Level 5: Lessons Learned Elective Project

Level 5 Lessons Learned Project Toastmasters 101

I joined Toastmasters because my boss told me to.

How many people joined Toastmasters at the recommendation of their bosses? (Thank you, bosses!) They understand that you can make Toastmasters work for you at work. When we look at Level 4 and Level 5, we see some opportunities for you to streamline your Toastmasters progress – and projects at work.  One of these in particular is the Level 5 Lessons Learned elective project.

Lessons Learned sounds like I have to listen to people tell me what I did wrong in a project. Of course, I am NEVER wrong, so what was the point of this Level 5 project?

Ok, I’m not quite that arrogant. But Lessons Learned never caught my eye when I looked at the list of Level 5 Electives. I wanted to manage a difficult audience or give a panel presentation – so I did. Lessons Learned never even got a second look.

So I resorted to what any smart podcaster would do when faced with a challenge – I looked for someone who did the project and would talk to me about it.

I put out a call on the Official Toastmasters International Members Group on Facebook, asking if someone had done this project.

Bob Beidek answered my call. He’s a member of the Fort Worth Project Management Toastmasters club in Texas who has earned the Distinguished Toastmaster Award in the classic program. He finished his first path, Leadership Development, with this Level 5 project, Lessons Learned.

Level 5 Lessons Learned

In real life, Bob is a project manager. He’s in a Toastmasters club that focuses on project management.

I am not a trained project manager. I just like to do things – which makes me an untrained project manager. So the term Lessons Learned didn’t mean much to me – but to Bob, it’s a common practice to look back at a completed project and do this kind of review.

Looking at the introduction to the project in Pathways, I read

A meeting of this type gives you and your team the opportunity to evaluate the results of your work. By assessing feedback and applying it to future events, you enhance your growth as a leader and a communicator.

So it’s not just about pointing fingers at people? Already I’m feeling better about this project. As I read through it, I start to understand that this project title is jargon inside the Project Management world. No wonder Bob thought this was the fastest and easiest for him to do – he lives in that world.

I guess I need to stop assuming the worst about these project titles, right?

As District 10 has just announced our new conference co-chairs for 2020, I hope that those two people are willing to consider what we have done before – what worked and what didn’t.

Those annual conferences are my babies.

I have a huge investment emotionally in the conferences. I’ve chaired a conference, I’ve been a conference committee chair multiple times. But have we ever sat down and reviewed what worked and what did not and kept it as a record for the successive chairs?

I know that one person did this as a High Performance Leadership project, but I don’t know that it’s been handed down, which seems like quite a waste.

I asked Bob about

Reflect on Your Path and Lessons Learned

Every path ends with the Reflect on Your Path speech. Are these two speeches the same?

Not according to Bob. The Lessons Learned speech is very project driven – it’s based on a completed project in the project management field. Reflect on your Path is a retrospective of your Toastmasters career so far – or specifically on this path. Similar, but not the same.

This is what the Lessons Learned project is about.

I didn’t expect this project to be so big. And it is big. The project includes hosting a meeting with all of the available participants – called stakeholders – to review the project from start to finish and to learn from the successes and the mistakes made.

To manage a meeting of this type can’t be easy. You’ve got a crowd of people and you’re asking for their opinions. People may assume, as I did, that there will be a lot of finger-pointing and blame.

Toastmasters didn’t assume that I know the processes of project management in the training – thank you, TI. They’ve broken down the process and the steps so that I could lead this meeting.

There are a couple of resources for this project that I haven’t seen before – a response log and metrics log. I don’t know that you need to print them out, it seems a piece of paper with columns and headers would be enough or even a spreadsheet, but that’s just me. Especially if someone were to enter the comments on a spreadsheet that was projected on a screen – I’d probably try that if I were doing this project.

360 Degree Evaluation Resource

The 360 Degree Evaluation Resource – I’ve seen it when it was given to me to fill in for another Toastmaster, but I’m not familiar with it at all. This six page resource covers 9 aspects of a person’s skills and activities as a leader in a project. I haven’t seen this type of review before so if this is normal, then forgive me – but I thought it was interesting that the questions refer not only to how the leader accomplished their tasks, but how the team responded to the leader.  Maybe that’s obvious.

I did think this review wouldn’t be done quickly. This would require some thought – asking for examples and recommendations. Now I understand why the top gives a time frame for the evaluation – and setting a deadline for its return might be smart too.

Completing the Level 5 Lessons Learned Project

After all this work is done, then comes a speech to the club. This evaluation form is possibly the most detailed list of notes to the evaluator with nine bullet points to consider. I hear some people complain that the new Pathways evaluation forms aren’t specific enough – this one has more detail. It does revert to the standard 3 questions: excellence, improvement, and challenge. But there’s not much space to write anything because of the long notes above.

I’m on the fence with this. It does limit the evaluator’s ability to comment on the content because there’s just no room for it. But it does bring into question of what this evaluator is supposed to evaluate? Are they to strictly evaluate the speech given? Then why so many notes? The purpose statement at the top says

The purpose of this project is for the member to learn about and apply the skills needed to run a Lessons Learned meeting during a project or after its completion.

Te purpose of the project – but does that matter to the speech evaluator? The next line says

The purpose of this speech is for the member to share some aspect of his or her leadership experience and the impact of a lessons learned meeting.

Ok, so I know what the speech is supposed to be about.

Do I need to know the other details about they were doing that this speech reports?

I don’t think this is an newbie-evaluator-friendly form. If I were to give this to my evaluator, I’d put page 3 on top and ask them to focus on my presentation skills. But I’m pro-page 3. You can hear why on podcast number 24 – that’s toastmasters 101 dot net slash 24 – where I talk about the Page 3 Pledge. I ask my evaluators to circle the appropriate numbers instead of having to move back to page 2. I don’t even print page 2 anymore! But if this evaluator is to evaluate the speech, then I think getting good speech presentation skills evaluations is what I want the evaluator to cover.

How does this project relate to your career?

I do start out talking about how you can streamline your work and your Level 4 and 5 projects.

Bob pointed this out as an off-the-cuff comment in our conversation. He had just completed the required project of the Leadership Development required project in Level 5 – Manage a Successful Event. I asked if he’d done the Lessons Learned elective project on that task.

He had not. He had another project to use for the elective. But he’s a professional project manager. He has lots of these in his life and chose to do a different event.

But wow – that’s a natural combination, isn’t it?

Career Projects and Toastmasters

For those people who came to Toastmasters because of encouragement from their bosses or because they perceived their own needs – this is where you take your Toastmasters experience and apply it to your career.

Is there an event in your business that you can lead?

These Toastmasters Pathways projects don’t have to be Toastmasters projects. You can – and I think you should – take them out into the world. Make an impact with them.

I know that inside Toastmasters we have a strong sense of this is where you learn and practice these skills. And maybe taking on a career project when you’re not comfortable with your skill set means you do things inside TM until you’ve got your confidence. That’s fine.

My first High Performance Leadership project was outside Toastmasters. It wasn’t big, but it was important to a group of people who needed the work done. It affected about 30 people. That’s it.

It’s up to you, but it seems to me that if you’re in Leadership Development path, it’s logical to go from the Level 4 requirement Leading Your Team to the Level 5 required project Manage Successful Events to the Level 5 elective Lessons Learned.

I bet your bosses think so too.

Toastmasters is giving you the tools. What you decide to do with them is up to you.

These tools can change the world. So use them outside Toastmasters!

My thanks to Bob Beidek DTM for giving me his insight into the Level 5 Lessons Learned project. I couldn’t have done this podcast episode without you.

I’m still looking for others who have completed the Ethical Leadership project and the Leading in Your Volunteer Organization. If you’ve completed one or both of these, let me know through our Facebook page Toastmasters 101 podcast or contact me through the toastmasters 101 dot net website. Thanks!

Wrap it up, Kim

Every week I say that our music comes from incompetech.filmmusic.io and that Toastmasters 101 podcast is a production of Toastmasters District 10. This week, I’m going to end the podcast with a challenge to you:

Take your skills and change your world. Take the tools we’ve taught you – and make a difference.

Whatever your next Toastmasters project is – find a way to make it change the world.

See you next time on Toastmasters 101 podcast.