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You Can Make a Difference

Nancy Spahr
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 1, February-March 2003, pp. 10-11.

What is your experience in working with Leader Applicants? Do you find that most work steadily and complete their applications in less than a year? If so, congratulate yourself for creating an environment where Applicants feel eager and energized, for investing the time to meet to discuss topics and develop skills, and for communicating effectively with Applicants and the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD)! If not, consider what you might do to help change the pattern to one of focused, efficient preparation and accreditation. You have taken a good deal of time and care to discuss the prerequisites to applying for leadership, LLL philosophy, Leader responsibilities, and the application work with the mother (see “Knowing Can Make a Difference,” Leaven, December-January 2003, and In Preparation for an Application: Leader’s Guide in the LLLI Leader Application Packet.) The Applicant filled out her application with a clear understanding of the work needed in becoming a Leader and the expectation that she could finish. You completed your Leader recommendation with the conviction that the Applicant was able and ready to get to work. Now your attitude can support the Applicant by:

• Showing your enjoyment in being a Leader; your energy and enthusiasm can be contagious.

• Encouraging the Applicant in her work by asking how it is going and if she needs suggestions or help with specific things.

• Making sure she knows that you are eager to have her join you as a co-Leader “soon.”

Your Time Can Make a Difference

The application is similar to an apprenticeship, so your active involvement is critical. In addition, the time you invest in helping a Leader Applicant prepare for leadership can bring a host of happy returns to you and your Group:

•The active Applicant provides a positive role model for other mothers. She demonstrates and communicates LLL philosophy at meetings. She puts her developing skills to work at Series Meetings by welcoming other mothers, contributing positively to discussions, and helping out with behind-the-scenes tasks such as hostessing the meeting, bringing refreshments, or setting up the Group Library.

• An active Applicant demonstrates her commitment to LLL by being a member of LLLI and by helping with Group management (for example, a Group job) or special projects.

• Working with an enthusiastic Applicant may be energizing to an established Leader and may remind the Group Leader(s) of their personal motivation for volunteering for LLLI.

Make regular time in your schedule for meetings with the Leader Applicant as soon as the application process begins (many Leaders find it helpful to do so on a weekly or bi-weekly basis). You can use this time to phone or meet with the Applicant (alone or with other Applicants), discuss checklist topics, practice skills, do exercises together, and to communicate with the LAD representative. Setting aside specific time can help you to keep your involvement a priority and provide a positive example for the Applicant.

Planning and Communication Can Make a Difference

As soon as the application has been accepted and while your mutual excitement is high, make time to get together with the Applicant to plan how you will work together. The two of you will want to consider and discuss what the Applicant already knows and what she has yet to learn.

Mothers come to the application with different amounts and kinds of information, experience, and skills. The application work is meant to build on the Applicant’s current knowledge and capabilities. She may need to spend considerable time on basic information and requirements or find that, because she already has this background, she wants to access additional resources to add to her knowledge and enhance her skills. Help her evaluate her current abilities and offer ideas for how she can reach her goals.

Ask the applicant what kind of support she would like from you. Some Applicants prefer to do much of the work on their own, while others would like more help from the Leader on projects such as the Breastfeeding Resource Guide (BRG) or specific skills they feel unsure of.

Talk with the applicant about the way she likes to learn. Does she learn most easily by reading, listening, observing, discussing, or practicing? While she will need to do some or all of these, you can assist by maximizing the opportunities for her preferred learning style. The LAD representative can be a good resource for suggestions and ideas for both of you.

Compare your individual schedules to see what are the best times to work together. Whatever your plans are, remember to be flexible to changing needs and circumstances and when to check with each other to evaluate how the plan is going.

Remember to communicate with the LAD representative. Keeping her informed about your work with the Applicant can help her avoid unnecessary topics for discussion and focus on what will be most helpful to the Applicant. LAD representatives are expected to respond to the Applicant’s written application work within two weeks of receipt.

Goal Setting Can Make a Difference

Some people feel most organized and work best when they set specific goals or a timeline for themselves. If the Applicant finds this idea attractive, she might like your help.

One way to approach goal setting could be to make a list of the various application requirements. Under each requirement, the Applicant could list specific work, exercises, or skills practice she would like to do. For example, the list might include:

• Required reading as well as other publications that you and she might think would be helpful.

• Parts of her personal history in the order she would like to write and send them. She could include space for dialogue letters too.

• The main headings from the “Topics to Discuss in Preparation for LLL Leadership” checklist that you will discuss together.

• Specific exercises or practice ideas that seem valuable. (The LAD representative is a good resource for these and may have helpful additions/suggestions for the two of you.)

The Applicant might include the BRG and Preview as their own headings or as separate items under the various major topics. She might want to coordinate certain checklist topics with specific reading and skills practice. After you both explore the various possibilities, she could begin penciling in goal dates for sub-headings.

Another tool for goal setting could be a timeline marked in months and ending at the date the Applicant would like to be accredited. Taking into consideration family needs and other commitments, she could fill in her specific goals for each month. Or she may feel more comfortable sticking with short-term lists or general goals written on a calendar.

Whatever her approach to goal setting, the Applicant might appreciate your input, ideas, and perspective. You could help estimate how much time various aspects could take, suggest resources and specific exercises, and input your schedule and availability. To be effective, goal setting needs to be realistic and incorporate regular evaluation and any necessary adjustment. Each Applicant and sponsoring Leader(s) will choose tools and goals that best help them.

With available time, a focused approach, and your strong support, a Leader Applicant can complete her application effectively and efficiently—sometimes within six months. That makes for more Leaders to help more mothers and babies sooner. What a happy result!

Nancy Spahr has been a La Leche Leader for 25 years. She has three grown children, a teenager, and a breastfed granddaughter. Nancy currently serves as LLLI LAD Director. Deb Roberts is the Contributing Editor for “Preparing for Leadership.” Send your ideas to Deb at 86 Castle Ridge Court, Chanhassen, Minnesota, USA 55317 or (email).

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