 from a special fund they use to reward citizens who do good in the community. She told CNN it made her feel like she was capable of contributing to society and “actually making a difference.”

Why would she doubt that she could contribute to society? Raley is on the autism spectrum. When she was first diagnosed, her parents worried that it would hold her back in life. It’s turned out to be the opposite, they said.

There’s a growing audience of Inc.com readers who receive a daily text from me with a self-care or motivational micro-challenge or idea. Often they text me back and we wind up in a conversation. (Interested in joining? You can learn more here.) They tell me that people who seem limited in some way often can surprise you with their resourcefulness and their abilities.

Raley’s father told CNN that being on the autism spectrum is why she remembered her Red Cross training so well. “She has a gift because she’s autistic,” he said. “She can remember anything, do anything.” It sounds like he’s right about that. I wonder what she’ll do next.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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An open minded personality.. fun to be with, because of my positive vibes. God fearing, for without God I am nothing.. Moved with compassion when dealing with you, not selfish or self-centered...

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