Speak Consistently

How often do you speak in public? A few times a year? once a month? maybe on a weekly basis? or do you have the courage to find an opportunity to share your message every. single. day.?

The truth is, the more you practice the faster you will become the communicator and leader you aspire to be. There is no shortcut, no motivational and informative Youtube video, no amazing article (not even this one), webinar or workshop that will give you what you want and who you want to become. I’d go as far to say that the same goes for everything else in life.

But how do you get there? As Nike likes to remind us, you Just Do It™. Do it excited, do it scared, do it bad or good, do it poor or excellent, do it weak or strong. If your vision is clear enough and you’re acting with a sense of urgency (a hint of fun wouldn’t hurt too), you know you will get there someday and it’s just a matter or when.

Sometimes it may feel like we’re very far away from that goal, and other times, we feel like we’re already there. That feeling after an incredible speech, where everyone applauded and congratulated, you have finally become the outstanding speaker you always wanted to be. Good job. Though I would not fall under the illusion that your last best speech defines how your next ones will go. Sure, you have more confidence and courage. But what happens if you stay weeks, months or years without speaking? Will that skillset, courage and confidence still be there? I’m afraid not.

Think about when you go out for a run or any sort of physical workout. The first days are usually a struggle, difficult and uncomfortable. However, if you stick with it long enough and keep running or pushing the weights, eventually you will get better and things will get easier. What do you do next? That’s totally up to you. You can either repeat the same distance, sets, reps and weights OR you decide to move the needle a bit further; one more mile, one more rep, or one more pound.

I confess that sometimes I run away from opportunities I know will help me become a better communicator. I see a chance to speak up in meetings but I dismiss it, I see an open slot to talk to a group of people but I think I’m not ready yet, I know what I want to say next but I don’t. This does not help, and actually only reinforces the idea that we can always easily escape from our fears. It is important to forget that there is an EXIT door and dash forward, every. single. day.

Grow with Your Club

My first Table Topics speech, I remember, only lasted 48 seconds without me knowing what I had said. Now I can take a deep breath, think for a little while before I start to speak, and try hard to squeeze everything into two and a half minutes. Very often I still lose my train of thought and mumble nonsense. Most of the time I think of a much better way to deliver the topic only after, well, I’ve delivered it. But the torch of my wish to grow has never been brighter.

I used to think that my own personal progress would be the single-mounted engine used to fuel my passion for growth, which, after all, is a personal issue. Not until I was elected Vice-President of Education in Buddies Online Toastmasters Club did I realize that I was partially, if not completely, wrong.

Why do you want to grow? If you randomly pick people you meet on the street and ask the question, you will likely get a thousand different answers. But if you do that across the Toastmasters landscape, you will most likely receive one answer or a few variations of it. For me, growth in the Toastmasters community means more confidence in speaking, better communication skills, and greater power as a leader. How I found these things relevant to my life is a long story I’d rather not disclose here, but they are universally essential to personal value as a function of success.

Over the past 22 months, I have made some progress in those areas – from a shy woman whose heart would race faster than a bullet train when she greeted her neighbors, to a club-level speech contest winner, and then to online club leadership. Indeed, I should feel proud of myself. I really do. But what makes me feel even prouder is when I see in our club another shy Muslim girl whose first Table Topics speech also failed to make to one minute, now speak with great confidence as Secretary in less than two months. Or that Chinese man who fidgeted and scratched his head when he first came to Buddies, now presides over the club with charisma and integrity. Or Mr. Monotone who used to have great trouble raising or lowering his voice, now delivers a speech with as much vividness as that of Christopher Walken acting out lines in Hamlet. Their notable achievements have filled in me with more joy and warmth than my own. They have become one of the reasons that I wish to go further on the journey of self-enhancement.

In a recent discussion with the other club officers, I proposed the concept of Three E’s:, Encouragement, Engagement and Empowerment. Individually as members, we wish to be encouraged, engaged, and empowered to reach whatever goal we set for ourselves on different paths. Of course we need an environment for personal growth. But it doesn’t stop there. It’s nothing personal when we join a positive community. Every one of us has the power to encourage, engage, and empower other fellow members by laying milestones for ourselves. The effect is compound. The environment makes us, and we make the environment.

So, it is important to grow yourself because, when you do that, the world will grow with you.

A few tips:

  1. Let the club officers know your needs and concerns;
  2. Focus on your goals;
  3. Be open-minded to new possibilities and opportunities for growth;
  4. Say to yourself “Yes I can” three times when you feel you’re losing confidence;
  5. Remember the Three E’s when you communicate with new Toastmasters and you may get a surprise from them.

Let’s practice these in Buddies!  Be there or be square!

The best evaluator there is on earth

By this post’s title, it can be easy to reject the idea of actually being THE BEST evaluator that has ever existed, or is there? I promise you, there is.

I don’t take this lightly, I’ve traveled to many parts of the world and met amazing communicators that were capable of giving incredible evaluations and feedback themselves, but I had the honor to meet the one and only personally.

This person is inarguably the most fluent, expressive, genuine and truthful evaluator that I’ve ever met. Be it a Toastmasters speech evaluation, general meeting evaluation, ah-counter, grammarian, you name it. This person is so incredibly good at it that CAN thrive in any evaluation setting. I’ve witnessed it and believe it or not, so have you.

– “Who is this person you’re talking about?”, You might ask. Well, that person is YOU. Yes, you are the best evaluator there is out there, and whether I know you or not, I am still 100% certain about it.

The fact of the matter is that, while you’re watching a speech presentation, observing a piece of art, movie, musicians, or whatever it is. You have, at least internally, your own perspectives and ideas of how that “thing” made you feel, what you took away from it and what did you like and dislike about what you just saw or heard. The challenge though, is having the courage to put it out there into the wild and let it be; messy, too negative, too positive, too nice or too harsh.

Whatever is true for you, is what it actually is, and that’s a feedback worth giving. Express it truthfully, authentically and leave it up to the receiver to decide what to do with it. It’s not your task to protect and be responsible for the receivers feelings on whether you felt like the speech was “boring” to you, or “the best piece of information you’ve learned today”. It’s all feedback and very valuable. You are the audience and the speaker needs to know about your reality, so they can really improve at a deeper and more significant level.

Have you ever heard or given evaluations that felt too artificial, overly rehearsed or maybe too generic? How helpful was it really?

There is no right or wrong answer when you’re evaluating someone, it’s all about how the speaker made you feel and what caught your attention and what sincerely did not.

Are there structures for evaluating? You bet, and there’s plenty of really helpful resources out there including official ones from Toastmasters International, that can provide you a decent framework for evaluating someone. But the main thing you cannot learn from it is how to speak honestly and authentically from within, while you were listening to someone else.

So, I insist. YOU ARE the best evaluator that has ever existed. Let it all out and watch people around you grow exponentially. It’ll be easier for you and they’ll appreciate you more.

My Experience with Toastmasters

Around 2 and a half years back was when I joined toastmasters,The reason: Just to be able to speak in front of people. I would have racy heart and butterflies in my stomach at just the thought of public speaking. But it was more than confidence in public speaking that I got. Some of the many things are:

  1. Confidence in myself
    There were so many things that I thought I could not do but did them eventually. Speaking in front of a diverse audience, running a meeting, running a contest, a club, etc. With the support of my club mates and toastmasters community I did all those things. Continuously pushing my limit made me believe that I can do anything I set my eyes to.
  2. Endless opportunities
    You will be surprised to realize how limited your thoughts are when you interact with people from around the world. I often get feeling that I belong to two different worlds.
  3. Endless opportunities
    I always wanted to do something of my own. But never thought I could do it. But by working as the president of “Buddies” I was able to explore myself like my strength, my weaknesses as a leader and it led me to realize about so many things I am capable of doing.

It’s a very cliched statement but I must say that joining Toastmasters was the best decision of my life.

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