Welcoming a Move-In Leader
from LEAVEN, Vol. 33 No.
2, April - May 1997, p. 32
Nancy Jo Bykowski
Bolingbrook, Illinois, USA
We live in the age of the "global village." Multi-national corporation jobs and ease of travel make it likely that many of us will have an opportunity to welcome an already accredited Leader into our community and into our LLL Group. When this happens, it's important to communicate openly about our expectations for the Group and our feelings about working as co-Leaders.
When we hear that another Leader is moving into the area, established Leaders may experience a variety of emotions. We may be thrilled to have someone to share responsibilities and be eager to contact her or we may be uneasy about how someone new will fit into our familiar routine.
The move-in Leader may experience separation anxiety. She will miss her family and friends, her "old" Group and her "old" co-Leaders. She will be adjusting to new routines, from finding a new food store to finding a new place to keep the pots and pans. Her only ties in the community may be her partner's place of work or the military, the very organizations that may have caused the family to uproot and move. In this time of change, she may be re-evaluating her priorities and wondering whether she wants to stay involved with LLL. Or she may look to LLL for the sense of belonging that she felt in her previous Group.
These are all normal feelings. Some may leave the move-in Leader feeling vulnerable so it's especially important to communicate clearly about feelings and expectations.
When you're the welcoming Leader, don't be afraid to make the first move. If you find out about a move-in Leader ahead of time, give her a call or write her a letter. You could send her helpful information: a meeting notice, the Area Leaders' Letter, the local newspaper, a map of the area.
After the Leader has moved in, you can help ease her separation anxiety by helping her learn about the area. Offer to travel with her to Series Meetings, Chapter Meetings or other LLL gatherings. She may appreciate hearing about schools, shopping, or health care professionals who are supportive of breastfeeding. If her children are older, she may need other information.
Reach out and stay in contact with the move-in Leader. Perhaps discuss an interesting article in LEAVEN, NEW BEGINNINGS (or your country's member publication), or the Area Leaders' Letter. If you have been a lone Leader, you may particularly appreciate having another Leader to bounce ideas around with when you plan meetings. Staying available to the Leader who is new to the Group opens the door to a good working relationship.
A gift of food sends a welcome message. Breads, easy to serve snacks or a quick meal are appreciated as a family is getting settled in their new home.
Many Leaders find they benefit from a "get acquainted" meeting. It helps to learn a little about each other before the Series Meeting. When there are several Leaders in the Group, make a strong effort to get all the Leaders together for this meeting. This is a good time to acquaint the move-in Leader with details of the Group: average attendance, division of Leader responsibilities, finances and other strengths or challenges. How Groups function may vary between different communities and Areas. This diversity helps Leaders meet the needs of mothers in a way that works for them. Being clear from the beginning helps avoid misunderstandings.
Some move-in Leaders may want to jump right in with the responsibilities of leadership in the new Group. Others may want to get acclimated first. A Leader who has just moved may still be unpacking and learning her way around. She may be reluctant to take on too many duties until she is settled.
When a Leader moves into an area with more than one Group, she may want to visit several to get a feel for the dynamics and style of each Group.
One challenge Leaders may face is how to handle suggestions from a move-in Leader. A flurry of ideas may be her way of assimilating her new Group and her old Group - an unconscious way of making life more familiar. This can be uncomfortable for all Leaders involved. Established Leaders may feel that the suggestions are a criticism of the Group. The move-in Leader may feel strongly about her suggestions and may be hurt if they are dismissed.
It helps if established Leaders gently accept suggestions about "how we did it in my old Group." After all, a new approach may work just fine. At the same time, the Leader making a suggestion needs to be sensitive about how it is phrased. Getting a feel for the Group first is helpful. All co-Leaders want to feel affirmed and appreciated for the LLL work they've done in their Groups.
Helping the Group Recognize the Move-In Leader
The established Leaders can help Group members recognize the newcomer as a Leader. They can redirect questions or concerns voiced at Series Meetings to the move- in Leader and encourage her to lead meetings as soon as she feels comfortable. It may help to remind longtime members who call with a question that the new co-Leader has personal experience with a particular situation-they may not know or remember.
Pay attention to feelings and keep the lines of communication open as you welcome the Leader who moves into town. It may seem as though you're the one giving and the move-in Leader is taking for a while. That's natural. You're settled in-having long ago found a wonderful health care provider, the best local eatery and a leading style that suits you. Now is a good time to empathize with your new co-Leader's unsettled state. Nurturing your relationship with her is an investment in the future of the Group.
Now retired from LLL, Mary Balagna is pursuing a career in environmental science education. She hopes to graduate in December with an elementary education degree. Her children are now 13, 10 and 7 years old. Mary's poem originally appeared in LEAVEN, May/June 1991.
Mohrbacher, N. and Torgus, J. LEADER'S HANDBOOK, Schaumburg, Illinois: LLLI 1989; 177-8.
Hoskin, M. Leaders Who Move ... And Those Who Don't. US Eastern Division Eastern Union Jan/Feb 1980; 5-6.
Hugh, B. On the Move Again. NEW BEGINNINGS Jan/Feb 1993;4-6.
Marjamaa, M. Military Moves. US Eastern Division Eastern Union Jan/Feb 1980; 4-5.