District 44 Director, Roxane! 2021 – 2022 is going to be an exciting year!!
You have been a lifelong Toastmaster. How long is that?
21 ½ years
What was your “aha” moment to join Toastmasters? Was it an instant join Toastmasters or it took a while before joining a Toastmasters?
I was selected to do a presentation in front of the Board of Commissioners which would also be shown on the local tv station. The thought of standing up in front of at least 50 people made me extremely nervous. I heard about Toastmasters and decided it could possibly help me overcome this fear. It did not take long for me to join/help charter the club once I heard about it.
Please share your success story of rising to the role of District Director.
During a District 44 TM conference, one of the keynote speakers touched my heart when she spoke about giving back. TMs has given me so much through the years, and I felt it was my time to give back to others. I was eager to sign up to serve as an Area Governor (Director) so that I could share my success and encourage others. As I continued, I realized that I had the opportunity to grow as a leader in a different structure than the one at my job. Because Toastmasters is a volunteer organization, you learn to lead with your heart. Most of us have the same mindset of servant leadership in which members are the most important. If our members accomplish their goals, then we as leaders are successful with the development of programs and opportunities we provide to aid in their growth.
In your other career, you are a successful Financial Division Manager. It is one of the most demanding and impactful roles in an organization. Can you please give me a brief story of how you rose to that role?
I have always considered myself a driven person. I want to learn as much as possible to better myself and to challenge myself. I was not afraid to ask questions and make some changes to better the organization. I also volunteered and accepted every opportunity to serve on various committees to truly understand how the County as a whole function. I also felt I could make a difference in the way I lead my teams.
In these two leadership roles – one is managing numbers and the other is leading members, what type of mindset do you need to have to balance these leadership roles?
One is managing numbers and people while the other is about leading. As a manager and leader, you must be able to adapt to any circumstance. Leaders must be able to pivot and stay ahead of the changes and challenges you experience each day. But over the years, I also learned that a leader should be empathetic. My leadership style leans toward the Driver personality style, but I also learned that it was important to connect to my team. I needed to understand their personality style and what they needed to be more productive. People want and need compassion and want to know they are being supported.
I’m told that establishing a specific culture at any institution is extremely important. How can we create a sustainable culture at an institution? Or can we just move along by “just being nice”?
A strong culture is vital to the success of an organization. Employees and leaders must have shared beliefs and values. However, as a leader, you must understand that people have different personality styles, and it is good to be able to adapt to their style when needed and celebrate their differences. You have to establish foundational guidelines that allows for a positive work experience but be flexible enough to adjust whenever obstacles or unforeseen circumstances occur.
Are character traits between successful Toastmasters and successful leaders common?
Absolutely. Toastmasters core values are integrity, respect, service and excellence. The core values at my company are very similar with integrity as one of our guiding principles. Toastmasters is all about developing leadership skills and empowering others. A successful leader will do the same for those around them. Both require clear and effective strategies to achieve their goals. Most of all, successful Toastmasters clubs and successful leaders prioritize their people while focusing on performance.
What qualities do you have that have helped you to reach your goals?
Determination, decisiveness, ability to communicate with others, empathy, and being able to adapt when needed.
You founded the Toastmaster At The Square club (TMATS). It has been a President’s Distinguished Club since year two. What is the secret sauce?
I definitely believe it is all about investing in our members. Why did the member join, what can we provide to them, how do we keep them engaged and how do we have fun in the process!
What constitutes a successful Toastmaster member?
For me, a successful member is one who is achieving the goals they set for themselves when they joined Toastmasters. I also believe it is someone who is giving back to the organization by stepping into a leadership role, a coaching role or a mentor role.
I found Toastmasters to be a fantastic incubator for testing my skill. During TMATS your advice and mentoring accelerated my progress. Thank you! What are your thoughts on that?
In order for members to grow and learn, we have to be able to provide constructive feedback. What many people forget is that it should be positive feedback, and it needs to remain focused on the goals and objectives of the member. As the member advances, we need to elevate our feedback so the member stays challenged and continues to improve their performance or meets their new goals.
What's the biggest problem Toastmasters (or Toastmasters Clubs) don't know they have? How should they overcome those obstacles?
Many clubs do not emphasize the Club Success Plan. Toastmasters provides a lot of resources to enhance the member experience. By taking some time to plan and formulate how the club will operate for the year (and years to come), the officers and members will be able to set goals and establish strategies to achieve the goals. Many clubs also do not realize this is a fluid plan and can be evaluated and updated as needed.
Organizations are strongly encouraged to plan. How often should organizations revisit their plan? How long should long-term planning be?
I believe organizations should have a 5- and 10-year long-term plan. These plans should be strategic and should be analyzed as often as is needed for the particular organization. Plans should also be adaptable and updated when necessary.
How do you manage your day and distractions? Especially in your position, where you hold two high-ranking positions. Also, how should a leader choose the priorities that will guide an organization?
First, managing distractions can be challenging. I have emails, phone calls, texts and employees with many questions coming at me throughout the day. Plus, everyone wants an answer or response ASAP. Obviously, helping my employees is very important and sometimes you have to tell yourself the emails can wait. I do try to let people know I received the email and will respond in a certain amount of time. As a leader, priorities can change throughout the day. For my job, there are many financial reporting deadlines which take high priority. You also have to respond to departments, vendors and the public in a timely manner in order for them to complete their tasks. During the pandemic, we received monies that needed to be distributed to various organizations quickly while also tracking it based on the Federal Government guidelines which changed almost daily. Being able to continue your normal workload while adding additional responsibilities and pivoting each time the guidelines changed required a lot of planning and adapting. As a leader, you learn to delegate what you can and determine what is needed most at that time.
What is your true passion?
My true passion is helping others. I enjoy seeing people become more confident speakers. I love helping those who are less fortunate because I have been blessed in so many ways. I get excited helping people try new things or accomplish things they never thought possible.
Who or What shaped who you are?
My parents shaped who I am. They always believed in me and encouraged and supported all my endeavors. My father lost his job when I was younger, and it took some time for him to find another job. He worked multiple jobs to help make ends meet and my mother had to take on additional responsibilities. We had to adjust to many changes especially from a financial perspective, but they would split their time so that at least one of them would attend me and my brother’s activities. My parents were always my biggest cheerleaders especially for all my Toastmasters speeches and accomplishments.
My son has completed his very first year at college. What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the real world in a few years?
First, enjoy every moment you have in college. Time goes by so quickly. Make valuable friendships – these will last long after college. Take some leaps – visit another country, volunteer for a non-profit. See the world through a different set of eyes. Understand that you might pick a major in college and change your mind once you enter the work world. It’s okay to change your mind. Find your passion and do what makes you happy and excited each day.
What advice should he ignore?
I had a professor tell me that she never gave A’s. My immediate thought was that I was going to prove her wrong. I worked extremely hard in that class, and in the end, I earned and received my A. Often people will tell you that you can’t do something or perhaps that you are wasting your time. If it is important to you, then go for it!
Let’s end this with a serious answer. What was the small step for you that became the giant leap for yourself?
I believe going off to college where I would not know anyone, living on my own after college, and honestly, stepping out of my comfort zone and joining this amazing organization called Toastmasters. It has broadened my horizons in so many ways and helped mold me into the person I am today. Roxane, I wish you all the success in this year!