Five Characteristics of High Performing Clubs

You have no doubt heard it said in our organization that “it’s all about the member”. Indeed, our organizational pyramid shows the member at the top, supported by all other levels.

But in my experience, a high performing club serves its members far better than a struggling club.  Similarly, the success of a District depends on its clubs. As a club leader, I can help my club in the pursuit of excellence, and it doesn’t matter who is leading the District. However, it soon becomes apparent that a District is only as strong as its clubs.

My home club is one of the few high performing clubs in my home District, and I’ve even encouraged some friendly rivalries as we compete to see which of our clubs will knock out all 10 Distinguished Club Program (DCP) goals first.  Through these collaborations I’ve discovered five characteristics these High Performing Clubs have in common. Here they are:

Clear Expectations Up Front
With respect to clubs starting out, it’s critical that they see themselves as members in a family of clubs. Clubs that are cloistered (as often happens with corporate clubs) are not high performing and need to understand their relationship with other clubs from the very beginning.
With respect to on-boarding members, it’s vital to have a conversation about the Club Mission and the expectations of every member.  A Toastmasters Club has a well defined mission. It is not a social club, and it is not a psychotherapy group (quite honestly, some need more help than a Toastmasters Club can provide). Further, a Toastmasters Club cannot deliver the full Toastmasters experience without fully committed members, and that’s where the Toastmasters Promise comes in. If the prospect is looking for shortcuts or magic fairy dust, this is not the place. Likewise, there are those whose circumstances don’t allow them to be fully engaged, and these persons should be welcomed as guests anytime their schedules permit. But the difference between a guest and a member should be more that a check and a piece of paper. A member is one who is committed to the club, to their fellow members, and to their own personal growth working the program. And don’t forget to set clear expectations when recruiting club officers, so that you don’t end up with just names next to titles.

Weekly Meetings
Many clubs are still meeting only twice a month. Sadly some meet even less. A colleague once put it well when he said “that’s like doing one push-up a month and expecting to get in shape”. Often the objection is raised by members who say “but I can’t attend EVERY week” to which I will reply “do you have perfect attendance NOW?”. Weekly meetings more than double the opportunities to practice and build skill faster. Weekly meetings make it possible to get back to a meeting sooner, when a conflict is unavoidable. Weekly meetings more than double the number of project speeches and education awards. Weekly meetings more than double the number of opportunities for guests to visit and like what they see. Weekly meetings create more opportunities to collect dues and submit renewals earlier. Weekly meetings promote higher performance in every way.

Speaking Schedules
High performing clubs distribute a speaking schedule once every 4 to 6 weeks to create a culture of member engagement, with the goal of having every member speak every 4 to 6 weeks. “But I thought the program was self-paced”. This is one of those well-intentioned statements that can be too easily taken out of context. If it is truly self-paced in the extreme, it means that a member could take 20 years to reach Level 1 in Pathways, and I suspect that’s not what our leaders had in mind. A speaking schedule is more proactive and doesn’t wait on members to decide when they are ready, but still leaves room to work with members on a case by case basis. It gets many members ready before they might otherwise expect that they would be, with the result that the speeches are NOT given by the same 4 or 5 pacesetters all the time.

Role Assignments and Role Preparations
High performing clubs do not use sign-up sheets for roles. In high performing clubs, the Vice President of Education (VPE) is the “production manager” of every meeting and fills the roles according to experience and need, and has members and processes in place to promote the little consistencies that promote showcase results every time.

Recognition and Celebration
With these other elements in place, there is ALWAYS something to recognize and celebrate. Guests are recognized and warmly welcomed. New members are celebrated with inductions. First timers in roles are recognized. Educational awards are recognized and showcased at meetings, in weekly missives, and on Social Media.

We should be sharing these 5 traits at every opportunity because high performing clubs can better serve their members, and high performing clubs promote District Success.

(Author Credit: Al Tuten Toastmasters International Region 7 Advisor)

Do you have a high performing club? Please share additional traits and best practices of your successful club in the comments!

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