|Articles To help Project Leaders
The Secret Toastmaster Leadership ExperienceHow do you define Toastmasters to your friends? What do you answer when they ask
"What do you get out of Toastmasters?" Do you say "We are a bunch of frie ndly people
who meet to practice communication and leadership skills?
How do you define the leadership track? Do you state that each Toastmaster can attain
awards such as Competent Leader, Advanced Leader Bronze, and Advanced Leader
Silver? While we can attain these awards I found that Toastmasters also has secret
leadership experiences that do not receive the attention of awards on the Leadership
On the path to DTM, and as the years in Toastmasters roll bye, I find that trying to define
Toastmasters is like trying to define the universe. There is always more to learn, and
another manual to master. Toastmasters is more like a never-ending journey of satisfying
self-discovery than clearly laid out Leadership and Communication Tracks. Over the past
year or so I stumbled on a secret leadership experience that is not promoted in normal
club meetings. It is a secret, hidden from the club and known only to the parties involved.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a mentor as "a trusted counselor or guide." In a
Toastmaster club, new members should be assigned to a mentor as soon as they join up.
The mentor can be anyone who is more experienced than the new member and who
volunteers to guide the new member. The mentoring relationship can last as long as the
mentor and mentee would like to maintain the relationship.
John Parla took me under his wing when I hesitantly joined Toastmasters. As the mentee
I learned the technician's roles one at a time, and eventually mastered all the club roles.
With the experience and confidence I have gained over the past three years I am now
giving back to the club by mentoring new Toastmasters.
Here are the Leadership lessons that I learned from the Toastmasters mentoring
1. Each mentor relationship is different. Just as managing a team requires
personalized relationship with different individuals, mentoring Toastmasters members
requires personalized relationships. Members are at different levels when joining the
club and have different styles of learning. Some prefer frequent meetings and lots of
encouragement; others prefer minimal involvement and benefit from occasional
nudging to learn the next role. Others prefer to drive the relationship and call on the
mentor when there are questions. This is the same as managing a team of employees
in the workplace. The Toastmaster mentor learns to develop relationships with each
mentee that suit the individuals involved.
2. We can learn fastest by having access to someone who has been there before you.
The most effective use of our limited time is to ask questions of someone who has
done what you want to do, instead of trying to rediscover all the answers yourself. I
would have saved a lot of time if I realized this at the start of my Toastmasters
journey. I now apply this in my corporate career by seeking out and learning from
mentors who have already done what I want to do.
3. Mentoring builds personal relationships , which is critical for high-performing
teams in the workplace. A mentor and mentee develop a relationship while sharing
experiences and guiding the new member. One result of a mentoring program is that
club meetings develop into a gathering of members with relationships replacing a
typical club meeting of people who only get together for meetings. Similarly,
personal relationships in teams in the workplace are the key to having teams with
relationships and looking out for each other beyond the defined job roles.
Here are some of my mentoring experiences in Toastmasters.
1. Mr. S came to Toastmasters to improve his confidence when speaking in public. He
suffers from a stutter, which gets worse when he speaks in public. Coincidently,
Toastmasters magazine published an article when Mr. S joined Toastmasters,
documenting a member who overcame a stutter through Toastmasters. I pointed out
this article and encouraged Mr. S to speak at every Toastmaster meeting.
I volunteered to mentor Mr. S in his Toastmaster journey. As with many new
Toastmasters, Mr. S benefited from reassurance that he would survive from getting up
and speaking. Mr. S was very nervous about speaking to our toastmaster club, and got
more nervous as the weeks went by and he watched the more senior speakers in our
club. I mentored Mr. S through his Ice-Breaker speech, and the various technician
roles in the club. I was very satisfied with the experience. It was truly a high point for
me when MR S. gave his ice-breaker, and his stutter was already showing signs of
improvement. After Mr. S. moved to Illinois, he contacted me to find a local club
near his new home.
2. Mrs. C works for a non-profit organization and already speaks to audiences on behalf
of the organization. Mrs. C joined Toastmasters to obtain further formal instruction
on public speaking so as to serve her organization better. With an irregular schedule,
Mrs. C cannot attend every club meeting. I volunteered to mentor Mrs. C. Mrs. C is
independent and prefers occasional contact to answer a question and some
encouragement to give the next speech in the manual. Mrs. C is on a steady course to
being a fantastic public speaker and reaching her goal through Toastmasters.
Mentoring played a large part in her satisfaction from the program.
In summary, mentoring is the secret leadership skill hidden in the Toastmasters program.
Unlike a meeting where the audience can see who is filling each role, we cannot see the
mentors and mentees in a Toastmasters club. However mentors and mentees around the
world are gaining leadership experience from mentoring relationships. Are you benefiting
from this secret opportunity to enhance your leadership skills? If not, it is time to contact
your VP Education and make yourself available to mentor a new Toastmaster.
***Improve your communication skills when using PowerPoint® at www.waynebotha.com.
Wayne Botha grew up in South Africa, and now lives in Connecticut, USA. Wayne is a
speaker and author. Wayne is a Faculty member at District 53 Toastmasters Leadership
Institute. Colleagues and audiences frequently tease Wayne about his funny accent.
Published August 24, 2007.