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Greater Things to Come!
Projecting Potential

By Craig Harrison DTM, AL, PDG

January, 2006
edition of
The Toastmaster

The greatest good you can do for another
is not just to share your riches,
but to reveal to them their own.

— Benjamin Disrael

Professional Speaker Jim Cathcart can look at an acorn and see a future oak tree. After a dozen years in Toastmasters I can now see similar potential in new members. Just as others saw the diamond in my rough, I now relish the opportunities to stoke the flames of newcomers, encouraging them to greater pursuits. You can too!

As Toastmasters regarding our fellow members and guests I believe we should look not at members' present limitations but rather their potential for future greatness. We should also look at what we can do to help them realize their vast potential. The fact that someone saw beyond my ums and ahs, my rough edges and lack of polish, and thought enough to invest time and training in me, has helped me become the communicator and leader that I am today. Even now, I'm a masterpiece in progress. Aren't you too?

The greatness of Hockey Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky was in his ability to skate not to where the puck was, but where it would soon be. We as experienced Toastmaster mentors and leaders must look at our members' talents as building blocks to future greatness. We must see their potential and envision where they're going.  Especially since they cannot always see it themselves yet.

Whether through slow methodical progress or leaps and bounds, members are nevertheless on the road to self-improvement. Our ability to see beyond their present limitations, their perceived shortcomings or their lack of experience and confidence in a given area, may be just the springboard they need to realize new successes and new milestones.

Milestones as Stepping Stones

Remember your first Table Topic? Your Ice Breaker? The first time you were the day's Toastmaster? Each was a milestone you may have doubted your ability to achieve at some point. Yet upon reaching that milestone, suddenly new ones emerged. The newfound confidence derived through achieving each milestone helped turn it into a stepping stone to further greatness.  As we mentor and coach newer members in our clubs we can help them experience the thrill inherent in achieving each of these key milestones. With our experienced eyes, we can also envision what might be next for these nascent members, who aren't yet familiar with the various programs and opportunities available within Toastmasters.

Accentuating the Positive

Our speech evaluation training actually teaches us to look beyond what a speaker needs to improve, to initially focus on what he or she already does well.  By identifying what core strengths they possess, we can help them build on their solid foundation.  This doesn't just apply to speakers giving their ice-breakers.  By accentuating the positive in our new members, we reaffirm their competency and help them build confidence as they grow. When a member leads an effective meeting, competes admirably in a contest, or effectively recruits others to your club, each portends greater things to come.  We should validate what’s evident as a way of nurturing and also encouraging potential yet to be tapped.

The "Eyes" Have It

What do you see when a new member joins your club? Look for sparks of creativity, trace elements of confidence and evidence of leadership potential you can then nurture. It may be just beneath the surface so you must look closely.  But when you look for it then it's easier to find. The key is to look for it.

In my home club one new member, though shy and quiet by nature, had a strong and confident voice; a foreign-born speaker struggling with English nevertheless had a wonderful sense of humor that began to emerge within a few weeks; another new member had an air of authority around her. Credibility oozed from her even in her initially tentative speeches. In each case, the evidence I saw was just the tip of their talent iceberg.  Recently each member has come into his and her own, in part through the supportiveness of experienced members who recognized sparks of brilliance in each and nurtured it. Once they saw it in others they could cultivate it for everyone’s benefit.

Translating Potential Into Reality

The fun really begins when the potential is realized.  Suddenly new horizons appear when they master their core competencies.  That's why we emphasize achieving one's Competent Toastmaster status. The CTM forms the cornerstone for future communication success. Similarly, when members successfully serve as officers at the club level, their taste for leadership whets their appetite for more nourishing assignments.  Many a district leader got his or her start as a club officer.  I could never have served my district as its governor if my club mates hadn’t supported me during my infancy as a green and tentative club president.

Today Cindy Ventrice, ATM-B, is a professional speaker and author of Make Their Day — Employee Recognition That Works (www.maketheirday.com). Long before she was a professional speaker or author, her potential was recognized and nurtured by seasoned Toastmasters. "I know that many of the evaluations and notes that I have received over the years helped me to see that I had potential as a public speaker. If not for the members of Santa Cruz, CA's Downtown Toastmasters (#1803-4) I wouldn’t have had the courage to become a professional speaker!"

You have to power to launch professional speakers, politicians, religious leaders, astronauts and more through your nurturing of others' potential.  Step into your power by helping others translate their potential into potency!  You’ll take special pride in knowing you helped springboard a fellow member from tentative to talkative, from raw to ready, from meek to mellifluous. And in the process of nourishing others' potential you’ll be extending your sphere of influence as a Toastmaster leader.

Craig Harrison DTM is a professional keynote speaker and member of Laugh Lovers Toastmasters #596430-57 in Oakland, California. Craig takes special pride in mentoring others and believes every member should both be and have a mentor. Visit www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com for more tips on communication and leadership.

For more speaker resources visit the Speaker section of Craig's Learning Tools webpage

© Copyright 2002-05 Craig Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

Professional speaker Craig Harrison is a past District 57 Governor who used Toastmasters leadership lessons as the 2004-05 president of the National Speakers Association's Northern California chapter. Visit www.ExpressionsOfExcellence.com for additional tools for communication and leadership


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