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PERKS (Priceless and Effortless Resources Kindly Shared)

Lisa Eller
Greensboro NC USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 2, April-May 2004, p. 32.

When I first accepted a District Advisor (DA) position many years ago, I concentrated on my responsibility to the Leaders I supported. I resolutely dedicated myself to communicating promptly and consistently, and being an essential source of encouragement and information for them. These sentiments are handy in this position, but as the months rolled along, I began to recognize a serendipitous perk, one that was unabashedly a benefit for the DA. I discovered that I was acquiring a considerable amount of valuable and useful information, and all I had to do was read the Group correspondence that came to me in the mail.

I’m not referring to the statistics that Leaders provide as part of their monthly meeting reports, such as attendance records or the number of books that were sold at the meeting. While these figures are certainly essential to the ongoing management of La Leche League and I meticulously recorded them for my reports, they are only numbers and couldn’t be decoded to help me manage the Group I share with three co-Leaders. No, it takes much more than numbers to make a Group tick. So when I saw that I could take the information provided by the Leaders in my District and use it to enhance my leadership skills and my local Group, well...what would you have done?

Okay, so, I admit it. I became an information bandit and I helped myself shamelessly to the ideas and experiences of my fellow co-Leaders through the guise of being their DA. By their trial and error I learned what works well and what might not, and I only put into practice the ideas that got the best results for them.

To help me keep up with all the information I was accumulating, I created a special section in my LLL files entitled “PERKS for the DA,” or “Priceless and Effortless Resources Kindly Shared with the DA.” It seemed the greatest jewels fell into one of three categories: “Meeting Ideas,” “Group Connections,” and “Shared Leadership.”

If you’ve been a Leader for any length of time, you know how challenging it can be to conceive a new meeting idea. How many ways in how many meetings can you discuss the benefits of breastfeeding, what a mother needs after the baby arrives, or nutritional know-how, without repeating yourself or boring the Group members and co-Leaders? As it turns out, there are many ways, with the help of my perk files. Every month I received seven meeting ideas, many of which were original and imaginative. All I had to do was tailor them to the Group I was leading and—with minimum effort on my part—a new, fresh, meeting was born!

My “Group Connections” file includes several sub-files that offer ways to keep in touch with Group members. Many Leaders have found that email reminders a few days before the Group meets is a good way to keep in touch with members and to encourage a continuing interest in the Group. In addition, some Leaders have established a Group newsletter to send to Group members by email and/or surface mail. From my experience, this type of communication has made an impact on the Group’s membership, Treasury, and sense of community within the Group. A Group newsletter is optional and many Leaders may not have the time to devote to producing one. However, some Leaders have asked Group members to serve as editors, and the results have been rewarding. The Group Leaders need to review the newsletter, adhering to some general guidelines, such as following the LLLI Stylesheet, keeping its content within the realm of LLL, and including such items as the Series Meeting schedule, births, and membership promotion. (Check with your DA about review procedures for Group newsletters in your Area. She can help with proofreading for Group newsletters as well as offer suggestions for content and appearance. See pages 92, 100-102 of the Leader’s Handbook, 2003 edition.)

Sometimes a DA is called upon to help promote acceptance and understanding among Leaders in her District. It’s been my experience that a third, objective party is helpful when Leaders need assistance with conflict. Here again, LLL provides support through the Communications Skills Department and its various workshops offered to Leaders. So I really didn’t expect to be able to apply the experiences of the District Leaders to the relationships I had with my co-Leaders. I learned through them, though, that accepting the diversity of Leaders as we work together for a common purpose ends up being a strength. I’m glad we’re not all the same and we don’t all have to be proficient at everything.

LLL has always offered Leaders many ways to gather information through various resources, such as the Leader’s Handbook, Leaven, Area Leader Letters, information sheets, and the LLLI Web site. These are all part of our continuing education on how to be a Leader. Just when I thought I knew it all, I discovered one more way LLL surprises me. Little did I know how worthwhile my position as DA would be for me and my LLL education. The “PERKS” were another form of Leader-to-Leader and mother-to-mother support, and I don’t really think any of the Leaders who kindly shared their ideas and experiences with me would mind at all.

Lisa Eller has been an active Leader since 1992 with the Greensboro LLL Group (North Carolina, USA). She is a single parent of three children, ages 12, 10, and 7 and is homeschooling her 12-year-old.

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