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Kathy Sizemore’s Journey to Leadership

The Fall of 2018 brought huge changes for our family. Our oldest left home to attend college, and my husband retired from his 30-year career. My most involved with after-school activities child, who kept my after-school hours full of chauffering, was gone. My husband, who was gone for 14 hours a day, commuting and working, was home all…day….long.

Suddenly I had a lot less to do as a mom and a full-time “assistant” to help take care of the two kids and our home. As I worked through this new season of my life, I knew I needed to work on “me” and found a local Toastmasters club to start my personal development journey. I found the Professional Women Toastmasters Club of Temecula and became a member after just one visit.

That journey has taken me to places I would never have imagined. I joined Toastmasters to get over my fear of speaking in front of others. Not only did I accomplish that goal, but I also discovered the dynamic leader that lies inside me.

I had the opportunity to serve as the club President of Professional Women Toastmasters of Temecula during the 2020/2021 year. As our club celebrates its 6th anniversary in 2022, I recently sat down with our club’s current Vice President of Public Relations, Mona Payan, to reflect on my Toastmasters leadership journey, from prospective member to my officer role, Immediate Past President, and answer a few questions for her.

What is your role within Toastmasters, and what does it do?

Currently, my role is that of the Immediate Past President, having served as club president for the 2020/2021 Toastmasters year. As Immediate Past President, I help our club officers in an advisory role. I act as a mentor, guiding them through their term in office.

What is your profession?

I am an entrepreneur, a small business owner, and a sole proprietor. I own and operate A-Bell Alarms Company, where I have been helping Temecula Valley families, and business owners protect lives and secure valuables since 1998.

How long have you been a Toastmaster?

I was a member of the Temecula Toastmasters club in my early 20s, from 1999 to 2002. I had to pause my Toastmasters journey while raising my family and rejoined Toastmasters as a member of Professional Women Toastmasters in 2018.

What brought you to Toastmasters?

After being a stay-at-home mom and a sole proprietor for almost 20 years, I found that I had “lost my voice .” Communication skills are like muscles; if you don’t use them, you lose them. The skills I had acquired during my first season as a Toastmasters member were still there but hidden under layers of dust built up from not putting myself in situations where I could use my communication skills. I had become unsure of myself, lacked confidence, and, to be honest, I was afraid of engaging in conversations with people and terrified of public speaking situations.

How have you grown or succeeded with Toastmasters in life, either at home or at work/in leadership?

Oh my goodness, is my life different since joining Toastmasters in 2018. Gaining confidence in myself has propelled me to seek opportunities I would never have imagined before. I no longer hesitate to jump in and take the lead when a situation calls for it. I have become more vocal about my business and enjoy networking with other business professionals. As a result, my clientele and revenue are growing. I have always appreciated the importance of our local city government and desired to be more involved. In November 2020, I dared to pursue an appointment to a Temecula city commission and was appointed. After establishing myself as a leader, I was elected Chair of the commission a year later. The skills I have gained at Toastmasters help me monthly when I lead our commission meetings and address our city council and city staff. Looking to my future, running for an elected office which seemed like an impossible dream for me in the past, might not be so unbelievable anymore.

What does being a female leader mean to you?

Leadership is leadership. I don’t identify myself as a “female leader”; I see myself as a leader, period. Being a woman, though, I have had to work a little harder to establish myself as a leader and prove my ability in certain areas of my life. Men have traditionally been leaders in my business industry. I have had occasions where it has been assumed that I am the company’s receptionist or secretary versus owning the company. On one occasion, I had a vendor ask to speak to someone in every position he could think of to avoid speaking to me before he tersely requested that I put a man on the phone line. When my leadership qualifications are questioned, I am grateful for the leadership experience and communication skills I have gained from Toastmasters. Toastmasters has taught me how to lead in and through any situation and present myself confidently when I communicate. Communicating with confidence, I have found, is half the battle when your authority to lead is being questioned.

Who or what motivated you to get to where you are today? Did you have a mentor? Do you have mentees now?

Because of my Toastmasters experience, I believe mentorship to be the key to success in any endeavor. Receiving advice and counsel from those with knowledge and experience in what you are pursuing equips and enables you to accomplish your pursuits. Having mentors in your life is the difference between walking into a room questioning what you’re doing there and walking into a room knowing what you’re doing there. I have many mentors. Toastmasters has taught me to seek out mentors for every area of my life, sometimes even two or three. I now have a trusted panel of invaluable mentorship providers who inspire and encourage me. I believe in reaching back and lifting up others to achieve what you have and more. I’m always open to opportunities to provide mentorship to others.

As I shared earlier, I joined Toastmasters to become a better speaker; leadership wasn’t even on my agenda. Toastmasters International’s tag line is “Where Leaders are Made .”Toastmasters is precisely where this leader was made. If you’re looking to improve yourself and even change the trajectory of your career or professional life, consider finding a Toastmasters club near you to join. If you live in or around the Temecula area, feel free to reach out to me for a club recommendation. We have several fantastic clubs in Temecula and Murrieta that I’d be happy to introduce you to.

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