High Performance Leadership – Challenging yourself to make a difference

From Steve Brewer, Area 61 Director 2015/16

My time as assistant Area Governor and Area 61 Director has encouraged me to think wider and deeper about the Toastmasters education program: what it means for me and others as even I move closer to the DTM award.

My biggest fear was that my Toastmasters journey would become a succession of tick boxes – different speeches that I gained with minimal inconvenience as the memories of the fear and excitement felt in my icebreaker speech melted away.

I asked myself whether I was staying at Toastmasters only to be a better Toastmaster or did I have an opportunity to do something different? Could I use my communication skills to make a change and makes things better? Fortunately there was a hidden gem in the long grass of the requirements for the Advanced Leader Silver award.

This gem was the High Performance Leadership Project (HPL). This can be done and banked at whatever stage of the TM program you are at. The HPL has reignited my aims of improving with every speech and continually learning from the journey.

What is High Performance Leadership (HPL)?

It is an “action-learning” program that will help you to develop your leadership skills. It uses a 3 part learning process – study, action, and feedback.

It has 5 phases that involve:

1. Recruiting a guidance committee
2. Choosing your objective / Setting Goals
3. Winning commitment to your objective from your team
4. Working the plan with your team
5. Analyzing and Presenting Results to your Guidance Committee, regularly

At 20,000ft this may feel a bit dry and formulaic. However, the beauty of the HPL is developing a credible vision for what you want to achieve and encouraging others to follow and help make this vision a reality. It is also important that this is a delegation project. If you do everything yourself you will quickly come to understand the difference between management and leadership.

Key to helping the transition from a project management mindset to a leadership perspective are the six dimensions of service leadership.
The six dimensions are:
1. Vision and Values
2. Direction
3. Persuasion
4. Support
5. Development
6. Appreciation

These dimensions help to deliver a project that has every chance of being successful as you get study, work the plan with your action team and get feedback from your guidance team.

Having completed post graduate and professional degrees I have personally found the mix of learning and doing offered by the HPL program has been at least as useful as anything I have done in my academic life. It has given me more successful focus in my professional activities when I use it as a model.

All of which is very nice but what can you use it for….?

Possibilities of the High Performance Program

Researching possible projects for the HPL I found projects on the internet. Some of these looked a little too easy and felt like box ticking…an article by John Lente, in the April 2015 edition of Toastmasters magazine, resonated with me as it challenged people to make a difference rather than take the easy route.

My own experience of this came when a Toastmaster asked me to be on their committee for their HPL project. I asked what the project was … it was to organise the club dinner…I said “No” as I felt this was too easy for the individual…they muttered something about a DTM had said it was sufficient for the project…I said it wasn’t going to be personal development for them and I wasn’t going to be on their committee. My parting shot was to ask if there was anything they could do as either a Toastmasters, community or work project that would make a difference.

To their credit a few days they came back with a better idea relating to a work based project, I agreed to be on the committee. The HPL led to a higher appraisal score at work due to the benefits of the project as well as the initiative shown…far better than ringing the local restaurant and asking for a table for twenty.

The possibilities for an HPL are vast. Many people start by looking within Toastmasters where there are worthwhile projects. However don’t limit yourself. Work and community projects are crying out for people with good communication skills. A report in 2015 stated that a lack of soft skills was costing the UK £88 billion a year…so you may even find yourselves pushing against an open door as you probe possibilities in your work or community. You can and will make a difference with your HPL!

Case Studies

Case Studies show previous HPL projects within Work Community and Toastmasters environments that I hope will whet your appetite for making a difference.

Community example

The vision: to save an amateur youth football club. To turn it into a club which can provide sporting opportunity and inclusion for all regardless of ability. The ambition is for young players to enjoy their sport and feel encouraged to participate fully in games and training. Click here to read more…

Toastmasters example

Alan’s Toastmasters HLP helps raise performance and leadership across Area 61. Click here to read more…

Work example will be following shortly

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