The Art of Speaking  

Leading by example

Toastmasters not only helped me become a better speaker, but helped make me a better leader.

I have learned from many people and I continue to grow and to not only be a leader to myself, but to my family, my mentees, employees, friends and community.

Toastmasters is just one of the many ways I strive to learn to develop my abilities and grow as a leader.

My background has primarily been in retail:

  • managing stores
  • merchandising
  • team leader
  • analyzing
  • store openings
  • buying — with such companies as Woolworth Canada, Footlocker, Ricki’s,(Comark group).

During the last eight years, I have partnered with CMS Toys to run Halloween Alley stores in the Okanagan (Most recently adding the district co-ordinator role over-seeing stores all across Canada.

I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that strong leadership skills are a key ingredient to success in business and in life.

There are many books on leadership, and I encourage you to read them, but in business, it’s important to learn from everyone, and to create your own skills and style.

My favourite book is Yes or No: The guide to Better Decisions, by Spencer Johnson

It may sound unusual, but it teaches you to own your decisions and to keep moving forward.

Top influencers such as Richard Branson, Napoleon Hill, John F. Kennedy and Winston Churchill state that we need to fail to become more successful.

Even actor Will Smith has advice on using failure as a tool to get better.

“Fail early, fail often, fail forward,” he said.

We all want people to be proud of us, to be better role models and achieve our dreams and aspirations.

I will share with you some of what I believe can make you a well-rounded leader.

Inspire, be passionate and motivate

Everyone has a vision. Share it! With everyone you know. I recently asked the owners of Halloween Alley what they thought my contributions to the company were.

“You are the company’s biggest cheerleader,” they said.

I agree. Although my stores are only open seasonally, I breathe and promote the Halloween Alley brand all year.

Your enthusiasm and excitement for whatever you do is addictive; you need to believe that everyone would want to be a part of whatever it is you do.

You are the most invested. For every action, there is a reaction, so let’s make them great ones.

Be proud of what you do!

Be a teacher

No one knows your product and vision better than you.

It must be a priority to teach your staff, and your family, to be better than you.

We have a huge opportunity to share the best tool in the world — our knowledge.

If we take time in the beginning to set people up, grant them access to the things and information they need, you will eliminate frustration and find you’ll be able to work more efficiently together.

If something is working, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Give up ownership!

Although the hardest thing for us to do, as a good leader we must realize that we need a full team to be successful.

Whether it is our children or an employee, we need a team working cohesively to create a better world. As VP of membership and previous vice president of public relations for Kelowna AM Toastmasters, I'm part of the club executive that works to ensure a great experience.

Take a step back, and allow others to rise and be the best they can be.

I wear many hats in my life and these are just a few things what I believe help me a better leader. Taking on new roles and consistently challenging myself to learn and grow makes me who I am today.

We meet people for a reason, a season or a lifetime, so make the most of and be the best to everyone who enters your life.

Deb Lawless is a mother of three very busy and active children, an entrepreneur, an employee (working part time in the accounts payable department at Total Restoration Services), district co-ordinator For Halloween Alley and VP of Membership for Kelowna AM Toastmasters.


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About the Author

The mission of a Toastmaster Club is to provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment that offers every member the opportunity to develop communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth.

There are eight Toastmasters clubs in the Central Okanagan.

For more information and/or to find a club near you, check http://www.toastmasters.org.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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