Mention Toastmasters and someone’s first reaction may be, “Oh, that’s the organization that helps you become a better speaker.” Toastmasters, however, is a whole lot more. Not only does its program develop speakers, it develops leaders as well.
I remember when I started. I received two manuals in my New Member Kit so I opened the one titled Competent Communication and got to work. After all, I was one of those who joined to practice public speaking.
About a month later, I opened the other manual—the Competent Leadership (CL) manual. At first, it looked like a really complicated program. Wow. Ten projects. And each one had multiple projects within it. So I put it down for another month.
On Second Glance
When I picked it up again, I actually read it and was stunned by just how simple it seemed. The content was clearly something that was of value to me in my profession. A quick look at the table of contents showed that, just like the Competent Communication manual, this manual has 10 projects, and it outlines 10 different aspects of leadership. Each one is learned by reading the corresponding section in the manual and performing a number of tasks, most of which are meeting roles.
Do the meeting roles really serve to help improve one’s leadership skills? If you asked me that question when I joined, I would have answered no. But one month into my Toastmasters membership, when I had only served as the timer, grammarian and Ah-Counter, I was shocked to realize that I was noticeably more confident. The system works!
The CL manual takes what is already happening in the club and augments it with additional information to accelerate learning. It still can, however, look like a daunting task. Ten projects … multiple tasks in each. Ouch!
That is why I look at the manual as a whole. When I do I see that I either need to do 19 meeting roles and three projects or 17 meeting roles and four projects, depending on what I decide to do in Project 10. Since I am going to be serving in the various meeting roles anyway, I really only have to do three or four additional tasks to complete the manual. How simple is that?
Let’s look at the meeting roles first. I like how the manual gives choices on what roles we want to perform in the club. For example, in Project 1, four roles are listed (Ah-Counter, Speech Evaluator, grammarian and Table Topics speaker), but we only have to do three of them. And we get to choose the three that we want to do. As you perform any one role, tell your evaluator which project you want credit applied toward, for instance Project 1, in this example. Read over the requirements for your project beforehand to ensure you cover the necessary criteria.
Let’s now look at some individual projects.
Projects and Tasks
Project 6 calls for us to help out with a key event, campaign or publication for our club. The key phrase is help out. We don’t have to chair the project. That’s why it is great for the new Toastmaster.
Would you rather be the project chair? Project 10 has you covered. This is an optional project, but it is perfect if you’d like to take on more responsibility. And if you are the project chair, you can have multiple helpers, all of whom can get credit toward their CL designation.
Project 9, like Project 6, is another relatively easy one. It involves mentoring someone. That someone is typically a new member. The requirement is that you mentor them through three projects, helping them write their speeches and learn the various meeting roles and protocols. Two other options exist, but those are usually selected by the more advanced Toastmaster.
Project 8 requires you to chair a membership or public relations project. Note, however, that this project addresses the motivation aspect of leadership. Going out and doing something on your own does not qualify. You must motivate others—and that requires a team.
The CL manual is the foundation of the leadership track in Toastmasters. It teaches the basic skills that you will employ as you advance in your profession and assume leadership positions within the club and district.
Take it seriously—and you will reap the corresponding rewards.