Let’s Do This

Toastmasters Speech

OK Team! We have to get this festival ready! Heather, you and your people get 20 tables and 120 chairs from the storage, and set them up in the pub area according to this diagram. Nitish, take this list of required signage and ensure all the signs get put in place. Frasier, the perimeter and the licensed areas need to be enclosed – I need your group to get the fencing locked in place. The festival is sold out team, and it’s up to us to set up a safe and enjoyable event. Let’s do this!

Fellow Toastmasters, setting up the grounds for a music festival is a project that requires strong leadership, as I’ve recently learned by volunteering to help the set up crew at Mariposa – one of Canada’s longest running folk festivals. I wandered onto the site at Lake Couchiching in Orillia, with my water bottle, sun hat and dollar store work gloves and looked for someone to direct me. After asking around, I found the Crew Chief. The Crew Chief had finished assembling the various teams such as tables and chairs, signage, fencing, and more. Each of these teams was assigned a team leader and a set of tasks.

In issuing his orders, and in managing his crew generally, the Crew Chief used an Authoritative Leadership style. Some hallmarks of this leadership style are: a focus on the end goal, inspiring enthusiasm for the project, and giving clear directions. The Authoritative Leader tends to have more experience and knowledge than those on their team and this held true at Mariposa. Our Crew Chief had been working with the other Crew Chiefs for months and knew what had to be done, in what order and to what standard. He had been involved in setting up the festival for years. Nobody questioned his directions, and instead they got to work on their list of chores to bring the vision of the festival to fruition.

The Crew Chief asked if I had served on the set up crew before and I said that I had not. He looked at my skinny arms and never worn work gloves and told me I’d be on the team handling tables and chairs. He pointed to the woman leading that team and off I trotted to introduce myself.

This leader also had years of experience volunteering on the set up crew. Because of this, she held a vision of the end result. However, every year the plans are somewhat changed, and the directions given are not explicit. To get her team of volunteers to work together towards the end vision, this leader used an Innovative Leadership style. An Innovative Leader shares their vision, invites collaboration, and respects the creativity of their team. It’s an effective style when solving complex problems.

For example, the goal for arranging seating in the pub area is to maximize covered seating that accommodates patrons with mobility devices, patrons who prefer to sit on blankets, and patrons who prefer to stand. Some festival goers will want to eat at tables, and some will want to have tables only to place drinks on. All patrons will want to see and hear the musicians. While there were diagrams provided, they did not match the reality of the physical site. As a team we generated solutions and our team leader chose a suitable one that we could quickly implement to meet the pub tent requirements.

We found a similar mismatch between diagram and reality when we set up the Merchandise tent. The volunteer who had drawn up the diagram most likely didn’t have the dimensions of the tables or shelves to be used and it became apparent that we would have to go by our understanding of the intent of the diagram. As we were coming to this realisation, our Team Leader was asked to begin setting up another area at the same time. I offered to oversee the Merchandise Tent set up and she handed me the diagram.

I had a smaller team of volunteers available to me for the Merchandise Tent set up. They looked to me for direction as to where to place the tables and shelves. I would describe the leadership style I used for this task as the Altruistic Style. The Altruistic Style is personalized to the individual needs of the team, motivates by empowering, and utilises empathy. It’s effective in promoting high morale.

By this point in the day, I had come to know my fellow volunteers. I had noticed strengths and weaknesses in each and I had an understanding of their emotional and physical states after so many hours of working hard on a blisteringly hot day. I felt I knew who wanted to work hard and power through so they could get to the promised cold beer at the end, and who needed to be less active and to cool off a little. By naming their strengths as I explained my choices for who did what, each was empowered, the team cohesion grew, and the Merchandise Tent was completed.

The Altruistic Style is in my wheelhouse, certainly. When I did the Leadership Style quiz provided my Toastmasters, three styles shared equal top scores as preferred: Democratic, Innovative, and Altruistic. In contrast, my very lowest scoring style was Bureaucratic which explains a lot about why I was unhappy managing or being managed in the Bank!

In my opinion, it is best to understand, and to practice using each Leadership Style – even the ones we don’t enjoy. Projects, especially large projects, can require a combination of leaders and leadership styles. In our shared goal of setting up a music festival, many hands did indeed make for lighter work and the respectful and well-chosen leaders helped to keep those hands motivated and happy.

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