Would your club benefit from a coach? Or do you have the desire to step up and coach another club in need? In this interview with Vanessa Lindeberg, we learn what club coaching means and how to make it a successful experience.
Q: Vanessa, how long you’ve been a Toastmaster and which club?
I belong to two clubs, Sagebrush Sayers and Reno Storytellers, for over 5 years.
Q: How did you get involved in club coaching?
In 2015, I coached the “We the People” political topics club. Their membership had dropped to just 8 members and they were in danger of disbanding. I was Area Governor at the time and stepped up to help out. I also enjoyed the club because of my interest in politics. My mother used to bring me to political events when I was a child, and at 18 years old I was the youngest delegate at the 1992 Republican National Convention.
Q: Tell us about your first club coaching experience.
To get the relationship started, I first sat in on a meeting with all the officers. We discovered issues and gaps in their membership support and marketing materials. Then I attended one of their meetings. They meet at dinner time, but we agreed that members should get there early to order dinner to minimize interruptions during the meeting. I also encouraged them to stick to their schedule and not derail the meeting format with too many tangent conversations. Afterwards, I spent time training officers on their roles and the importance of follow-up. And eventually, I helped them do a successful open house and market it in social media.
Q: What are the typical challenges you experienced when coaching?
Success does not happen overnight. The members’ enthusiasm started to come back within 4 to 6 weeks. And we noticed membership really building up within 3 months after the open house. It’s not required in every situation, but I stayed with the club for a full year and visited most of their meetings.
One of the challenges they experienced was moving the meeting location too often, which can create confusion for new members. It’s better to be consistent with your location. Funny story… one night we showed up and the building was dark. Carrows had gone out of business without warning and all of our meeting supplies were inside! We went to my office a few blocks away and had a meeting anyway, but that was a first.
I’d say the toughest challenge in club coaching is trying to preserve the club’s culture while trying to get them to stay on an agenda. This is especially important for new members who see the experience for the first time.
Q: What qualities make a great coach?
Being able to recognize what is great about the club and see their strengths first. Reinforce those strengths and then talk about improvement in an encouraging way. It’s about how to accomplish more in each meeting. Improve, not replace.
The officers welcomed my assistance and did very well in following through once they saw the value in the advice. We even trained them as judges so they could participate in contest events outside the club.
Q: What was your proudest moment?
When we did their officer installation at the end of my mentoring period and they were self-sufficient. They knew what they needed to do and were excited about their roles. That was very satisfying to me.
Q: Best advice for others being asked to coach?
Learn how to adjust to what each specific club needs. First embrace how they are unique.
Q: How did coaching benefit you personally?
I was happy to get credit for my Advanced Leader Gold, and coaching was a fun growing experience outside my comfort zone. It was a great way to prepare me for a Division leadership role, and gave me a new perspective on my home club as well. I highly recommend it!