Interview with Distinguished Toastmaster Simone Graham, Division Director K
Toastmaster Graham believes that
“Everything that you do, try to do it from a place of love.”
Why did you join Toastmasters?
I was fascinated with the tagline “Where leaders are made.” I wanted to develop my strengths as a leader and be a positive influence in the lives of others and as such I wanted to be a part of the Toastmasters program.
One of your favourite quotations is taken from Jack Welch. “Before you become a leader, success is about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is about building others.”
Why has that quotation resonated with you?
I am a leadership fanatic. Apart from Jack Welch, I also love John Maxwell. When you work on yourself as a leader, and you feel as if you are filled enough, you can start pouring into others, that it is one of the most rewarding experiences. As such, being a mentor, a coach, and a role model, who can positively impact others has been a tremendous experience for me.
How does the quotation relate to you as a Toastmaster?
When I thought about becoming the Division Director for Division K, I was taken aback because it was a brand-new Division and everybody had great expectations. I wanted to see how I could use my skills, talents and abilities to empower others.
Being a leader for Division K was a great opportunity for me to work on my leadership skills, and I found that because leadership is both communication and influence, it makes a big difference as to how you work with teams. As we know, the tagline refers to Toastmasters as the place where leaders are made.
In 2008 you founded the Reggae Children Culture Club in Jamaica, and in 2012, you were a member of the August Wolverine Rugby Football Club. How were you able to apply your Toastmasters skills to help the youths who were a part of that club?
I became a Toastmaster in 2015, as such it would have been after the two organizations were formed. One of the things I realized very early is that I had a passion for leadership. At age 21, I became the youngest President of the Excelsior Primary School Parent Teachers’ Association in Jamaica. I have also served in different roles on executive committees throughout my lifetime. In order to strengthen my skills, I had to find an organization that would focus on that kind of development in a structured manner, and that is the reason I came to Toastmasters.
What was your vision for Division K when you assumed responsibility as its first Division Director?
As you can see from my virtual background, we are well placed. It is the Cayman Islands, Jamaica and the Turks and Caicos Islands. I am grateful because one of the things I wanted to achieve was greater collaboration across the Division. I wanted all members of the Division to know that whether you are in Grand Cayman, the Turks and Caicos or in Jamaica, there is continuous support.
I remember reaching out to persons across the Division to fill meeting roles and they assisted because they wanted the opportunity to work with persons outside of Jamaica or the Cayman Islands.
Another thing that I wanted to do was to help persons understand that their voice matters and that newer Toastmasters are depending on them to provide guidance. One of the areas that I emphasized at the Club Officer training, was that members were depending on Club Officers for support in helping them to achieve their leadership and communication goals. Those were the two key things that I wanted to achieve, and I believe I have achieved them.
What advice do you have for your successor?
One of the most powerful things I can say to the incoming leader is to be your most authentic self and make sure that when you lead, you lead from a place of integrity. Do not pretend that you are not exhausted, that you do not have a lot to do and that you can take it on all by yourself. When you are not able to do everything, know that because you have built such a strong relationship with your team, they will be able to stand in the gap for you and that team is your entire Division.
What is your message to the members of Division K as the term comes to an end?
I know that we have experienced some challenges this year, but as you continue your Toastmasters journey, continue to believe in yourselves as communicators and as persons who are focused on your growth and development. It means a lot to me as a leader because what it says is that you are creating opportunities for others to benefit from the Toastmasters program.
Every time you deliver an effective evaluation, when you have quality meetings and you invite guests who eventually become members, you are raising the Toastmasters flag. You are carrying it so high by creating the environment to help others who might not have had the opportunity outside of Toastmasters.
Every time you deliver a speech, there is somebody in the audience who is waiting to hear that presentation. There is somebody whose life will be touched!