10 ways to help your club succeed.
By Don Seaton, ACG
Several years ago, a long-time friend sent me an e-mail titled “The Team Commandments.” To my surprise, it was a refreshing look at team construction and outlook. Since early 2001, I have had these 10 items in the forefront of my mind, whether building teams at work or in Toastmasters.
For the purpose of this article, I’d like to share my interpretation of the Team Commandments as it relates to Toastmasters:
1. Help each other to be right, not wrong. How often have you seen a new member make a mistake during a meeting, followed by someone immediately saying “point of order” and correcting the person on the spot? This is an obviously embarrassing situation, especially for a first-time Toastmaster of the Day. Instead we need to take new Toastmasters aside after a meeting and give them the boost they need to keep growing.
I normally pull new members aside and say, “I realize you got off track a little and Toastmaster Jones corrected you, but here is how you can try it next time.” Education and motivation will not only help build the next generation of advanced Toastmasters, it will help them be ‘right’ in future situations.
2. Look for ways to make new ideas work, not for reasons they won’t. New members bring fresh new ideas that merit consideration. Too often we dismiss ideas and say, “We have been doing it this way for years and it has always carved us Distinguished Club status.” But wait a second; you just told this new member that his input does not count. It is unlikely this member will suggest another idea for club betterment. Obviously, not every idea is the nugget of gold you are looking for. But you can give it a try and if it doesn’t pan out, at least you showed that everyone’s voice is important and heard.
3. Speak positively about each other and about your organization at every opportunity. I love to brag about my home club and its members. After each meeting we send out a positive meeting recap and a preview of our next meeting. We take opportunities during the meeting to praise accomplishments and continue to stress where we are on our road toward Distinguished Club status. Some may see this as crazy, but it is far from that...it is contagious. If your members see the leaders of the club bragging and talking up individual and team accomplishments, it is human nature to join in. Make each goal toward DCP a celebration; make each advancement a reason to brag on the individual. Sooner, not later, you will have created a culture of Toastmasters recruiters who truly want to share the excitement with others.
4. Help each other win, and take pride in each others’ victories. Everyone in the club needs to help each other excel. Everyone has joined for personal growth, so be proud of each others’ successes. Remember, if you have already achieved you personal goal for the year, maybe you need to take a step back and help some of the other members to move forward toward their goals. In the end, no one wins, unless everyone wins.
5. Compliment often. Praise goes an incredibly long way toward building confidence in communication and leadership. From my early days in Toastmasters I learned that every compliment contributes to a more cohesive and confident team. When I have the honor of serving as Toastmaster of the Day, I try to compliment every single person who comes to the lectern through a positive and motivational introduction.
6. Recognize that the customer is not an interruption to your work, but reason for it. For the purpose of this discussion I consider the customer to be every guest who walks into a club meeting and every new member in need of a mentor. Don’t look at these new members as an interruption; look at them as your reason for being in Toastmasters – to help people grow. Find ways to bring the new members both into the club and into the speaking schedule so they can immediately start realizing the benefits.
When I serve as a mentor, I try to sit down and plan out the new member’s entire list of manual assignments during our first discussion. We merely review each project and jot down ideas that come to mind for each speech. Believe it or not, this builds the member’s confidence in his or her ability to complete all the speeches.
7. Realize that “being right” is irrelevant to good service; the customer’s perception is what counts. How do you welcome new members and guests? Guests are golden and should be treated as such. Make every meeting a sales pitch and full of excitement. If your meetings are boring, why would a guest want to return? The guest must leave with a perception that Toastmasters is the place he/she needs to be and realize there is a substantial benefit to joining the club.
8. Maintain a positive mental outlook. Do everything with enthusiasm and good humor; your attitude is contagious. I look at a Toastmasters meeting as a chance to celebrate the joys of improving my communication and leadership ability. Every chance I get to speak, no matter what the role, I am enthusiastic. Even when I serve as the timer, I introduce the position with zeal and explain the duties with a bit of humor. Keep your attitude positive and watch you membership grow.
9. Sacrifice for the good of the team. Sometimes you need to slow down your pace toward a goal so another member can succeed and move on. Give as many speeches as you can, but always put others to the forefront.
Additionally, make sure everyone in your club knows what the goals are for Distinguished Club status. Come up with plans for reaching your goals and publicize them. Let your members know that you may need to schedule others to speak more often for a short period of time to meet goals, but you will get everyone back in the fold quickly. Bottom line: build a culture where everyone accepts the team’s goals and are willing to play their part to make them a reality.
10. Have fun. One of my club members was gone on a two-week vacation. Upon returning he said, “I missed these meetings and I’m happy to finally be back.” Toastmasters is a springboard to better communication and leadership, but it must be built on a foundation of fun. Too many people are afraid of public speaking, but if they perceive it as fun and non-threatening, they are more likely to jump right in and get involved. Also, if the atmosphere is fun and members can joke back and forth, those public speaking errors will give members a chance to laugh with, not at the other members.
These 10 items have served me well for many years, both at work and in my local clubs. I hope you can use some of the ideas in your club. Maybe by simply looking at things a little differently, you can draw in new members or retain some that are on the fence of staying or going. Remember, everyone joined the club to become better speakers and leaders. It is your job as the leader of the club to help them realize this goal, so make it positive experience for the individual and the team.
Don Seaton, ACG is an area governor and member of At Eze Toastmasters on Keesler Air Force Base, Biloxi, Mississippi. A member since November 2001, he is Chief Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force.