Do You Listen When Opportunity Knocks?

If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.

Tom Peters

Rushing into the ballroom, I scanned my surroundings.

There were four large round tables, and they were all full.I really hate being late.I was at a conference center at Stone Mountain, a beautiful setting outside of Atlanta. This was last Wednesday evening, and I’d just flown in to work with a group of Senior Leaders from an Aviation Company. I was there to lead a seminar on Thursday.

Wednesday was Day 3 of a five-day leadership offsite.   Day 3 was focused on strategy. The highlight of the day was an appearance by Steve, the company’s CEO.

Like many CEOs, Steve has many demands on his time.  Yet, he took a full day out of his schedule to be with the group.  This shows how strongly Steve believes in leadership development.

As part of the conference faculty, I was invited to attend Wednesday night’s dinner. Given the chance to meet with the group, I gladly accepted.

The only problem was that my flight had been delayed, and I was now showing up late to dinner.  They were already finished with the first course.Here I was, standing at the doorway, scanning the room, and all the tables were full.

Then, I saw it.

The one empty chair.

It was at the table all the way across from me.

I made my way over and sat down.  I introduced myself to the people around me.Who was seated directly to my left?

Steve, the CEO.

We had a fascinating conversation over dinner.  I learned that Steve is originally from South Africa, has lived in ten countries, has four kids and trained as a classical pianist.

As I listened to Steve, I couldn’t help thinking that my sitting in that seat was a missed opportunity for one of the other people in the room.  After all, building a relationship with their CEO could have been really useful.

The seats at the dinner had not been assigned.  Anyone could have chosen to sit next to Steve.  Yet, no one did.

There’s some truth to the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”   When opportunities arise like the chance to have dinner with your company’s CEO, do you seize the moment?  Or do you pass?

What strategies have you employed to make sure to seize opportunities when they come up?  Join the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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