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Listen to Learn..


The first three months of any Toastmaster year is called the Golden Quarter.  The more that is planned and actioned in the first three months, the smoother the club will run throughout the year.  The committee’s first job is to agree the club success plan.  Laura McHarrie has volunteered to cover the first three months as the president of Ferndown Speakers and she would  love to know what your aspirations are and what you would like to achieve,  to help me plan.  After all!  This is your club and we’d like it to be the best of all possible worlds – to paraphrase Voltaire.  With her speech entitled Listen to Learn please welcome Laura McHarrie …”

The title Listen to Learn – is a succinct version of Stephen Covey’s seek first to understand and then be understood.  In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey describes four levels of listening:

Four Levels

Pretence listening | Selective listening | Attentive listening | Empathic listening

Of course, as Toastmasters we learn to listen ATTENTIVELY for good examples of speaking, and possible opportunities for improving a speech delivery.  We learn to listen so we can offer effective evaluations. But when we take on a leadership role we need to adopt EMPATHIC listening; seeking first to understand you; as individuals and you; the collective.  That is to understand what it is like to be standing in your shoes.

According to the Club Leadership Manual, as president it’s my responsibility to create a nurturing learning environment and enhance club quality by conducting well-run energetic interesting meetings; actively connect with club members and officers; listen patiently and offer assistance. No pressure there then!

The first task for the club leadership team is to work together to create a club success plan that encourages educational achievements, this is after all Toastmasters raison d’être.

The Club Success Plan

The club success plan is a proven tool that measures achievements.  There is a maximum of 10 points that can be achieved each year for various activities that illustrate a well run club. I have written several of these over the years.  I could do it again, but without your input and your commitment, it won’t be worth the paper it is written on.  And so I first seek to understand what you as individuals want to achieve and identify where you the collective want be.  

Under the leadership of Tom Manston, our current president, the club has achieved 7 of the 10 points which earns us the title of a select distinguished club.  Brilliant!  Be proud. So what for next year? Can we replicate that?  Do we have the capability, the capacity, the will?

I’d like to share a poem around leading and learning from the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. It doesn’t rhyme!

If we wish to succeed
in helping someone to reach a particular goal
we must first find out where he is now
and start from there.

If we cannot do this,
we merely delude ourselves
into believing that we can help others.

Before we can help someone,
we must know more than he does,
but most of all,
we must understand what he understands.
If we cannot do that, our knowing more will not help.

If we nonetheless wish to show how much we know,
it is only because we are vain and arrogant,
and our true goal is to be admired,
not to help others.

All genuine helpfulness
starts with humility before those we wish to help,
so we must understand
that helping
is not a wish to dominate
but a wish to serve.

If we cannot do this,
neither can we help anyone.

WOW – that’s powerful isn’t it?  Shame it doesn’t Rhyme – perhaps it does in Danish?

Member Interest Survey

Toastmasters gives us many tools to help us manage our clubs, one of which is this Member Interest Survey.  It’s not perfect but a good start and because we want to take advantage of the Golden Quarter, I hope you will help me and complete the survey asap.   I have hard copies here, I can email the PDF or we can talk.  I am a fan of the good old fashioned phone call.  Tell me your preference later, it’ll be my first chance to listen …


To close, I’d like to share with you this.  It is the Chinese symbol for the verb “to listen” – it reads – “I give you: my mind, my ears, my eyes, my undivided attention and my heart”

Which is just about the best definition for listening ever.  Please take the time to share with me your aspirations so that I can listen to learn – how I can best serve you.


Speech 2/3 from the Presentation Mastery manual – Evaluation and Feedback
This project addresses the skills needed to give and receive feedback. You will learn about giving, receiving and applying feedback.
The purpose of this project is to present a speech on any topic, receive feedback, and apply the feedback to a second speech.

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