Monday, April 14, 2014

Are shortcuts worth it?

Last week, I was driving with my family in the Padi area in Chennai. Songs of A.R. Rahman was playing on my car stereo. Padi area was relatively new to me. I had asked directions from a relative who asked me to come through the main road to reach his house. However, I thought I will use my (“so called”) intuitions and take one of the cross roads to get to my destination faster. I drove my car into one of those narrow streets which was just 15 feet wide. Half way into that street, I found a water tanker filling water on the black water tank erected in the street. People surrounded the tanker like bees in a bee hive. There was absolutely no space for me to overtake the water tanker. I thought I would take reverse and get to my destination through the main road. To my surprise, a few cars followed me into the street and were right behind me. My car was pretty much jammed in between, with water tanker on the front and with loads of trucks and cars behind me. I had to wait for nearly 15 mins for the water tanker to finish its job and leave the street. I had to pay a price for taking a short cut on that day. I reached my destination 30 minutes late.

Also read: 3Rs of a Successful Toastmaster

How many times, we try to take such shortcuts and get stuck in our life, career and even in Toastmasters. Sometime or the other, we end up paying the price for it. For example, all of us join Toastmasters with the intention to improve our self. However, after joining the movement, some of us get side tracked by awards and recognition. Some of us rush to complete our projects and do speeches just for the sake of doing them.

Let me share with you an interesting incident that happened, recently. An Area Governor called me on a Friday evening and said “Saro! I have a Toastmaster who has been with the movement for 2+ years. He has completed all the roles from the CL manual, except for playing the Contest Chairman role. Every time there is a contest, he signs-up to be a contestant and skips the opportunity to become a Contest Chairman. Even this time, he is a contestant in my Area contest. However, I want him to play the role of a Contest Chairman and get a CL credit for his role. Can I do that?” I first thanked her for reaching out to me for consultation. I told the Area Governor, “Mme! The role of a Contest Chairman is to form a team, coach the team members, take care of logistics, and make sure that every role player does their job well on the contest day. If you are a contestant, you cannot do any running around on the day of the contests. I personally feel that it is not appropriate to make someone play dual roles in a contest – that too heavy lifting roles such as Contestant & Contest Chairman. Moreover, TM rulebook doesn't allow a contestant to be a role player during the contests. So, there is a chance for someone in the crowd to challenge you on the day of the Area Contests”. The Area Governor was trying very hard to convince me that she wants him to complete his CL at the earliest, so that the club and the area can get a CL credit. I asked her "If he has been with Toastmasters for 2 years and still hasn't completed his CL...Why can't he wait for another 3 months to conduct a club level contest to get the Contest Chairman credit?" She finally accepted to take him off from the Contest Chairman role.

Also read: 5Ps of a successful speech contest

It is not just new Toastmasters who are trying to complete their CCs & CLs in a hurry. I have seen a few senior Toastmasters, who rush through their communication and leadership assignments to just add a DTM to their title. The “so called” DTMs continue to pace back ‘n forth on the stage thinking that they are “using the stage”. The “so called” DTMs cannot conduct a 30 minutes educational workshop, after which at least a handful of participants would stop-by to say “Sir! I liked your session”. The “so called” DTMs cannot inspire even 5 members with their speeches. What makes you really distinguished, the title or your actions? Recently, I read a news that “Mahatma Gandhi’s spectacles were bought for $1.8 million”. I was wow-struck when I heard that. DTM title is just a name tag… the value of the tag is decided by the person who wears it.
When leaders take shortcuts to achieve results, the results are not long lasting. It is like building an empire on top of a sand castle. The next time you take a short cut think twice – “Are short cuts really worth it?