Really! A Ribbon?


By Guest Blogger, Gill Robertson*

I joined toastmasters because I wanted to converse confidently and intelligently with others. To some degree I could do this already; after all I speak and I’m intelligent. However, the pressure to perform and be rewarded with ribbons and stickers is disheartening. It is appropriate to reward an animal with an enticement of food or a stick. It is not, should not and never will feel right to do the same to humans. The days of stickers and ribbons should long since been abandoned along with tassels on banners.

The best motivation is self-motivation, a sense of deep-rooted satisfaction and accomplishment in one’s own achievements. Real self-motivation and a sense of accomplishment are measured not by strips of fabric or bright stickers. This motivation happens when a room full of people or even a single listener who within fifteen seconds of the start of speech are listening, really listening and not only listening, but hearing the words uttered.

Similarly, only saying “good job” is patronizing for all ages. Ribbons and rewards can be just another patronizing pat on the head. “Good job” in any dialect can open up the gateways for competitiveness. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with competition but when it spills over into an assumption one club is greater than another because they have won more prizes, it’s unfair. Perhaps the playing field is uneven. Maybe members have had more years to accumulate prizes or live in the city. We are forgetting the real reasons for being a toastmaster. Individual achievement, personal growth and being part of a community where individuals together build each other up without a physical reward are among the reasons.

Constructive feedback is rewarding, it lasts longer and fuels growth as a speaker. Unlike a ribbon, it is impossible to shove to the back of a drawer. It resides in us as a personal reward. Unlike a physical reward which fades, the colours of true achievement deepen over time.


*Gill has been a member of District 64 Toastmasters almost a year.  


3 thoughts on “Really! A Ribbon?

  1. People are motivated by different things. Some ARE in fact motivated by pins etc. Others find motivation within themselves. Neither type is right or somehow superior to the other. They are different.

    For example in 1993, a friend said that she would raise the most money for M.S. in the Province of Manitoba. I took that as a challenge and it motivated me to raise more than her. In doing so I raised more than anyone else. Without the competition, I would not have bothered. It was the competition that motivated me.

    I say, keep the pins, keep the competitions, and keep the motivation. It motivates some and does no harm to the others.

    1. Was it the competition or the award that mattered most? Members can set up their own competitions: “I bet I can complete my CL manual before you do” and still get the “reward” called bragging rights. Why is it at all necessary to reward people with an object for doing what they are supposed to be doing in Toastmasters? We are not children. Having said that we sent personal notes and ribbons. We will still be handing out awards but within the Toastmasters International guidelines. These guidelines are based on market research from a worldwide perspective. The awards will be supporting our members globally as well as locally by not diluting the brand. Still, if a person does not want the awards, they can graciously and quietly return them. No offence will be taken!(A surprising number have come forward to thank us for stopping the pins, at least as many as the people who say they want them.)

  2. I would fall under the camp of people who are less motivated by pins, trophies, certificates and ribbons. That being said, I think acknowledging & celebrating member successes is a very effective motivator. The “swag” behind it has no real value to me, other than a reminder that I accomplished a goal.

    I can’t say that I know anyone that is really “in it” for the pins, lol.

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