From shy to confident, a story of developing leadership skills by Patti Hansen
When I joined Toastmasters 10 years ago, I could not have foreseen the improvements I would have in my work and home life. My life is exponentially better because I am a Toastmaster.
I work in the free dental clinic of a local homeless shelter. One of my duties includes mentoring the dental hygiene students from St. Petersburg College who come to clean teeth at the shelter. Our patients can be extremely difficult to treat. Some of them are veterans suffering from PTSD. Others include disadvantaged people who have never been to the dentist before.
What have I learned at Toastmasters that I have applied here? I learned that mentoring people is a necessary step in the learning process. I remember when I was an insecure dental hygiene student and that just using some verbal reassurance and positive feedback can be so beneficial. So, when I mentor the students, I practice the skills I learned while evaluating speeches; being gentle but still effective in my point of view.
I have also learned how to efficiently and succinctly describe procedures that they are learning as well as patient education. Patient education is 75% of our job and with poor communication skills, the patient suffers. I try to be as descriptive as possible in my mentoring about home care.
Another area of my work requires me to train our staff of 55 on how to handle and dispose of bio-medical waste. This is hands-on training, as well as a 20-minute presentation. Without the skills I’ve developed through Toastmasters, I never would have been able to do a presentation to a room full of people! Because of my improved speaking skills, I have the confidence to be a more effective leader at work. I feel the authority in my voice when I speak to them. My listening skills have improved, my vocabulary too with the word of the day as a grammarian.
My personal life is better too, and I credit Toastmasters for it! I am confident in conversations with my friends. I am not the shy, quiet Patti I used to be!
Patti Hansen is a member of Dunedin Toastmasters and Clearwater Community Toastmasters. She recently earned her Distinguished Toastmaster award. To find a Toastmasters Club near you, visit www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club.