Change is not easy. It can be met with resistance or uncertainty. Nonetheless, change is inevitable.
I experienced a change when switching to a new car that has many features and innovations. I was told that I was “not driving a car”—I was “hosting an experience.” The same can be said for the change I experienced in becoming a Pathways Guide. After all, the program is called the Pathways learning experience!
Pathways Guides are Toastmasters volunteers who visit clubs and help fellow members learn how Toastmasters’ new education program works. I became a host of a new kind of ride.
Last year, leaders in District 27 (in the Washington, D.C., area) asked me, in a very sweet and persuasive manner, to become a Pathways Guide. At first, I was resistant and turned down the request. But I received enough pleas for help that I eventually accepted the challenge, my feelings of guilt getting the best of me.
I soon discovered that learning the Pathways program is very much like driving a new car. For one thing, just as many drivers never explore all the features on their dashboard, many Toastmasters never visit the Toastmasters website or establish an online profile. In my club visits, I stressed how important it is to log in to the website before starting in Pathways.
My car’s touch screen includes many features to support the comfort of my ride. In Pathways, Base Camp serves a similar function. Base Camp is the online gateway to the Pathways learning experience. It supports a member’s educational and leadership journey as he or she works on projects, tracks progress, views badges and certificates of achievement, and accesses innovative resources. In short, Base Camp makes the member’s ride smoother.
My car came with a service team dedicated to maintaining my vehicle’s performance. As a Pathways Guide, I was part of a larger district support team—the mechanics for the change experience—that includes Ambassadors, the Chief Ambassador, the Program Quality Director and World Headquarters staff. Several fellow Pathways Guides also became part of the service team. The whole group came together to support members as they started the new learning experience. (Pathways rolled out in District 27 in March, as part of the program pilot.)
I discovered that learning the Pathways program is very much like driving a new car.
I did face some resistance. But I stayed focused and moved forward with my plan for change—my road map. At the core of my plan was communication. I outlined key messages that were consistent with the resources provided by World Headquarters. I framed the message of change in a positive and engaging manner. The metaphor of a car-buying experience made the narrative relatable—and less threatening.
Part of my change plan involved setting up a process for transitioning into Pathways. Toward that end, I encouraged clubs to select an assistant to help the vice president education (VPE) answer questions about the learning experience. The strategy was to select a member who could potentially assume the role of VPE for the following program year.
Lastly, I decided to map out three additional virtual support sessions—follow-up sessions to answer members’ Pathways questions—to allow newly elected officers in July to learn more about the Pathways experience in collaboration with the outgoing VPEs and club presidents. So far, the level of interest and motivation among members and officers in the district is rewarding to see.
As I reflect on the change plan, four key principles have emerged from the experience:
- Anticipate and prepare for resistance.
- Frame the change through strategic messaging.
- Create a team to own the change experience.
- Sustain the change plan with ongoing buy-in.
I am truly hosting a new kind of ride and am glad to be part of a service team that is making change a smooth and innovative experience. I hope that my reflections serve other members well as Pathways is rolled out in their clubs.
Juan Carlos Velázquez, DTM is vice president education of the Crystal City Evening Toastmasters in South Arlington, Virginia. He has completed Level 4 in the Dynamic Leadership path in the Pathways learning experience.