Division D: Deborah Stevens

Candidate’s Name:

Deborah Stevens

Candidate’s Office:

Division D Director

Toastmasters member since:

November 2016


Effective Coaching Level 4

Presentation Mastery Level 2

Competent Communicator Competent Leader

Toastmasters offices held and terms of service:

Area Director J4 2023/24

Club President Thame Speakers 2021/22, Stand & Deliver 2017/18

Club VPE Thame Speakers 2020/21, Stand & Deliver 2018/19

Club Treasurer Stand & Deliver Oct 2018 – June 2019

Club Secretary Thame Speakers 2022/23, 2023/24

Club Sargent at Arms Stand & Deliver Jan 2017 – Jun 2017

Relevant work experience and how it relates to Toastmasters and your role as a District leader:

In my day job, I run improvement programmes and service reviews for Buckinghamshire Council. It is my role to act as the conduit between the operational teams and the strategic leaders. I work to mentor members of the teams to develop their processes and thinking around change, to allow them to continue the change journey once I am moved onto a different programme or service area. The Division Director role is similar – taking the messaging from the trio at district level and translating it with the Area Directors to ensure they fully understand their role and are able to deliver what is needed. I also feel that the Division Director role needs to support ADs to solve their own problems, assisting where required but not stepping in and taking over as the role is about helping develop the ADs into taking the next step. I have experience of doing this through service reviews, mentoring staff members to move into the next roles suitable in their careers and helping them to find solutions rather than being the one person to solve everything as this is not sustainable in the long run.

What experience do you have in strategic planning?

I have set up a number of improvement programmes, including setting the governance structure, agreeing the deliverables, key milestones and dependencies, and developing project plans to facilitate the delivery of the programmes. I have also worked on managing resourcing – reviewing requests for support and matching these to the resources available across a team, negotiating with the team requesting support on timelines and moving around people allocated to projects to fit the corporate need.

I have undertaken planning to take multiple service reviews through the corporate process – including planning review work to meet deadlines set for corporate sign off, developing business cases and ensuring all relevant milestones have been met.

What experience do you have in the area of finance?

I have numerous years of budget management, most recently managing a £4m budget of grant funding for the Council’s Homes for Ukraine programme which covered all staff costs, project expenditure and contract management. This also included tracking sponsor thank you payments through the system, monitoring overpayments and putting financial processes in place to stop overpayments from happening in the future. I am comfortable monitoring budgets, tracking payments and forecasting spend. I also run a performing arts festival as my own business and manage my own accounts – forecasting and tracking expenditure and staff costs, monitoring ticket sales and income and calculating profit.

What experience do you have in developing procedures?

I have set up two emergency response programmes from scratch – one a food hub for the council during the pandemic and the second the council’s Homes for Ukraine programme. For both I pulled together the relevant team, agreed priorities, developed initial procedures to fit the short timescale, then regularly reviewed and improved these. I created the role of sponsor liaison officers for sponsors hosting Ukrainian guests, trained officers and tested and implemented Service Now as the case management system.

I took government reporting requirements and implemented processes for the teams to collate the relevant information and the returns to be completed in an appropriate timescale. Both programmes contained a large amount of personal data so I also implemented procedures for protecting this data across large numbers of people required to allow the services to be delivered.

What lessons did you learn from previous leadership positions?

Over my various roles in a leadership position, I have definitely learned the importance of supporting people to find their own solution rather than trying to solve their problems for them. In the past, I have been guilty of jumping in and trying to help in whatever way I can because I sometimes have more capacity that the teams I am working with, but this is not sustainable in the long run – both because it builds a reliance on my time which I might not always be able to give in the same way, and because it doesn’t develop the people I’m working with to be able to step up. I also previously felt that in a role as a leader I needed to know all the answers and would try and take everything on even if it didn’t match my skillset. I have become more comfortable in leadership roles and know that I have certain things that I bring to roles, but I also have gaps and being honest about what I don’t know, but also allowing other people to help me, or build a network of people I can ask for support means that I have better relationships with the people I am leading. This is because they know they will have opportunities to stretch themselves, but they also know that I am honest and won’t try to pretend I know something when I don’t.

Why do you want to serve as a District leader?

I have enjoyed being part of the DEC as an Area Director, and have liked being able to see how decisions are made across our district. Up until now, my experience in Toastmasters has been mainly across area J4 where I have a lot of contacts, having attended numerous COTs over the years. Similarly, in my professional life, the majority of my experience is from Buckinghamshire Council or the associated legacy councils before we became a unitary, so again I have built up a good network of people which brings a certain amount of comfort. I’d like to stretch myself to work in new areas, with people I’ve never met, building those relationships and providing support in new areas with challenges I might not have come across before. I have been a member of two clubs – one corporate and one community so I feel I can empathise with the challenges the ADs face (having been in a corporate club who tried to rebel against everything they were asked to do!). I’d like to continue to be part of the team shaping D91, but would like to challenge myself in a slightly different environment and I think the Division Director role would help me achieve this.

In your opinion, what are the District mission’s major objectives and how would you work to achieve them?

One of the major objectives in my opinion is about working with clubs to ensure they engage fully with Toastmasters International and understand what is being asked of them and what the benefit is to them. Examples of this can be seen in the COT attendance, points across clubs for DCP and involvement in contests. I would work with ADs and in extension Club Execs who are struggling with understanding the reason why they are asked to do these things, helping to explain the benefits to the club but also thinking creatively about how they can engage with the process but in a way that suits them and the identity of their club.

I also think the development of new clubs is a major objective. I would work to achieve this by working with the Club Growth Director to identify opportunities in my division and supporting the relevant ADs to set up either demo meetings, or things such as speechcraft. I would also look more widely across the board to help identify people who may be on their way to DTM to sponsor new clubs and provide additional support so it is not all on the AD.

Additional information about yourself:

I enjoy the process of taking on projects and events and giving myself a goal to work towards. I am used to picking up projects both in the early stages or part way through so feel I would be able to take over from the current Division Director but quickly get my head around what is required of me as part of the role. I love working with a variety of people, from adult social care to housing teams in the council and community dance groups, private dance schools and schools as part of my performing arts festival, I am able to work with people across all levels and find ways to collaborate. I’d love to be considered to be part of the D91 team for 2024/25 taking the district forward.

Last Updated on 6th April 2024 by Diane Richardson