Training For Leadership

The most important qualification any man can have as a Masonic leader is working well with others. There is no surer road to having a miserable time as Worshipful Master than finding that you, and the brethren you’re supposed to be leading, simply don’t get along together. There’s no quick way to learn to work well with the rest of your lodge … it’s the hardest part of the job (but it can be the most fun).

Nevertheless, there are steps you should take to help make your tenure as Worshipful Master more enjoyable.

The Golden Rule . . .

The first rule is simple; treat others the way you would like to be treated. Call it the Golden Rule. Call it common sense. Call it anything you like, but for heaven’s sake, do it.

It’s a sad fact, that many times this basic rule of getting along with others is observed the theory, and not in the practice.

It’s easier to TALK ABOUT a brother than to talk WITH him. It’s easier to ORDER something to be done than to ASK. And it’s just human nature not to concern ourselves with WHAT OTHERS ARE LOOKING FOR … and worry more about WHAT WE WANT.

It takes a great deal of work, every step of the way. It’s the key to having others help you, and not fight you. Even when you have a disagreement with others, remember their views are important. Their viewpoint (or yours, for that matter) may not be the winning one; they deserve the same type of treatment from you that you do from them.

Etiquette in the Lodge Room …

The Lodge helps you live with this rule … it provides a basic form of etiquette that helps smooth out the rough spots.

It’s the etiquette of the checkered floor, where all are to meet on the level of equality, and on the plumb of uprightness and fair dealing, and on the square of moral actions between us and with the world outside the lodge.

The working tools are more than just so many pieces of shiny metal. They are the rules by which to live, and by which to operate your lodge.

This etiquette dictates that although the Worshipful Master may have the responsibility of seeing the lodge works smoothly, he is working for the members. They have given him the post and expect him to remember them when he makes the decisions.

The secret is this: the Worshipful Master can do only what, in the end, the rest of the members want him to do; nothing more and nothing less.

This same etiquette dictates that each person be called “Brother.” Use it frequently . . . it has a purpose and not using the title makes our fraternity something less than what it is.

Etiquette demands that each Brother be treated with friendliness and respect although sometime it would be easier not to.

Etiquette is another word for politeness. Not talking during-degree work. Not smoking (and that’s the law) during the degree portion of the meeting. And using proper titles, (Brother, W. Brother, R.W. Brother, etc.).

It means starting the meeting on time, and as Worshipful Master, keeping it on the track . . . and sometimes means “shutting down” distracting chatter.

Simply, lodge etiquette is giving every Brother his due respect, every time, automatically. It sounds fundamental, but few lodges really follow the dictates of etiquette and even few Master’s insist upon it.

Working well with others means that as Worshipful Master, you must be able to motivate others . . . if not to your personal wishes, at least about what is best for the lodge.

Paying the craft …

Why do people work in the lodge? What’s in it for them? It can’t be the pay . . . there isn’t any!

It must be for the personal reward of doing a job well … and getting the recognition of others (and themselves) of their contribution.

If we’re honest about our fraternity and ourselves, we’ll note that most of our meetings, and in fact, much of what we do, can be very routine and boring.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Nevertheless, after years and years of doing the same thing, the same way, by the same people, we all tend to lose our enthusiasm. That’s where the true Masonic leader steps in.

It’s his job to help others enjoy their lodge experience, and part of that job is helping members avoid boredom with the lodge.

Part of this is “giving them good and wholesome instruction for their labors.” The other is seeing that they’re paid-well for what they do. And that pay comes in the form of recognition.

No matter how small the contribution in time or effort a member makes, the very least he deserves is a sincere thank you.

Here are some proven ways of saying “thanks” and meaning it.

1. A personal thank you.

2. A written thank you from you to the Brother.

3. Special recognition from you during a regular meeting (I want to thank Brother Brown for helping us Saturday.)

4. A special mention of the Brother’s help in your lodge’s newsletter.

5. Write a short article for the local paper (Jim Smith headed the paint’ crew, etc.)

6. Present a special plaque or certificate to the Brother.

One of the most appreciated things that can be done for all of the brothers that are active and helping in the lodge is an annual “Recognition” night. Combined with a dinner, this is a good time for the Worshipful Master to recognize those Brethren who have given extra effort toward helping the lodge.

This is also an excellent time to recognize members who have made an outstanding contribution to the community. Simple plaques or certificates can be presented … the latter can be specially printed for the occasion.

Maintaining control …

Experience shows most people, if asked, are willing to say they will help with a particular project. All it takes is the asking. But that doesn’t mean the job will be done, no matter how sincere the brother’s promise might be. It takes management and that’s the job of the Worshipful Master.

Simply assigning, or asking for something to be done, is not enough. It’s usually helpful to take a good look at exactly what you want done. Try breaking the project into individual tasks … publicity, menu planning, serving, cleanup, program, etc.

Then try to pick the people in your lodge that have shown interest in those various areas.

When talking to a brother about doing a project for the lodge, be sure and explain the basic details, and be explicit in telling him just what the lodge needs. It often helps to write down the person’s duties, outlining specific areas for clarity if necessary. Give a definite deadline for having the job completed.

If there is to be a cost for the project, be sure and specify how much money can be spent.

If the Brother accepts, let him do the work, but before the job is completed (and while there is still for him to finish it if he hasn’t started yet), call him up and check on the progress

If it is a major project you may want the brother(s) to give a report before the lodge. If so, let him know that is what you want and ask for a written report so it can be included in the minutes. The keys to remember are:

1. Define the job.

2. Pick the right person.

3.Let him do the job.

4. Check the work, in time to make alternative decisions.

5. After it is done, review the work.

—The same methods should be used in everything the lodge does. Whether it’s planning a dinner, or putting on degrees.

Selecting the right person . . .

Every lodge has a number of Brethren who do most of the work They’re active and helping in the lodge is an annual “Recognition” night. Combined with a dinner, this is a good time for the Worshipful Master to recognize those Brethren who have given extra effort toward helping the lodge.

This is also an excellent time to recognize members who have made an outstanding contribution to the community. Simple plaques or certificates can be presented … the latter can be specially printed for the occasion.

One way out of that rut is to change some of their responsibilities. Another is to bring others into the active rolls of the lodge.

Most people have definite preferences for the types of work they like to do. A personal profile on each member, whether they are presently active or not, is a good way to develop an idea of what your different members like to do.

Try to match the job to the person, giving the most important ones to the brethren who have shown themselves capable and willing to take on “bigger” jobs.

The idea is to make work available for all who want to work … and to match the task to the Brother’s interest as much as possible.

When everyone doesn’t agree.

No matter how well you plan the year, or how you try to work with your members; the time will come when someone, or a group, just won’t agree with at least part of what you’re trying to do.

You may even come in for criticism, some of it perhaps even unjustified. Amazingly, it’s normal and, in many ways, a good sign.

It shows while the brothers raising the criticism may not agree with what you are doing, it does signify that they still have interest. Criticism can sharpen your management skills and often point out better ways to do what you’re trying to accomplish.

It’s also a sign that somewhere along the road you are a little out of step, right of wrong, ahead or behind with at least part of your membership.

The best way to handle criticism is to know exactly what they are saying, and why.

Too often what criticism we receive may come secondhand, or the problem being advanced as the criticism may not be the true reason at all.

A few minutes spent over a cup of coffee can be a valuable investment when it comes to handling criticism. Listen carefully to the person and ask questions. Find out exactly what it is that is upsetting him.

Is it something the lodge is doing, or not doing? Why does it bother him? Have his feelings been hurt is some way? What are his suggestions for correcting the problem?

You can probably change your actions to please him, but maybe you can’t, or won’t. After all, you are the one who has the ultimate responsibility for the lodge and you must make decisions that sometimes may not be popular.

Nevertheless, you can listen. If you have a good reason for doing what they are criticizing, explain it, including why and how you made the decision in question. If necessary, appoint one or two brothers to investigate the problem.

Much of the time, if not in most cases, criticism is mainly a matter of having different opinions on how to do the same thing. Sometimes, however, there is a real question about the desirability of a proposed action, or a legitimate concern about how something is to be done.

The first thing to do is to be sure that what is being done is the best for the lodge, and that it is within the boundaries prescribed by Masonic Law.

It may take a little changing or at least being willing to listen to alternative idea’s make it more palatable for most of the membership.

The key is concern, and a willingness to listen. Criticism shouldn’t be an obstacle to action, but a way to improve what you’re doing.

The immovable object.. . .

Every lodge has at least one member that can be best described as an immovable object. OR, in a more personalized vein, Grandpa Grump. No matter what you do, it will be wrong according to this fellow.

Grandpa Grump can be distinguished by his answer to every proposal . . . “They didn’t do it that way when I was Master!”

If the lodge wants to paint the wall’s green, he’ll want them painted brown. If the lodge wants to use costumes at every meeting Degree, he’ll cry “It’s against the ancient landmarks.”

He’s the lodge’s resident expert on everything. He’s the man who will raise a Federal case over a misplaced chair or a sunflower seed on the carpet. He can make life miserable for everyone, if you let him.

The first inclination is usually to ignore him … and often that’s the best policy. The danger is that he can, through his continued disagreeableness, literally drive others away from the lodge.

Grandpa Grump (and he can just as well be 21 years old as 80) is the fellow that can change your lodge meetings from a pleasant, sociable gathering to Thursday Night at the Fights.

Criticism is one thing, continuing obstructive behavior, is quite something else. Be aware of him.

The best approach is to treat him, at first, like anyone with a problem or criticism. Explain your position. Explain the needs of the lodge as you see. Ask him for his support and let him in on the planning phases.

Nevertheless, don’t let him rule you, or the lodge.

If the problem exists, a good path to follow that often works are:

1. When he complains about a trivial matter during a lodge, stop the meeting, turn to him and tell him you appreciate his concern about the problem … that you have concerns too.

2. Then tell him this is probably not the best time to raise the problem that can probably be best handled personally, by you. Tell him you will meet with him later to discuss the problem, and go on to something else.

3. By all means meet with him. It may be he has a legitimate problem and you can help solve it. More often, however, this simple method of meeting with him will take of Grandpa Grump’s need to be heard.

Letting your meeting bog down with petty arguments could turn many of your members away from attending at all. Everyone’s viewpoint is important, but sometimes it calls for a little diplomacy on your part to avoid unnecessary and disruptive situations.

Dishing it out …

Sometimes, the Master must do a little criticizing of his own. The old saying about honey and flies still applies, but occasionally the Master must “whisper Good Counsel” into the ear of a brother(s).

Almost without exception, the way to make corrections in a brother’s attitude or behavior is to follow, religiously, the five “P’s”.  Will someone log on to the site and list the 5 “P’s”?

About leader

District Deputy Grand Master Saratoga-Warren District 1998-2000; Grand Lodge Leadership Services Committee; Leadership Development Course Coordinator; Vice Chairman Grand Master's Educational Task Force; Vice Chairman Grand Lodge Child ID Committee; District Deputy Grand High Priest 14th Capitular District; Grand Master of the 1st Veil 2010; Grand Master 2nd Veil 2011; Grand Master 3rd Veil 2012 Grand Royal Arch Captain 2013 Grand Principal Sojourner 2014 Grand Captain of the Host 2015 Warren County Historical Society Board of Trustees; Queensbury Masonic Historical Society Charter Member; State Chairman Lodges & Buildings Committee Deputy Grand Master's Advisory Committee
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