Despite having 10 years of corporate life under my belt from my career beginnings, I’m about as tightly structured as a caftan. (Which is, for the uninitiated, not very.)
So why do I find myself taking on more and more responsibility in Toastmasters, one of the most structured, hierarchical organizations in existence today?
Quite simply, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. No, I’m not thrilled with their predilection for parliamentary procedure. But the opportunity to practice communication and leadership skills is unparalleled at that price point (YMMV, but low, overall–international dues are just $27 per six-month term.)
If you had told me 10 years ago that I’d sign on as president of a club, I’d have laughed: I was an individualist, a lone eagle, with no use for groups. Hell, if you’d told me 10 months ago that I’d sign on to assist struggling clubs in shoring up their membership, I’d have laughed even harder: I was in this to improve my skills, not those of a group of strangers.
But over a year into the proposition, I am seeing the value of collaboration in new ways. Yes, many of us choose to work outside traditional corporate structures. It doesn’t mean those structures can’t benefit us in other ways, and that we can’t add to the equation with our hard-won, lone-eagle skills. I’ve been able to extract a good deal of benefit from my affiliation; I feel equally fortunate to be able to "infect" the other side with some of the improvisational skills I’ve learned from flying solo.
If nothing else, it’s a good reminder that most of the world doesn’t live the way we do. And how useful can we be to our clients if we lose touch with their day-to-day world.
Do you keep a hand in the corporate world? Have you found it useful in ways you didn’t expect? I’d love to hear of similar–or different–experiences.