I’ve read and heard a number of questions on expectations for our Area Governors, and I thought it might be good to put some general thoughts out to help our Area Governors with this very challenging year in District 22 leadership.
I’m not a fan of disclaimers, but I want you to know that this post and its contents represent only my opinions. Also, it is not all-inclusive.
Before the Mythbusters section, I do want to make one comment. In my opinion, the most powerful action an Area Governor (or any leader) can take is to Show Up! If you haven’t seen it already, clubs respond to your presence and your willingness to help more than any other factor. Show Up!
Myth: Area Governors are supposed to have all of the answers to their club’s questions.
Fact: Like every role in Toastmasters, the Area Governor role is more of a learning experience than a teaching experience (but a bit of both, to be sure).
Thoughts: My year as Area Governor (2007-2008) represented the single greatest learning experience for me as a Toastmaster. Period. If I had a nickel for every time I had to tell a club officer or other member “Let me check on that and get back to you”, I could have bought badges for the whole district. You’re learning…that’s okay. Strike that. It’s more than okay…it’s TI’s expectation – you’re supposed to be learning.
Myth: Area Governors are the Toastmaster Police for making sure clubs are functioning properly.
Fact: There are no TI police. Each club has its own culture, and for the most part recognizing diversity is more important than criticizing it.
Thoughts: If the club is giving non-manual speeches via teleconference while selling photocopied CC manuals to raise money to give kids cancer, then you should go ahead and say something to your District Leadership.
Myth: An Area Governor should be able to save a club that is in trouble (i.e. low membership, corporate support, etc.).
Fact: Any District Officer can only help those who a.) want help, and b.) are willing to help themselves.
Thoughts: The real question is “Did you show up?”. If you made your visits, offered to speak (i.e. present a successful club or better speaker module), offered to help them find a club coach or in some other way offer your support, then you did your job. In fact, if you did what I listed there you actually went beyond the basic “visit” requirement.
Myth: An Area Governor must add a new club every year.
Fact: It is criteria to be a President’s Distinguished Area to have a net growth of one club.
Thoughts: You’re not a failure if you don’t add a club. You can’t control the decisions of 20 people to pay and charter a club. What you can control is your own efforts to identify opportunities in your area and make sure your Division Governor and Lt Governor Marketing are aware of those prospects.
Myth: If you can’t do everything, you should step aside.
Fact: If you’re doing nothing, yes, you should step aside.
Thoughts: Make your visits, run your contests, attend DEC meetings, learn…teach…grow…Succeed! If you can’t do it all, figure out what you can do and talk to your leadership. We know that Life Happens. No one is going to ask you to quit because you missed one thing. We’re a team, and if you can not make to a certain club because your boss’ staff meeting is at that time (as an example), tell us and we’ll work with you.
This is probably one of the more difficult times for the Toastmasters organization. You would think that someone who was laid off would want to increase their marketability and do more networking, but it turns out many are backing away even when their need is greatest. I don’t have an answer for this one (did I mention that I am also learning?), but if we continue to offer the best opportunity for folks to recover from this economic turmoil, I believe that we’ll see success as a group, and as individuals.
The most important thing for you to do is be willing to help. That’s what every district (and every member) wants from their Area Governors. Show up, be ready to help, and be willing to say “I’ll find out and get back to you.” Do these things and you’ll be on the right track. If you’re not sure, call me, your Division Governor or other Trio member and talk about it. We’re learning – and we’re here to help too…