Lessons Learned

Toastmasters is a never-ending journey of listening and learning .

When you spend 25 years serving on non-profit boards and in Toastmasters leadership roles, you don’t do it without learning a few things along the way. Here are just 4 of the lessons I’ve learned and bring with me into my leadership:

  1. Be clear on the “WHY”.
    Knowing the “Why” behind a project is the first step to knowing the “How”. Share the vision with your team or club and make it clear, so you can get that first hurdle out of the way. This is how we ran our conferences in my district. The “moonshot” is our district painted picture. When the “Why” is clear, you can let your people own the project and allow them to bring that vision to life.
  2. Listen to understand first.
    Diversity breeds better decisions. The more voices that get their chance to be heard means more winning ideas are brought to light. Your idea to boost Toastmaster club attendance, for example, may not necessarily be the best one. And you can’t know that for sure without understanding the viewpoints of your team first. How many great ideas have gone unheard because someone didn’t feel empowered to speak? Give the quiet ones a voice. And you do that by listening to understand first.
  3. Everything is “Figureoutable”.
    I’ve drawn a lot from this mindset, based on the book by serial entrepreneur Marie Furleo. After all, if your first approach didn’t work, or you don’t know what to do, don’t give up! There’s always more than one way to get there. How do we recover our past Toastmasters club members? Get creative, test ideas, listen to everyone. The answer exists, you just need to find it. And of course, always come prepared with a Plan B, Plan C, and maybe even a Plan D!
  4. Have the hard conversations early.
    At some point, every leader has to have those hard conversations: whether they’re about commitment to the club, quality of leadership, the vision, or something else. These conversations are never avoidable, but when you have them early, you can work on solving the issue proactively, and avoid the blame-game after the fact. If someone is not performing (I call them ATNA – all talk no action), then deal with it early. Give them the dignity of sharing what is on their mind, and if it makes sense, allow them to give someone else that precious leadership role. Be honest but kind, and find common ground in your shared values to come to a solution.

As a leader, I’m always learning. With so many great lessons from Toastmasters, since I joined my first club in Switzerland in 2002, I can’t wait to talk with other Toastmasters to learn about their lessons too.

Let’s talk about what is possible. Reach out for an interview – what are your big ideas for Toastmasters?