What I learned at Toastmasters

Last week I had a chance to attend a local meeting of the Toastmasters.  The meeting is a gathering of people who want to improve their communication and leadership skills.

Here’s what stuck out to me during my peak into the Toastmasters world.

Learning by doing – A really diverse group of people attend.  Executives, moms, students, politicans, computer nerds and all points in between.  No one is really seen as a “better than thou”.  Because they are all gathered around the cause of improving leadership and communication it’s a really safe learning environment.  They all commit that the only way they will get better is by doing.

Everyone is included – It seemed every regular member had a job.  The roles included timer, evaluator, greeter, recorder, host, and more.  I loved the intentionality and that apart from guests, it seemed as if being a bystander wasn’t an option in this group.

Continual evaluation – One of the highlights of the night for me was when someone got up and read a summary of all the “ums” and “ahs” that were muttered, by whom, during the night.   (I suffered one violation.)   Each speech or mini-speech that was made was evaluated.  Even the length of the break was recorded and deemed to have been too short in the general evaluator’s report.  I can see how progress would be easy to identify in the face of continual evaluation.  You’re not going to get away with anything at Toastmasters and they are not afraid to identify areas of improvement.

The sandwich – “Grow” points were always given in the context of “glow’ points.  Positive feedback, improvement points, and more positive feedback is the norm around Toastmasters.

I learned a lot about the type of culture I want to cultivate as a leader by hanging out with the Toastmasters for a night.

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