Have you ever seen (especially this time of the year) the Vs of ducks and geese wending their way toward the south? Have you noticed that the sides of the Vs are unequal? Do you know why one side is longer?
There are more birds on that side.
Here’s the thing: All the birds in the V know where they’re going. They take turns being the lead bird. This guy is forging the path, like through water, and the wake of that path aids the birds behind him. It allows them to travel farther and fly longer in their trip South, and again on their trip North. It’s like a single bird, driving (?!!), could get 16 mpg, but in the group gets 32. It is very taxing on the lead bird because he’s still getting 16 mpg. So, they change up so everyone gets the responsibility to forge the way. The birds in the back are quacking and honking encouragement…we think. (Although they Might be saying, “Are we there yet, are we there yet?” I’m not sure. I don’t speak bird.) Nevertheless, the lead bird is pulling the rest of the group. The group is pushing the lead bird.
In a volunteer group, like Toastmasters, everyone is in it to learn something and become a better communicator and leader. In a meeting, the Toastmaster leads the activities, but he has
- a crew of speakers
- a general evaluator and his team to help the group improve on their skills
- a table topics master
All of those support the toastmaster and help to make the meeting work. Everyone with a role in a meeting is learning something new or polishing a skill. The skills that we work on as speakers are enhanced by the skills we get as listeners. The skills that we work on as leaders are enhanced by the skills we get as observers and in supporting roles. When we are in a meeting, everyone is learning. And the most important thing we learn is awareness!
How many of you go to meetings now or seminars and workshops and watch how the speaker uses the stage, or count the ums and ahs and the crutch words used, the visual aids that are supposed to enhance the message, the organization of the message, etc? You are more aware of someone who’s not done proper research. You are more aware of the nervousness of a beginner, and you know how to alleviate that. You can handle adversity and controversy because you are more aware of the power of the words you choose. You have the advantage of practicing those skills in an environment that doesn’t judge, but instead, gives you feedback on things you did well and things you could improve. And you have the advantage of watching others struggling with some skills you have no problems with and offering your feedback in a positive and helpful way. Because the way we learn in Toastmasters is by Watching, Trying, Practicing.
Make sure you choose to do activities in the meeting that advance your personal goals. Then do not dismiss roles that might bring your awareness up because they may not obviously improve a skill. As an example: Do not concern yourself with only speeches; evaluate others to become more aware of your own shortcomings, to become proficient at giving good feedback, and to learn from others’ feedback by seeing things from a different perspective. Pay attention to the speeches others give and take notes on the evaluations. Every activity you do in a meeting boosts your self-awareness and also aids others in achieving their goals.
So Push, Pull, Lead, and Learn!