Back in June 2014, the former Verity group leader of the Coventry & Warwickshire support group handed the reigns over to myself. They were some big shoes to fill, however, I was willing to take on the responsibilities.
Being a group leader is not an easy task, the role is more than just overseeing the group pages on Facebook, monitoring the Verity chat room and arranging meetings hoping someone might turn up. The role is about supporting the group members, providing information, encouraging newbies, and most importantly creating a safe place for members to chat, rant, share, comfort, cry for help, et al.
Yes, one of the hardest tasks is trying to get everyone to meet in person, it is very rare to have a full turn out of every group member as we all have personal commitments and schedules to work around, that is why I handed the responsibility of the group meetings over to the group members. Thankfully Facebook is a blessing for doing this…bring on the polling! Just by setting up a poll for members to choose a date and time, the turn out for local meetings have been very successful. Changing the venue also helps, especially when there is food is to be ordered…. Sunday lunch is always a winner.
There are times where I do struggle to find time for the group, however, I know it just takes one post to engage the members when the group seems to go quiet. You don’t need to monitor 24-7, I remind the members the page is their platform to share their experiences, delve out tips but also to let them know it doesn’t all have to be PCOS related.
Being a group leader is very rewarding, I have forged friendships with lovely ladies, ladies I probably would not have met if it had not been for PCOS. One of my longest friendships is with the previous group leader, we started our fertility journey together, chatting on the Verity website, it wasn’t until she set up the local support group that we finally met in person, and now we are permanent fixtures in each other’s lives and the other members, I even got roped into looking for a new mattress for one member…we managed to spend an hour lying on one mattress just chatting.
The thing I love most is how comfortable everyone is when we do meet even when a newbie takes the plunge to come along and meet some of the regulars. One member even commented that it is nice to talk to people with no PCOS elephant in the room, we can openly talk about weight issues, unsightly hair growth, fertility, and many of the other side effects without getting a crazy look from someone who does not understand.
I have also been fortunate to have two lovely members who have managed to engage the local hospital with the group, there is still some work to be done, however, it is great progress for the group. Handing responsibility to members is a great way for them to interact with other group members, we have even set up a subsidiary of the main support group to focus on fitness and well-being, which was a suggestion at one out meetings and is looked after by one of the members who is having to lose weight to begin her fertility journey, she has been such an inspiration for the members who struggle with their weight.
What makes a good group leader? it’s hard to define, but knowing and understanding your members is a great help when the group chat goes quiet, then you need to inspire interaction, just asking “how everyone is today?” can generate a great response. Most importantly though, it’s just being there for your members when they need you and the support from the group.