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July 2024
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Starting the New Year Strong

How to guide your club toward success as a new officer.

By Diane Windingland, DTM


Four people having discussion around table

Every July 1 is an opportunity for a fresh start as the new Toastmasters program year begins. As you step into your role as a club officer, you have an exciting opportunity to energize your club and guide your members toward a successful year filled with achievement and personal fulfillment.

Your role as a club officer involves more than just administrative duties; it is about leadership and vision. You're now part of a global community of leaders committed to the success and vitality of their clubs. Whether you were elected, volunteered, or "voluntold," your mission is to serve and lead by example. As you take on this new challenge, remember that your actions and decisions will significantly influence your club's culture and success.

Read ahead for advice, strategic insights, and practical steps that will help ensure you and your club thrive in the coming year.


Understand Your Role

As a new club officer, you should first start by meeting with your predecessor to understand the nuances of your role. Gather insights about past practices, ongoing projects, and critical resources like documents or passwords. This knowledge transfer is invaluable and can smooth your transition into your position.

Second, don't skip the Club Officer Training—even if you have served in a role many times. These sessions are not only a refresher on your responsibilities but also a chance to network with other leaders and gain new perspectives.

Third, read through the Club Leadership Handbook thoroughly. Understand all the club officer roles, timelines, and resources available to you. Familiarize yourself with tools like Club Central and your club's website, which are essential for effectively managing membership and club activities. You can find the Club Leadership Handbook and many other resources on the Club Officer Tools page on the Toastmasters International website.


Work as a Team

Effective teamwork among club officers is essential for setting a positive tone and achieving the club's goals. Regular communication, strategic meetings, and mutual support are fundamental to successful teamwork. Many clubs have monthly club officer meetings, or Club Executive Committee meetings, to discuss goals, progress, and plans, with additional communication as necessary. Club officer meetings are an opportunity to build relationships as well. Fostering a sense of community among officers ultimately strengthens the club.

“Support one another. It’s okay to share responsibilities,” says Susan Brooks, DTM, Club Secretary for both the Talk of Monmouth club in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, and the Leaders Are Readers club in Laurelton, New York. “Build friendships and professional relationships. Have fun!”

Expect that there will be occasional conflict. Navigating disagreements with diplomacy and fostering a culture of mutual respect among officers is key to maintaining a cohesive leadership team.


Reflect and Plan

You should also take time to reflect on the club’s past achievements and challenges in order to prepare the ground for future planning.

A primary resource to help plan for the coming year is the Club Success Plan. This plan acts as a roadmap, helping to guide the club's activities and measure its success throughout the year. Completing the Club Success Plan may feel tedious, but if you create a solid plan early, you have more time to execute it successfully.

"Create a Club Success Plan and revisit it during the year," says Brooks. Establishing a long-term vision for your club, alongside your annual goals, ensures continuity and sustained growth, helping members see a future in their investment of time and effort.

“Talk to your club, create a vision for two or three years, and seek the commitment and support of all members,” encourages Jorge Navarro, DTM, of Mexico City. Steady guidance toward your vision ensures that success is not just a possibility but an expected outcome, much like teaching a new driver the rules of the road before handing over the car keys. “You don't only give the car key to your kid,” says Navarro, the Club President of Iztapalapa Online. “You teach him and guide him according to your vision of what a good driver should be.”


Cultivate a Positive Club Culture

Creating a welcoming and supportive culture is also crucial to your club’s success. Every meeting is an opportunity to foster a sense of belonging and ensure that all members feel encouraged and valued. Activities that promote learning and enjoyment help to strengthen the club's culture and keep members engaged.

“Creating a welcoming atmosphere within the club involves more than just saying, ‘Hello,’” says Eleos Gandawidjaja of Empire Toastmasters Club in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia. “It requires building genuine connections among members, ensuring everyone feels included and valued, and providing support for their growth and development as speakers and leaders.”

Helen von Dadelszen agrees that fostering a positive club culture is an important task for club officers. “Toastmasters is a membership organization, so make sure your members are happy,” says Dadelszen, a member of International Toastmasters Club of Nyon in Nyon, Switzerland. “This comes down to providing an excellent meeting each time where all roles are filled, and everyone is given the opportunity to collaborate. This also results in guests walking away delighted and keen to join the productive, welcoming community that’s been created in the club.”

Encouraging members to take on leadership roles is another crucial aspect of club growth. This strategy ensures the sustainability of the club leadership and fosters a proactive environment where members feel empowered and valued.

“A culture of mentoring is important,” says Noor Mohammad, DTM, of Sattvic Toastmasters for Healthy Living in Hyderabad, Telangana, India. “Mentoring is the key to having a strong [Club] Executive Committee. We usually elect officers not for the upcoming term but for the term after the upcoming term. They become mentees to the upcoming executive committee.”

Regular surveys and feedback sessions can be invaluable for understanding member satisfaction and for making necessary adjustments. This ongoing dialogue helps keep the club responsive to members' needs and can be dynamic in its development.

Consider conducting a Moments of Truth program or using the Club Quality Checklist with your members to evaluate various aspects of club success.

Outside of the club, regular social events can build relationships among members.

“Events can include activities like a club picnic, a movie night, or a themed party,” says Gandawidjaja, the member in Indonesia. “Such gatherings provide opportunities for members to bond on a personal level, which strengthens their sense of belonging to the club.”

 

Execute With Consistency

Without action, a plan is just a map to nowhere. As a team, decide on actions to make your plan enhance the member experience.

Your role as a club officer involves executing plans and making decisions that will shape the club's future. Be proactive and ready to experiment with your club meetings and management practices. Remember, Toastmasters is a safe environment to try new things—whether it's tweaking the meeting format, introducing new educational themes, or experimenting with digital tools.

Stepping into a club officer role is both an opportunity and a challenge—a chance to develop leadership skills, build relationships, and contribute to your club's success. Your journey will be filled with learning experiences that will enhance not just your Toastmasters experience but your personal and professional life as well.

Here's to a successful and fulfilling year ahead in your new role as a club officer!



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