Toastmasters - "Where Leaders are Made" - is an organization that's been helping people improve communication skills since the 1920s. I've been a member since 2008 and always recommend it to expats arriving in the States. Weekly meetings with a group of people dedicated to developing their public speaking and presentation ability can help expats not only advance at work and be seen as a leader, it's also a good first source for budding friendships.
The following are some notes I took during a presentation by Toastmasters' past international president, Pauline Shirley, DTM.
"If clothes make the man or the woman, then certainly communications make the leader."
Leaders are Inclusive
Don't treat your teams like exclusive circles where only a certain few have access - you may be cutting off dramatically valuable and creative input from "outsiders".
Everybody likes to hear about a job well done. Some cultures are more comfortable with one-on-one praise, some delight in open recognition. Either way - mention the things that are going well and right, the things you want to see more of.
Leaders Share Energy
Positive energy, motivation, and enthusiasm makes things happen. Sometimes leaders have to find the silver lining and share the excitement so it can spill over to the team. Be that light, and if necessary, fake it 'til you feel it.
Supportive, constructive feedback works on improving the situation or task, never the person. Pointing out flaws is helpful for the end-goal, be that employee engagement or happy customers. Allow your team to make mistakes, learn from them, and help them rise to the next level.
Leaders Seek Out The Best
Especially in a volunteer organization like Toastmasters, this advice has come in handy many times. Don't wait for volunteers or give orders: approach the person you've been watching and tell them why you think they are the right person for the task you have in mind.
Leaders Use Positive Reframing
Yes, a spade is a spade. But as leaders, you receive attention, and it is important to mind your vocabulary.
Leaders Use the Phone
as well as face-to-face meetings. They don't just rely on impersonal short email messages to get things done. Every communication channel has its uses, but face-to-face - even through video conferencing - still gets the most done.
Leaders are Humble
Toastmasters is promoting the concept of Service Leadership. Coming from an attitude of "how can I help others?" rewards leaders with feelings of satisfaction and confidence. That means leaders facilitate the credit for the team, and don't take the accolades for themselves.
Image by The Old Brit, Flickr, Creative Commons License.