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Working Collectively with Leader Applicants

Eileen Harrison
Rennes France
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 3, June-July 2005, p. 57.

Are you busy?

Consider collaborating with Leaders in other Groups on some of the basic Leader responsibilities. There are six Leaders in our town in France and five Groups registered with LLLI. While we each have a Group for which we are mainly responsible, we work closely together, co-leading meetings and participating in joint projects. One of these joint projects is our work with Leader Applicants. We work mainly as a group, meeting for a full day once a month with current Applicants. We do both discussion checklist topics and helping practice, using the Preview and other LLL resources.

Occasionally we have separate "interested mother meetings," where we discuss THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, the concepts (separately and as they relate to each other), the prerequisites to applying for leadership, Leader responsibilities, mixing causes (and managing any similar roles a Leader might play), what to expect from an application, and other topics that would help a mother make a decision about becoming a Leader. The mothers who decide not to apply return to their usual meeting schedule: those who apply join our monthly Leader Applicant meetings.

We only discuss a few checklist topics at a time, though there is certainly some overlap. Working through the checklist takes time; our goal is to be thorough. For example, we have spent entire mornings on finances, half days on critical reading, and time discussing individual books. We also spend an hour or more on the organizational structure. This portion of an application will take additional months to complete, regardless of the speed an Applicant writes to her Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) representative. Nevertheless, the Applicants feel they are making progress. Our new Leaders confirm that they feel both well-prepared and confident in their role because of their thorough application work.

In addition to references to the LEADER'S HANDBOOK, we usually have some written resources for each topic, which can be sent to any Applicants unable to attend a specific meeting. We'd like to include a written report that can be sent to absent Applicants and to the various Associate Coordinators of Leader Accreditation, but haven't yet put that into practice.

We still spend some time in one-on-one meetings, though we find there is very little that doesn't benefit from exploring as a group. Applicants in our group work on both prepared and unprepared Preview situations. Sometimes we have enough Leaders to pair up a Leader and an Applicant in role-play situations; other times, Applicants may play both roles while the Leader circulates and listens. If they are confident enough, one pair works "publicly" in front of the others. Afterwards, we share what has been learned. By the time they are accredited, new Leaders have participated actively in most of the Preview situations. Often the same situation will come up two or three times, looking somewhat different each time.

We have spent a morning planning a mock meeting and two of the Applicants have co-led it in the afternoon, the rest of us playing pregnant and nursing mothers—dolls and cushions are useful props, not to mention real babies and children! The two "Leaders" follow up by writing a meeting report.

We have played a version of the "Breastfeeding Resources Guide" game where one team looks for the answers in THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, another in THE BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK, another in other resources such as information sheets or Dossiers d'Allaitement (a combination of BREASTFEEDING ABSTRACTS and a newsletter for health care professionals) so that we can compare them.

Occasionally, an Applicant doesn't like to work in this way, so we return to the tried and trusted one-on-one meetings. It is important to be flexible and allow each Applicant to choose a learning style that suits her. On the whole, though, both Applicants and Leaders enjoy these meetings and are eager to learn more.

Eileen Harrison, a Leader since 1977 and a member of the Leader Accreditation Department since 1990, currently runs a Toddler Group. She and her husband, Richard, have four adult sons and two granddaughters. Article submissions for "Preparing for Leadership" may be sent to Monique Kitts at 3777 Cherokee Valley Road, Ringgold, Georgia, 30736, USA; emailed to moniquek@fastemailer.com; or faxed to 253-645-2230.

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