When Joan Moore, Distinguished Toastmaster and Lieutenant Governor of Education, approached me at a speech contest about preparing my materials to become a Division Governor, my eyes dashed around the room, wondering if she was talking to someone else. All I could think was, “Who, me? This 24-year-old pageant chick?”
It was 2011. I was a young vibrant CPA working in the financial services industry. I had taken on a few extracurricular activities that were pushing me outside of the normal living patterns of a driven career professional. I was living life as an arm pumping, energetic explosion of excitement for the Chicago Mustangs Semi-Pro Dance Team. That’s right: I started my journey as a cheerleader and was having the time of my life cheering on our Chicago football team.
My cheer-like qualities didn’t disappear once I left the football team. I used that same energy to motivate Toastmaster clubs to perform their best work as competent speakers and leaders. When I got home from cheerleading practices at night, I would perform my duties as Area Governor–sending motivational team emails, providing a checklist of to-do items, and scouting the next club on my list to charter. Our hard work paid off: Area B15 received the highest award for speaking and leadership excellence, which is President’s Distinguished!
Maybe that’s why Joan Moore challenged me to take on a higher level of leadership. Stephen Covey once said, “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” This is exactly what I committed to doing in my interactions with others. With Joan Moore’s strategic ideas and current Division Governor Theo Travis showing me the ropes of leadership, I was ready to implement a success plan in order to become Division Governor of the Central South Division.
At the age of 25, I stepped onto the Division leadership scene with a team of six talented Area Governors. I must admit that it was one of the toughest leadership experiences that I had ever taken on, as I worked with different personalities, competing schedules, and team members who repeatedly missed deadlines and meetings. Ouch! I had to grow as a leader–quickly–in order to survive that experience. Well, they always say that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. I then knew exactly what they meant by that.
Just because something is challenging doesn’t mean you skip it. You take it as a great learning opportunity to develop skills that you can later transfer to the workplace. I was younger than all of the area governors on the team so I didn’t know how this would work, but, in the end, I kept my two legs, two arms, and two eyeballs. And I always tell people that if a 25-year-old cheerleading introvert can do this, you can do it too!
Here are some steps you can do to prepare yourself to be a successful Division Governor:
1. Just do it!
Nike’s famous motto “Just do it” never goes out of style–unless you are missing the playbook to success, which in this case would be the requirements to become a division governor. Click here to see these requirements.
2. Identify What Makes You Stand Out
I was a cheerleading CPA. There–that was easy.
But you don’t have to be a cheerleader in order to thrive in your role as a Division Governor. Take inventory of the things you do really well. If you are absolutely clueless, ask your trusted friends what makes you stand out.
So here was my personal assessment: I have a strong attention to detail, high level of planning acumen, and a strategic mindset for achieving goals. I use past information to identify areas of opportunity and progress. Not only do I bring a high level of professional maturity to the work that I perform, but I also have a way of bringing out the best in people. I am that person who will cheer you on to victory, especially if you feel like you are at the bottom of the success chain.
3. Start Articulating Your Vision
What do you want to achieve as Division Governor? What’s your campaign theme? You have to be equipped with a strategy if you want others to vote for you. Create an outline of your marketing materials and how a strategic plan will look.
Elections for district leadership positions are held every year at the District 30 Toastmasters Spring Conference, which you can click here to check the website for exact dates. In November 2011, something led me to create a marketing plan, just in case I decided to put my name in the bag and run for the position of Central South Division Governor. With each word that I wrote, I started to believe in my potential to become a Division Governor. There is something powerful about writing your vision– it allows you to dig deep into your mission. I hired someone to create my first campaign brochure and couldn’t help but think, “Wow; I have a chance to become a Division Governor of over 30 Toastmasters clubs in Downtown Chicago!”
4. Identify Assistant Area Governors
This is not a job for the independent woman. You will have a lot of early mornings, late nights, and missed deadlines if you try to be independent. Trust me: it’s not worth it. Share the power with leaders you can trust.
Find assistant area governors who have experience in different areas. Since my role of Division Governor required that I host speech contests, I found an assistant area governor who was experienced in that area and could take the lead for me. I also found an assistant area governor who could manage the training process for all division officers. Then, I found another assistant who could help me maintain my sanity. This was my right-hand leader in success, Kenn Plebanek. He helped me keep my head attached to my body and also helped me to perform the division governor responsibilities that allowed our team to obtain the highest level of Division success–President’s Distinguished Division!
5. Interview Potential Area Governors
Your responsibilities as a Division Governor start before your term begins on July 1st. You need to have a success-team in order to hit the ground running. Each Division Governor is required to select a team of Area Governors who can lead clubs to success.
I started thinking about potential Area Governors as soon as I started to create my marketing materials. Talent outreach was one heck of a job.
Reach out to your network and find out if they know anyone who would be good for the job. Now I know why most corporate jobs are filled by employees who have referred others. It gives you comfort to trust their judgment.
6. Shadow a Current Division Governor/Director
Do you really want to know what it takes to be a Division Governor? Reach out to someone who is performing the role now. You get real-time information and guidance.
7. Participate in a Speech Contest
It’s not required, but it’s easier to inspire others to do something when you have personal experiences to back it up.
As a Division Governor, you will have to host the International Speech & Table Topics Contest in the Spring and the Humorous Speech & Evaluation Contest in the Fall. You need to be prepared for these.
8. Become a Club Ambassador
When you are a member of Toastmasters International, you have a chance to visit any club in the world. During my first nine months in Toastmasters, I visited 51 clubs. Try to wrap your head around that one! If you contact the Vice President of Education in advance, they can put you on the agenda to deliver a speech and perform functionary roles. As a club ambassador, you have the chance to meet other Toastmasters, learn how other clubs operate, and take away best practices that you can share with leaders on your team.
Let’s just be honest. If it wasn’t for Joan Moore, I would have never thought about becoming a Division Governor. I just didn’t think I could do it. But I’m reminded that all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other and you can do absolutely anything.