District 57 Conference – May 11 – Article

District 57 Hybrid Conference – May 11, 2024 REGISTER HERE – Early Bird Specials through April 9th Fellow Toastmasters, District 57’s 2024 Conference: “Toastmasters: A Century of Excellence” is officially open for registration. Join me at our first opportunity to meet in person at the beautiful Roundhouse Conference Center in San Ramon, CA. Starting at…

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Interview With Doug Shannon, D57 Speech Contest Winner

Nancy Moscardini interviewed Doug Shannon, our 2021 D57 Speech Contest winner about his experience in the competition.
Doug Shannon
Member of Day Breakers in Santa Rosa
What inspired you to enter?
I competed last year, winning my area contest and, while it was nerve-wracking, it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed pushing myself to refine my script and be more expressive in my delivery. When the contests moved to ZOOM, I was disappointed. How could I squeeze everything into that little frame? I dropped out of the competition. But ZOOM turned out to be the only way to continue with Toastmasters, and over the next year, I became more comfortable with it. Its a whole different stage to play with. Entering this year promised to be more fun. 
 Can you describe your journey since you were announced as a semi finalist?                     End of fun. I had only one contest-ready speech, the one I’d won with. Should I, against all odds, win at the semi-finals, I would have nothing else for the finals. I bounced back and forth from one idea to another with no success. I was afraid I’d bitten off more than I could chew. Finally I got something together that I thought worked, recorded it, and shared it with Dave Blum, my coach. He flat out didn’t like it and told me why. I was so discouraged I had to put it down for a week or so before I revisited it. But he was right so I kept playing with it, and now I’m having fun again! 
What is your method of crafting a speech?
I like to start with a personal experience that felt transformative in some way. It’s tricky because it has to be an accessible experience, something everyone can relate to. Beyond that, I don’t have a method; this is all pretty new to me. 
What advice would you give anyone considering entering the contest? 
Listen to your evaluations. I’ve had so much great input from my fellow club members; each one has a unique insight. Win or lose, when you compete you will be showered with love and support, not just from your club, but the TM community at large.  
What are you doing now to prepare? 

Normal stuff. Rehearsing the speech I’ll give if I get to the finals.  

What have you learned about yourself by participating in the contest? 
That I, like whatever speech I’m working on, am a work-in-progress. Turning that work into play is how I define winning.
What are your plans after the contest?
To lay off speeches for a while! 

2021-2022 Leadership Spotlight

Leadership Spotlight    
  June 2022

5 Keys to Mastering Delegation #5

By Linda Patten, DTM

This month’s key is all about my personal favorite – training.  You have just brought on the members of your team and/or you are observing what strengths and weaknesses the team has.  Wait, didn’t I just hire the ideal person for the work? Why do I need to train?  They should just know, right?

No matter at what level from the 1st job to the individual who has a life time of experience, there are aspects of the job that make your company unique.  That is why you need to train to ensure awesome success. Without onboarding and training you are setting yourself up for failure.

Training is not a waste of time. Busy leaders often feel that they don’t have the time to teach others what they know, and believe that it’s faster and more efficient to do it themselves. So, they end up not delegating at all – a sure path to burnout as well as unhappy, underutilized teams. Consider starting with those types of tasks which are easy to delegate: tasks that are repetitive, tasks that are research-based in nature, tasks that will teach others something, or tasks that create a plan of action. Surprisingly, as I began to delegate tasks, I found that the people to whom I taught a task (which I had thought would take so much precious time to do) were often better at it than I was. 

Developing the team and its members’ individual abilities can make your team really sing. Look for the golden nuggets in your team, those who want to learn new skills that you can support, or who want to become leaders whom you can train to develop into leaders in their own right.

Big wins for everybody!



  May 2022

5 Keys to Mastering Delegation – Key #4

By Linda Patten, DTM

In the article last month, the key I discussed was to know and trust your people to be able to delegate effectively. What that means is you need to know where your team members have expertise and where they are beginners or may be even where they have no skill.  If you don’t know and understand this, you are setting your team members up for failure and setting yourself up to take back the task when it is not completed or needs substantial rework.

Understand that not everyone is strong in all the skills needed to successfully achieve their goals. Many trainers suggest that you use your strengths to improve your weaknesses. I say go with your strengths and leverage your weaker areas with people who are better at them than you are.

The self-made billionaire founder of Spanx, Sara Blakely, hired a CEO to run the business when Spanx was just two years old. Many (particularly male) eyebrows were raised by her actions because, you know, everyone wants to be the CEO, the head honcho, of their own business! But Sara said it allowed her to focus on the things she was particularly good at as well as helping keep balance in her work-family life. “As soon as you can afford to, hire your weaknesses,” she said. “Hiring a CEO was very critical for me to stay on my strengths.”

Make delegation work in your favor. If you are not good at the people aspect but are great with numbers, then partner up with a people person to make calls and do presentations. (As I mentioned before, you might.)

  April 2022

5 Keys to Mastering Delegation – Key #3
By Linda Patten, DTM
 One of the great aspects of being a leader and mastering delegation is that you allow your team to work in those area in which they excel or in which they need training and experience.  For you the leader, it can be a scary place to be and fraught with uncertainty that the work will actually get done and on time.  You know that if you do it, it will be done right and on time, right?  Well, not necessarily.  Beyond the fact that you have your own projects and tasks, you could be missing out on training one of your staff to do this work which broadens their experience.  Consider when and under what circumstances do you hesitate to delegate?
Give authority AND ask for accountability. To delegate effectively, you need to know and trust your people. You will be giving them the responsibility to complete the task and also enough accountability to keep them from coming to you for every little decision. Be willing to ask them to bring not only problems to you but also a recommended solution.  Often that bit of problem solving will eliminate needing to bring it to you.
 The common other-end of the scales is micro-managing to make sure everything’s done “right,” which serves no one. You don’t want to give up both the responsibility and accountability for completion because you, as the leader, are ultimately responsible for the success of your endeavor. It’s a balance (tip: clear and consistent communication helps).

  March 2022

5 Keys to Mastering Delegation
Key #2
By Linda Patten, DTM

Last month we looked at what kinds of people needed to be in your organization in order to delegate to the appropriate person. When I opened my company, I drew an organization chart of all the positions I needed to be successful. I then found different pictures of me which I put in each box. As the only person in the company, this makes sense. As I built the company, I replaced my picture with pictures of the people who were experts in that job and I got on with being the comfluential™ I needed to be.

Needing to replace yourself with competent people, and to challenge yourself to let go with grace takes us to the second important aspect of delegation.

Learn to let go so you can grow.

In some areas what to delegate is a clear decision. If you’re at a stage of growth, for example, where your financial recordkeeping needs to be taken up a notch, and it’s way beyond your capability (or interest), then bringing someone with accounting and financial analysis skills onto your team is a no-brainer.

Sometimes, however, the areas you know you should be delegating are the very ones that are within your comfort zone. You know them well; they are easy for you to do, and they often bring an amount of joy and fulfillment. So, you hang onto them and wonder why you’re still too busy and feeling overwhelmed – or unmotivated because you’re not feeling challenged.

Without delegating you will never have the room to grow into new areas of leadership yourself, much less grow the team leaders you need for your endeavor to thrive. Do delegate the tasks that someone else has the expertise or desire to handle. And do delegate some of the work that keeps you comfortable, but could be holding you back from growing into bigger, more exciting things.

  February 2022

You have put out the message. You have communicated your vision with passion. You have perhaps been using the “telling” style of leaders with just a bit of the “feeling” side of influence.  How do you know that the message has been received and is being worked on?  One key way is to use the following formula.  You were given 2 ears and one mouth – use them in proportion.  There is so much that you can learn about the clarity of your communication as well as understanding what motivates and excites your people.


  1. Listen to your people.


Listening is key to knowing what’s going on, not just about the business, but also in the lives of everyone involved in the endeavor. Listen to what they have to say and provide positive, productive, and supportive feedback (however, remember that you’re not there to solve all their problems or take over their responsibilities).


Your people will appreciate your consideration, and the relationships will build motivation and cohesion to work towards your goal. Bonus: you stand to build deep, rewarding, lifelong friendships.


Tip: How to practice “active listening:” 


  • focus your complete attention on the person talking (not on your cell phone);


  • look interested in what they are saying, reflecting back to them their enthusiasm and excitement – authentically (don’t fake your feelings!);


  • repeat back what you heard to ensure you heard them correctly and to validate their message.


  November 2021

Leading a business team, a Toastmaster’s team, or just yourself in a solo practice require the traits covered so far to be successful as a leader.  When the vision is set for the short or long term, focus on that vision keeps everything on track. The passion shown for the work being done and the vision/goals to be achieved are what energizes the team, even if just a team of one.  While the task might be delegated, the responsibility for completion rests on the leader’s shoulders.  Looking at trait #5 will us move forward to ensure the message is getting out there is a way that motivates action.


  1. Communicate Positively.


Outstanding leaders are excellent communicators – why else would people follow them? As you are responsible for holding the vision, you must be able to communicate that vision to inspire and motivate, as well as articulate the steps along the path to achieve it.


Move from telling to asking. For most of us, we resist being TOLD what to do (unless it’s an emergency like, “FIRE! Get out of the house – now!”) ASKING is being curious, asking questions, inviting a response. Big difference! Influence brings more cooperation, collaboration, and more inspired followers.


Tip: When you communicate to your people that their individual work matters for the creation of the big picture, you are validating their worth to the team and to the goals, the mission, and the organization. When your people are on board at that level, you all are unstoppable!

  October 2021

In three months, we have looked at 3 traits of leadership.  If there is no passion in your leadership, then how can you inspire the team to greatness?  As a leader, one must demonstrate twice the passion expected from the team.  Exploring your organizational ability goes a long way to being there for the client and for the team.  Among the chaos of our move to Ohio, I thought I had been very “organized” only to discover the best laid plans often go astray.  I take responsibility for the chaos –  no “blame.”  Now I need trait #4 to move forward.


  1. Be Focused.


We’ve all seen leaders who go off on tangents, get distracted, and ramble on and on in a meeting. Big problem. Stay focused on the mission at hand. This challenge is one reason I named my first book and leadership program The Art of Herding Cats: Leading Teams of Leaders. It’s targeted to entrepreneurs, but the concept holds true for any type of leadership. It means holding and keeping the focus for the organization, the vision, the stakeholders, and the team – the big-picture path as well as the specific work at hand.


Being focused means within yourself (your vision, purpose, simply knowing yourself well); focus on others (your relationships, team and supporters); and on the outside world (your competition, world changes and trends, your target market, etc.).


Tip: Clear knowledge of me, us, and them is critical to successful leadership.


  September 2021

  1. Be Responsible.

You must take ownership and responsibility at all times, even as you are delegating work to others. You’re the ultimate go-to person; you are the holder of the vision, and your followers depend on you to keep on track and moving forward. Your team must know that you’ll be there for them when the sailing is smooth as well as when storm winds blow.

Some leaders believe that once you delegate, you’re not accountable if something goes wrong. Not true! The leader holds both responsibility and accountability, the delegate holds only the responsibility to get their particular part completed.

Tip: There is a difference between responsibility and accountability. When you delegate a task to a team member, you are sharing the responsibility for getting it done.



  August 2021

2. Be Organized.

Reaching your goals requires organization and knowing exactly the direction of your enterprise or endeavor. Disorganization literally drains your life energy. When you are frazzled, late for a meeting, distracted by your phone, or always rushing around, you encourage the same behavior in others. To others you look frazzled, stressed, unproductive, out of control. This is not the way an extraordinary leader shows up.

Being organized inspires trust and sets the standard for your team. How organization is accomplished is in the particular style of the leader.

I’ll recommend a simple yet powerful organizational tool that I learned from Sherri Coffelt, Founder and CEO of Results Partner: The Rule of 3. As you probably know, our brains are not designed for multitasking. I know you might be saying, “Of course we can multitask. I do it every day. It is the only way I can get everything done in a day!”

Tip: What truly keeps you organized and focused is to choose just three key tasks or goals to do each day. This makes organization manageable for you and your team, and keeps you on track.


  July 2021

Top 7 Traits That Make Extraordinary Leaders: Trait #1
By Linda Patten, DTM
Leadership takes on many differing components, factors, and shifts in societal perceptions. However, here are the most useful and compelling traits I find that every leader should have and/or aspire to develop. These are foundational traits for a truly effective Comfluential™ Leader and are not gender specific.
These traits hold true no matter the company, the organization, or the family you are leading As you read on, think about how they are relevant to whatever endeavor is speaking to your heart.  I will be bringing to light a new trait each month.  Watch for all 7
Which ones do you possess, and which could use improvement?

1. Be Passionate.
When you’re excited about your work, your mission and your vision, it shows! And it rubs off on others. Passion and positive drive get things done and empower others. Your own passion also keeps you buoyed when there are successes and resilient during the challenges.
When I am passionate about my vision, I wake up every morning thinking about it, and it is the last thing on my mind and in my heart when I go to bed each night. The day is then full of moments of brilliance and success in creating the vision in reality.

Tip: It is this passion that draws others to your team and your movement. The individuals who join you in this passion are those who want to make a difference in the world and see that what you are doing will create that change.