Thursday, March 26, 2015

Speak with Empathy - B&T Talks about Stephen Covey's Habit #5: Seek First to Understand, Then Seek to Be Understood

Butter & Toast Toastmasters Club draws inspiration from Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and highlighting one habit for every meeting. This week, our theme is habit # 5. 

Speak with Empathy
by Gege Sugue

Seek to Understand then to Be Understood. That is Habit #5 in Stephen Covey’s bestselling concept, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s mainly about empathy.

Empathy might seem like something you need to do to be kind, compassionate, generous, forgiving. But it really is not a one-way street. Having empathy benefits you too. Empathy enables you to be more persuasive, when you’re selling insurance, properties, training programs, or ideas; or when you’re trying to be a good manager, counselor, coach, teacher, or leader. Empathy helps you to be effective in winning friends and clients. Empathy helps you to succeed.

As a speaker, you will find that empathy can work for you too. In my almost ten years as a Toastmaster, I feel that I have grown to be a more effective speaker. And it goes beyond polishing skills. It goes beyond learning to gesture or vary my voice. Stephen Covey says that technique, truncated from character base and the relationship you have with somebody, is hollow, shallow, and can be perceived as manipulation or duplicity. And though Toastmaster has taught me techniques, actual practice has shown me that it goes deeper into attitude. I have learned to make the audience part of the formula.

A huge part of the craft of public speaking is really that PUBLIC. Who are they? What do they want to hear? What do they need to know? What makes them laugh, cry, desire? How can what you know help them? When you take the stage, make sure it is clear to you how your speech can help them to become better, smarter, richer, more popular, more competent, more confident, happier.

In my first division contest, I panicked at the sight of a big audience. And I focused on delivering my speech flawlessly. I just did not want to mess up in front of the crowd. I focused on my speech. And on me. And it (and I) was a dismal failure. Nobody laughed at my punchlines, and I did not even place in the contest. And I missed out big time on connecting with my audience. I was selfish, and I failed. But I learned my lesson.

Now, when I deliver my speech, I look at my audience. In particular, I look at Sheila. Her face is very responsive—she laughs at the right time, she looks sad when you’re telling a sad story. She frowns when you’re annoyed. She wrinkles her brow when she’s confused. Her left eyebrow lifts a little bit when you’re being obnoxious or sounding full of yourself, and her face gets stone cold when she’s bored.  And I learn to adjust myself based on those cues. Of course, I look at other people too and adjust to their reactions as well. As a trainer, my eyes are alert for people who might be confused by the lesson, offended by my jokes, affected by my opinions, or are sleepy. The audience is my barometer, thermometer, speedometer, and they tell me if I’m doing well or I need to adjust.   How I react to their cues, questions, and reactions determines how much applause and appreciation I get at the end of my talk.

So, be an empathic listener. Be an alert observer. And you can be an effective speaker.

Here are three tips to be an empathic speaker:
1.       Know your audience’s needs, wants, values, culture, preference, attitudes, profession, and expectations.
2.       Adopt your speech to their needs.
3.       Respond to their response.

Of course, you still have to make sure that you are prepared. Knowing your material well, rehearsing your speech, and being confident that you’re coming in armed and prepared—these enable you to stop focusing on your speech, so that you can focus on the most important part of your speech--your audience.  

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Toastmasters Think Win/Win

by Gege Sugue

So far, in our series of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we have talked about 3 habits:
  1.  Be Proactive.
  2. Begin with the End in Mind.
  3. Put First Things First.

All the above are focused on bringing about PERSONAL VICTORY. Toastmasters have chosen to become and to remain Toastmasters, to remain active in leadership goals, and to deliver speech after speech after speech, because they believe that their life and career goals can be achieved through better communication and leadership. They take a proactive view in self-development, and they set goals to mark their progress.  

With the fourth habit, we move into interdependence. The goal is PUBLIC VICTORY.

Habit # 4 is to Think Win/Win.

Thinking Win/Win according to Stephen Covey is:

“a frame of mind and heart that constantly seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. Win/Win means that agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial, mutually satisfying. With a Win/Win solution, all parties feel good about the decision and feel committed to the action plan.”

A really good example of a Win/Win interplay is how each club works towards its DCP goals. Every term, we try to achieve 10 goals that would ensure that our clubs are enabling individuals to grow and achieve.

Every club has a set of officers who seek to accomplish all 10 goals. These officers know how challenging that can be. It’s not like they could rely on just themselves to deliver those goals. They need the cooperation of every member. So they work together to ensure that the following are in place:
·         fun and quality meetings
·         a good mentorship program
·         active and effective recruitment and renewal activities
·         individual members delivering speeches towards their goals
·         recognition and motivation interventions

And they do this through motivation, communication, diligence, and creativity.

Every member who advances a norm towards the 10 goals becomes a generous contributor to the club’s success. But that contribution is rewarded by mentoring, motivation, appreciation, learning by doing, a sense of achievement, and the great feeling of being valued by others and adding value to others. All these lead to higher self-esteem and stronger skills.

That is Win/Win. Isn’t it great that you’re part of a Win/Win organization?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

B&T Talks About Stephen Covey's Habit #3: First Things First

The Importance of Delivering Your TM Speeches
by Gege Sugue

This was originally posted in our printed newsletter program for the February 27 meeting--the 3rd in a series tackling Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Mentor: Hey! You said you’d deliver your next speech in the next meeting. That’s about two weeks from today. Send me your speech as soon as possible so I could give you my input.”

Protégé: I’m afraid I have to postpone that speech.

Mentor: But you’ve been postponing this for 2 years.

Protégé: I know. It’s just that we have this huge project. And my boss wants me to do overtime work every night.

Mentor: Oh, how about meeting after next?

Protégé: I can’t. A balikbayan friend is coming, and that will be the only day available for our barkada to meet. You know how it is.

It’s a familiar conversation. I’ve heard it from others. I’ve been part of it, both as the mentor aka nagger and the one being nagged. I have even heard it in my own head with my own conscience bugging me to finally work on my next speech. And I can feel for both the mentor and the protégé.

We’re just so busy these days. But who isn’t? Who isn’t trying to juggle work, family, school, relationships, hobbies, health activities, and social life? And how are we supposed to add on top of that twice-a-month meetings plus the time it takes to prepare, rehearse, and deliver speeches?
It’s tough. And it is most likely that among the above priorities, Stephen Covey calls them the big rocks, our family and our source of livelihood are the big rocks that come first. Toastmasters--less important, less urgent. I get that.

Stephen Covey’s Time Management book, First Things First, highlights Habit #3. He suggests a 2x2 matrix to categorize our tasks according to urgency and importance. Where each task falls into the quadrants tells you what to do about them.

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Where does your Toastmasters life come in? Only you can answer that. Your own life purpose and values would clue you in on the answer. I am guessing that for a lot of us who decided to invest money for the membership dues, we have made that conscious choice to develop our leadership and communication skills through Toastmasters. I am guessing that for us who made that conscious choice, we did so because we think it’s important. As such, we have to prioritize it. We have to bump other activities as less important. We have to plan for it. We have to set aside time to make our investments in time and money worthwhile.

Toastmasters are some of the busiest people I know—successfully managing businesses, careers, family.  And I admire how they do so while also finding the time to play active roles in the Toastmasters organization, while advancing in their norms.

I admire my own protégé Penny Bongato—talk about busy. She’s constantly working, traveling, fulfilling her role as wife and mother. She is admired in her field and in her advocacies, and she is already an accomplished speaker. It would be so easy for her to just give up and say she’s too busy. But she doesn’t. Self-development and the goal of being an inspiring speaker drive her to plan, prepare, and deliver her speeches, no matter how challenging it may be. She targets a specific date for her next speech project, and then she sends her speeches way in advance so that her mentors could comment and make suggestions. Then she sets aside time for rehearsing her speech. She is proactive, aware of the end in mind, and she puts first things first. I am sure it is not easy. But she follows what Stephen Covey said: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”  

Is Toastmasters important to you? Can it help you be the person you want to be? Can it help you succeed in your goals? Then make it one of the first things. 


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