My experience with Toastmaster Buddies!

My experience with Toastmasters Buddies is excellent. Since day one, which was in June 2019, my Buddies:

  1. Showed great care in my progress
  2. Showered me with positive and
  3. Constructive feedback

Which did miracles with regards to my communication and leadership skills.

Rediscover yourself in communications, leadership, mentorship, creativity and much more. We will promise you that you will not get bored.

Besides creating and delivering your speeches based on different projects, there are different challenging roles you can take during the weekly meetings. Sometimes….. multiple roles, which really prepares you for multi-tasking and still remain calm.

Our Buddies are all over the world, so you will learn and get evaluated by individuals with different perspectives and cultural background.

YES… this is the message you were waiting for….. and YES, take yourself to the next level with Toastmaster Buddies. Join us today!

By Toastmaster member Ingeborg Sint Jago

Goal Setting

After listening to a very inspiring and relatable speech by one of our Buddies on journaling, I began to reflect on my own life and given the time of year, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to focus on goal setting. 

For most of us, the end of one year is a time for reflection and setting goals for the upcoming year. For me, this is a pivotal aspect of my life. I have set goals for every area of my life such as travel (being such a travel enthusiast, I have travel plans set out for the next 5-7 years), savings, personal development, even as a Toastmaster I have goals set for completing my pathways projects.

As I grow older, my appreciation for the importance of setting goals and sticking to them deepens. This first hit me when I was in my very early twenties and attended an interview. The interviewer asked the famous “Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?” At that point in time I was lost for words not knowing how to answer this. Of course I knew I needed a job because I wanted to travel, I wanted a car and to be able to afford certain luxuries so I needed an income but the interviewer did not want to hear this. That’s when I realised I needed to have goals to work towards. Over the years I have tweaked my processes a lot and always do because things are always changing but one thing remains the same is that I set goals. I have an idea of what I hope to have accomplished and where I want to be 1, 5, 10 or even 20 years from now. 

Setting goals allows us to sharpen our focus and gives your life direction. It also provides a map which show what areas you are actually succeeding at and which areas require improvement. Looking at goals from a yearly perspective may seem daunting at first. The secret is to break these up into smaller chunks so you can have yearly goals broken up intomonthly goals, weekly goals and daily goals. 

One of the main things I covered while studying which has stuck with me is that you set goals which motivate you and S.M.A.R.T. goals. SMART goals mean:

S – Your goals should be clear and well defined. 

M – Include precise amounts, dates, etc. so you can measure your degree of success. 

– Make sure that it’s possible to achieve the goals you set. 

R – Goals should be relevant to the direction you want your life and career to take. 

T – Goals must have a deadline. This means that you know when you can celebrate success. 

I also found that visualisation helps me to achieve goals. So post your goals in visible places to remind yourself every day of what it is you intend to do. You can post them on sticky notes on your walls, desk, computer monitor, bathroom mirror or refrigerator as a constant reminder. Accomplishing goals take work. You simply don’t set goals and wave a wand. You work at it and keep working at it everyday until it is complete.There will be stumbling blocks along the way but keep pushing forward and you will get there. 

If you haven’t yet done so, I hope that this encourages you to set some goals for the upcoming year J

Written by Buddies member, Jamieann Wells-Fletcher

Right Style at the Right Time

What is your Leadership Style?

Have you wondered what your leadership style is? How many of you have taken a test to determine your leadership style? How many of you have never done that?

On the internet, with the right keywords, you can find many different tests and quizzes to find out what your leadership style is. I did a couple of them, including the quiz provided to us in the Leadership modules of the Toastmasters International curriculum where I scored highest in Democratic and Affiliative leadership styles. This seems to ring true with me, as I often value what other minds might think and I want to collaborate with every member of my team. However, I have learnt that it may not be the right approach to always be democratic.

The Different Lists of Leadership Style

Before I explain why, let me first touch on the fact that there are many different lists and categorizations of leadership styles. What list will you see yourself categorized in? It depends on where you go and what quiz you take.

However, I found that an early study performed in 1939 and used as an authoritative text in the U.S. Army (circa. 1973) categorizes leaders into just three: the Autocratic leader, the Participative leader and the Free-rein or Laissez-faire leader. As you can see from the very simple diagram below, the Autocratic leader assumes all of the decision-making power, while the Free-rein leader delegates all of the decision-making power to the other team members, followers or employees.

You may think the free-rein leader is lazy, but an effective free-rein leader can delegate all power to the team as the team is able to perform well without the leader’s presence. Similarly, an autocratic leader could be viewed as a dictator like Hitler, but an effective autocratic leader can move a team forward quickly through emergencies and critical situations. We will see later how that is helpful.

What is interesting to note here is that the Participative leader, whom we may also see as Democratic, Affiliative, Coaching, etc., involves all their followers and employees in the decision making process, and value their followers’ input as much as they value their own.

Applying the Right Style at the Right Time

While you may find that you are dominant in a particular leadership style, you should be aware that the style that you must apply would not only depend on your preference or character, but also on the situation. Every situation is unique, and there are several factors or forces that may come into play in each situation.

For example, if there’s very little available time to democratically discuss options with your team members, you may need to switch to an autocratic style to quickly make decisions and get your team moving to tackle the urgent situation. Such style is often used by leaders of emergency response teams deployed in areas hit by natural disasters, or in military groups deployed in a war zone.

In another example, if your team members are already well-versed on how to accomplish certain tasks and how to make effective decisions to accomplish those tasks, you may give them free-rein over those areas. This frees you up to use your time and energy to make more critical decisions for your team.

The Leadership Continuum

The three categories have been further expanded to a Continuum of Leadership Behavior to better describe how a team and its leader may start out, and then further grow. A very new team with fresh or inexperienced following members may start out at the extreme left side, where all decisions are made by the leader, and the team simply follows the directives.

As the team grows and matures, they would start shifting towards the right side, where the other team members would take up an increasing share of the decision-making responsibility from the leader. At the far right, the team becomes fully autonomous, where all team members are fully trained and equipped to make all the decisions necessary to perform their tasks or complete their project. At this juncture, the leader may merely oversee the team, or even step out of the team to create more teams for other project ventures.

What is your Dominant Leadership Style?

So, do you want to find out what your dominant leadership style is? You can, with a short questionnaire. Simply scan this QR Code or visit the link below, then answer the 30 questions. You will be told what your dominant leadership style is, and given some additional information about it.

Now that you know what your dominant leadership style is, also remember to apply the Right Style at the Right Time. And remember:

Don’t aim high to be a catatonic leader. Aim well to be a dynamic leader.

References

Clark, Donald. “Leadership Styles.” Leadership Styles, Big Dog, Little Dog; Knowledge Jump, 17 Aug. 2015, http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadstl.html.

Written by Arun

Visualize your path across all domains, including oratory

Powerful visualization. I fancy those words. Just the mere syntactical representation impresses the underlying meaning. Linguists refer to such words as autological. “Powerful” sounds powerful. “Visualization”, likewise, immediately acquires some multi-dimensional aspect.

Visualize something you desire. Really strain to construct a strong visual. It’s a strain on only your imagination. It will cause you no harm. Be content. But do that, and you will, in all likelihood, attain it.

The key lies in the visual. The strength must be such that it becomes very realistic. And whatever reality preceded quickly becomes legacy.

Now. The merits of a powerful visualization apply as much to your communication abilities as to anything else.

In Toastmasters meetings, I observe much speech critique. The evaluation role, in fact, is among my favorites. Gesture less, gesture more, gesture meaningfully, modulate or calm that voice, slow down, increase the pace, pronounce that differently. I’ve heard such words, and many others of purpose. I’ve said them myself.

But I believe such critique secondary in impact. Secondary to what the speaker really desires, or rather, to the visualization the speaker domesticates.

Not every speaker carries a visual. I can understand that. Many don’t know what they really want besides to better speak. That notion of ‘better’ commonly associates with characteristics of generally accepted public speech. But what does that mean to you?

You might identify certain role models as exemplary public speakers. Perhaps you’ve become accustomed to watching seminars of your preferred success coach, whose communication traits you identify with effective communication. Or maybe you defer to motion pictures as a model for impactful deliveries.

As for myself, I experiment with varying presentation styles, some of which have notably deviated from my genuine preference for ‘less is more.’ I prefer less overall motion for greater energy concentrated in the face and vocals. Note, I emphasize energy, not volume.

With that in mind, I’m seeking to scale back down to the minimal of gestures. And then reiterate, transitioning from one extreme to the other as the two trajectories gradually converge.

On the flip side, not only do I find myself lacking certain affinity for meaningful gesturing, but don’t particularly appreciate gestures in general. I don’t have the desire to adapt that presentation method as a permanent characteristic, be it considered indisputable in effective communication. Nor do I seek to capture grand audiences with sensational oratory. My ambition I focus on a more intimate scale.

Each type of stage caters to a subset of presentational qualities, not all universal. And each effective speaker best conveys a style not necessarily held as a standard. It’s about what works for you. And the more parameters you conceive around what you want, the easier you’ll arrive at a concrete visual.

My strongest visuals of effective speech I identify with reserved yet impacting figures. Have you watched the early film noir of Hitchock, Wilder, or Goulding? You would often observe a personage to hardly move a muscle or blink, yet transmit raw, explosive energy; energy seemingly concentrated above the neck, but originating from deep within. This approach is by no means exclusive to traditional cinema, but I more associate it with that period. The technique represents what I arrived to identify as the strongest visual of a powerful speaker. And consequently I find it most natural to assimilate.

The visual may originate from even a literary source. If created with sufficiently descriptive finesse, a character can evoke an image of colossal impact. You can realistically imagine this person, with all the corporal and vocal particularities.

Once you have the visual firmly welded, you may still find your physical self misaligned. I certainly experience this to varying extent. But fear not. It will arrive with time. You will converge with your visual if it’s one you believe in. Be persistent, and return to the visual daily. Make it a ritual. Whatever your pursuit, have a visual.

Written by Vitaly Parnas

Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone

What exactly does stepping out of your comfort zone mean? Stepping out of your comfort zone means doing things that you are not normally comfortable doing. It’s about getting outside of your comfort level. We all have systematic ways of doing the tiniest things in our daily lives. Like a routine. For the average person a daily routine may sound something like: wake up, shower, have breakfast, go to work, leave work, go to the gym, go home, prepare dinner, shower, eat dinner, watch some television or surf the internet/ check social media accounts/ reading, go to bed to do it all over again tomorrow. Everyone is different and there will be variations to this as nothing is set in stone, but most persons once they have a routine gets annoyed or frustrated by having to switch things up. The following photograph depicts exactly what stepping out of your comfort zone means.

For me, one of the most life changing events of coming out of my comfort zone was relocation. Back in 2008 a coworker who had done lots of travelling and lived in different countries said to me there are so many opportunities available for someone with my skillset in the Cayman Islands and Bermuda. He proceeded to do a google search to show me what he meant. I was totally amazed by what I saw. This led me to conduct my own research into relocation, opportunities, lifestyle, crime statistics etc. in both islands. When I had completed that research and felt comfortable with the outcome, I decided to start applying for jobs. My first interview went very well and I was offered a job the very next day which I accepted without hesitation.

I resigned from my job and the countdown began! Several weeks after, I packed up most of my life in two suitcases and moved thousands of miles away from my family, friends and most importantly, out of my comfort zone. I arrived in the Cayman Islands and the only person I knew here was my contact at the recruitment agency. This changed quickly as I began making friends from my very first day at work, some of who turned out to be life long friends. I thoroughly enjoyed life on this little sunny island and I have never regretted stepping out of my comfort zone because if I had not, I would not have experienced as much I have. This situation also made me fearless. Knowing that you are all alone in a strange place gives you strength that you did not know even existed.

Another life changing event for me was the moment I decided to step out of my comfort zone once again and joined the Buddies Toastmasters Club. I decided to step out of my comfort zone where I would normally be afraid to speak in front of a group or make presentations etc. I first attended as a guest however, because this is something I have deliberated on and procrastinated on for a very long time I had made up my mind that this is exactly what I needed to do and I proceeded to join that very day. I totally enjoyed my first meeting and I have enjoyed listening to several speeches from members, participating in the table topics segment which gives the opportunity to speak impromptu which is really important for me because in reality, you are not always asked to prepare a speech. Day to day situations require impromptu speaking and thinking on the spot. After participating in two segments of table topics, I participated in an unexpected ice breaker at my Lions club. Normally in a situation like this, my stomach would have been in knots however, I felt more confident, thought about my answer for a few seconds and stood and responded to my question like a true pro. I even gave my first speech to the club which is something that I never ever thought of doing prior to joining the club. After giving my first speech, I felt very accomplished and motivated to do more, to work on my weaknesses, to use the invaluable feedback I received from members to enable me to become a competent communicator. Was I nervous, of course! Do I have any regrets? Certainly not! In fact, my only regret is not joining this amazing club sooner!

This photo shows that in order to experience the things that make life worthwhile and interesting, there is that awkward stage when stepping out of your comfort zone.

I can certainly say that stepping out of your comfort zone is a good thing. The one thing that is constant in this world we live in is change and when in your comfort zone, your brain does not want anything to change. Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By challenging yourself to get out of your comfort zone from time to time creates just enough good stress to ramp up your focus, get your creative juices flowing, gives you that desire to do something and it also helps you respond to life stress when unexpected things happen. I hope that this will challenge you to step out of your comfort zone too.

Written by Jamie Wells-Fletcher