I happen to be a founding member of my Toastmasters club. We have been a chartered club for just over a year, but we’ve been in existence for under two years.
I took on the role of Treasurer at my club because it was young and needed people to help it find its feet and grow.
Typically I don’t like stepping up for leadership roles of any kind, but I must admit, not only did I find this role enlightening, it developed me faster than anything else before.
Taking on a Leadership role will show you what you’re capable of. It broadens your vision and shows you what more you can achieve.
This post will be broken into two parts. One about leadership and one about the Treasurer role itself. The reason being the two can be very distinct and very similar in some regards. The best way to address these nuances is to split this article into two posts. So here we go with Part one.
Leadership crosses so many disciplines and has so many styles that is hard to precisely define.
Therefore, I’m mainly going to highlight some potent insights that provides clarity around how to operate as a leader. Your own distinct style as a leader will manifest as you practice it more at Toastmasters.
Before I get into things, I must draw attention to two items of note:
- Toastmasters slogan is “Where Leaders are Made”, and after having been on the leadership team, I finally get this. Toastmasters is typically known for helping people become better public speakers, but it’s significantly more than that, it really is the place where leaders are made. The public speaker part and the great communicator part emerges naturally once you start getting a feel for a leadership role. I found that my confidence, skills, and capabilities grew exponentially once I took on leadership roles.
- Leadership can be difficult to handle and that’s why Toastmasters is the perfect place to learn about it. It gives you the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them in a safe environment. It can be very hard and costly to make those mistakes in business, so it’s better to learn how to deal with them here.
Perception versus Reality
When I first became part of the leadership I honestly believed it was just going to about running the meetings and collecting funds to forward to Toastmasters International. Wow, was I wrong! That is just the surface perception of what it means to be leader.
Now I’ve come to realize its about so many things including managing expectations, learning how to work with a team, dealing with different personalities, disappointments and successes.
Toastmasters is all about making mistakes, so after the twentieth mistake I started to realize that broadly speaking this leadership thing is about strategic goals, operational efficiency and tactical ability. Your own will leadership style and voice will emerge by exploring these.
The Three Levels
1) Strategic Planning
Setting a vision for the club is paramount.
A Vision is one definable statement that elucidates what you’re about, who you serve and how you aim to serve them.
I’ve even seen clubs brilliantly incorporate their vision into their club names. Great examples are Entrepreneur Toastmasters or Professional Presenters Toastmasters. Those names clearly define who they serve and what they’re all about.
The Vision statement for the club needs to be the same, in that it defines who it serves (key audience) and espouse what you do (how you service that audience)
This is important because:
- it defines the culture of your club, and what is not your culture
- it defines how you operate, and how you do not operate
- it defines who should be a part of your club, and who probably should not be
- if provides direction about how to handle uncertainty situations and
- it defines your behavior, and what it not your behavior.
The Vision is so important because it defines your scope, and hence your strategic goals. It also gives direction on which strategic goals are top priority because you can’t focus on all goals.
Example : If your vision is prepare the youth for changing workplace, then perhaps a high priority strategic goal would be to have a successful youth leader as guest speak every meeting. That would service your audience, inspire them and provide insight that older Toastmasters may not have.
As a young club I don’t think we got this one perfect, because we were mainly focused on the operational tasks because we perceived that to be the most important. This is a very insightful lesson I took away from the experience.
I’ve come to realize this is actually this easiest part of leadership but it can be deceptive.
As mentioned previously, I thought leadership was mainly about running the meeting i.e. handling the operations. That seemed like the hardest thing to do, so course it must be leadership. Being a Toastmaster of the day, leading Table Topics, Evaluating someones speech and even opening as the President seemed very daunting at first, but it’s not really.
When you’re a leader you get thrown into the deep end of having to deal with these things, and you learn quickly how to opening meetings, how to be a Toastmaster of the Day, General Evaluator, etc, etc. You don’t have time to have stage fright or nerves, so you jump in and just get things done. This is perhaps the greatest thing leadership teaches you. Just do it!
At first, operationally running a meeting seems challenging, but it’s not really because there is a script for everything. Learn the script for running the sessions and you’ll be fine.
What operations really teaches you from a leadership perspective is that things always go wrong and how to deal with it. That’s when you grow fast.
You’re learning to adapt and how to solve problems.
The best leadership lesson here; is that you make sure you have a plan, everything won’t go accordingly to plan, but you can handle it just fine.
After a while you’ll find that operations will work better if you have processes in place; e.g. automating RSVPs, planning out the year calendar, following up with guests, etc.
Toastmasters International has a culture of respecting time, and committing to getting things done.
It also has a culture of Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence.
At a club level, leaders can also foster a culture that’s right for its members. I don’t think we got to this, although next time around I want to get this right.
Teamwork, Personalities and People
During a meeting, sometimes speakers might come in late, some people may not come in at all, you run out of time, you can’t find certain things, etc.
This is where you start learning how to work with your fellow leaders; to know who can handle dual roles, to know who can crack a joke to lighten the mood, to know who can quickly arrange water in background when the show is running.
Here you learn the personalities of people, the work ethic of people, and how to handle frustrations and successes. With Toastmasters you get 40+ meetings a year to practice and learn how to work with people. More importantly you learn how you yourself respond in these varied situations.
We have gotten our club operations to point where it’s very good, however it requires polish and efficiency. I’m happy to say we made huge progress in this area over the past year. Our challenges here were mainly due to tactically inefficiency which is up next.
This refers to successful executing on small improvements to increase operations that will allow you to achieve your strategic goals. These are some simple steps:
- Take note of the Generals Evaluators recommendations at each meeting
- Decide which recommendations to use that align to your strategic goals
- Put in place small tactics to execute on those recommendations
- Monitor if those tactics improved your meeting efficacy
If these steps are done continuously, they should lead to better meetings that achieve your strategic goals.
From a leadership perspective this is also huge. You’ll learn how to use technology to solve simple problems, how to call people to gauge interest, how to handle printing, bring down costs, delegate etc. Your ability to deal with these simple things will enable you to deal with bigger things.
Leadership is not just about the big things, the small stuff matters too.
SOT (Strategic, Operational and Tactical ) Wrap up
It’s becomes clear, that to be successful you need to develop skills in all these areas. Toastmasters will give you ample opportunity to do so.
Getting the Strategic vision and goals correct will filters your efforts to be effective Operationally. But mastering the Tactical ability will ensure that you move towards perfection.
The three are intertwined and as leaders we operate at all three levels.
A Club should be run like a Business
As much as Toastmasters is a Non-Profit Organisation(NPO), as a leader it helps to think of it as a business and run it as such. Think of it as practice to run your own business.
With that frame of mind, I think success is much more guaranteed.
Here are some key business concepts that I found useful.
Know what Business you’re in
I think at its core, a Toastmaster meeting is an Event very much like a TEDx event. Hence we’re in the Events Management Business. We put on an exceptional show demonstrating how we make peoples lives better ,and then people pay us to be a part of that experience.
Therefore if we create stunning events that delivers value, then people will want to be Toastmasters.
The Sales Funnel…sort of
Every customer goes through a journey from learning about an offering, to becoming a customer of that offering. Our leadership structure is designed to help customers move along that journey. Broadly speaking it looks like this.
- The VPPR creates awareness to get a potential customers to the event.
- The SAA together with the entire leadership to produce an event that wows the potential customers
- The VPM then sells the potential customers
- The VPE together with mentors, etc then develop the customer to achieve their potential
- The customer then becomes a leader and starts the cycle again
This highlights that the leadership needs to work as team for this to be effective. Yet again Toastmasters gives you ample opportunity to practice this; to learn how to engage with team members and grow the “business”.
The 80/20 Principle
For a long time I’ve seen this principle everywhere. Especially now as as a leader. You can read one of my previous posts about it here.
For you, 20% of the knowledge you have will be amazing; 20% of the tools you use will be incredible, 20% of the people you meet will be exceptional, 20% of the things you do will be profitable, 20% of your experiences will be meaningful, 20% of your speeches will be outstanding and 20% of relationships will define you.
This is true of leadership too. Toastmasters is a wonderful place to find those 20% of people who are leaders.
Now of course everyone can be developed in to a leader. But it is a great privilege and an honor to get to work with the borne leaders, and Toastmasters has a lot of them. You will be very quickly exposed you to them so that you can learn from them.
I am not a borne leader but all the leadership skills I have, I have emulated from other extraordinary Toastmasters who are borne leaders.
We live in a country where leaders are sorely lacking, where everyone looks to the next person to solve things and complacency is standard.
Toastmasters is the place to address this. If you really want to discover what you’re capable of step up to leadership, throw yourself in the deep end, and discover your true potential.
Toastmasters : Where Leaders are Made.