A Masonic Leadership Instructor’s Rant – What I have learned in 12 years of Masonic Leadership Development

 

 

I have spent a considerable amount of time, money and effort over the last 12 years to provide education and direction to leaders of the Masonic Fraternity. There is not a day goes by that I don’t think about some topic about effective leadership and wonder how it might help Masonic leaders.

I have written hundreds of articles, designed and delivered workshops, recorded teaching videos and presented various topics at lodges, shrine temples, and other places that wanted a message about leadership. I say this not to brag, but hopefully, to give you some sense of my credibility from all my experiences and preface what I’m about to say.

So here are some observations from my experiences I believe to be some truths about leadership development for the Masonic Fraternity.

  • Everyone wants better leaders but are afraid to do the hard things to get them. What are the hard things you ask?
    1. Defining the desirable leadership qualities and capabilities they seek and then make them a prerequisite to be elected or appointed an officer.
    2. After defining what type of leader is wanted, provide training for those who desire to be leaders and make the training mandatory before serving as an officer.
    3. Spend more time on those who want to improve themselves and their leadership abilities and not on those who are unwilling to learn or believe they already possess the knowledge to lead and are unwilling to learn more.
    4. Some type of leadership training should be provided for everyone at every level. A true leader recognizes he can never stop learning.
  • Everyone wants a quick fix and thinks having people attend a seminar or workshop will fix it.
    1. Leadership education is a process, not an event. You can’t create effective leaders in several hours or even at a one-day event.
    2. If you do hold a workshop, it must be structured in such a way that its intent is to change leadership behavior and participants are presented a method they can use to do that. Also, they must understand that the success of the organization is depended on this change, and the behaviors presented are expected if they are to assume an officer position.
    3. Leadership education should be an integrated system. For example, a grand lodge leadership education program should be the same everywhere in the state.
    4. There always should be a method for follow-up and accountability.
  • A moving officer line doesn’t work if there is no systematic training regimen required.
    1. Not everyone has the skills to be an effective leader and/or officer.
    2. Those willing to serve, who could be effective with the right training, aren’t trained. And those willing to serve, who have no potential to be effective leaders, are accepted because no one else wants the job.
    3. Changing leaders every year has created a mindset of “one-year planning.” The “my year” attitude continues and does nothing to raise the level of continuing effective leadership.
    4. The “my year” syndrome also prevents us from taking the long view and creating a plan, with a well thought out agreed-upon vision. Without this, each successive leader then has his own personal view of what should be done and why.
    5. If we find leaders that can lead effectively, they should be allowed to continue to lead. So, if you have a master, grand master or head of any other Masonic body who wants to continue to serve and knows what they’re doing, let’s not stop them.
  • Positive change is desired but attempted in the wrong way- it’s haphazard, by command, without a vision or goals, uncommunicated and year-to-year.
    1. There are too many opinions on what should be done and change efforts are begun without meaningful collaboration.
    2. We should begin by agreeing on what it is we are trying to accomplish, why are we doing it, who are we trying to benefit and what the fraternity will look like when we get there.
    3. We then should stop doing things that will not lead us to where we want to be.
  • We should develop a model of an effective leadership organization, implement it and be prepared to let leaders who can’t meet our requirements fail.
    1. We should put all our efforts in to developing leaders who have the desire and abilities to lead.
    2. We should start acting like what we are: a learning organization, one that values education, one that rewards those who seek to know more about themselves and share knowledge with others.

So there you have it. Some thoughts on my experiences and what I believe needs to happen to change the fraternity’s level of leadership. I know I might anger some, shock some and receive comments like “that can’t be done,” “you’re nuts,” but those who understand effective leadership and learning organizations will get it.

Where do we start? A few lodges, grand lodges, and other Masonic related organizations have. They began a dialogue with their members, they agreed upon what was important to them and why it was. They defined what they were trying to accomplish, what type of men and leaders do they need to accomplish this purpose and answered how they will train these men to lead. Then they acted, failed, learned, reflected, adjusted and acted again. We all should do the same.

Maybe it’s time for one courageous officer, a true leader, to say to his lodge, grand lodge, shrine, Scottish or York rite body, “this coming year we will not do a thing until we agree on who we are, what we do and for whom, and how we will perpetuate our organization to accomplish our vision to improve ourselves, our lives, our communities and Freemasonry.”

I, for one, would help a leader like this. Would you? Let me know your thoughts.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

Does Your Lodge Education Program Have These Elements?

 

When the average Mason hears the term “lodge education,” he immediately thinks about the short presentation his lodge education officer makes at a stated meeting. This is lodge education, but only a very small piece of what should be included in overall organizational learning.

An organizational education program serves a vehicle to further the guiding principles and ideals of the group. It educates its members so that they properly practice and demonstrate the values of the organization and strive, in an educated and organized manner, to carry out the organization’s purpose of achieving its vision.

The education program of a lodge should be producing knowledge to build the capacity for purposeful action to accomplish the lodge goals and moving the lodge in a measurable manner toward its vision.

So, if the purpose of organizational education is to produce meaningful knowledge to create action, then, a random, short presentation at a lodge meeting isn’t enough.

The basic elements of an integrated education program for a Masonic lodge should provide for the following:

  1. Lodge members gain a basic understanding of the history and meaning of Masonry.
  2. Lodge members gain an understanding of the beliefs, values, and lessons imparted by Masonry.
  3. Lodge members are taught a method for personal growth and mastery using the lessons of Masonry.
  4. The Brothers gain an understanding of the mission and vision of the lodge and where they may use their talents to contribute.
  5. A defined process for the acceptance, initiation, assimilation, and education of all candidates.
  6. An ongoing forum for the Brothers to exchange ideas, experience, and knowledge.
  7. A system of continual evaluation and improvement of the program.

Each of these elements requires a great deal of thought, understanding, and a large amount of hard work. Also, they may require, a very radical change in the lodge’s current culture.

I once was talking with a Past Master of a lodge who was complaining that someone at his lodge had proposed a more extensive education program. His comment to me was, “Masonry is not about education.” I knew there was nothing to be gained by disagreeing with him, so I remained silent.

Masonry is an educational process. Our job, as a Masonic Lodge, is to provide an atmosphere and a well thought out process for each man to learn and practice Masonry. A well-prepared presentation at the lodge is a start, but should not be where your lodge’s education efforts end.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

A 6-Step Million Dollar Leadership Course

Click on Worksheet to Download

These things aren’t really hard, cost anything or require specialized training or education. Click on the image on the left, download and start becoming a better leader.

1. Listen more intently to others 

Leaders can learn so much by listening to members of their team and also by listening to their followers.  Begin Listening

2. Treat others like you would want them to treat you

The Golden Rule. So simple yet it is so easy to forget sometimes. If you erred in some way wouldn’t you want someone to give you the benefit of the doubt? So before you make assumptions about a person’s behavior or jump on them for not doing something you asked, find out what caused the problem. Leaders should solve problems not create them. Treating those you lead in a manner you would want to be treated builds respect for you as a leader. Practice the Golden Rule.

3. Follow through on your promises 

If you make a promise to someone, be true to your word and follow through. As a leader this establishes trust and credibility. It also shows the person you truly care about them. Keep your promises.

4. Do something to improve your mind 

Maybe it’s reading about a subject that is completely foreign to you. Maybe it’s trying to acquire a new skill. Whatever it is, do something to increase your knowledge. Leaders should be always learning. Learn something new.

5. Pass on knowledge 

Part of a leader’s responsibilities is to be an effective mentor. Start creating a legacy for your organization by mentoring those on your leadership team. Help them excel in their current leadership roles as well as prepare for the time when they will be the leader. Be a Mentor.

6. Be an optimist 

It may be hard at times to keep a positive outlook. Start your day with something positive. Read an inspirational message, your holy scripture or listen to a motivational speech. Do something that will help begin your day with a positive outlook. Thinking positive will make the hard things easier. Start every day on a positive note.

Have a Great Masonic Day!

Why It’s Time to Eliminate Education from Your Lodge’s Stated Meetings

Last year in the Masons Lead Better Workshop “The Masonic Leader’s Trestle Board” we asked the Brothers to express their thoughts on what might constitute a “perfect lodge” and a “perfect lodge meeting.”

In the various workshops, lodge education was identified as an important basic purpose of a lodge and an essential element of a lodge meeting. However, during the dialogue, it was discovered that many lodge meetings had little or no education or, if they did, it was a short and sometimes boring presentation.

When the thought was expressed that the entire purpose of a lodge meeting was to impart knowledge, some Brothers stated they would have a problem implementing an educational based, stated meeting agenda in their lodge.

The prevailing thought seems to be is that education is an agenda item rather than what it should be; an ongoing, planned process to accomplish the purpose of a lodge. That purpose, simply stated, is to make Masons.

So rather than struggle trying to change a lodge’s ingrained stated meeting culture, why not take the education item off the agenda altogether and create a true lodge educational system regularly conducted in a separate meeting designed for that purpose.

A Proposed Educational Meeting Model – The meeting would be a called special meeting in the EA degree for the purpose of Masonic instructional education and/or further enlightenment. These education elements would be defined as follows:

Masonic instructional education

  • The progressive study of the ritual and degree lessons with emphasis on their practical application.
  • The study and dialogue of selected Masonic texts and publications.

Further enlightenment

  • General dialogues on moral, educational or personal enrichment topics.
  • Other topics as determined to be valuable by the participating Brothers.

Other elements of the meeting model:

  • The meeting will be opened and closed in a dignified and solemn manner.
  • Brothers will be dressed in a manner that reflects the importance of the meeting.
  • Pre and post gathering for general fellowship should be a part of the process if practical.
  • There should be an opportunity for men who are interested in Masonry to participate either in a pre or post meeting gathering or when the lodge is at refreshment and the subject matter permits their inclusion.
  • Education will be facilitated by Brothers who have demonstrated a knowledge of the subject matter to be presented.
  • Proper planning and consistent execution is required

This is not something that should be done on the spur of the moment but should be given careful and thorough thought.

Here are some key steps:

  • Begin with a core group of Brothers who believe in the concept and are willing to organize and develop the programming.
  • Meet and outline the topics to be covered. Consider using the ritual first and logically follow the degrees by selecting tools or lessons from each degree.
  • Once the topics are determined, select the most qualified Brother to prepare for each topic. Remember these topics shouldn’t be lectures but structured in a manner that allows for participation from the Brothers.
  • Schedule a series of meetings – call special meetings for a least six months. It will take time for this to become an expected part of your lodge and gather a following.
  • Design the format of the education meeting. Here are some suggestions:
    a. Pre- meeting fellowship – could be dinner at a local restaurant or just informal discussion at the lodge before opening the formal meeting.
    b. Opening of Lodge – make this special so that you are creating an atmosphere of something distinct and important. Consider dimming the lights, adding music and allow for a period of silence.
    c. Topic and dialogue – Again, this is not to be a lecture but a participatory exercise of education. Find Brothers who are knowledgeable and able to facilitate. Reach out to Brothers from other lodges if needed.
    d. Closing of Lodge – as with the opening, make this solemn and distinct.
    e. Post-meeting – an informal gathering may or may not become a part of evening.

All Brothers of the lodge should understand the meeting’s purpose is to use Masonry as a means to improve themselves. Everyone will be welcome to participate but with the understanding that it is anticipated that individual study outside the lodge is encouraged and sometimes may be necessary.

Even though many lodges have expanded their educational effort in stated meetings, the education element is sometimes being over-shadowed by the business of managing the lodge. Giving Masonic education its own night may just solve this problem. What do you think?

Have a Great Masonic Day!

John attends “The Perfect Lodge Meeting”

John Grogan chuckled at the comments he received when he came to work wearing a suit and tie. The IT company where he worked had long ago adopted a casual dress code so anyone wearing clothes that gave the appearance of “dressing up” brought good-natured kidding.

John didn’t care because tonight was his Masonic Lodge meeting and his dress was very appropriate for the affair. There wasn’t  time to dress one way for work, get home, change and then make it to the restaurant in time for the beginning of the meeting. And besides, the suit made him feel special and he actually found that on Lodge meeting days his attitude improved just because he looked, well…, gentlemanly.

John’s Lodge began their meeting at a local restaurant. They had long ago decided that a well-planned “Festive Board” created the atmosphere of Brotherly Love that was so essential to a successful Lodge. Besides the great food it allowed planned time for the Brethren to get to know each other, learn from each other and most importantly, laugh with each other.

It took several minutes for JT, the Master of Ceremonies, to get the Brethren calmed down so he could welcome everyone to the meeting. JT, a relatively new Mason, was appointed the MC after it was discovered that he a great talent for entertaining. His winning smile and jokes that sometime made everyone groan, left everyone laughing and wondering what he would come up with at the next meeting.

Tonight was no exception as he opened with the question; “How many Masons does it take to screw in a light bulb?” He had perfect timing as a comedian and his answer came before anyone could open their mouth’ “Twenty five; twenty four to serve on the committee to decide whether it should be changed, and one to actually change it.” The groans were loud and long but the effect was achieved; this was an enjoyable place to be.

As everyone was finishing their dinner and drinks, JT rose, thanked everyone for coming and announced that Lodge would opened in approximately ½ hour.  The educational topic would be a paper presented by Brother Sanders entitled “Using Masonry for Personal Improvement” followed by open dialogue.

The opening of Lodge was as elegant as it was simple. The officers assumed their stations with a solemn procession in a silent, candle-lit lodge room with soft, inspiring music playing. Once the officers reached their stations the period of reflection began. Each Brother was left to his own thoughts as the music continued, ended and then a short period of complete silence was observed.

The Master then opened lodge with each officer responding in a clear and serious manner, loud enough for everyone to hear but in a tone that conveyed the meaning and importance of the Masonic experience to come. The Brethren on the sidelines listened knowing silence and circumspection is an important part of Masonry.

The business matters necessary for the operation of lodge had been included in a “consent agenda” which was previously distributed to all members. This allows the Lodge to approve all items on this agenda with one motion unless a Brother requests that a particular item be presented, discussed and voted on separately. All matters regarding petitions and reports on petitions were handled individually. This particular evening there were no petitions or separate items so the consent agenda was improved and the business of the Lodge was handled in less than five minutes.

John and the Brethren listened intently as Brother Sanders presented his paper on personal improvement. Brother Sanders had recently received his Entered Apprentice degree and his paper was a required topic for every EA. The open dialogue that followed produced several useful techniques for preparing, executing and continuing a plan of personal improvement. John made note of several things he needed to review or add to his own plan. Every member has a plan; it was a requirement of the Lodge.

Each Lodge member devised a plan for personal improvement, maintained it and periodically reported their progress. The Lodge had written a template for use to devise the plan and had appointed several knowledgeable Brothers whose responsibility it was to assist each new EA. Through the degrees these Brothers would support, encourage and help after each degree to add items to your plan. After you were raised a Master Mason your plan would be finalized and you began full implementation by using the lessons of the degrees in support of your life goals, objectives and action plans.

Master Masons were then asked to become mentors for new EAs. Which, as John knew, kept each Brother accountable to his own plan as well as ensuring those men, who sought to improve their lives by Masonry, were given the proper tools.

Seeing the time for closing the Lodge approaching the Master concluded the paper presentation by congratulating Brother Sanders and thanking all Brothers for their input.

As was tradition in John’s Lodge, the Master called on one Brother at random prior to closing and asked him one question; “Brother, why are you a Mason?” In answering the question a Brother was to stand and give his Masonic Purpose Statement which he had developed as part of his personal improvement program.

“Brother Grogan,” said the Master, “Why are you a Mason?” John rose, saluted the Master and the words he had written thirty years ago flowed easily;

“I am a Mason because I recognize that no man should live his life in a random manner. He should be guided by a plan that honors his God, supports his neighbor and provides improvement for him daily. Masonry has provided this plan for me and I will live in pursuit of knowledge and understanding for the purpose of providing for my family, supporting my Masonic Brethren, and improving my community. My continued hope is that I live respected and die regretted.”

The Lodge was closed with the same elegance and dignity with which it began.

As John drove home he was elated, inspired, refreshed and truly thankful he had become a Mason. He was so grateful he belonged to a Lodge that practiced Masonry.

Have a Great Masonic Day!