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Accredit a Leader in 13 Days?

Karin Gausman
Director LLLI Leader Accreditation Department
From LEAVEN, Vol 43 No. 4, October-November-December 2007, pp. 84-85

Is it possible for a leadership application to be completed in 13 days? Yes. Should we then be trying to complete all applications in a couple of weeks? Absolutely not! The goal of the application is to accredit Leaders who have the experience, knowledge, and skills they will need to do their job with confidence and pleasure. The time needed to do this varies for each individual, based on many factors: her own experience, how long she has attended Group meetings, what she has read before applying, what application workshops she has already attended, and so forth.

At the present time, most applications seem to take about a year to finish. Is this because the required application work is so complex that this much time is necessary? We don't think so.

We believe it would be possible for many applications, including what we consider to be thorough preparation, to be completed in a significantly shorter time than what is usual now. We think this could happen with a change in expectations -- rather than a change in criteria.

Have you heard a Leader tell a prospective Applicant that an application will take a year or two? Have you observed new Applicants who take several months to begin active application work? What would happen if an Applicant who was already very familiar with LLL began her application with the expectation that it would take her about six months to finish? If she began her application with that mind-set, she would probably be able to fulfill the current LLLI Criteria for Leader Accreditation in a few months (if there are not unexpected delays caused by moves, new babies, illness, etc.). We think this would be a realistic goal in many situations. Applications often took about a year when we used postal mail for all our communication. Now that so many applications use email, telephone, and in-person work, it's reasonable to expect the length of an application to decrease significantly.

Next time you are talking with a mother interested in leadership, you might try presenting the application work as something that can probably be completed in about six months. Once that mother becomes an Applicant, you and the Leader Accreditation Department (LAD) representative can help her outline the required work and set up her personal plan for accomplishing it. Her plan will be most effective if she breaks the work into manageable parts and sets daily or weekly goals for herself. She can begin working toward her goal from the very first week she is an Applicant.

Perhaps you are remembering what all you did during your own application. Things may be different now from when you applied for leadership. Here is a list of what is required, and how many Applicants accomplish the work now:

Personal history: The goal of this is both to help the Applicant gain a deeper understanding of how her own experiences relate to LLL philosophy, and also to broaden her perspective beyond that of her own life and what she has seen in her Group. Many Applicants talk about one concept at a time (both their experience and understanding), giving that to their LAD representative as it is completed (covering, say, one concept every few days). Their personal history becomes a dialogue with the LAD representative, with frequent back and forth communication. Although most Applicants still prefer to submit this by mail or email (to take advantage of "think time" and to be able to work at odd hours which best suits their schedules), we also offer the option of histories submitted in person or by telephone or using online instant messaging.

Reading: This familiarizes an Applicant with knowledge beyond her own experience and helps her learn more about the organization she will be representing and what is expected of a Leader. What has been required is THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING (current edition in her language, which most Applicants have read before applying), the LEADER'S HANDBOOK (current edition in her language), and a comprehensive childbirth book from an LLL Bibliography (whichever bibliography is used where the Applicant lives). We have recently modified the childbirth reading requirement to focus on the purpose. We now require the Applicant to gain comprehensive knowledge about how various childbirth methods affect the start of breastfeeding and what LLL recommends. The LAD representative can explain what options might fulfill this if the Applicant prefers not to read another book or if such a book is not available in the Applicant's language.

LLL Leadership skills: These are learned by observing a Leader "in action," and through discussion with a Leader, covering the topics in the "Checklist of Topics to Discuss in Preparation for Leadership" in the LEADER'S HANDBOOK or one of the other LAD-approved checklists (ask your LAD representative about these). Many Applicants do this by participating in Applicant Workshops, or by being part of an email discussion group. An Applicant also develops knowledge and skills through her participation in the LLL Group (both during meetings and with "behind the scenes" Group management).

Breastfeeding management knowledge: This is covered by the Applicant's working through the Breastfeeding Resource Guide (BRG), if available in her language. If she already has extensive knowledge, she will no doubt be able to familiarize herself quickly with LLL recommendations, thus completing the BRG in a short time. Some Applicants work on the BRG together using email. Sometimes workshops or Area Conferences have sessions to accomplish BRG work.

Practice helping mothers: The Preview of Mothers' Questions/Problems and Group Dynamics/Management can be used throughout the application. Many Applicants combine Preview use with working through the BRG or talking with the Leader about situations that come up in helping calls or Help Forms (respecting confidentiality). Using the telephone for these practice sessions helps the Applicant prepare for those first calls from mothers and for leading meetings. An added bonus is that telephone calls can be done in much less time than traveling with children to an in-person meeting.

So, if you talk with an Applicant about accomplishing this work in about six months, you might explain a few sample schedules which some other Applicants have found workable. For example, a typical day's goals might be to accomplish one of the following:

  • Submit thoughts on one or two concepts.
  • Read 10 to 12 pages in the Leader's Handbook.
  • Read 10 pages in THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING from the perspective of a Leader helping a mother.
  • Look up resources for a BRG question to share with other Applicants who have looked up different questions. (Everyone shares with the group what they learned, and everyone gets "credit" for what the whole group accomplished).
  • Talk with a Leader (or email group of Applicants and a Leader) about one or two checklist topics.

If an Applicant commits to doing some application work several days each week, she will probably be able to accomplish most of the LLLI Criteria for Leader Accreditation in six months. She will be learning the valuable skill of working in "bits and snatches" to fulfill a commitment, and that's the way she will most likely accomplish leadership responsibilities later. You will have the pleasure of working with a co-Leader who has learned how to weave commitment to LLL into her life, and she will have the enormous satisfaction of being accredited while her enthusiasm is still fresh.

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