Most Toastmasters have discovered that having a mentor is the fastest way to get to their desired targets and goals. Our organization isn’t alone in this, of course — corporations, for example, invest thousands into their own mentoring programs. What’s different about Toastmasters is that mentorship has been part of the formula for success since the beginning.
“We realize that the two most important factors in Toastmasters are Mentoring and Evaluations,” said our founder, Dr. Ralph Smedley. “There is no doubt that if these two are done well and there is a good mentoring program, your club will be filled with spark plugs ready to fire upon request. Mentoring and evaluations create enthusiasm and once you light that fire the only thing it needs is some kindling.”
Working with a mentor to support your communication skills is standard practice at the club level, but what about after you have begun to spread your wings? As your own leadership skills grow you will have to make a request to be mentored as opposed to having a mentor appointed. Here’s how to choose the right mentor for every step of your Toastmasters leadership journey.
If you are an Area Director or Division Director: Seek someone in your District that has modelled how to build a team and knows how to help clubs succeed. Their support and guidance can help you in your first steps outside of your home club.
If you are a Club Growth Director: Seek someone in your District with extensive experience building clubs (at least a dozen or more) and who knows the movers and shakers in your District. Those connections can help you build a quality team that will provide a strong foundation for new club growth.
If you are a Program Quality Director: You’ll need to look beyond your current reach. Seek a mentor who is outside of your District but within your Region — someone who understands your part of the world but who can offer fresh ideas on workshops and speakers. With your mentor’s help, you’ll begin to broaden your perspective and prepare for your next move up the ladder.
If you are a District Director: Now, it’s time to get support from leaders who have not only served in the role but also mentored others to success. Reach out to a past International Director or Past International President for support and guidance. They will have unique perspectives thanks to their many years of service — not to mention a vast storehouse of wisdom they can use to help you personally and professionally.
No matter where you are on your Toastmasters journey, I suggest you seek out a different mentor each year so you grow in multiple areas. Don’t always choose someone who looks like you, thinks like you, or sees eye-to-eye with you. Instead, ask yourself: How do I want to grow this year? What areas need my attention? Go for the person who is strongest in your weakest areas.
It takes courage to begin a mentoring relationship and to grow in ways that might be difficult or uncomfortable. But once you begin to reach out for support your leadership skills will blossom in ways that you hadn’t even imaged.
Do you have a mentor for leadership? How has that mentoring relationship helped you grow? If you don’t, please do reach out and I will help you find the right mentor for you.