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Helping an Applicant Learn about Leading a Meeting

Karin Gausman
Billings MT USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 4, August-September 2003, p. 93.

Before applying for LLL leadership, a member attends at least a Series of Meetings (where available), which begins her introduction to the way Leaders facilitate a meeting. Before applying for leadership, she may have attended meetings mostly for her own support and may have been thinking primarily about what she, as a mother, would say or ask. Once she is an Applicant, she will begin shifting her attention to the way a Leader supports other mothers in the meeting setting. How can a Leader help an Applicant make this transition? The following are some ideas to choose from.

A Leader might ask the Associate/Coor- dinator of Leader Accreditation (A/CLA) she is working with to send her and the Applicant copies of the Listening Exercise. This helps an Applicant learn leading skills by asking her to discuss her specific observations from a meeting with a Leader (if possible, a Leader other than the one who led the meeting). The Applicant notes what mothers say at the meeting, how others react, what the Leader says. She talks with the Leader about what was helpful to mothers and what might have been modified to be more helpful. She can use this exercise several times or keep the ideas in mind whenever she attends a meeting.

An Applicant might plan a Series Meeting that you (or another Leader) lead. You’ll find information about this on page 144-145 in the Leader’s Handbook (2003 edition). The Applicant could talk with you about the pros and cons of various options. Watching how the meeting plan unfolds, noting what worked and what needed to be changed, will give the Applicant valuable insight. She might want to use the Listening Exercise at a meeting she planned.

An Applicant will be better able to respond respectfully (especially to comments that conflict with her own strong feelings) if she thinks ahead of time about the kinds of remarks that might challenge her. She might talk with you about common issues in your location, ones that have been difficult for you and/or other Leaders to respond to. The A/CLA can give you suggestions and ideas for discussing this topic with an Applicant.You might want to refer the Applicant to a Leaven article such as, "Helping Mothers When You Have Strong Feelings About Their Choices," December 1998-January 1999 or "Counseling Challenges: Helping Mothers Handle Conflicting Information," April-May 1998.

Working on the "Group Dynamics/ Management" section of the Preview can help the Applicant think in advance how she might respond to sensitive situations. You might set up a "mock meeting" with Leaders and Applicants only, to role-play a Series Meeting. Applicants could play the part of "Leaders," responding to comments (from the Preview) that "mothers" (played by Leaders) would make at the meeting.

Although an Applicant cannot lead a Series Meeting until she is accredited, she can gain experience guiding a group discussion by leading Evaluation or Enrichment Meetings. This can also give her opportunity to plan a meeting and think about any visual aids or resources she might use. She can see what works well to elicit participation from the mothers (who probably also attend the Group’s Series Meetings). She might be called upon to respond to situations such as a mother who monopolizes the conversation, toddlers at meetings, or a mother giving incorrect information. She may want to talk with you first about some of the Group Dynamics/Management situations from the Preview, to be prepared for those kinds of challenges.

Some Applicants worry about public speaking. Explain that Series Meetings are more effective when mothers do most of the talking. You might share the Leaven article, "The Introspective Leader: Letting Your Voice Be Heard at Meetings," April-May 1998.

Talking about an upcoming fundraiser, or giving a book report about a recent Library addition are ways nervous Applicants can practice public speaking at Series Meetings.

How about discussing ahead of time how she could practice speaking "like a Leader" at upcoming Series Meetings? You could explain collective phrasing ("Many mothers have found ‘The Womanly Art suggests…’"), giving empathetic responses and clarifying questions, and suggest she try adding those kinds of comments to meetings.

You might ask the Applicant if there is any particular aspect of leading meetings that concerns her. Then, the two of you (and the A/CLA) can find ways for her to practice until she feels confident about this aspect of leadership.

Karin Gausman has been a Leader for 28 years. She has three children and three grandchildren, and is serving as Associate Director of Regional Administrators of Leader Accreditation (ADRALA) for the US Western Division (USWD). This article originally appeared in the Area Leaders Letter, Northern LLLights, Spring 2003. Monique Kitts is the Contributing Editor for "Preparing for Leadership." She has been a Leader for eight years and lives in Ringgold, Georgia, USA, with her husband, Aaron, and three children, Molly (11), and fraternal twins Andrew and Logan (7). She is also Regional Administrator of Leader Accreditation for the Southern Region, EUS.

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