As Figure 3 shows, leadership connections can be planned or unplanned, as represented in the left column of the figure. Additionally, they can be Leadership Team member initiated or stakeholder initiated, as represented in the middle and right columns of the figure. The result is leadership connections that are planned and member initiated, planned and stakeholder initiated, unplanned and member initiated, and unplanned and stakeholder initiated. If the Leadership Team restricts its membership to people who do well on the earlier Leadership Team membership assessment, the four types of connection initiations shown in Figure Three are manageable for the members. They are comfortable with all four types.
Let’s expand on the four initiation types. Planned initiations are those where either the member or the stakeholder decides ahead of time to initiate a connection and then pursues the connection. This may start with a letter or phone call, but may as commonly start with either the member or stakeholder planning ahead of time to introduce himself (or herself) at a meeting or other gathering.
A few cautions are in order when considering planned connections. The Leadership Team member should initiate the connection personally. If possible, do not have someone else make the arrangements. For example, do not have a secretary, co-worker, or another stakeholder arrange for the first meeting. If initiating the connection by letter or phone, do not ask the stakeholder to contact you. For example, if you leave a message on voice mail, let the person know who you are, briefly why you are calling, and that you will try again at another time. You can leave your number at the end, letting the person know returning the call is fine if they prefer. Just do not give any hint you expect them to call you. When calling anyone, take a minute to decide before you place the call exactly what you will say, if you need to leave a voice message. Do not wait until you hear the beep to think about what you want to say.
Additionally, never initiate a connection by email. In general, avoid emails with stakeholders all together, unless the other person sends an email to you. Even then, a phone call is better and a face-to-face contact is better yet. Email is just too impersonal for leadership connections. Also, do not stop by someone’s home or office without an appointment, expecting the person to meet with you. This is both rude and inconsiderate.
Further, do not call a stakeholder on his (or her) cell phone or send him a text message, unless he has given you the number personally and asked you to use the number. Do not send text messages to stakeholders unless you are replying to a text message the stakeholder sent to you.
For both planned and unplanned connection initiations, there is one exception to the above caution about personally initiating a connection. When at a meeting or other gathering, asking someone you already know to introduce you to someone they already know is usually acceptable to the potential stakeholder. You can then say as part of the introduction you were hoping you would get a chance to talk with him (or her). This lets him know you have an agenda beyond the social pleasantry and starts your relationship on an open and honest basis and clarifies the role of the person making the introductions. If it is not awkward under the circumstances, ask the potential stakeholder if you can call him later to arrange a time to talk more. Do not try to pursue your agenda then unless the potential stakeholder specifically asks you to do so. Just give him your card and call later, if he agrees. As we saw earlier, good Team members are never pushy.