Annette Green, Modi’in, Israel
Writing a Series Meeting summary for your support Leader or District Coordinator (DC) is a recommended activity discussed in the Leader’s Handbook (page 85). A meeting summary can highlight the strengths and weaknesses of a Group and help to improve the quality of Series Meetings. When Annette became a DC, she noticed that she rarely received these summaries. If she gently reminded Leaders via email, a few brief meeting details would be shared one-to-one, but without being a learning opportunity for other Leaders who might encounter similar situations. Annette describes how meeting reports have been transformed in Israel to create a successful support system to benefit many Leaders and mothers alike.
In the last two years, the sharing of Series Meeting summaries has been transformed in my Area. It started when a Leader sent her meeting details to our Leaders’ email list. She included a summary of the meeting, details of some of the questions that arose, topics that were discussed, the number of mothers and children attending, the donation amount and memberships sold.
She received a warm response and more Leaders followed suit using the Leader email list as a way to share meeting information and also receive support from a wide number of Leaders. When difficult situations arose, or there were questions from mothers that required more information or research, the Leader was able to receive quick and valuable feedback. Leaders started to hear how other Leaders planned and led their meetings and were able to learn and benefit from that shared experience. Sharing our Series Meeting feedback has become an important part of Leader interaction, including healthy competition as Leaders share their statistics and exchange ideas.
Leaders have gained:
Increased confidence and experience
New Leaders benefit from reading the meeting summaries from other Groups. They can learn about potential situations in a wide range of meetings, hear how other Leaders deal with similar situations and gain confidence.
Experienced Leaders who are not actively leading Groups also benefit from reading meeting summaries. It can make them feel more included if they have become distanced by administrative or management activities and they may even be encouraged to get involved with leading meetings again.
Support for lone Leaders
We have a couple of Districts within Israel where the Leaders are spread over a huge geographic distance. Face-to-face District meetings are a challenge and most in-person interaction between Leaders takes place at our Area Conferences or Area Leader Days. Reading detailed meeting summaries from other Leaders helps these Leaders feel more involved and supported.
Acknowledgement of co-Leaders
Sharing meeting summaries provides an opportunity for Leaders to publicly acknowledge their co-Leaders and their involvement in the meeting.
Processing what happened at the meeting
Some Leaders, intentionally or otherwise, use the meeting summary as a way to process what happened at a meeting. Some meetings can be a challenge due to the number or personality of mothers who attend, the type of questions asked or personal stories that are shared during the meeting. Writing a summary of this can be a concrete way of reflecting on the meeting. Sometimes we might feel like we handled the situation well and other times we will have the chance to think about how we would react if the particular situation would reoccur.
One Leader shared that she started her Series Meeting with a 60-second-long prepared topic, e.g., the importance of breastfeeding in the first hour after birth, pumping, the father’s role in breastfeeding, or introducing solids. Sometimes these 60-second topics would spin off into more discussion. Soon other Leaders started presenting topics for 60 seconds at the beginning of a meeting. It has become a popular way to introduce a topic and share information with mothers.
We have one Leader who reads through the summaries as they are posted and collects the statistics of how many mothers attended each meeting in a spreadsheet. Collecting information for Area reports regarding meeting attendance is easier with this valuable resource.
When there is an expectation that Leaders will share meeting summaries publicly and many Leaders do just that, the DC doesn’t have to follow up with Leaders to find out what is happening with the Leader and her Group. Likewise, Leaders who are part of the Leader Department have a clear picture of Group activity in the Area.
Revealing trends in real time
Leading a Group can be challenging and the number of mothers attending can be volatile. Sharing information via meeting summaries can help identify the trends that are affecting local Groups. For example, many Groups felt a huge impact of a recent national holiday on mothers’ attendance. Leaders felt less pessimistic when they heard it was affecting many Groups and would most likely return to normal attendance levels after the holiday period.
Choice of communication
Leader communication could be via Facebook, WhatsApp groups, email lists or other methods of communication.
Decide on sharing etiquette
In this day and age of social media and email avalanche, constant messaging and notifications can drive even the most even-tempered Leader around the twist. If this is an issue in your Area, decide in advance that not every Leader will respond to every meeting summary unless she has something constructive to add. While we do want to acknowledge Leaders, we don’t want to inundate people’s inboxes too much.
Using descriptive subject lines, for example Centre Group Meeting Summary, December 2016, gives Leaders the opportunity to read or ignore emails when they are under time pressure. Email programs that group all emails with the same subject line together mean Leaders can read the actual meeting summary but ignore the follow-up comments if they choose.
Allow Leaders to decide on the length of the report
Meeting summaries in our Area vary from a few sentences to eight or more paragraphs depending on the Leader. We have never tried to limit the length. Often the more detailed meeting summaries get the best responses, since Leaders can comment on a great deal of material.
Respect mother’s privacy
We share general information about mothers, such as the age of her baby, if she has other children and any issues she may be facing, but we do not reveal identifying information in the meeting summary.
Don’t take a lack of response to your meeting summary personally
It can be frustrating to make the effort to write a meeting summary and not receive any acknowledgement for it. Trust that it is being read. Usually there are at least a few Leaders who will respond with a supportive comment so the Leader feels acknowledged.
We have found that our shared Series Meeting summaries can impact on our effectiveness as Leaders and both help and encourage other Leaders.