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Toastmasters International Enables Excellence

Updated on May 14, 2017

TMI is a large volunteer organization

It's taking us human beings a long time to realize that, to use the old expression, "one volunteer is worth ten pressed men." I guess the particular word 'pressed' comes from the days the Royal Navy use to 'press gang,' to forcefully recruit sailors. In this essay I wish to stress not only the merits of people who volunteer but employers who give their employees the chance to 'volunteer' ideas. that is be creative, be innovative. It's a blossoming trend.

I'm in an organization known as Toastmasters International ( TMI ) - have been for forty-five years. TMI is, by and large, a volunteer organization. There are a few paid staff. There would have to be for any organization with 345,000 members operating in 142 countries be it a volunteer organization or not.

The Founder of Toastmasters International - Ralph C. Smedley

From humble beginning in 1924 TMI has expanded in ninety years to a 345,000 members and now operates in just about every major country in the world.
From humble beginning in 1924 TMI has expanded in ninety years to a 345,000 members and now operates in just about every major country in the world.

Stephen Denning talks about businesses

What motivated me to write on this particular subject were some notes I'd jotted down after listening to Australian born, business consultant, Stephen Denning, in a video talk on 'Leadership Storytelling,' made in 2011. Here's are the relevant passages:

"In the world of 2011 there are only two (2) kinds of organizations: those that delight their customers, and those that don't. In the firms that delight their customers, the managers are ENABLERS... " He then goes on to describe briefly that such firms are generally made up of teams continuously involved with innovation. Denning continues:

A special occasion: Dundas TM Club's 400th Meeting

Dundas Club - running for over fifteen years at time of writing this - has consitently maintained a very high standard and rates in the top 3% of clubs worldwide.
Dundas Club - running for over fifteen years at time of writing this - has consitently maintained a very high standard and rates in the top 3% of clubs worldwide.

The firms that delight their customers are hugely profitable

"In the other firms, managers are controllers of individuals doing MORE OF THE SAME.

"In the firms that delight their customers EMPLOYEES ARE FULLY ENGAGED... in creating great customer outcomes. In the other firms work is a dreary grind...to produce merely average outputs.

"The firms that delight their customers are hugely profitable, while the others struggle just to stay in place. The firms that delight their customers are putting the others out of business."

The hierarchical structure - is it gradually crumbling?

Of course, I'm sure that you can find many organizations which still employ the old methods of control. But you'll generally find them in areas where they can levy power not only over their own employees but the public at large. Large banking corporations, police forces, and the military would fall into this category. Such still have hierarchical structures, which generally deplore individual creativity (unless it falls within specified boundaries) So unless we are impervious to this sort of domination - and most of us aren't - we obliged to have dealings with them. But to get back to Stephen Denning's observations.

A typical Divisional-Level audience

TI hold speaking competitions at Club, Area, Division and District Levels.  The winner go on to the International Conference, generally held in the USA.  The winner of this being crowned 'World Champion Speaker.'
TI hold speaking competitions at Club, Area, Division and District Levels. The winner go on to the International Conference, generally held in the USA. The winner of this being crowned 'World Champion Speaker.'

In the new, it's going from command to conversation

Denning says we know why the new and successful organizations are flourishing whilst the conservative ones are either failing or feeling the strain. He mentions five big shifts in the way the successful ones work. Here they are:

"There is a new bottom line - customer delight;

"Managers have changed from controllers to enablers;

"The structure has moved from bureaucracy to dynamic linking;

"It has changed from value to values;

"It has gone from command to conversation."

He finishes his talk with "Welcome to the future - how organizations surprised us by learning to be CURATORS OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT."

First Sem-annual District 90 Conference audience

This was the first conference for this newly formed District, and it was held the the regional city of Tamworth in NSW. Australia
This was the first conference for this newly formed District, and it was held the the regional city of Tamworth in NSW. Australia

Okay,so corporations and volunteer organizations are different

Of course, there is this huge difference between an organization such as a corporation - or even a small business - compared with a volunteer organization. People have to 'earn a living.' Yes, even that expression 'earn a living' smacks of something that takes away that sense of choice, that sense of freedom. But in volunteer organizations there is freedom of choice, and it is a freedom of choice generally not available to those who are - to use another derogatory term - 'wage slaves.' People generally do undertake voluntary work because it 'delights them.'

Creativity, Innovation, natural corollaries of freedom from fear of the boss

This is what is creeping into the modern, up-to-date, thinking which is going on in the organizations which are thriving today. Creativity, innovation, followed by sharing - making the customer, client, or member happy in some way; providing the product or the service because it is beneficial to both them and you, rather than just you.

A mixed Toastmaster and General Public Event - a night to remember

This was a Toastmaster assignment to obtain a higher award - Distinguished Toaster.  Called a High Performance Leadership Award, the Toastmaster has to guide his 'Action Team' to an end result.   This one commemorated Titanic's 100th Anniversary
This was a Toastmaster assignment to obtain a higher award - Distinguished Toaster. Called a High Performance Leadership Award, the Toastmaster has to guide his 'Action Team' to an end result. This one commemorated Titanic's 100th Anniversary

Bit more on Toastmasters or TI as it's often referred to

But to come full circle right back to where I started with Toastmasters International. Here is an organization founded by a very dedicated man, the late Dr. Ralph C. Smedley, way back in 1924. He was a volunteer. Any moneys raised during those early Toastmaster meetings were spent on the club, then later, further clubs he founded. It was very 'small beer' in those days, but the organization grew rapidly. People could see the benefit, realized they'd enjoy the learning and, as they progressed, realized they'd enjoy the teaching and the founding of more clubs.

The writer, 'socking it to 'em' with a story

The author has given many presentations both inside and outside of the Toastmaster environment and continues to enjoy doing so.
The author has given many presentations both inside and outside of the Toastmaster environment and continues to enjoy doing so.

All Toastmasters are 'enabled' to become confident, competent and, eventually - excellent

Toastmasters International was largely an all North American things for a long time. Eventually though it crossed the Atlantic and gradually spread all round the world. Today it is a rare nation indeed that does not have Toastmaster clubs within its borders. And all of this because its members have those freedoms mentioned by Stephen Denning:

"Customer delight" Change that to Toastmaster membership delight.

"Managers have changed from controllers to enablers." All members in Toastmasters are 'enabled' by dint of the Toastmaster program to be both enablers and the enabled.

Is your company concerned with value or values? BIG difference!

"The structure has moved from bureaucracy to dynamic linking." This is now possible right across Toastmasters because of the Internet and the way TMI use it.

"It has changed from value to values." TMI has always placed great emphasis on values. Indeed, these are proclaimed in much of its literature, and are presented orally at just about every important event and, of course, in the many Toastmaster sites on the World Wide Web. They are:

Integrity, Respect, Service, Excellence.

Big moment for the writer - forty-five year recognition award

Flanked on either side by Club Growth Director, Phil Reed, DTM  and the 'Head Honcho' himself,   International President, Mike Storkey DTM.  A proud moment indeed.
Flanked on either side by Club Growth Director, Phil Reed, DTM and the 'Head Honcho' himself, International President, Mike Storkey DTM. A proud moment indeed.

We provide a supportive and positive learning experience

Moreover, it is commonplace at every Toastmaster club meeting for someone to read out the Mission of the Club. It's standard right across the world:

"We provide a supportive and positive learning experience in which members are empowered to develop communication and leadership skills, resulting in greater self-confidence and personal growth."

No wonder people are willing to volunteer!

Will business eventually 'get the message?'

Will Stephen Denning's observation eventually apply to the majority of business organizations as time goes by? Only time will tell. We know there will be resistance. There always is...at first. Nevertheless, we can see that a start has been made and that some of the most prosperous and influential organizations in the world are adhering to those practices listed by Denning. If it happens there will be more freedom, more chance to influence the world around us, and the more meaningful our lives will become to us. And that can only be a good thing.

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