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Getting to Know Group Members

Carol Smith-Roach
Bensalem, Pennsylvania, USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 35 No. 2, April-May 1999, p. 42

Have you ever, application form in hand, invited a mother you were sure would make a wonderful Leader to talk about LLL leadership, only to find out that her breastfeeding and mothering experience was different from what you'd thought? My co-Leaders and I have learned to get to know Group members before asking them to become Leader Applicants. We accomplish this in several ways.

We listen attentively to what the mother says at Series Meetings, especially when she shares her own experiences. Does what she describes reflect LLLI philosophy? Does she suggest that there are areas of philosophy with which she disagrees? Does she refer to LLL materials and encourage others to attend meetings?

We offer the mother a Group job and invite her to attend Planning/Evaluation Meetings. Taking a more active role in these meetings and Group management helps both the Leaders and the mother see how LLL fits into her life. The mother can decide if she wants to give the time and energy to help the Group and LLL function. Both mother and Leaders have opportunities to talk in-depth about LLLI philosophy, helping other mothers breastfeed and how Group responsibilities are shared.

We talk with the mother between meetings. Through phone calls or informal get-togethers, the Leaders and the mother assess her involvement. Does she enjoy Group work and perform her job well? Is she attentive at meetings, helping to keep the discussion on topic and meet the needs of new mothers?

In time, the Leaders and the mother get to know each other. When all the Leaders of the Group agree, we ask the mother if she is interested in talking about LLL leadership. We invite her to a meeting to talk about the responsibilities of an LLL Leader, the requirements of an application for LLL leadership, and LLLI philosophy. (See Leader's Guide: In Preparation for an Application, No, 912, revised November 1998, in the LLLI Application Packet or on the LAD Web page). We encourage her to think about questions and topics she would like to talk about and bring them to the meeting.

We prepare for the meeting by reviewing the LEADER'S HANDBOOK, THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEFDING, the contents of the LLLI Application Packet, the LLLI Prerequisites to Applying for Leadership - Guidelines for Leaders and the LLLI Criteria for Leader Accreditation.

When we talk about LLLI philosophy, we use some of the suggestions in the guidelines to the prerequisites. For example, we talk with the mother about her understanding of each concept statement and ask if any are not clear to her. Does she have reservations about any of them? We ask her to tell us about how her experience relates to each concept. We talk about how LLLI philosophy is related to the work of a Leader:

  • a Leader's experience is part of the information she provides;
  • LLLI philosophy is practical and doable;
  • each Leader's experience demonstrates the role LLLI philosophy plays in her life.

If the mother's experience includes regular separation from a young baby, we look at how her experience demonstrates that she understands her baby's intense need for her presence and how she responds to meet this need. We might consider the arrangements the mother has made to lessen separation and minimize disruption of breastfeeding as well as the impact of the separation on mothering through breastfeeding.

If the mother has not experienced regular separation from a young baby and expresses strong reservations about women who do, we talk about her own experience and a variety of other experiences to see how they demonstrate this understanding and response. We also talk about how a Leader uses her personal experience in her work, including when and how to share it when helping women in situations similar to her own.

This often leads into a discussion of the attitudes and information a Leader needs as well as the application itself. (See LLLI Criteria for Leader Accreditation and Overview of Training Curriculum for Leader Accreditation in the Application Packet).

By following these simple steps we get a good idea of whether or not we want to proceed with an application. Whatever the decision is, the honest discussion about experience and what is required for LLL leadership paves the way for good working relationships.

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