• First Oakville Toastmasters

Lessons In Managing People

There’s controversy raging around Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer ordering all company employees back to their office cubicles flies in the face of recent business approval for telecomputing.

A lot of employees have expressed their thoughts that based on this edict management just doesn’t trust them to do their jobs.

For Yahoo’s part, company officials say they don’t comment on internal matters. Bad reply.

So what can we Toastmasters learn from this public blowup?

It comes down to management style.

New Toastmasters find that there’s so much more to attending club meetings than just learning how to speak with confidence. There’s a huge leadership component as well.

So how to we as Toastmasters handle difficult issues when it comes to leadership? Case in point is our club’s current challenges around Toastmasters who have been assigned a role at a meeting and who can’t or don’t show up or find a replacement.

The behaviour of these members creates real problems for the club and for the chair of the meeting they miss.

On one hand we all want (and have paid for) the educational process that’s offered at Toastmaster meetings. Everyone wants to attend a well-run meeting. So when someone doesn’t fulfill their responsibility there’s an impulse for other members to step in at the last moment. While this is very commendable behaviour it isn’t helpful in the long run. If we keep covering for the absent member there is no learning that takes place.

If there are no consequences to bad behaviour, then the bad behaviour will persist.

I’ve seen some amazing changes in some of our members when it comes to learning how to be responsible to their fellow club members when it comes to fulfilling roles. Individuals who would just not show and wouldn’t even email anyone would slowly start either showing up on a regular basis or would notify the VP of Education to take their name off future agendas or would find replacements every time  they couldn’t attend a meeting where they had a role.

Last week one of our newer members actually came to the meeting, found a replacement and then headed out to handle a family emergency. This behaviour is extremely admirable and did not go unnoticed. (It speaks volumes about the integrity of this member and if I was looking for an employee I’d want to hire someone like this.)

Another member who in the past just disappear off the radar when it came to responding to emails about fulfilling their role now is one of the first to communicate their acceptance and failing that offering the name of the person they’ve asked to do their role.

How did these miracles happen?

It’s easy to spot a member who needs mentoring when it comes to fulfilling their role. Sure we all have emergencies that crop up in life but that doesn’t preclude the necessity of finding a replacement.

None of us have the time to clean up after delinquent members nor should we if we expect real learning and growth to take place.

So when a member is struggling to understand the leadership component of Toastmasters it’s up to all of us to help out. First the member’s mentor should be advised of the potential problem and a warm, friendly call from them is most appropriate. If the issue continues, it’s the VP of Education’s turn to step in and ask the member if they wish to remain on the agenda.

I know when members don’t fulfil their roles some members get upset. I’m included in this group. So this becomes an opportunity for me to learn how to work with the Toastmaster on a member-to-member basis and see if I can be helpful here. Maybe there’s something we’re not seeing and the situation can be easily turned around with a little cooperation.

I know Toastmasters isn’t for everyone. We’ve had members who just couldn’t accept the mentoring opportunities and couldn’t or wouldn’t open themselves up to the educational process. That’s a great loss for them and for the club.

So how does this tie into the Yahoo debacle?

I think if Ms Mayer had worked with the company employees rather than dictate a policy to them, Yahoo wouldn’t be in the bad situation it finds itself.

At Toastmasters, rather than creating punitive responses to members missing in action perhaps it would be more in the spirit of the Toastmaster learning process to reach out to these members and see if we can’t work together for the benefit of all.

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Meeting Location

79 Jones St, Oakville, ON


L6L 3E6

Meeting Time

Every Thursday 7:15 pm- 9:30 pm EST

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