A Toast to ToastMasterCard - by Sandra Lizioli
ToastMasterCard Club is going from Good to Great: President’s Distinguished Club in only four years!
Congratulations to all members of MasterCard Europe’s corporate club. They are now a President’s Distinguished Club – after only four years from becoming chartered. It’s an important milestone and they are the first corporate club in Belgium to reach it - and so quickly!
The club now has over 40 members and keeps on growing. Meetings are always well-attended and buzzing with energy while both members and the management hold the club in high regard.
How do they do it? What makes this club so strong? Sandra Lizioli went to see them and found three magic ingredients.
Ingredient #1: They have fun
All members agree that one thing has them coming back: FUN. “Our club doesn’t feel like a corporate club,” says Carole Whitehurst, a founding member responsible for product training. “I love the atmosphere. Sometimes I come in with a frown but I always leave with a smile!”
Most speeches aren’t work-related so colleagues see each other in a different light. And while that’s fun, it’s also good for work:
“Our meetings allow us to meet the face behind the name,” says Carole. “When I need to get in touch with someone in a different department there’s often a Toastmaster who can point me in the right direction – it’s more effective than using the company directory!”
Ingredient #2: They build momentum
Momentum is important when you start a club. “You need a critical mass of founding members,” says Natalia Kuzmicheva, who first promoted the idea to have an in-house club after being tasked with setting up internal communications training.
Natalia worked in tandem with Agnes Tarnai, the club’s external sponsor. Agnes helped set up the first meetings, took on roles and chaired the club’s first contest. Natalia and Agnes knew that the quality of meetings makes or breaks a club. One way to deliver that quality was to invite a whole series of guest speakers who came to deliver top-notch educational workshops during the first few months.
“Once you have a critical mass of members it is important to continue growing and maintaining membership,” says Rhonda Ocha, Membership officer 2013-present. “Recruiting new employees is a good way to integrate them into the company, help them to build up their network, and of course help them to sharpen valuable communication and leadership skills. It’s a win-win-win for MasterCard, our employees and the ToastMasterCard club!”
From the very first meeting people have been enthusiastic, showed a lot of talent and a great sense of humour, were always ready to laugh and have fun. A great ambience, warm-heartedness and playfulness are the words that come to my mind when I think of the TMC club.
Agnes Tarnai, the club’s sponsor.
Ingredient #3: They Leverage the Toastmasters Network
Long gone are the times that the club needed help to run its meetings. But the members continue to embrace all the learning opportunities that Toastmasters has to offer. Cub members volunteer for leadership roles at Area and Division level, deliver workshops at Officer’s trainings and they already have a proud history of contest performances. Three club members made it to Division level in the last two contests alone!
Their active role in the Toastmaster-universe makes them not just better communicators but better leaders too. “We recruit members with the promise of improving their presentation skills but that’s not the full picture,” says Pierre-Michel Durieux, 2013-2014 Club President. “It’s really about developing our communication skills as leaders by mentoring, listening and giving feedback.”
MasterCard management has long recognised these Toastmaster benefits. Developing communication and leadership skills in the club can be part of the company’s official Individual Development Plan.
“I was the Talent Manager for Europe when I was introduced to the world of Toastmasters,” says Jan Boulanger, MasterCard Senior HR Manager. “It took me very little time to buy into the concept and become a promoter of the programme. In a nutshell, Toastmasters offers a proven and robust learning methodology for effective communication. Moreover, it creates a meeting platform for employees, regardless of level or type of position. What a great opportunity to learn from each other on so many different topics! Our local chapter is autonomously steered and managed by our own MasterCard employees. It allows them to grow and develop their managerial capabilities. What more can you ask for?”