Strengthening Our Membership through Toastmasters

Naeem Akhtar Sheikh | June 14, 2019 |

As local business environments mature, and a host of new technologies come into play, the expectations of professional accountants is changing significantly. Professional accountants’ roles have shifted to be a business leader with strong financial and technical skills as well as soft skills, such as effective communication. When the IFAC PAO Development Committee met last October and discussed the future professional accountant, several attributes related to communications were cited: relationship builder, creative thinker, and influencer, among others.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) is proud of the respect its membership brings in both the domestic and international market. Its members are professionally and technically competent and required to complete several years of practical experience plus continuing professional development during their careers.

However, ICAP was concerned that members might lack some of these soft skills, which are now necessary to effectively meet market expectations. This gap contributed to serious career stagnation. Many members were technically equipped to lead their organizations but lacked the communication and leadership skills to shape and influence growth. How could ICAP pivot to support its members in this much-demanded area?

ICAP quickly realized that enhancing leadership and effective communication is not a one-time endeavor. It requires constant reinforcement and practice through a structured program with proven results.

Considering member diversity in experience and age, a classroom environment was also ruled out. Individuals would need a place outside their work environment to continuously practice. Moreover, members would need to be the main drivers and be committed to strengthening their skillset.

Toastmasters

With these needs in mind, ICAP turned to Toastmasters, the international organization that develops professionals’ leadership and communication skills. It operates in the form of clubs and is a “learn-by-doing” initiative. ICAP encouraged its members to form a Toastmasters club to raise awareness amongst new and existing members on the need to develop and enhance communication and leadership skills.

The first club was successfully initiated in Lahore, Pakistan in 2012 under the mentorship of experienced toastmasters. ICAP readily endorsed the initiative and provided administrative, marketing, and logistical support. The program was so successful that ICAP members in other cities initiated similar Toastmasters clubs. Clubs are now successfully operating in all major cities in Pakistan.

Impact

Participating members saw immense value in the initiative. They reported a boost in confidence, improved networking skills, refined performance in interviews, enhanced board-meeting management, and enriched team management and leadership skills.

Some members have gone on to complete the Toastmasters’ extensive and rigorous educational program and become Distinguished Toastmasters. Others have completed Toastmasters’ Competent Communicator and Competent Leader certifications. These individuals have in turn mentored new members within the Toastmasters program and volunteer by regularly speaking at continuing professional development events, workshops, and seminars.

The Toastmasters clubs also brings together people with unique and varied learnings, experiences, and diversity. The clubs welcome guests, including Toastmasters from other nations. Its positive impact is also being recognized by key stakeholders—the Federal Board of Revenue has approached ICAP about supporting their own Toastmasters club.

At ICAP, we cannot overstate how a new approach to life-long learning has strengthened our membership.

How is your organization supporting members to become future leaders? Please post in the comments below or get in touch with IFAC to share examples on the IFAC Gateway.

Naeem Akhtar Sheikh

PAODC Member and Past President, ICAP and SAFA

Naeem Akhtar Sheikh is a member of IFAC’s PAO Development Committee and a past President of ICAP and SAFA.

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