by Susan Carson
How many of you think Toastmasters is only about communicating and leading others?
That is not the big truth. It is a well-kept secret! TM is really about your relationship with yourself– communicating with, understanding and leading yourself. It is only then that you can excel at communicating and leading others. And that is what I learned from my High-Performance Leadership Project (HPL). I learned more about myself – how I lead and communicate with myself.
My initial focus was on checking off one more box on my DTM journey. Instead the experience was like a piñata filled with gifts as well as a few bits of coal!
My HPL project was chairing a local area contest. My vision for the contest was one of celebration. My mission was to provide the right environment for the contest – a warm, inviting, atmosphere that would benefit contestants and audience alike.
What did I learn from this experience?
First, my choosing my awesome guidance team– consisting of two great well-seasoned toastmasters. Honest, forthright, personable, and calm. Always supporting me.
Second, I needed to develop my vision, mission and values. I soon realized that I am the only holder of my vision which at times was lonely. I had to make sure I had the right supportive people around me.
Third, I learned that I had to focus on the sought-after results. That focusing on my vision/mission/values helped me get through the small stuff, like people not showing up. That normally would have derailed me. I had to learn the meaning of ‘don’t choke on the small bones’.
When I started, I was afraid that I would miss something. I had to learn the Swiss cheese theory of management – breaking down my vision into little bite size pieces. And chewing slowly!
There were also things that did not work. I invested too much into my planning, projecting that all would happen. I went to each club twice. striving to transfer my passion for the event onto everyone. It hurt when I kept asking for contestants, for helpers and was met with silence. I took it personally. This was my baby – and no one liked her. That was a lesson to take home for me. It was not personal. Everyone has an agenda – and it isn’t necessarily the same as mine!
Finally, people promise – but life shows up! Once I thought I had every slot filled, I breathed a sigh of relief. But at the contest I had no shows! I had to learn to breath. And say please. At least for the helpers – I must have looked desperate because kind people who were there just to enjoy the contest, who cared jumped in!
Even though I was scared, I had the courage to do the project! I did the best I could, and it worked out!
I challenge each of you – make a list of what it means to be a good communicator and a list of what it takes to be a good leader. Pick a project – and be an observer of yourself. At the end check your lists – and see how you fare – and what you have learned about yourself.