Are you a member who struggles to understand (or care about) the Distinguished Club Program?
Imagine yourself at a running track, and all of your Toastmasters club members are there too. You are there to improve your communication, leadership and running skills. You join at the starting line, and you receive your CC and CL manuals. Around the corner of the track is a finish line, with your Lt Gov Education & Training (me) holding the tape out for you. Off to the side, our District Governor stands holding a cartooninshly large megaphone and periodically yells “Keeping the Promise!”
A little confused? Think about running the track as completing your next CC, AC, CL, AL or DTM award. Think about your fellow members running at different paces, some looping back once in a while to encourage (mentor) newer members to move forward. Imagine Paul McDonald lapping us all every few minutes.
Now, let’s use that visual to imagine a couple of typical types of clubs:
First, the President’s Distinguished club – all of the members are making progress toward the finish line. Every now and then, someone crosses the line and you hear “Keeping the Promise” come from the megaphone. When a new runner steps up to the starting line, another member loops back to encourage and support them as the begin their run. There are signposts along the path – 3 speeches to go! – to let members know where they are in their progress. No two members are running at the same pace, but everyone is cheering each other on. From time-to-time, club leaders pull off to the side to stretch (officer meetings) and learn some new running techniques (TLI). Twice per year, a few members go back to the starting line and the club president holds up a flashy and colorful finish line for the fall or spring contests. Throughout the year, members work their away around the track and cross that finish line. Ding! The DCP status is updated.
What about the club that doesn’t believe in turning in awards? This club has a group of member all near the starting line. Some of them are jogging in place. Some of them are even sweating pretty hard under the workload. There is lots of talk, and they are having a good time (like the other club). But no one is moving toward the finish line. When a guest comes, they see nice people who seem to be doing good work, and they join. Then, as they finish a few speeches, they wonder why no one seems to be crossing the finish line. While some of the members seem to be in good shape, it’s confusing because they seem to be running in place.
Does running in place help you stay in shape, or get in better shape? Maybe. But running forward (toward your goal) does a better job. Translation: Just speaking in front of a group can help, but using manual objectives and practicing new skills really helps you to become a better speaker and leader.
Is your club running in place? Worst yet, are guests and new members seeing you running in place and getting confused by the message?
Here is the part people get wrong: The DCP isn’t a goal itself, it is a scorecard. There are two ways to improve your score:
1. Run up the score. This works if getting a high score is your goal. But it doesn’t do much for the club (or members) overall.
2. Achieve your goals and support your fellow members in achieving theirs. Setting the right example personally and directly helping others will make you and your club successful. Plus, the score will take care of itself.
What is the downside of #2? You can’t wait to start that in March and make your goals in June. However, if you start now (in July) and work with all of your members to find their goals (including the ones who need 12, 18 or 24 months for their next goal) then it will work for you and your club.
Toastmasters can be a fun place when you are running in place, but it can be more fun and beneficial to you when you lace up those shoes (open that manual) and start moving toward the goal. Be realistic, support your fellow members and see yourself improving. Remember, focus on your gaols and those numbers take care of themselves when you are Keeping the Promise!