Vol. L No. 10 — October 1972


Allen E. Roberts

(This seventh Short Talk in the Leadership series is based on the Masonic Leadership Training film, PLANNING UNLOCKS THE DOOR, with the permission of Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company. The script was written by Allen E. Roberts, who also produced the film. The films are available from Macoy on either a rental or purchase basis.)

"Brethren, I spent over 60 hours researching this speech. Now I'm too tired to give it, and you're too tired to listen. I'll just say that your Lodge had a glorious 150 years. I hope the next 150 will be just as glorious. Thanks for inviting me. Good night."

It was 11 p.m. when a Past Grand Master made this declaration. The festivities had started with dinner at six. The dinner was over in 45 minutes, but the Lodge wasn't opened until 8:05, 35 minutes past the scheduled time. Then the Worshipful Master had gone through the whole gambit-opening, reading the minutes of previous meetings, reading of petitions, balloting, introduction of numerous guests, all of whom had been invited to "say a few words."

Few speakers have the courage of this Past Grand Master. No matter how carelessly they are treated, they will give the speech they have prepared. And Masonic speakers are generally polite and considerate. In spite of the suffering they may be subjected to, they attempt to make the leadership look good.

A few years ago I was invited to speak at the 200th anniversary banquet of a Lodge in another jurisdiction. I spent many hours learning about the history of the Lodge and the jurisdiction. Then I put my notes together, not an easy task. The audience was to be mixed. Ladies just don't like dry, factual presentations.

The day before the event my wife and 1 drove through a snow storm to the hotel where the banquet was to be held. No one was present to meet us; there was no note awaiting us; no one called during the evening. We heard from no one.

Over 500 were present for the festivities on the following evening. The serving of the meal was delayed. The hotel staff had goofed. The remains of a wedding reception had to be cleared away before the guests of the Lodge could be seated. The service was slow. The schedule, if there was one, was off by well over an hour.

The Grand Master was introduced and spoke briefly. Then all the Grand Lodge officers, the Lodge officers, committeemen, and other dignitaries were introduced. Two young girls, under the direction of their mother, danced. A comedy team consisting of a man and woman entertained the group with smutty jokes. The laughter from the audience was sparse. I shuddered I could feel my stories being buried. A lump formed in my stomach. It grew larger as the evening wore on.

A magician followed the vaudeville team. The audience squirmed noticeably; many left the room. Some never returned. At 11:35 I was introduced. My wife whispered, "Don't say what you're thinking, please!" I didn't. I merely hit the highlights and was through in ten minutes. Even so, there was no dancing. The affair had to end at midnight.

Another Lodge honored one of its members — its only living Past Grand Master. A dinner preceded the meeting. The Lodge was opened 30 minutes late. The "program" dragged and dragged. A Grand Lodge officer turned to me and said, "What a golden opportunity for Masonry is being lost. I'll bet that over 300 of those present haven't been in a Lodge for ten years. It'll be another ten before they'll attend another." The speaker for the occasion was the Grand Master. It was almost 11 p.m. when he was called on to speak. I don't know what the honored guest had to say. I was gone long before he was presented. So were many others who had been there to honor him.

All of us can relate other examples of poor planning. That is the main reason so many members are staying away from Masonic meetings. Even when the Lodge has a good program, improper planning can ruin it. So, let's look at the first principle of leadership-planning. We'll return to speakers later.

Planning is difficult. It's easier to work with our hands. Planning involves things that we don't like to do. We have to think; we have to do paper work; we have to follow orderly procedures. The average Masonic leader would rather work with the ritual — confer degrees, teach catechisms or lectures — because these are familiar areas. They have become second nature to him. From the first day of his entrance into Masonry he has had to work with them. This can be likened to the doctor, plumber, bricklayer, and accountant who have become proficient in their trade or profession through long usage. This becomes their operative work, and is much easier to perform than is planning, or managing-using the principles of leadership.

We have determined that the principles of leadership are: PLANNING, ORGANIZING, STAFFING, COMMUNICATING, and CONTROLLING, with GOAL SETTING an all important part of planning. This was discussed at some length in the June, 1972, Short Talk, Growing the Leader. We must set goals, then constructively plan to reach them.

In the book on Masonic leadership, Key to Freemasonry's Growth, we read: "With more and more materialistic things vying for the time of man, planning has become more a necessity than ever for fraternal organizations. The lack of goals, or goals not clearly defined, and then no plans to reach them, will not be tolerated by the busy men of today. They have become used to efficiency and this is what they expect to find in the leaders of the organization."

That's a whole series of reasons for planning, but let's enumerate some other concrete REASONS FOR PLANNING:

Change, we've said before, is all around us. Some of it is good; some bad. Nothing can or does remain static. Change can be chaotic, or it can be smooth. Proper planning makes the difference. Planning is a necessity-not a luxury. Planning becomes a tool, when properly used to produce desired change and transform the organization into a vibrant structure. It takes us from the present into the future in an orderly manner. And it must be orderly if we are to improve the future. The planning we do today will affect the lives of countless individuals until the end of time. If that sounds melodramatic, think about the Holy Bible, Socrates, Plato, Pythagoras, and other individuals of centuries ago.

We want our planning to produce improvements in what we do, to stimulate the growth of the organization and the individual. We want our Lodges, our districts, our Grand Lodges to become more efficient in meeting the needs of their members.

Planning, unquestionably, builds the morale of the members. It gives them a feeling of security, makes them more confident in the leadership. Along with this morale-booster, it improves human relations. It improves the way the members work together in Teams, becoming one great Team that works for the benefit of the organization as a whole.

In this way it grows leaders for today, tomorrow, and the future. It stimulates these leaders to work with the members in selecting even tougher goals for the organization — goals — that will cause them to reach for the stars-and through participation, reach those stars more often than not.

This participation is all important. Always keep in mind that IT TAKES PEOPLE TO MAKE PLANS WORK. One way to get this participation is to hold informal "bull sessions" with those who will be affected. Bring out everyone's ideas. Kick them around as you follow these PLANNING STEPS:

Few management consultants agree on the actual order of the steps to be taken in planning, but most management experts agree that setting goals to enhance the purpose of the organization is the next critical step in the planning process. Before anything can be accomplished, there must be a goal to aim for.

This must be emphasized, lest there be confusion when you work with others in establishing goals. There is much honest disagreement about whit the goals should be called. Some believe they are "objectives" and should be called that. Others say they should be termed "roles and missions." And there is other terminology. If we know what we are looking for, we won't let the differing terms confuse us. We'll put up the target, then aim to hit it.

You won't always use the planning steps in the order in which they are enumerated. You will use other steps as well. In fact, you will use all the principles of leadership that have been discussed in these 1972 Short Talks, More Light in Masonry.

An excellent plan to follow can be found in Guide 7 in Key to Freemasonry's Growth. The Planning Guide on the opposite page, taken from the film, Planning Unlocks the Door, supplements Guide 7. Its arrows point out the importance of continually reviewing, reconciling, and modifying the goals and objectives that have been established. We will follow these planning steps in a practical example, one that you can put into action immediately.

We have established as our PURPOSE FOR EXISTENCE — To Make Good Men Better. One of our GENERAL OBJECTIVES will be a well-rounded program of Masonic Education. We have decided on this because we know that THERE CAN BE NO DEDICATION WITHOUT EDUCATION. We want to make our members Master Masons in every sense. One of our GOALS is set. We want an excellent MASONIC speaker. Our Team gets together and it will GATHER INFORMATION about speakers throughout the area-or the country, if the budget will stand it. The Team will ANALYZE the credentials of several speakers. It will FORM ASSUMPTIONS about the availability of the one finally chosen, such as what he will charge or what we will offer as a fee and his expenses. Here we must recognize that it costs money to travel, to eat, for loss of time to attend the meeting and the preparation beforehand. We'll look at the BUDGET and determine the funds available. We'll know then if we can afford the speaker we want. The Team will decide WHEN he is wanted. It will ESTABLISH MEASUREMENTS for the speaker, such as what subject it wants him to stress, and how long it wants him to speak.

Each step along the way the Team will REVIEW, RECONCILE, and MODIFY the plans for the achievement of the goal. As this is done, CORRECTIVE ACTION will be taken to come up with the best possible plan. Such action may mean that the second or third choice for a speaker may be the answer. If so, don't let the final choice know it.

As we go along in the planning process, we will be aiming for the target — to ACHIEVE THE OBJECTIVE. By following these steps, and modifying them as necessary, we will achieve our objective more often than we will fail.

This planning process should be followed for every objective we set. But because Masonic speakers will always be important to the educational program at every Lodge, let's establish some simple considerations for them.

Give your prospective speaker a choice of dates. This will give you a much better opportunity of obtaining him.

Give him a choice of subjects, or leave it up to him. No matter how good a speaker may be, he is better with some phases of Freemasonry than others.

Let him know how long you want him to speak, but don't make this too rigid. Some subjects can be covered in five minutes; others may take an hour or more. You will find, however, that the better speakers will try to stay within 20 minutes.

Tell your speaker to whom he will be talking. If it's a tiled Lodge, you will need to say no more. If it's for a dinner meeting, he will need to know the type of audience-ladies. children, or only men.

Make sure that you both understand whether he is to receive an honorarium, and whether or not that figure includes expenses. A speaker's out-of-pocket expenses, like travel, lodging, meals enroute, etc., should always be paid.

Confirm all arrangements in writing. This will take away the chance of error. Give him the date and hour, allotted speaking time, the subject, expenses and/or fee, how to get to and from your locality.

Get a biographical sketch for publicity and introduction purposes. Get a recent photograph if you plan to give the information to the newspapers.

Let your members and all the Masons in the area know about your program! Put out a bulletin that will be an "eye-stopper." If you can, get the story in the newspapers, on radio and television. Use a Telephone Team.

Above all — sell your speaker on his merits — NOT on your members' obligation to attend. And this should be your plan regardless of your program-sell it on its own merits.

To be courteous is something we all learn in Freemasonry. Sometimes we fail to put it into practice. We invite speakers, or groups such as Masonic thespians, degree teams, Grand Lodge officers, members to serve on panels, then do not see to their comfort. Before and after your speaker (or group) arrives:

If he is to stay overnight, be certain that lodging has been arranged for him. He deserves the same consideration as does your house guest. Take care of his transportation from the hotel to the meeting.

Give him some time to himself. If you don't meet him, call him on the phone and welcome him. Ask him if there is anything he needs. You will have left a copy of the program of the activities at the hotel for his arrival.

Let him know who will join him at the head table, if it is to be a dinner meeting.

Be certain the public address system (if used) is working.

Provide a lighted lectern. This will be appreciated, even if he doesn't use it.

Position the head table away from the main entrance to minimize the distraction of late arrivals and early goers.

Arrange to have the tables cleared before introducing the speaker. See that he has water to drink if he wants it.

DON'T "DUMP" THE SPEAKER WHEN HE'S THROUGH. Stay with him. Introduce him to others. Let him visit if he wants to. See that the financial agreement is promptly taken care of. Take care of his transportation after the meeting.

Send him a thank you note, even if he wasn't what you expected! Send him any news clippings available, particularly the favorable ones.

Will your program be a success? It will be, if the planning steps outlined are followed. These detailed suggestions about only one phase in planning and achieving a good Masonic meeting may seem "elementary"; but they illustrate the "nitty gritty" of planning for progress.

Planning isn't easy. Being a Constructive Leader isn't easy. It's tough. But the satisfaction you will get in carrying through a plan to achievement is something that cannot be described. You have to experience it to enjoy it.

One thing is certain. Where there is meaningful planning, there is progress; where there is no planning, there is only dissatisfaction and failure.

(Next month: Masonic Study Groups: what they are, how they are formed, what they can accomplish in turning members into dedicated Master Masons.)

The Masonic Service Association of North America