Friday, March 9, 2012

Toastmasters Friday: Whattya Mean You're Going Into Leadership?

Yes, hell has frozen over and I'm in line to be the next Area Governor here in my local geographic cluster of clubs known as D26/F/2.

Some of you may be thinking it wasn't long ago I was stepping down as President of a club, and moving behind the scenes at another, all in protest of Toastmaster's rebranding themselves as a place "Where Leaders Are Made". Well you're right. So what business do I have going into the leadership track now?

So why try become an Area Governor? Have I drunk the Kool-Aid? Am I now a card-carrying proponent of the new branding? No - not at all. I still have yet to run into any new members who joined to be leaders, or because TM is now saying it's a great place to train leaders. Doesn't mean they don't exist, but none of 'em had stopped by to MY club.

So how can I take a leadership position? Won't I have to tow the line? I don't think so. For one, the program has yet to really change. Nothing I'll be encouraging my clubs to do will be any different than a few years ago. I don't have to convince them to buy new banners or lecterns. Primarily, I'll be checking in to make sure the clubs are meeting their goals, TM's goals, and the goals of their members, regardless of their use of a tagline.

Additionally, I'll be a resource for any issues that may come up with the clubs, and be responsible for setting up two Area Contests throughout the year. There's more, of course, but it's all doable.

Area Governor will NOT equal Drill Sergeant...
What I won't have to do is push the tagline down anyone's throats. In fact, I haven't experienced anybody beyond a Brand Manager, training at TLI, or the Board say much at all about the branding. Our trio supports it, but outside of color and logo changes, I haven't seen much dogma coming forth.

Also, let me be clear, I don't disagree that Toastmasters teaches leadership. I simply disagree with it being the lead dog. I believe leadership springs from our longtime strength - communication. It was this reasoning I used to talk to our club members about pursuing their CL manuals last night. I don't think it steers away from the new brand at all, other than putting speaking in the driver's seat, where it's always been.

I'll certainly mute my dissatisfaction with the branding, that ship has long sailed, for one, and it wouldn't be 'becoming of an officer' for another. It sounds like TM is working on creating more leadership-driven projects, so perhaps "Where Leaders Are Made", if not wholly accurate today, will be within the next few years.

In the meantime, I support our program as it stands today, and I find no issue with serving as a District Officer, and TM should have no issue, either.

On my side, I'm not competing this year - I'll be speaking at another District Conference the weekend of my own anyway. I've been wanting to step away from competing, so what better excuse for the next two years than this? I can finally get my DTM award, which I've been on the cusp of for years. Wait til my blog posts on my High Performance Leadership project!

Who knows, I might just run for a higher office next year. I could be ineligible for the next six years if I go up the chairs. But first, lets tackle AG, and see if I can Govern....& Deliver.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Elmo's Secrets to Speaking Success

I hate Elmo. With a passion. That annoying voice. The stupid laughing followed by "Ooh, that tickles". The fact that I trip over two or three of them anytime I walk into my four-year-old's room. Ugh.

But I found myself watching "Being Elmo" on Netflix Monday night. I was just going to watch the first few minutes before my wife came back down to the couch where we would then watch the next episode of Star Trek: Voyager (yes, we're both geeks). But, just like Capt. Janeway and her crew, I got caught in an energy wave - the energy of Kevin Clash, the man behind the bright red fur.

I sat for the duration of the movie, watching as this boy who dreamed of being a puppeteer from his first glimpse of Sesame Street (the premiere, no less), fulfill his own destiny. How did he do it?

1. Passion - Kevin identified his passion early, but it doesn't matter so much when you find it, just THAT you find it. Are you passionate about being a speaker? Are you passionate about your topic? About the results for others, and yourself that comes with speaking, whether professionally or casually?

2. Follow-Thru - he worked on it immediately. Building his own crude puppets and putting on shows for his mother's daycare kids, then the neighborhood, then at parties, before eventually landing on a local kids show, which ended up putting him in position to work with Jim Henson, Master of Muppets. What are you doing today to further your speaking success?

3. Support - as a kid, he cut up his dad's wool-lined jacket to make a puppet. After doing so, he started to fear his punishment, but was met with only "Next time, ask." Wow. As kids, we aren't always guaranteed to have supportive parents. But as adults, we choose who we surround ourselves with - do you have support lifting you up along the journey?

4. Intention - he let everyone know what he wanted to do, and it helped connect him to the right people at the right time. Does everyone know you speak, and what you speak about? Do they know how to book you? Sure, you have a website - but does your neighbor know what you do?

5. Learn - Tony Robbins talks about Constant and Neverending Improvement - Kevin was continually honing his skills, finding mentors, and trying new ways to build and animate his puppets. Through this desire to improve, he eventually ended up visiting Jim Henson's workshop, and learning the "Henson Stitch", which creates the illusion of 'seamless muppets'. I know you're always learning, reader, because you're here - and likely looking towards MANY different speakers and teachers for information.

6. Deliver - As the premise of my blog implies, it's not enough to speak, one must deliver. When Kevin was given auditions, he knocked people's socks off, long before he ever ended up Being Elmo. Treat every speech, paid or not, like an audition - you never know who might be watching, or how they might be able to help you, now or in the future.

7. Think Differently - Kevin Clash was already an established Muppeteer by the time the original voice of Elmo gave him the crimson muppet out of frustration. Did you know Elmo used to sound like a caveman? Kevin took Elmo and turned him into a kid, through his voice and mannerisms, and turned him into the most loving and positive muppet of all, with none of the edge of Oscar, Grover, or even Kermit. A Cookie Monster who loved people. Elmo-mania took off like a rocket, and it hasn't stopped since.

How are you delivering your message differently? There is always someone else delivering content similar to our own, for the most part. What is your unique twist? What will make you stand out?

After watching Kevin go through his journey, I admit it changed me, and they way I think about my speaking career. It also had another dramatic effect - I no longer hate Elmo. After, he loves me, so how can I not love the furry little scamp right back?

I recommend checking Being Elmo out - it's on Netflix, and be on DVD April 3rd. It's an inspiring story, and it may just help you find the spark you need to Speak...& Deliver!


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