Empowering leaders to achieve success with Division P Director, Joanne Schmitt

Mentoring people is like a two way street. I have learnt so much from my protégées as well as the other way round.

-Joanne Schmitt DTM

It is so easy to let organisational milestones such as the 96th Toastmasters anniversary pass by, but when such organisations have tremendous influence on the community, it is important to celebrate and acknowledge them because it reminds us of their contribution and what we would be missing out on if they weren’t there.

Joanne Schmitt, Division P Director, who has been a Toastmaster for the past five years, acknowledges that her doors have opened to a much more diverse and inspiring world since she joined Toastmasters. She attributes this to mentorship and teamwork. “’Umunthu ngumunthu ngabanthu.’ (You are because I am). That is true and that encapsulates me.  I am a member of a team. I defer to the team. I refer to them and I support them because the team and not the individual is the most important and I think that this works very well in Toastmasters.”

Joanne strongly testifies to the fact that one of the most important things in Toastmasters is that, with a mentor to guide you, your journey is enhanced so much. “Mentoring people is like a two way street. I have learnt so much from my protégées as well as the other way round,” she added. Mentoring is such an important aspect of life because whether consciously or unconsciously, we are always mentoring or role modeling for others.

The leadership role involves two main duties. A leader should act as a team member and also simultaneously as an individual to drive on the whole team. Empowering her leaders to achieve success is Joanne’s mission and she gets her motivation from her team’s achievements which include finishing their targets and achieving their professional as well as personal goals. Obviously, a leader’s success lies in her team members’ success. Division P has a total of 15 clubs in four Areas covering the whole of KwaZulu Natal which includes Durban, Pietermaritzburg and Richards Bay. Kuhle Gladman Mthembu is the Area Director of Area P1, Evelyn Alessandri leads Area P2, Leigh Lewis heads Area P3 and Limakatso Thakalekoala is the Area Director for Area P4.

As much as the true sense of purpose and dedication to Toastmasters has made all the difference, the strategist and team player in Joanne acknowledges the current challenges facing her Division, including that of member retention. “Retention is a concern so we have to build our clubs more. Membership growth is also something that has not really been prioritized in clubs and it’s so important because when something unexpected like COVID hits, you lose some members.” The current lockdown has broken the momentum and also the financial situation of a lot of people has greatly changed negatively. Then there are a few clubs that are meeting at least once a month in person but are being urged to take appropriate precautions.  Before the year is over, Joanne is hoping to charter a morning club in Maritzburg and another one in Mhlanga.

Joanne is passionate about empowering people, which she says is such a wonderful experience and she is grateful for the monthly PR Masterclasses. She encourages members that “club officership isn’t a drag but its one of the best learning experiences.” When you serve others, you get more experience from servant leadership. “If I can leave the Division better for having experienced my leadership, I will be really happy, as long as I have given it my all,” she lastly said.

Division P’s Facebook page is; Division P KZN Toastmasters Clubs