High Performance Leadership Project

In the last post, I described how the High Performance Leadership (HPL) Project is often the “final rung” in the ladder Toastmasters must climb to the final goal of becoming a Distinguished Toastmaster.

In this post, I want to describe the details of how to do a High Performance Leadership Project, using as an example the project I just completed last weekend, thereby earning my own Distinguished Toastmaster award.

Part I:   Learning About Leadership

  • First read the High Performance Leadership manual to learn about the theory of leadership and the six dimensions that comprise it.
  • Take a quiz to assess your knowledge of leadership and your self-assessment of the six dimensions that comprise it.    The result is your leadership profile.
  • Select suitable candidates for projects that you are interested in pursuing as an (HPL) project.
  • Recruit a guidance committee that will be the consultants on your project, to whom you will discuss the execution of your project and who will evaluate how well your projected has been executed once it has been completed
  • Meet with your guidance committee and decide upon the project you will pursue.

Part II:  Choosing Your Objective

  • Form a vision of what you would like your project to achieve as a result.
  • Turn your vision into a mission by describing objective criteria so that the guidance committee can decide the degree of success of your project in unambiguous terms.
  • Define the core values you wish to uphold as you execute your project.   These values will underpin the choices you make in achieving your goals.
  • Plan a speech to your club which explains your vision (what you want to achieve), your mission (how you want to achieve it), and your core values (in what manner you want to achieve it), and present it to your club.

Part III:   Winning Commitment to Your Objective

  • Create an action strategy (defining what you want to achieve) and an action plan (the steps you will need to achieve it) which includes goals and timetables.
  • Recruit your action team, those who will have various roles on your project and will help you executive it according to the plan.
  • Elaborate the action plan so that it now assigns various action items to those who are on your action team.

Part IV:   Working the Plan

  • Help your action team achieve the goals of the project.
  • Review your action plan periodically.
  • Deal with obstacles, both external (dealing with issues and resource problems) and internal (dealing with conflict resolution).
  • Complete the project work.

Part V:   Analyzing and Presenting Your results

  • Get feedback from the action team on your performance as a leader.
  • Present the results of your project, as compared to the acceptance criteria you established before the project started, to your club.
  • Review your final speech about your project with the guidance committee..
  • Present your final speech, including lessons learned on the project, and possible future projects that could be built upon the results you have achieved, to your club.

In my case, I knew that the second training period for club officers was often marred by the a drop-off in attendance by club officers.    The reason seemed to be that club officers were taught how to do their role in the first training period, and therefore decided that a second training period was unnecessary since they already knew how to do their roles.

In discussing the matter with Distinguished Toastmasters who also had experience as professional trainers, I came to the conclusion that the second training period would be more effective if the training were more of a “learning exchange” between club officers rather than a re-training of the club officers by the trainers.   In other words, if the trainers went in, not as teachers, but as facilitators, and initiated conversations between club officers, rather than talking to the club officers, this might create more engagement from the club officers and thus a more meaningful experience for the second round of training.

So I formed a team of trainers from area directors who had been in various club roles before.    I wrote a script which essentially asked each club officer to state his or her name, his or her club, and then to state the biggest problem they faced.   The trainer would then write each problem on the board, and if more than one club officer stated that this was the biggest problem, the trainer would put a check by the problem to see how many “votes” it got.   This preliminary survey would take 10 minutes at max.    NOTE:    We had between 3 and 5 people coming for each role, so there was enough time to accommodate everyone’s input.

Then the next 30 minutes were spent having the other team members offer potential solutions to the 3 or 4 problems listed on the board.  These would be preferably based on solutions that the club officer had personally tried him or herself, but they could also be solutions that the club officer was aware of.    These solutions were compiled by the trainer.

At the end of the training, e-mail addresses of the club officers were voluntarily exchanged so that the club officers could assist one another going forward.

The script was handed out to the trainers, and last Saturday we ran the project to see how it was received.    My goal was to get at least a 4 out of 5 from the trainees as to how they liked the training.   This goal was met, and exceeded:   when asked what complaints they had about the training, the ONLY one that seemed to be repeated across the board was that the training time was TOO SHORT, which showed that they enjoyed the training.   I asked the area directors who acted as my trainers their opinion as to why it was so positively received, and the best comment came from one of the area directors who said, “people want to heard.”

And this is probably the end result of the project:   rather than TELLING people how to do their roles, we LISTENED to them on how they were already doing them.   Once people knew their input mattered, they all participated enthusiastically.

My goal now is to compile the results and present them to the club, at which point I will have my guidance committee submit my application for the HPL project and thereby automatically received my Distinguished Toastmaster award.   My goal in the future is try to scale this training idea to the District at large to see if it can be implemented on a wider scale.

I’m pleased at the success of the project, and am also pleased at it being the capstone of my Toastmasters “career” so far.   I entered the Toastmasters world a little over five years ago in December 2010, after having lost my job and my self-confidence.    Joining Toastmasters not only gave me confidence in public speaking, but by achieving small wins along the way during the past five years, it has also given me confidence to take opportunities I might not have reached for otherwise:   to be a professional speaker, a professional trainer, and to be a Director at the Chicagoland chapter of the Project Management Institute.    I was the Director of Certification at the chapter and my goal was to improve the training of project managers, and that is why I chose the HPL project I did, to improve the training of club officers.    You are not only trying to impart knowledge; you also need to impart enthusiasm, engagement, and experience in the process.   I’m proud of the fact that my training program accomplished just that…

I have other projects planned for future HPL projects, but I will always remember this first one as being a dual triumph of my career as a project manager AND as a member of Toastmasters International–a Distinguished Toastmaster, as of last Saturday.




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