What Toastmasters Taught Me About Teamwork

This is the next post in this series for my Toastmasters assignment – Write a Compelling Blog.  (You can read the other posts here.)  In today’s post, I talk about the lesson I’ve learnt from Toastmasters that completely debunked my perception of teamwork.

Lesson No 3

There IS an I in Team

Most people have heard the expression There is no I in Team and I realise you’re probably thinking I’ve lost the plot (or my marbles), but bear with me because my point here is that without the varying talents of the individual there would be no effective, functioning group.

When we say There is no I in Team we reinforce the belief that members of a team are not to work alone, but rather, in collaboration with others in order to achieve the desired outcome.

According to Know Your Phrase, the origins of the expression dates back to the 1960s where it was (almost always) used in the context of sports where groups of players come together as a team to accomplish a specific goal.

Over the years, in the various jobs I’ve had, over and over I’ve had it drummed into me that:

. . . when you spell the word TEAM, you don’t use the letter I.  

Or in other words, the whole is more important than its individual members, or the team is greater than the sum of its parts.

But, how can there be no I in team?  Isn’t a TEAM a group of Individuals and shouldn’t leaders consider the individual strengths of each member when bringing people together to accomplish a goal?  Heaven forbid, if you needed brain surgery, would you want every person in the theatre to be a neurosurgeon?  Maybe you would, but how would/could this delicate procedure be accomplished without the learned skills of an anesthetist?

It’s my belief (or opinion) that the strength of a group, the real sum of its parts, lies in the various skills and abilities of each individual member and I thank Toastmasters for teaching me this.

In a Toastmasters club, we come together as a like-minded group of individuals with a common goal in mind, even though specific goals can be as diverse as the members themselves.  In any club, in any city of any country around the world, you will find people from all walks of life.  Clubs are filled with busy people, and not so busy people, white-collar workers, blue-collar workers, working parents, stay at home parents, retirees – the categories are endless and their ages range from entry-level (you must be 18 to become a member) up to – well, the sky’s the limit I guess.

Members come from all different types of backgrounds, cultures, and religions and whether their motivation to join is driven by a desire to improve as a communicator or to develop leadership skills (or both), that reason, the catalyst that prompted them to join in the first place cannot be overlooked or ignored.  It’s a basic need that must be met.

Imagine joining a choral society and discovering the members sit around knitting.  You’d most likely regret joining and look elsewhere to have your need to sing fulfilled.

In Toastmasters, we are encouraged to Remember the Member* and through program assignments, education, and mentoring, the organisation strives to meet the personal needs of the individual.  Members are made to feel important, that they matter,  and I have always felt this.

I joined Toastmasters to improve my ability to speak in front of an audience and I was made to feel like the most important person on the planet.  Everything was all about ME!  Was I comfortable with my meeting assignments?  Did I know what I had to do?  How was my speech progressing?  Was I ready to be the Toastmaster (emcee) yet?  Would I like to undertake a role on the executive team?  Would I like to be a test speaker?  (The speech presented by a test speaker is evaluated by the contestants in an Evaluation Contest.)

There was help and support at every turn, there still is, and as I’ve progressed with my own personal journey, I have learnt that it is still all about ME!  It’s about me helping others, sharing my experiences, and passing forward the lessons that have allowed me to grow and become a better speaker, leader, and person in general.

After more than nine years, Toastmasters is now about me being there when someone needs advice, or when my club needs me to fulfil a role on the agenda or a vacancy on the executive team.  It’s about me assisting others to accomplish their goals.

And doing so is empowering.

By paying it forward, giving back, and being there, I know, as an individual, I am a valued member of this amazing global team, and so is every other member.

– ⋅ o ♥ o ⋅ –

And so, to the expression, There is no I in Team, I say ‘pish posh’.

There is an in TEAM.

And you need neither look hard nor far to find it.

The I in TEAM is YOU!

The Individual.


‘Remember the Member’ was the mantra of Mike Storkey, President of Toastmasters International, 2016 – 2017.  Mike is a member of my club 🙂 

Author: Clare

Ever expanding one star at a time, my cosmos is a galaxy of thoughts and creativity where you can find poetry, short stories, photography and so much more.

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