By David Whitner, DTM District Governor, District 22
Given the opportunity to reflect on the three years I have spent in District 22 leadership, I could pontificate on my majestic journey of self-discovery and influence. I could write about the sometimes turbulent early period of working in a team cobbled together from different levels of achievement. I could write about the triumph of serving on a team which overcame disappointment to a near-perfect record. I will, instead, write about the intended power of velour.
What was up with the monkey suit and the Monkey Challenge?
Last August, early in my term as District Governor, I received as a birthday present from my sister and mother a one-piece monkey suit, hooded, with ears and a tail. I knew immediately that I needed and excuse to wear it in public, and that somehow Toastmasters would provide an excuse to do so. I created the District 22 Monkey Challenge to inspire clubs to move their clubs to Distinguished status and set early goals.
Clubs which provisionally met the requirements of a Distinguished club–five Distinguished Club Program goals, including the membership qualification–before the end of December are called “Distinguished by December”, and often go on to be among the first officially recognized. In the 2013-2014 year we had six clubs meet that goal. I challenged our clubs to double that, twelve clubs provisionally Distinguished before the first Toastmasters Leadership Institute in December. If accomplished, I would wear the monkey suit at the TLIs. When the first TLI was held, nine clubs had met that mark; by the end of December, thirteen had.
The Monkey Challenge returned for the Spring. If 30 of the 43 clubs needed for District 22 to be recognized as a Distinguished District were officially recognized by Toastmasters International before the Spring Conference, I would wear the monkey suit at the conference. By the conference, we had 22 Clubs Distinguished or better. Even if we didn’t meet the goal, at least we had a number with significance. The ultimate level of achievement by year’s end–Distinguished, Select, President’s–would determine what my commitment would be for wearing the suit at the International convention in Las Vegas in August.
What I hoped to accomplish beyond creating an opportunity to dress silly in public was to encourage coalition among our clubs. If the Toastmasters clubs in District 22 recognized that there would be a payoff–our district governor will make a fool of himself if we collectively reach this goal–they might encourage each other. If a club was close to completing a goal, they might reach out to a struggling club by offering to fill space on that club’s agenda. A member needing to complete a manual or perform a CL project might seek out a club populated by members who
might welcome a fresh, experienced contributor. Members could even encourage growth in other clubs by referring people to clubs which had not yet met their membership goals. Clubs at every level of achievement would benefit from the encouragement of other clubs. David in his monkey suit would be incidental.
The strategy to encourage clubs to support each other through the Monkey Challenge was sketchy at best and I hoped that it would somehow crystallize for our members. The District 22 leaders for 2015-2016 have already mapped some programs which will more specifically encourage collaboration between clubs. District 22 will develop methods that clubs might Dare others to be Distinguished. By clubs helping each other to succeed, they are also Helping the Member. The reward will not be zipped-up in fleece, but expanded in success.