Governor, District 94P West Africa, Toastmasters International, Dr. Mike Omotosho, talks about his life and career
Tell us about yourself
I grew up with my parents in Zaria, and I schooled in Zaria as well. My parents were university workers. My father was an academic staff while my mother was a non-academic staff of the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I studied Pharmacy. It was fun growing up. I did some little work locally.
How did you develop passion for speaking?
Growing up, I loved to speak. Whenever I spoke, I got compliments. I prided myself that I could speak well, until I discovered Toastmasters International, or would I say Toastmasters discovered me, and then I realised I could not speak as well as I thought I could. With Toastmasters, I have been able to pick more than few tips on how to improve myself in public speaking.
What was the motivation for joining Toastmasters?
I travelled out, and by the time I got back, I noticed the deplorable state of the nation. It’s obvious that we lack leadership. When people do not understand what a leader represents, it is difficult to communicate ideas to them. I realised that effective communication was the key. If we are able to communicate effectively, there will be peace and harmony, and a platform for development. We cannot talk of economy and growth when there is no peace. That is why at every opportunity, I rededicate myself to working with people to see the usefulness of effective communication.
What else do you do apart from Toastmasters?
I do quite a lot. Ever since I realised that the real essence of life is in giving back to the society, I got involved and found fulfillment. I am also a Rotarian, where we provide selfless service. I will be the district governor next year for 2015/2016 for 23 states, including the Federal Capital Territory. I run a foundation called Sustainable Healthcare Initiative, where we are on a mission to strengthen health systems using evidence based interventions that will ensure sustainable healthcare services for patients. It is a non-governmental organisation.
What are the criteria for joining Toastmasters?
The main criteria are the desire to improve your communication skills and be a better person. It is a personal development club geared towards better communication and the commitment to become a better leader.
How are the Toastmasters learning processes structured?
We have the very first set of manuals called the Competent Communication Manual. It has ten sets of speeches. The manual guides people on how to prepare speeches. After the initial ten-set speeches, they move to the advanced manuals where they can specialise in a particular area- comedy, humour, management speeches, facilitation skills, speaking to the press, etc. There are five projects in each advanced manual. People have used that and it’s worked so well for them. We have people that joined the club just to hone their comedy skills.
What have you achieved as the district governor?
We have been able to move the district from a provisional district to being a fully fledged district. We are currently leading all the Toastmaster clubs as a district, which is a feat that I am not aware any other district in its first year of formation, was able to do. We have been able to organise courtesy visits and competitions for schools.
How was Toastmasters competition organised?
The first set of manuals was compressed into a one-week programme. We drew up the advert and we had about a hundred schools that applied. We shortlisted just 10 because of cost. We had a set of four from each school. The concept was for these four sets of people to come, learn about Toastmasters and go back to form a Toastmasters club in their school. It changed the way they spoke. They learnt how public speaking works and how presentation skills could be improved in a short time.
Are the manuals self explanatory or are there experienced people who handle the training?
There are experienced people that have been Toastmasters for years, and there is no way they can be compared with someone who just joined. Experience comes in but the manuals are basically guidelines. They don’t tell you what to do but they guide you on how to do it.
How has Toastmasters International affected your everyday life?
It has left me a better person. It has improved my communication with other people. I am able to give feedback in a better way and it comes out easier. It is a way of life. I joined Toastmasters less than five years ago and I am now the first district governor in all of West Africa. It is not so much of the public speaking skills I have; I have coaches and mentors that are Toastmasters as well. I recognise that there is a gap. It is not about being better than A or B, but the real essence is in going into every Toastmasters meeting and leaving better than I came in. I apply the skill I learn from Toastmasters in almost everything I do on a daily basis.
How do you strike a balance between all you do when you assume leadership in the Rotary next year?
Before you strike a balance between two things, you accept parts of both things in order to satisfy some of the demands of each side. As a Toastmaster leader, my duty is to oversee and manage the district day to day operations including allocation of finance and human resources. My main prerogative is to build a team that will work together with me to fulfill the district’s mission. It is more of synergy.
What are the challenges you face as a leader?
Leading a team on its own is challenging, so is leading a group of volunteers. With innovation and performance-driven initiatives, peers tend to lend more of their time, treasure and talent to help achieve set goals. You must recognise that you can’t do it alone, it’s crucial to delegate but more creatively. Such delegation can indeed make you more productive by empowering the people whom you have given assignments and it also frees you up to tackle other challenges. Leadership’s essence is influence on people for good.
You are involved more in humanitarian services, what influenced that?
Altruism is the real reason we exist and that is why true fulfillment comes from giving. Givers never lack and the hand of the giver is always on top. So humanitarianism is a double-edged sword, you give to receive more, albeit selfishly, but more importantly, we give for fulfillment. Therein lies the happiness of believing that nature endears us when we reach out to others. After all, we all are poor and less privileged in some aspects.
Does the club teach how to dress?
You dress the way you want to be addressed. Forty per cent of your speech depends on how you dress because it affects the way you present yourself on stage. Apart from that, when you are giving a speech, you need to be prepared, and people need to see your passion and excitement so they can actually flow with you. Communication is not just about presentations; it’s a way of life. You communicate with everyone.
You seem to be a busy man, how do you unwind?
‘Love what you do and you will never have to work a single day in your life’ is an ageless axiom which is still very true today. I love every bit of what I do. All I do and represent is having fun while serving others.