Tuesday, December 7, 2010

D’Utama Toastmasters Club Mentor-Mentee Workshop on 25 November 2010

Lee Wei Seong, ACG served as facilitator for the mentor-mentee workshop
Zad Datu was at the workshop and reports as follows:

The Mentor-Mentee Workshop organized by Ginger Koh, our Vice President of Membership, and led by Lee Wei Seong, ACG was held at The Rocket United Café, Jalan SS2/63, Petaling Jaya on 25th November 2010 and started 7.30pm. It is the only café or restaurant I’ve ever seen or heard of, for me at least, which has a whole row of bed, which came along with pillows and lap bed tables. The cosiness and the sense of reassurance which the café brings to us with the addition of being with the wonderful people of D’Utama Toastmasters members allowed us to let go of any sense of insecurity deluding us to fall prey and sinking ourselves into the illusion of being in the comfort of our own homes amongst our family. But, in a way, we are. Well, at least the D’Utama Toastmaster family, that is.

Among present at the meeting besides the two previously mentioned were, of course, our current President, Marcus Loi, CC, CL; Johnson Yike, DTM; Nancy Liew, ACS, ALB; Calvin Lim, ACS; Steven Lai, CC; Yap Bell Xun; Yap Ying Shuen; Hoo Sze Ling, CC; Levin Ganesaratnam; Jonathan Moh; Ruth Ting; Joanna Tong; Jamie Phuah; Nik and myself.

After the wonderful and perhaps a ridiculously-generous-amount-of-food-per-person dinner, Ginger gave out a brilliant introduction speech to introduce Lee Wei Seong, while verbally revealing to all of us of how nervous she was during the introduction speech itself – the first joke of the evening, then Wei Seong proceeded to take over the session and Socratically asking the listeners a series of questions as a means to drive the discussion. Along with his notepad and a pen in his hands noting down the suggested answers given by us, Wei Seong was also sure to make it clear that at this point we are all naked and exposed – in the sense that this is a session of openness and frankness regardless of criticism or compliments.

The B-Word
The first question or arguably the question of the day was “What is the one word which is the key to mentorship?” And the correct answer is simply, Bonding.

Leadership or Communication? Which Comes First in Mentorship?
It was made clear that the answer is Leadership. Some, at least I did, may think that communication is the foundation of leadership, but Marcus later pointed out that one still can lead others who don’t speak the same language. Leadership can be carried out by showing example, which may not require communication in the conventional sense. Preaching something you don’t do is still communicating, but definitely not leading.

Lead by example.

Don’t preach something you don’t do.

Another point which I was sure to take note is that as a mentor, one should follow the objective and expectations of the mentee. A mentor should not push your values unto your mentee. Let the mentee move at the pace he or she desires. Another point which Wei Seong pointed out, which applies for new members is to take the ASA (Assistant of Sergeant in Arms) role as the first role as it is the role which makes you obliged to communicate and interact with everyone, hence getting to know the club.

The Good in the Bad and the Bad in the Good
The discussion then went slightly off topic, out and away from mentor-mentee issues and into the topic of evaluation – the challenges of evaluating a speech which Johnson put forth. It is always a challenge for an evaluator to find the bad in the good (the weak in the strong) and the good in the bad (the strong in the weak) in a speech. If the speech ‘sucked badly’, the challenge is to convey the message that their speech ‘sucked badly’ in a way that would make the speaker come to you and thank you for it. If the speech was so impressive to the point that it seems flawless and seems to have no room for improvement, the challenge is to find the room for improvement.

The actual reason why the discussion went off track was due to a point Lee Wei Seong was bringing up. Which is also has relevance of the phrase “the bad in the good”. What is good about D’Utama Toastmasters members is the family-like closeness and comfort and bonding between us. And the bad in this good is what Wei Seong was challenging us to find. Nik hammered the nail right on the spot with the answer Wei Seong was looking for. The bad in this good was that due to this family-like relationship, we become extremely hesitant to be up front and critically frank with one another. This then led to the discussion that at times, the evaluation isn’t frank and critical enough, which later led to further discussion on this topic.

Are You Equipped To Be A Mentor?
Yes, you are!... You all are. This was last question of the evening. The point put forth by Wei Seong was “Just get to know to know the club” – the people; and the answer will be yes, you are equipped. Don’t stress yourself up too much on the technical stuff of the club, and you’ll be equipped.

The meeting ended just before 11pm, with still some fried chicken left for us to finish off. The meeting ended with one more final question for each and everyone, or more accurately everyone were asked to give one last feedback about this meeting, and we all had something interesting to share. One thing my brother, Nik and I noticed and discussed about on our way home was that Wei Seong was the only one who was not at all the slightest bit confused on who’s who between Nik and I (due to our strong resemblance), despite having to met me only once before this meeting and meeting Nik for the first time here. One last pointer I would like to include here stated by Wei Seong, which will definitely help me in improving myself as a speaker is to not look at the Toastmasters manual too objectively, because when you do, it may act as a constraint to go beyond it.