Strong together

It’s good to talk to people. It’s even better to talk to people and listen to  valuable things they say. To people like Radek. I first met Radek at a conference in Warsaw last year. I had just come back to Warsaw after 5 years of living in Berlin, 4 years of learning German and 3 years of being a TM. I decided to have a gap year in Toastmasters to be all for my family with 3 teenage kids. They, as I had rightly suspected, were having a hard time in adapting to a new school system, a new lanaguge (yes, at that time Polish was for them a foreign lanaguge at school), a new city (they never lived in Warsw). So my gap year at Toastmasters was more than fully justified and looking back I’m really glad I could take it.

Even though  I was not a regular Toastmaster  at that time  I wanted to take part in the conference to have a feel of an exciting Toastmaster atmosphere. Even for 2 days. I didn’t know anybody and nobody knew me.

 I took part in a workshop where we were divided into groups and each group had to present something at the end. There were 8 people in my group, all seasoned Toastmasters, a tall, well-built guy – Radek, among them. We worked on our task with dedication and enthusiasm and when we were about to choose who was going to present I did not volunteer on purpose. I used to be a teacher  and I know I tend to tell people directly what to do and to take over roles and sometimes responsibility. I try to avoid being pushy or authoritative, and sometimes I even succeed. So I made room for a volunteer. There was none. Noone wanted to present our part in English. Fianally I said: „I can do it.” And I could see signs of relief.

I usually enjoy my stage time and this time I also had fun. After the workshop Radek came up to me and said:

„Ewa, you were brilliant. Are you a professional  trainer?”

„No, why?”

I thought it was normal that I took responsibility and then was having a good time on stage, and I was glad other people enjoyed it, too.

But Radek went  on explaining to me why he enjoyed my presentation so much and thought of me so high. Well,let me not elaborate on his feedback here and now. If you really, terribly, desperately want to know what he said, you can contact me and I’ll give you his phone number, but…

Frankly speaking, I was taken aback. I just said thank you and rushed to another workshop. But it was exactly what I needed at that time. I did not realize that I was doing a good job, I thought it was normal and ordinary. Radek had the guts  or inspiration, call it as you like, to show me the other side – how people perceive what I do and how I do it. I’m so grateful – his appreciation gave me energy and even more motivation to join a club in Warsaw. I felt stronger.

So when I saw Radek for the second time, at a Humorous Speech Contest in Łódź, I immediately came up to him and we had a chat. I thanked him for approaching me, a stranger at that time and giving valuable feedback. He said:

„Why shouldn’t I tell you good things if you deserve them? We should share positive feedback, we should appreciate each other and we should cooperate. What you did was a fine example of leadership and why should I keep it to myself? Too many people compete. I used to be the same. I learnt to cooperate and ceased to compete here at Toastmasters. Only when we cooperate, can we grow better and stronger. Do you know Justyna? She is great leader and she sets a great example of cooperation.”

Sure, I know Justyna. Sure, she sets a great example.

As once before, Radek said a very valuable thing – we should cooperate. And when we do, we grow stronger. #strongtogether -the motto of District 108 clubs immediately came to me. Strong through cooperation, appreciation and constructive feedback.

 I do it intuitively in life. Now I’ll do it with more awareness.

Thanks, Radek, for being an ambassador of #strong together. Thank you for the golden nugget.

It’s good to talk to people. I wonder what Radek tells me next time I see him:)

Breaking news:

 Radek read the article to authorise it and insisted on putting in his comment. While I was thinking he was praising me, he was actually appreciating the leadership path Toastmasters offers. He wrote: „I told you this: all the people here are Toastmasters. They are all trained in public speaking, leadership, confidence and today, at this conference they are within their comfort zones – everybody knows everybody – yet noone, apart from you, wanted to take on a leadership role to  report our task. That means that the leadership manual is not the goal in itself, but one of the ways to the goal. Today you set an example what the goal is – and by that I mean the skills that others and I are still missing”

So that was Radek. A keen observer and a humble person.

Author: Ewa Czech, Toastmasters Polska SA, past member of First Berlin TM, Ewa Czech Public Speaking Storytelling

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