“When Your Tool is a Hammer . . .”

People at Work 234

All problems look like nails

Higher level military staffs are prone to “use what worked last time.” For example, one  6th Army staff used the same beautiful overhead transparencies to brief for annual training exercises, year after year. Conference evaluations included terms like, “beautiful auditorium and slides” and “A waste of time, I still don’t know what my battalion is supposed to do (during the exercise)” year after year.

Sometimes we in Toastmasters are guilty of using what worked before, without concern about different audiences and circumstances. (Audience analysis is part of speech preparation in many of our advanced programs.) We should always analyze our audience and focus on their needs, not our comfort zones.

For example, we’ve seen presentations to clubs that have a robust and sufficient member base that focused on “how to grow your club.” Also, clubs composed of CPAs and auditors have been offered detailed training on filling out the required, quarter-page California tax form and using scheduling spreadsheets. “Why not? It worked last time.”

It’s time-consuming and stressful to research an audience – or a club – and design a presentation that addresses their needs. It’s easier to give a talk we’ve given before.

Military training does offers some great guidelines, though. “Leadership Principles” were once were memorized by officer candidates. One of particular interest to us is:

Set the example.

Area and Division leaders, especially, should set an example of excellence if they want to help their clubs and areas. Unprepared, “off the cuff” remarks and training based upon a program that worked last year are too often unproductive.

We need more than one tool in our toolbox because we face more than one stumbling block. And we develop more tools by meeting more challenges – creatively and enthusiastically.

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