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Smoothing the Transition from Leader Applicant to Leader

Jacquie Nutt
Harare, Zimbabwe, Africa
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 33 No. 5, October-November 1997, pp. 103

The time is at hand. The Leader Applicant you have been working with is about to be accredited as a Leader. So many possibilities lie ahead for your Group! Where do you begin dividing Group responsibilities, sharing Group joys and helping mothers?

Does the new Leader lead the next series of meetings; put her telephone number on all the posters; take responsibility for the Group Library, stationery and all the stock so you can take a break? Or do you know the Group best so only you can do the job properly? Would you prefer the new Leader to participate only when you're unavailable? Some Leaders may have to suppress their expression of relief to have help with the Group, while others will have to learn how to let go of responsibilities.

Both Leader and new Leader will be making a transition; both need to be involved in planning it. While you can assess your own attitude toward the change and plan accordingly, the Applicant is the best person to decide how she wants her part to go. Perhaps one of the Preview meetings would be a good time to make some definite plans.

A Leader Is a Leader Is a Leader

Once a Leader Applicant has signed and returned her Statement of Commitment and New Leader Fee (and has the A/CLA's acknowledgment), she is a Leader. Because she lacks LLL leadership experience, she might need to be assured that she can always seek guidance and other opinions. It's good to remind her (and perhaps other Leaders) that she has many good ideas and may revitalize a Group with her new approach. Developing a consultative approach to Group management enables co-Leaders to benefit from each other's knowledge, experience and perspectives.

It can be hard for a Leader to "give up" the Group, especially if she has overcome difficulties to build it up to its current strength or has led without help for an extended period. Remember that each Leader has her own personality and ways of doing things. We need to respect other Leaders and value what we can learn from them. Let's aim for stimulating each others' ideas.

All Leaders have responsibility for the smooth running of a Group. You need to talk about which jobs each of you prefers, which you will take separate responsibility for and which you might like to share.

Dividing the Workload

When you discuss Group tasks, remember that a new Leader might spend a great deal more time preparing for a meeting than an experienced Leader would. Keeping this in mind will help you both decide what administrative work the new Leader will take on immediately.

It is a good idea to publicize the new Leader's telephone by putting her number first on notices and posters. In this way, she will begin receiving calls immediately and more quickly gain experience in telephone helping.

Planning for Meetings

Consider these issues as you anticipate co-leading:

Will you share responsibility for all meetings or alternate responsibility?

If you alternate, will you do it by series or meeting?

What roles do co-Leaders play at Series Meetings?

Would the new Leader prefer to lead alone at first?

If you've done exercises related to planning meetings where the Applicant helps plan Series Meetings (see LEAVEN, Nov/Dec 1992, page 88), the new Leader already has a lot of relevant experience and you've already shared ideas for meeting outlines, posters and other meeting aids. If Planning/Evaluation Meetings have not been part of your work together during the application, why not try one now?

Meeting a few days before the Series Meeting can help a new Leader feel comfortable about her plan. This is where your experience can be helpful. Remind the new Leader that she's ready for the job and that the mothers - not the Leaders - are the top priority.

Ask her if she wants to be introduced as the Group's newest Leader. While this can be an important announcement for the Group, she may not want to be singled out as a "beginner." Instead, a Planning/Evaluation Meeting might be the place for celebrating. Some Groups take this opportunity to talk about the work an Applicant does for her accreditation. This might interest others in applying for leadership or inspire other Leader Applicants to complete their applications.

Seating plans are important. Be certain the new Leader is where everyone can see her easily and you are a little out of the way. If you are across the room, you can redirect attention, if necessary, to the Leader with your eyes and body language.

You might find that people tend to count on the experienced Leader for answers. In a situation like this, you can set an example by looking to the new Leader immediately, either asking, "Lisa, do you want to field this one?" or indicating similarly with your body language. This shows that you value her knowledge. Often an experienced Leader will find herself taking over the meeting halfway through. Fight the tendency!

After the First Meeting

After the Planning/Evaluation Meeting, you might complete the monthly meeting report together to establish the habit of reporting. You are making concrete your discussions about accountability and support. This is a good time to review how this report helps the Leader and the Area support staff to do their jobs.

To help the new Leader mark the start of her new duties, I have found it useful to buy or make a pretty folder filled with a stock of stationery (some Leaders write a short note of welcome to any new mothers who were present at the Series Meeting) and blank forms. The folder can be very simple, perhaps cardboard covered with gift wrap and pockets stapled on both sides. I still have the one my co-Leader gave me several years ago.

The LEADER'S HANDBOOK has many other tips for easing the transition.

Welcoming a new co-Leader into the Group is an occasion we anticipate with joy. By including plans for it in our discussions with a Leader Applicant and beginning to develop a collaborative working relationship before she is accredited, we help prepare the way for pleasant years of co-leading.

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