Lessons Learned

2013 – VPE

  • A good VPE runs the club.
  • I kept spreadsheets of where every member was in their education program. This allowed me to know which members were close to earning education awards so that I could encourage them to speak soon.
  • I would also print out these spreadsheets and keep them in the back of the room, near the guest sign-in book and the snacks. That way I knew members would get a chance to look and see where they were, relative to other members. It was a subtle way to encourage competition.
  • If members, especially newer ones, don’t speak every 4-6 weeks, they’re essentially giving their Ice Breaker speech over and over and over.
  • Every member should fill every meeting role every six months in addition to speaking 3 or 4 times. Newer members, their first 6 months, should fill all the meeting roles except Toastmaster, General Evaluator, Table Topics Master, and Evaluator.
  • Have a repeatable process to get new members involved. The very next meeting have them serve as Ah Counter or Grammarian, have them give their Ice Breaker the meeting after that, then progressively more involved roles. The sooner you get them involved, the sooner they’ll see progress towards the goals that made them join in the first place.

2014 – Club President

  • The VPE may “run” the club but when there is conflict or a crisis, the members will turn to YOU.
  • Don’t try to be “Presidential”, just be yourself and have fun.

2014 – Area Governor/Assistant Division Governor

  • Apparently, I’m a glutton for punishment for taking on 3 jobs at once!
  • There’s an entire Toastmaster WORLD out there beyond my club!
  • You may have been in Toastmasters for a short while but you ARE the Area Governor (Director). Someone in leadership saw something in you – trust them.
  • You don’t have to buy expensive suits or suited dresses but remember, you are a representative of the District. Be professional (in both dress AND deed) when you make your club visits – and wear your name badge and your pin. I would suggest dressing the same way at your regular home club meetings. You may not be there AS the Area Governor (Director) but you ARE an Area Governor (Director).

2015 – Division Director

  • As a leader, people are ALWAYS watching what you do and listening to what you say. If you wouldn’t want them to get up in front of everybody and tell THEM what YOU just said – don’t say it.
  • Contact the members in your Division earning education awards and congratulate them. Also, THANK THEM! It’s amazing how much a short email or phone call means to someone when it’s from a “dignitary”!

2016 – Club Growth Director

  • There are not enough hours in the day!
  • Why did I want to run for this office?
  • You’re going to get used to speaking to a lot of people off the cuff.
  • As I sat on the dais, at the Fall Conference, I looked out over the members and realized that I wasn’t responsible for a “thing” – a Club, or Area, or Division – I was responsible for people. These people were like family to me.
  • Send out weekly membership building tips.
  • Don’t ever assume that everyone knows what YOU think should be common knowledge.
  • A lot of people are going to want things from you when you’re at events. You won’t remember them all and you don’t want people thinking you’re ignoring them. Give them your card and ask them to email you about whatever it is they wanted.

2017 – Program Quality Director

  • You start to see light at the end of the tunnel for your journey through District leadership.
  • I wasn’t happy when Toastmasters decided to do away with the Fall conference. Once you have to put on two District-wide conferences though, you begin to see the wisdom in their decision!
  • A good conference chair (or co-chairs) can be a lifesaver.
  • Sure Toastmasters – putting on two District-wide conferences, two District-wide Toastmaster Leadership Institutes (TLI), and numerous Division-level Club Officer Trainings (COT) wasn’t enough work. I’d love to find and interview thirteen Pathways Guides, pair them up with Ambassadors, get them trained, and schedule club visits in 2 or 3 months.
  • Telephone calls work MUCH better than emails.
  • Everyone is full of great ideas for what you should be doing. The best way to see if they’re serious is to respond, “That’s a great idea, why don’t you head up that effort for us?”

2018 – District Director

  • The light you saw at the end of the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train!
  • No matter how ready you THINK you are for this job, you don’t have a clue! Listen to the Past District Governors/Directors.
  • Everybody believes THEY can do your job better than YOU can.
  • You can’t please everyone. If you can please 50% of the members + 1, that’s a win. Go home and celebrate.
  • Delegation is your friend. Remember, YOU are RESPONSIBLE for making sure the task is done – not necessarily doing it yourself.
  • Learn to say “no” without feeling guilty.
  • I sent out short, weekly emails to the Club Presidents on leadership and got a lot of nice comments on them. Too often we elect/appoint members as “leaders”, tell them they’re not “leaders”, and then tell them to go forth and “lead”. But we never tell them HOW to lead!
  • Somewhere along the past year or two, you found yourself looking forward to a time when this journey is over and you can relax. When spring rolls around, and you realize you actually ARE close to the end of your journey, you become sad.
  • No matter how much work you put into getting to this point, no matter how many hours you invested, no matter how many sacrifices you made – they are nothing compared to the growth you experience from this journey.

2019 – Immediate Past District Director

  • You’re not a bigshot anymore. For years you watched your name work its way up the list of District leaders on the agendas. Now, it’s back to the bottom.
  • You’ve learned a LOT during your leadership journey, stay active in the District – but not TOO active. Remember, you’re not in charge anymore.
  • There IS a life after District leadership.