Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Pathways - Understanding your Leadership Style - Confessions from the Coach

Pathways - Understanding your Leadership Style - Confessions from the Coach (Dynamic Leadership Path / Level 2 / Project 1)

Yesterday night, I told my wife, “Honey! I have to attend an early morning Toastmasters meeting tomorrow. Can you pls get my breakfast ready by 7 am? You can probably make some uppma or kichadi quickly in the morning”. My wife looked at me and said “These days you are very bureaucratic and authoritative. Let me decide what I should do for breakfast”.

Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,

Setting the stage

All along, I thought I was a “Servant Leaders” … but, when I took the “Understand your leadership style” questionnaire for this project, I realized… each one of us have multiple types of leadership styles burnt into our nerves, buried under our nerves and soaked in our blood.

At times, you are bureaucratic, at times you are democratic
At times, you are altruistic, at times you are authoritative
At times, you are affiliative, at times you are innovative
At times, you are a pace setter, at times you are a coach

We are all like the 8 legged spiders that walk on the 8 different leadership styles. However, unlike the spider, each one of us have a dominant leadership style… and to me, it is “Coaching”. I’m going to tell you a secret, today! Would you just keep it with you …

Club Mentoring Experience 

The year was 2010. I was appointed as a mentor for a brand new club. This was my first ever experience in mentoring a club. I thought I should make this club, one of the best clubs in District 82. So, I started visiting the club regularly week on week.

The SAA would say “Sir ! I forgot to bring the Gavel this week”. I told him “No worries. Let us use the white board duster instead of the gavel to start the meeting”. Next week came… but the SAA didn’t come. The following week, SAA said “Sir! The Gavel is lost. But, I’ve the whiteboard duster to open the meeting”. And the whiteboard duster became the perpetual gavel for the club.  I just accommodated them.

When they don’t start the meeting on time… I accommodated them.
When they don’t have a printed agenda …I accommodated them.
When they don’t prepare for their roles… I accommodated them.

I became a very accommodative mentor, and in-turn lowered the standards.

They asked “Saro! Can you please help with evaluations?”. I said “Oh! Sure”.

They asked “Saro! Can you please help with TT evaluation too?”. I said “Why not?”.

Eventually, they asked “Saro! GE is NOT IN today. Can you please play the GE role too?” I said “No problem”.

I started wearing multiple hats and drove the club myself at 100 mph, knowing that the wheels are punctured, gas is running out and windshield is cluttered with dust.

Weeks moved on, months moved on… slowly members also moved on…! At first, the guests started vanishing, then a few members started vanishing and eventually, the club officers also started vanishing. By the time I finished my term as a club mentor, I successfully converted a 20 members club into a 2 members club. I felt very ashamed.

Kartik’s Coaching Skills 

Then came Kartik Srinivasan, who took over the club as a Club Coach, the following year.

He called those 2 members for a meeting and told them “Look! I want this club to achieve the President’s Distinguished Club status, this year. My job is to help you and support you in that mission. Do I have your commitment?". They gave the commitment to the mission.

The first thing he did was… He made them to buy a Gavel and banner for the club.

The second thing he did was.. He made one of those 2 members as the Club President.

The third thing he did was … He jump started the club by guiding the Club President to conduct a demo meeting again in the organization and by recruiting new members

He set a very high bar for the club and its members.

  • When the meeting didn't start on time… He told them “You better start the meeting on time, otherwise, don’t expect me to attend this meeting next week”. 
  • When they didn't have a printed agenda… He told them “You better have a printed agenda next week, otherwise the meeting doesn’t start”.
  • Instead of doing the various roles himself, he trained the club members to do the roles effectively and made them to do the roles.

Kartik’s coaching helped the members to improve the quality of the meeting. Slowly the guests inflow increased. From 2 members they grew to 10 members. From 10 members, they grew to 17 members. Eventually, the club had 21 members in the roster, achieving 9 / 10 DCP points, becoming the President’s Distinguished Club during that year.


Dear Toastmasters and Guests, I learned 3 critical coaching skills from Kartik:

  1. Don’t be like a wheel that drives them, be like a GPS that guides them.
  2. Don’t give them the fish, just teach them how to fish
  3. Don’t lower the standards, for members to catch up. Increase the standards, to make them rise up.

Dear friends… don’t forget that this is a confession… Will you keep this as a secret? People in our community think that I'm a great coach and I don't want to spoil that reputation.

In Tamil, they say "You've to kill 1000 patients for you to become a half-doctor". I will tell you that you have to kill a few clubs for you to be become a half-DTM.