The Importance of Going Off the Script

The Importance of Going Off the Script

Carpe diem – seize the day. 

I recently attended a charity function for Autism Speaks, an organization dedicated to promoting solutions for the needs of individuals with autism and their families.  I was there as the executive coach/guest of a client, who supports the charity and, along with 150 other attendees, had purchased a table for a sponsored dinner.  The crowd was ninety percent male – all hardnosed business men from manufacturing and distribution companies.

The speaker, a local representative of Autism Speaks, told us about Autism Speaks’ Mission, discussed the organization’s plans for the next year, thanked the attendees for their support and asked for their continued support.  It was a well scripted presentation that the speaker had delivered many times and she delivered the message well on this occasion also.   However, even though she did her job well, she missed a “window of opportunity” for Autism Speaks.

During her presentation she played a video of Anthony Starego, an autistic 16-year-old kicker who kicked the win field goal in an important game for his high school football team.  This is the video she showed the audience:

The impact of this video was huge.  As we watched the video and listened to Anthony and his parents discuss how playing football had positively impacted Anthony’s life, all eight men at our table, including me, began to tear up as we experienced an emotional impact from watching the video – we had become emotionally engaged with the presentation!  And that’s when the “window of opportunity” presented itself.  Even though I had already made a personal contribution to Autism Speaks earlier in the evening, after watching that video, I would have given all the cash I had and wrote another check IF the speaker had asked me to contribute again!  As I looked around the room, it was apparent so would nearly every other man there. But the speaker didn’t ask us to give again and, so, we didn’t and the “window of opportunity” closed.

While I don’t know what was in the speaker’s mind (maybe she thought the audience would be upset by such a request – a plain misread of the audience), I believe she didn’t make the request because it was not in the script of her planned presentation.

Of course, eighty per cent of the time when we get up in the morning, get dressed, how we interact at work and how we get ready to go to sleep is all done according to the script we have written in our heads: our routine.  And there is nothing wrong with having a daily routine (it would be difficult to function efficiently if every day we were required to take a different route to work or do our job completely differently) or having a Daily To Do List which focuses us on what we need to accomplish to be effective.

However, our script and our To Do List are detrimental when they stop us from seeing the “windows of opportunity” that can lead us to greater success and present themselves to us daily.  As I discuss with those executive in my coaching programs, just like the Autism Speaks’ speaker, we must remain alert for those opportunities. In fact, we must be actively looking for them in every interaction with others since this is where they will most likely occur otherwise we will not see them.

When we spot them (and the more we look for them the easier it is to see them), we need to respond to them by immediately deviating from our script or To Do List and do the unexpected to give those opportunities (often to help others) a chance to morph into an unexpected positive interaction with a positive outcome for everyone.

The Coach’s Corner: As I tell the executives who participate in my coaching programs, while “windows of opportunity” occur all the time, if we are not looking for them or don’t have the courage to break our routine, to “go off script”, we will not take advantage of them, and we limit our ability to succeed. What “windows of opportunity” should you be looking for, and if you see them, are you prepared to “go off script” to take advantage of it?  And, if not, why not?

I could be wrong…but I’m not.  

Thanks for reading.




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