Growth Through Change

by Robert Saltmiras
VPM Townsville City Council Toastmasters 2014-2015

Townsville City Toastmasters

Townsville City Council Toastmasters

Humans are social beings. We have always organised ourselves in groups that range in size from a handful of members to multi-national organisations. Groups are often goal-centric; the members are there because they share or are even passionate about certain goals or values. But we often wonder why, when our purpose is so compelling, that our group does not seem to grow in numbers the way we would expect. We can fall into the trap of thinking growth will just happen by itself organically, or if it doesn’t, that there must be some missing ingredient or silver bullet that will give the answer. In reality it is not one single ingredient that tips the scales, but a recipe of many ingredients mixed and baked the right way. If we want to grow, we have to plan for it and work intelligently. We also have to be honest about how willing we are to change in order to meet our growth objectives. Growth means action.

At Townsville City Council Toastmasters we have experienced strong growth over the past 12 months. Our membership has swelled from approximately 20 to 35, not to mention many other visitors and some attrition rate. So what are the main conditions for growth? In simple terms you need three things:

  1. A Great Product:  Robust and positive meetings.
  2. A Great Service:  Meaningful membership development.
  3. Great Systems:  Consistently do the right things very well.

I didn’t list great people cause that is a given! It’s there; we just need to bring it out.

To create these three conditions, we need to think in terms of transitioning people from first contact to full commitment. It is a process with many steps and many players who each need to do their part.

Here are a few:

  1. President
    Get the best one you can – we did! The president will set the culture! They will motivate the executive and inspire the club at large. People will likely stay if the culture is dynamic.
  2. Vice President Education
    Get the best one you can – we did! The VPE will create warm, interesting, varied and dynamic meetings. They will drive competitions forward and watch over the growth of individual members. People love fun, growth and affirmation.
  3. Vice President of Public Relations
    Get the best one you can – we did! VPPR will cover web pages, Facebook presence, street marketing and other community engagement. But the vast majority of our new enquiry came via the internet. Hard copy invitations are OK, but less and less the norm these days. Get a great electronic presence.

As Vice President of Membership I also have a central role in people’s journey. I respond to internet and other enquiry, warmly identify and greet visitors, follow up those visitors (usually by email plus pdf’s), affirm them at the next meeting, transition them to membership and induct them.

The other members of the executive also play a critical role in terms of strategic planning and management of efficient systems. But if this sounds a bit top heavy – like it is the executive who do all the work and make it happen – then remember this:

The problem is always leadership and the answer is always leadership.

If leaders do their job well, they create a context and systems for growth. It can gain momentum and become like a ‘bug’ that everyone catches. Members buy into and replicate the culture, the diligence, the positive outlook and the passion that is set by the leaders without even realising it! They just calibrate to current context and frame their expectations accordingly.

So I hope this quick summary is helpful. If you do want your club to grow, then you might want to re-read this several times, reflect on where your strengths and weaknesses lie, then start mapping out plans for change. All the best with your journey!

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