Meet a leader – Paul Rhys-Taylor

This month, Nigel Oseland, our D91 PT Manager, caught up with Paul Rhys-Taylor, a.k.a. PRT our Admin Manager and ICT Chair.

Tell me a little about your background

I was born and raised in London, of Jamaican parents. Educated Anglican but rejected the faith as a child. Then found it for myself as a young adult. Lived with certainty for over two decades but over the last few of years, I’ve been on a ‘truck stop of doubt’.

Where do you live and which clubs are you a member of? 

I live in Croydon and I’ve been a member of Croydon Communicators since February 2013. I am also a founding member and former mentor of Clapham Connectors in South West London. The club was founded in June 2016 and chartered in December 2016.

How did you find out about Toastmasters?

A friend of mine, Samir Malak, DTM, shared his journey with me over breakfast one day. I was already impressed by his considerable communication and leadership skills on display in the church context, so when he told me he regularly practices them in the world of Toastmasters, I was intrigued.

Why did you join Toastmasters and have your expectations been met?

Of course, Samir, who is now my mentor, invited me along to Croydon Communicators and I was astounded by what seems to be the best kept secret. Reflecting on how long it took me to join, it links with my preferred learning styles. Of the four posited by Honey and Mumford, 1995, I’m more the Reflector, Pragmatist and Theorist and least of all the Activist. So, while I kept returning as a guest to every club meeting from November 2012 till the beginning of February, keenly observing the meeting activity, I was in no hurry to join and participate! I joined when the Club President coaxed me to. As a new member, I set about practising and refining my communication skills and leadership skills in the service of Club and District. Indeed, Toastmasters has been my principal means of continuing professional development ever since.

What are you currently focussing on at Toastmasters?

Well, I’m little over half way through my second and final year of service as District Administration Manager. (My particular focus, currently, is to resubmit the ICT Committee proposal to revamp the District website). I’m a creature of habit with oodles of stickability. So I’d probably serve in the role for more years if there were no limit. It sort of mirrors my career: I’ve worked with the same organisation for 22 years; I was nine years with an organisation previous to that. My default to stay at a thing, has paid its own dividends in all areas of my life. Once my term ends in June, I will set my sights on completing my two advanced speech manuals. Actually, with a bit of planning, I could complete the balance of requirements to achieve my Advanced Leader Bronze award (ALB). I’ll have to book some time with my mentor to ensure I realise it.

What are your Toastmaster ambitions for the future?

I would like to become a better public speaker! One way to improve is to focus on the steps needed to prepare and present my next 28 speeches – the balance of the 40 required to achieve my Distinguished Toastmaster Award. What I find interesting is that while my commitment to my Toastmasters membership and skills practice is unquestioned, my commitment to progressing strategically through the education awards is not as strong. I recognise I will need the support of my mentor to keep me focused on the end goal.

Any views on how we can improve Toastmasters in District 91?

Well, similar to the idea that Toastmasters is the best kept secret, I think too few members complete their Competent Communicator manuals and realise the benefits of progress on to advanced education awards. Too few members attend the District Conferences and discover that extra level of ‘edutainment’ and inspiration, which leaves you lost for words at various points over a two-day event. The advent of Pathways Learning Experience will invigorate the member experience at club level, I am certain. However, the challenge for the District Executive Committee is to leverage the refreshing that Pathways brings to our District, to build a more instinctual and accessible path to life beyond the Club.

How do you spend your time outside of Toastmasters, what are your hobbies and interests?

Well, it has to be said that most of my waking hours – and a fair bit of the time I might otherwise be sleeping – is taken up by my work and by Toastmasters. I am a social worker by profession and I have been long occupied with the responsibility of running a residential care service for looked after children. It’s a 24/7 load that I’m used to carrying. I also practice educate social work students and guest lecture at a university.

I’m an avid consumer of the news; I’m committed to raising awareness around equality issues; and I’m interested in the ways in which we might ‘speak truth to power’ to effect change.

To keep physically fit I play tennis twice a week, although I wish I could play more!

I have really special moments of downtime with family and friends, when I switch off from work and Toastmasters to reset.

So, who are your favourite musicians and bands?

I love music, but I don’t buy music or go to concerts. I fronted a gospel band called No Limits, as a singer for over ten years. We gigged in various venues across England: in pubs, clubs, prisons and churches; and we toured the Czech Republic and the US. The band continues these days mainly as a jazz quintet.

Any final words for our District 91 members?

Over the last five years as a member of Toastmasters International, I have applied the values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Excellence and have found Toastmasters to be the gift that keeps on giving.

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