Member Familiarity Breeds Alignment: Vice Presidents Membership, Take Note

copy-of-susan_headshot4 Today’s blog continues my earlier  Toastmasters view on Bruce Temkins’ Six Laws of Customer Experience — The Fundamental Truths that Define How Organizations Treat Customers. While Temkins wrote about commercial interactions with paying customers, much of what he said relates directly to the Toastmasters experience and the success of our organization.

Not many Toastmasters wake up in the morning and say “Today, I want to make life miserable for my fellow Toastmasters.” Yet every day,  members — from Plain Ordinary Toastmasters to club officers to District officers—make decisions or take actions that end up frustrating, annoying, or downright upsetting their fellow members. It can even be a decision or an action by an International officer. But it’s often not individual actions that cause the problems. Often times, the issues come down to a lack of cooperation or coordination across people and organizations.

Given that most club officers want their clubs to better serve each other and fellow members, a clear view of what members need, want, and dislike can align decisions and actions. If everyone shared a vivid view of the target members and had visibility into members feedback, then there would be less disagreement about what to do to keep the whole club happy and productive. While it may be difficult to agree on overall priorities and strategies, it’s much easier to agree on the best way to treat our fellow members.

So here are some suggestions:

Don’t wait for your club as a whole to solve individual member problems. No organizational structure is perfect; they all have some flaws. And it takes a long time to make major organizational changes. So rather than waiting for a structural change to create alignment, use a clear focus on members needs as a way to align the decisions and actions of individuals — even if your club as a whole remains out of alignment with the needs of a fellow member. Vice Presidents Membership, heads up! Don’t wait for your club Treasurer to “collect dues.” Your club mission is to keep members happy and wanting to renew and renew and renew. To do that, you have got to connect one on one with each of your fellow members to discover his or her special wants, hopes, desires and dreams. Even if those wants, hopes, desires and dreams “have nothing to do with Toastmasters.” There is always some way to connect seemingly “non-Toastmasters-like” desires with our program….and it’s your job to find a way.

Broadly share member insight. While we all know that club officers affect members experience, almost everyone in the club also has some impact on how fellow members are treated. Think of your club as a large production crew making the stars (your fellow members) shine on stage. Since many of the decisions that impact members aren’t debated or discussed, they just happen.  It helps for as many members as possible to understand our fellow members. Think of this as a silent alignment process.

Talk about member needs, not personal preferences. Disagreements are somewhat natural when people debate things from their own points of view. Instead of discussing what you like or think, re-frame discussions to be about overall member needs. If you find that you don’t really know enough about other members to solve the disagreement, then stop arguing and go get more information about your members.



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