The resolutions you declare each year may motivate you at first, but making them a reality takes more than resolve. What’s essential is translating them into specific, attainable goals—with a timeline and action plan for achieving them. And once you have, you may feel driven to aim even higher.
Take Gerri Sanchez, who joined Majestic Toastmasters in Malvern, Pennsylvania, “basically on a whim” when it formed in 2014. At the club’s demonstration meeting, a woman she used to work with got up to speak, Sanchez recalls. “I thought to myself, Wow, she is an introvert. I don’t understand how she’s giving a speech in front of everybody and basically not fainting. If Toastmasters could do this for her, what can it do for me?”
Thus inspired, Sanchez resolved to build up her own confidence in conversing with new acquaintances and speaking before a crowd. Over the next two years, she earned Advanced Communicator Silver (ACS) and Advanced Leader Bronze (ALB) designations and served on the club’s executive committee. After retiring from her job in 2016, she became the club advisor and area director, and she now is aiming for Distinguished Toastmaster status by mid-2017.
“I used to be a very quiet person,” Sanchez said. “Now I never stop talking.”
Self-identified introverts are common in the Majestic Toastmasters club, which meets at the headquarters of Vanguard, the U.S.-based mutual fund giant. Identifying and accomplishing goals is a key element of Vanguard’s performance management standards—a major reason many club members seek to sharpen and polish their presentation and networking skills.
To coincide with the start of the company’s goal-setting process for 2017, club president Christina Inners, CC, led a special “Ready, Set, Goals” session to help members consider how Toastmasters fits in with their professional development plan. (She even offered door prizes as an extra incentive to attend.)
Pursuing Work-Related Goals
Inners spun a tale of three fictional Toastmasters with work-related objectives: “Rhonda the Responder,” who wants to maintain her composure and credibly answer questions in challenging situations; “Matteo the Meeting Master,” who’d like to run effective project meetings; and “Tonya the Top Candidate,” who aspires to manage people but needs leadership experience.
Inners pinpointed a goal that each of the three could pursue through Toastmasters, what each might do to achieve it and how progress would be measured.
“Rhonda,” for instance, could immerse herself in Table Topics to develop strategies for avoiding nervousness when peers ask her unanticipated questions. She could gauge her progress through her ability to win Table Topics ribbons, through feedback from her mentor and by her manager’s observations in related situations.
Inners encouraged attendees to put down on paper a personal goal tied to their own Toastmasters involvement. Table Topicsmaster LeRoy Moser extended the theme with questions tied to workplace aspirations, such as “What makes a good boss?” and “How do you define success?”
“When I do my volunteer work, I’m much better, because I’ve always thought that if you want to save the world, you need a voice.”— GERRI SANCHEZ, ACS, ALB
Moser’s own development plan has included challenging himself to participate regularly in Toastmasters by giving a speech every other month and filling a major meeting role in between. In 2016, he also took on the duties of club treasurer.
“Being an introvert, I tend to overthink things way too much,” Moser observed. “I work best when I have a goal to work toward.”
He has made considerable progress toward earning his Competent Communicator (CC) and Competent Leadership (CL) awards. Constructive and supportive feedback from other members in addition to his manager’s “100 percent” support for his Toastmasters participation helped him stay focused.
Felicita Schofield, CC, CL, used to fear speaking before smaller audiences at work that included senior management. Her initial goal was to become comfortable at such presentations so she could “be perceived as confident, trustworthy and influential,” she said.
Simply soliciting feedback from managers and peers “was not an ideal way to meet the goal, since I’d essentially need to ‘fail’ in front of these individuals,” Schofield said. At Majestic Toastmasters, she set out to build up a comfort level and increase her confidence each time she presented.
Schofield, who earned both her designations within two years, now knows how to plan for presentations more efficiently. She expanded her network, shares what she learned both with colleagues and as a mentor, and is motivated to aim for higher designations, with a longer-range goal of becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster.
Deitra Jackson, CC, joined the club at a time when she was both working and pursuing an MBA in organizational leadership. “Just about every class required me to present, and I was so petrified of speaking that it was affecting my grade,” Jackson said. When a professor suggested Toastmasters, “it was refreshing to know there was a program that could help me master public speaking. It was equally refreshing to know it would help with my grades.”
Jackson outlined an action plan and time frame. “I needed to stay disciplined, attend meetings regularly and volunteer for roles and speeches often,” she said. “I took lots of notes when feedback was given to others, and I read Toastmaster magazine every month.” She earned her CC within a year.
Now the club’s co-vice president public relations, Jackson recently spoke before 60 people at a Toastmasters district training event and led a breakout session for the sergeant at arms role. She mentors others on public speaking with “great enthusiasm and a sense of accomplishment,” and her next goal is earning the Advanced Communicator Bronze designation.
“It’s OK to be scared of public speaking,” Jackson assured newer members at the club’s goal-setting meeting. “It’s normal. You just have to get up and do it.”
Striving for Personal Growth
For the once-quiet Sanchez, who knew when she joined Toastmasters that she expected to stay at her job only a few more years, her determination to gain confidence in speaking wasn’t about helping her career. “It was about helping me socially and with a lot of the volunteer work I do,” she said.
As she started making headway through the manual, her first best-speaker ribbon “helped with my very frail ego.” Encouraged by a colleague who praised a subsequent speech she gave as effective and touching, Sanchez entered the International Speech Contest and won at the club level. Later, she said, “I was told I was a good storyteller, so I started giving the dramatic speeches.”
“Being an introvert, I tend to over-think things too much. I work best when I have a goal to work toward.”— LEROY MOSER
But to reach her goal of mastering impromptu speaking, Sanchez needed more than 1½ minutes a week of “very reluctantly” volunteering for Table Topics. So she added her own form of practice: “Every time I’d be in a store, I would stop and talk to the cashiers, and just talk about anything, to get into the habit of doing it. And after a while it became easier.”
Sanchez—who nowadays comes up as an extrovert on personality tests—keeps looking toward new objectives because “with public speaking, as with anything you do in life, if you stop doing it and stop practicing, you lose your skills.”
“So for me, Toastmasters was life-changing; I’m not afraid to talk to people anymore,” she said. “And when I do my volunteer work, I’m much better, because I’ve always thought that if you want to save the world, you need a voice.”
Paula Fuchsberg is an editor at Vanguard and a member of Majestic Toastmasters in Malvern, Pennsylvania.