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Suggestion or Requirement?

Claire Bloodgood
Georgetown TX USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 1, February-March 2002, p. 6

Suggestions from an LLL administrator or support person sometimes seem to carry so much weight that they can be perceived as requirements. Suggestions and recommendations are usually relevant to a specific situation, current problem, or an individual Group’s, Leader’s, or Applicant’s needs. They may or may not prove helpful in other situations. Let’s take a look at some suggestions or requests related to Leader accreditation that have grown to look like “rules and requirements.”

All Leaders in the Group must write recommendations for new Applicants.

Reality: Co-Leaders should consult with each other about potential applications for LLL leadership and come to an agreement. If Leaders disagree about an application, the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) does expect all of them to speak up about their concerns and reasons for disagreement. The LAD appreciates input from all Group co-Leaders at the beginning of an application and throughout the Applicant’s preparation for leadership. Their insights help the LAD representative form a more accurate picture of the Applicant’s talents, skills, and needs so she can assist her preparation for leadership more effectively. Only one Leader Recommendation is required to begin an application.

All Applicants must complete learning exercises such as listening, bias, phone call, and/or concepts discussion.

Reality: Leaders and Applicants should discuss and practice Leader skills throughout orientation to LLL leadership. Various learning exercises can be helpful tools for understanding and developing active listening and other skills. While learning exercises are often sent by the LAD representative, they may also be introduced by a Leader. Or a Leader and Applicant may prefer to use another approach (or a combination) to help the Applicant work on Leader skills. Your respect for the Applicant’s needs, capabilities, and learning style can help build a foundation of cooperation and trust between you as future co-Leaders. Let the LAD representative know about your work together and how the Applicant is doing, so the three of you can coordinate your efforts.

Applicants must complete the Breastfeeding Resource Guide (BRG) with a Leader.

Reality: There are many ways to approach the BRG. Applicants may enjoy working on the BRG with other Applicants or may prefer to complete it all alone. Applicants may wish to work with a Leader or may only want help getting started. It may not be practical or desirable for Leaders and Applicants to do the entire BRG together. Some Applicants find they learn more and build greater confidence in their own abilities when they find the answers independently, consulting with a Leader only when they feel stumped. Your LAD representative will have other ideas you may find helpful.

All Applicants must hold a Group job.

Reality: Holding a Group job gives an Applicant valuable experience in Group management. We strongly encourage Applicants to take Group jobs, but we do not require it. One of the prerequisites for applying is that an Applicant “has demonstrated a commitment to LLL.” Commitment to LLL is often shown by involvement in a local Group. This may mean coming early to help set up for meetings or staying after the meeting to help clean up. It might mean coming to planning meetings and taking part in problem solving. It might mean helping out with short term projects or filling in for Group workers when needed. It might mean actively encouraging other mothers in the community to come to LLL meetings. Be sure to mention on your Leader Recommendations the many ways the Applicants you are sponsoring support LLL. Let your LAD representative know about further Group work Applicants take on during their preparation for leadership.

When an Applicant moves to another Group, her new Leaders must write recommendations before she can continue her application.

Reality: The Applicant has already been recommended for leadership and does not need to be recommended again. The LAD representative certainly needs to hear the Leaders’ insights and especially any concerns. Leader input is vital. The questions on the Leader Recommendation form may help Leaders to crystallize their thoughts; using it may be a good way to open communications, but it is not the only way to let the LAD representative know your thoughts. Other questions may be more relevant when an Applicant is already well into her preparation for leadership. Communication and collaboration between the Leaders and the LAD representative are important. Please ask the LAD representative for ideas on how you can help the Applicant and what information she would find helpful from you at this time.

An Applicant who moves in from another Group must attend an entire Series before continuing her preparation for leadership.

Reality: A move-in Applicant may want to take some time to get to know the Leaders and get settled in her new home and Group. She can continue to work on her preparation for leadership while getting used to her new surroundings. She might want to work on her reading, her personal history, and the BRG. She and her new Leaders can continue with leadership orientation as soon as they choose. If the Leaders find they are not comfortable supporting an application, it is their responsibility to address their concerns, while consulting with the LAD representative. Contacting your Coordinator of Leader Accreditation (CLA) as soon as possible when an Applicant from another Group joins your Group will help the transition go more smoothly. The Leader, the Applicant, and the A/CLA work best as a team.

A Leader must have a year’s experience before sponsoring an Applicant.

Reality: It is helpful for a Leader to have some experience leading before sponsoring an Applicant, and a new Leader may wish to take some time to be comfortable in her new role. However, when a Leader is accredited, she is fully authorized and qualified to fulfill all Leader responsibilities, including helping mothers learn about and prepare for leadership. The LAD is available to help Leaders fulfill this responsibility. Whether you are new or seasoned, the LAD has experience and resources you can draw on at any time.

A Leader must have a year’s experience before doing the Preview with an Applicant.

Reality: When there is no experienced Leader available, a new Leader certainly can do the Preview with an Applicant. Experience gives Leaders practical insights they can share with Applicants. Assuming the Applicant is comfortable having more than one Leader present (it’s up to her who is there), a new Leader can learn quite a bit from participating in the Preview along with a more experienced Leader. She can observe how the seasoned Leader guides the Applicant through the Preview situations, adds elements from her experience of helping mothers, and makes suggestions. A new Leader might do some situations with the Applicant, with input from her co-Leader. Or they might do some situations together. If a new Leader is doing the Preview without a co-Leader, she may appreciate suggestions from the LAD for ways to help the Preview to go well.

A new Leader must observe for a Series before leading.

Reality: The new Leader has already spent months observing while she prepared for leadership. She may choose to observe for a while before leading, but she certainly is not required to wait.

A new Leader must lead an entire Series of meetings as soon as possible.

Reality: While it can be a good idea to begin leading meetings as soon as possible, it is not a requirement from LLLI. A new Leader may feel more comfortable being introduced as a Leader for a month or two before leading the discussion herself. Some new Leaders begin leading meetings by being responsible for part of the meeting discussion or doing the introductions or announcements. Others may feel ready and eager to jump in and lead a whole Series right away. There is no one perfect way to make the transition. It is important for co-Leaders to know what they can expect from each other and to respect each other’s comfort levels. Good communication among Group Leaders will help make the transition go more smoothly for everyone.

Helping mothers become Leaders is covered in Chapter 5 of the 1998 edition of the Leaders’s Handbook. Other good resources are the policies related to Leader accreditation in the Policies and Standing Rules, available through the LLLI Web site ( web/FIN/PSRappend18.html) and in the contents of the LLLI Application Packet. Becoming familiar with these materials will help you understand your role more fully as you help Applicants prepare for LLL leadership.

When you have questions about Leader accreditation, your LAD representative can help clarify whether something indeed is official policy or a recommendation or suggestion that can be adapted for different situations. If it is LLLI policy, your LAD representative may refer you to written resources. If it is a recommendation or suggestion, your LAD representative can talk with you about its purpose. If you believe that it would not be useful for your situation, she can explore with you other ways to accomplish your goals. As we talk about our purposes and goals, we will learn from each other and discover more effective ways of working together. With a spirit of cooperation and understanding, we can make the experience enjoyable, enriching, and satisfying for everyone involved.

Claire and Jack Bloodgood have three sons and a daughter, ages 14 to 21. Claire was accredited in Southern California, USA in 1986. She has served in the Leader Accreditation Department in Minnesota and Texas USA. Claire is currently Coordinator of Leader Accreditation for LLL of Texas. Her interests include cooking, sewing, old books, and old music.

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