Monday, 29 June 2009

Leadership - the Toastmasters' way

“If you cheat yourself in the preparation, it will show up in your presentation.”

Jonas Gadson, DTM

Toastmasters International is an organisation for developing public speaking and leadership capabilities. Different from the red coat Master of Ceremonies Toastmasters, it started in the USA and is now in 106 countries with over 12,000 active clubs and more than 250,000 members.

I have been a member of my local club for over 4 years now and the longer I work with Toastmasters, the more I get out of it. We have a meeting tonight and I have been assigned the role of General Evaluator. I have to find evaluators for the prepared speeches and give an overall summary of the meeting. My preparation work is just about done so I am all set for tonight.

However, I already have a few things that I know I will say in my summing up. That’s because a Toastmasters meeting is no different from many other organised presentations or work meetings. The preparation starts long before the meeting – and it is the preparation that determines how well the meeting goes.

The person responsible for the overall meeting is called the Toastmaster for the Evening. The Toastmaster tonight is a very experienced speaker and a good organiser, so I know the meeting will be run well. However, he has had to cope with quite a lot of behind the scenes confusion: uncertainty about who will speak, changes of roles, etc. Not particularly unusual, but nor does it reflect particularly well on those involved.

Toastmasters have always had a strong focus on leadership – and this is their checklist on how to be a good leader. I think it is a solid checklist.

  • Give more than you expect others to give.
  • Combine optimism and perseverance.
  • See everyone as a diamond in the rough.
  • Express appreciation; accept responsibility.
  • Keep your ego in check.
  • Show respect for the people around you.
  • Treat team members as family.
  • Be a source of inspiration.
  • Stress cooperation, not competition.
  • Maintain a sense of humour.

It is a useful reminder for me tonight in accepting change as inevitable, whilst striving for high standards in a club that is already renowned for its leadership abilities.

It is highly likely that in a meeting involving 15 or more different roles there will be changes to the original plan and last minute drop outs. But the two-pronged approach of Preparation and Positive Leadership help all meetings run well – not just Toastmasters’ evenings.

Valuable reminders for participants as well as leaders.

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