On the Facebook group I am a Homeschool Group Leader, Lesley asks,
Why is being a homeschool group leader so exhausting and thankless?
Here are some replies from other homeschool group leaders (my emphasis added).
Jennifer: Because those you are leading haven’t done it and don’t have a full appreciation for the workload. Empathy is hard to come by when a person hasn’t ‘been there.’
Some people just don’t know how to say thank you. We had a team of 5 leaders. Every semester, I gave them a small gift and thank you note, letting them know I appreciated what they personally brought to our group.
Beth: Do you have a reliable team of leaders working alongside you? That has made all the difference as I’ve been in homeschool group leadership – as president as well as a numerous other roles – over the past 24 years. Our group grew from 20 families to almost 400 families during that time. There have been tough seasons and also smooth seasons. Make sure you prioritize and try to delegate or let go of things to minimize stress where you can.
The leaders don’t plan everything, but provide the structure and administration for the group, and establish policies as needed. I started our group with 2 other moms, and we were the core at first. When we found like-minded people, we mentored them and encouraged them to use their gifts and talents for the benefit of the group. We really did find some wonderful people who saw that their own families benefited by their contribution. We worked hard to repeatedly convey the message that we all helped one another. We also have those who just want to be served, and it can be frustrating as a leader when you also “are busy” and have your own family to homeschool and care for.
Melissa: First because the workers are volunteering so you don’t always get what you need from who is willing to work for free. It can be difficult to fill all the positions with people that will work as a team, complimenting each other’s skills. Sometimes you take what you can get.
Second, you are working for a group of people that want a service. It’s not like you are all saving the whales. The parents want something. For as low cost as possible.
Cheryl: Sometimes effective leaders seem to have it all under control in a way that makes others think they’re not needed. Those who stepped in in the group took time to figure out jobs that needed doing and clearly and repeatedly asked for help. And then let people run with those jobs rather than micromanaging them.
Another difference I see is in expressing thanks. Leaders who manage teams well tend to be public and loud with praise on a regular basis—rather than criticizing often. Speaking about them to the group with thankfulness for their work, mentioning in emails or other group communication their hard work, giving out awards and certificates, etc. can help.
Darlene Cheryl, this reminded me of another problem I saw in a group that I was part of several years ago. The leader of the group was a very capable woman. Someone in another role would falter or step away, and she would fill that role. After a few years, she wanted to step away from the head position. The problem was that everyone looked at her and said, “I can’t do that!” She was wearing too many hats! Her job looked daunting. We had to break down all she did into about a dozen positions before anyone would step forward to take on any of it.
Sheri: Hmmm. Are you expecting too much? Too little? Giving too much guidance? Not enough guidance? Are you working with their personality type and not against it?
Start with your WHY. Why do you exist? What is your vision? Then work on clearly communicating that vision. People will “catch” a passionate, clear vision and buy into it. Don’t try to be all things to all people; those who have a different vision, let them go with your blessing to find or start something else. I’d rather have a small group of committed people than a large group of apathetic people.
We made our yearly planning meeting mandatory. We asked for ideas and wrote them on a whiteboard. Then I would ask who would run that. If no one volunteered, I just erased it off the board. One year our favorite event, a yearly picnic, no one stepped up and I erased it. I think members thought the board would just do it, but we did not. Everyone complained but we stood firm. That next year, it was quite simple to get a whole 5 person committee to step up and make it happen.
Also, I paid attention to who was proposing events but never volunteering. As leader, I would take them aside and have a talk.
- Are there extenuating circumstances?
- Are they intimidated?
- Sign them to assist someone else,
- give them something simple,
- discourage them from asking for events that they wouldn’t also work for, etc.
- Even someone with a chronic illness can head a field trip with no cost; they can call the facility to arrange a date, set out a sign up sheet at meetings, and call the facility back with a final number.
Sometimes they just need a little guidance.
That’s helpful advice for Lesley and maybe you too!