The High-Performance Leadership project or HPL as we commonly refer to it, is an action-oriented program that helps members develop their leadership skills in real-life situations outside the club. It involves leading a team through an extended period of time to achieve certain aspired goals.  An HPL no doubt lays emphasis on leadership, but its success relies heavily on effective communication too.

The suggested 5 stage structure is in fact a logical sequence that we tend to follow even unknowingly when pursuing any major task. 

1. Recruiting a guidance committee
2. Choosing an objective / Setting Goals
3. Forming an Action Team and winning their commitment

4. Implementing the plan
5. Analyzing and Presenting Results periodically

The most appealing aspect of an HPL is the freedom and flexibility it allows in the choice of ideas; the project only needs to be legal, ethical, and socially responsible. It could be centred around a community, a social cause, a corporate set-up, an art or literature initiative…, the sky is the limit.  If community service is a passion, the environment is a concern, literature is an interest, or wanting to make a difference is a compulsive urge – every one of these can be accommodated into an HPL project.

Community-Centric – “Create a haven in your balcony”

An HPL may aim to produce a long-lasting impact on a community, that continues beyond the completion of the project – Training program at a workplace, introduction to a healthy lifestyle, environment consciousness, …..

The vision and commitment of the team are most important.

Gardening was a passion and I was encouraged by my reasonable success at growing seasonal flowers and select vegetables organically, in my balcony. 

I envisioned a Dubai where flowers in a riot of colour would not only adorn public places but also spill over balconies of residential apartments. I made it my mission to create awareness about the feasibility of balcony gardening in Dubai.  

I formed a 2-member guidance committee with DTM Sujit Sukumaran and TM Vijaya Sukumar. Our fruitful brainstorming sessions helped me chalk out a clear action plan. I organized a demo on basic gardening and handed out start-up kits consisting of soil, seeds, and saplings to 23 participants.  Most of them who were first-time gardeners, though eager were also skeptical- “I don’t have a green thumb, my plants always die.”

Valuable inputs from the guidance committee led to my creating a YouTube channel where I hosted a series of gardening videos addressing different aspects of gardening. Each video set in a different balcony, generated a lot of viewership, giving more impetus to my mission.

The enthusiasm and interaction of the group on WhatsApp were inspiring.  We celebrated our success and reached out to each other for remedies for gardening problems. We constantly encouraged each other, and the group grew to 35 members.  Within 3 months there were several new balconies with splashes of colour, not just of flowers but also vegetables like spinach, brinjal, and tomatoes. 

My project being very participant dependent, motivation and encouragement were the key elements.

Impact: The interest in gardening has sustained and expanded, and the group continues to be active even after 3 years. Gardening tips, and plenty of information on plant care, composting, organic remedies continue to be shared.

For the Love of a Language – “Every night is followed by a dawn”.

An HPL could even be about organizing a single event – a blood donation drive, a fundraiser, an art exhibition, a contest, ……but the lead-up to the event is where the integral aspects of team-building and coordination come into play.

After joining Solvendhar TMC, TM Prabhakar Kesavan was rediscovering the pleasure of speaking in Tamil and interacting with like-minded people who shared his love for Tamil literature. As part of the mandatory HPL of the Persuasive Influence Path, he took on the project of organizing an inter-club event, involving members of Tamil language Toastmasters clubs across different countries.  Time zones being a challenge, he decided to restrict participation to members of 10 clubs from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and UAE (District 20 and District 105). A Debate contest in Tamil with 6 participating clubs and a Speech contest between members of 4 clubs, were judged by Toastmasters from India, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arabia. The highlights of the event were a keynote speech by renowned TV personality and public speaker Mrs. Bharathi Bhaskar, and a brief address by PIP DTM Balraj Arunasalam. 

The event held on October 30th 2020 had an attendance of over 200 members, some even from the US, and was a grand success.

TM Kesavan formed his Guidance and Action teams prudently, so that experience and potential could be tapped, the delegation was easy and there was representation from all quarters.

Guidance Committee: DTM GK Lakshmi and DTM Kausik Sarathy (from the UAE) and DTM Pon Sankara Pandian (from Bahrain)

Educational support: TM Annadatta Murali Manohar from Kuwait

Chief Judge: DTM Brahmakumar Balakrishnan from Singapore

Impact: Awareness about Tamil literature and language was created in a big way, so much so, that inspired by it, District 20, conducted an entire section of contests in Tamil at their DTAC, held recently.

Networking during the lead-up resulted in the formation of a world-level WhatsApp group of Tamil Toastmasters, paving the way for cross participation in subsequent meetings and events.

A Social Cause – Training young Syrian and Iraqi refugees in Public Speaking

An HPL that focuses on societal welfare can prove to be extremely meaningful and empowering – a program for senior citizens, assistance during disasters, teaching the underprivileged, creating facilities for the specially challenged….  

Such a project relies more on personal commitment and planning.

When DTM Muneer Michael Shawareb listened to the stories of young refugees who had fled from Syria and Iraq to Jordan, he heard in their voices, agony, fear, and frustration. They had escaped from war-torn regions leaving behind everything – homes, relatives, friends, and belongings, with the dream of creating a better future for themselves. He tied up with Collateral Repair Project (CRP), an NGO based in Amman, and with DTM Zuhair Mihyar and DTM Ruba Afanah as his Guidance Committee members, he began training sessions in Public Speaking every fortnight for the children. Many of these children had not even had schooling.

He planned the 2-hour sessions based on all that he had acquired at Toastmasters. Very soon he started noticing amazing changes in the personalities and attitudes of the children. They were able to speak with ease, confidence, and no fear. TM Muneer continued the training for a total of 33 sessions, even after completing his HPL, impacting positively over 100 kids. He had started classes for some Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian adults in the age group of 18-45 when Covid 19 struck and brought everything to a halt.

Impact: Shy, nervous and scared kids, gathered the courage and confidence to speak up and express their ideas and thoughts.  A few youngsters were even recruited by CRP to work in certain projects. His idea created awareness about volunteering and the need for it. The NGO is keen on continuing the training when life reverts to normal. A well-thought-out High-Performance Leadership project can open avenues for cultural progress, social awareness, and economic empowerment.  The skills acquired at Toastmasters, needn’t be restricted to Toastmasters-related events alone, they can and must be taken to the real world to create an impact on individuals and societies.

Sowmya Rangarajan, DTM

After being a passionate Mathematics teacher for 25 years, Sowmya is now moving on to explore other interests like blogging and photography. She hopes to engage in organic farming sometime in the future, when she returns to India.

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