OFFICIAL VISIT – ALGONQUIN LODGE
January 19, 2016
(edited for posting)
As most of you already know, my theme for the year deals with membership, attendance and participation.
Tonight I want to focus on an aspect of this theme… that being SUCESSION PLANNING. I want to talk about this in relation to officer progression… that being the journey from Junior Steward through to being Worshipful Master and what prepares the Mason for this journey.
So to clarify…..what is Succession Planning?
Wikipedia defines it as……..
a process for identifying and developing people within the organisation with the potential to fill key leadership positions.
Succession planning increases the availability of experienced and capable people that are prepared to assume these roles as they become available.
Taken narrowly, "replacement planning" for key roles is the heart of succession planning.
Fundamental to the succession-management process is an underlying philosophy that argues that talent in the organisation must be managed for the greater good of the body.
Brethren, I look around me and I see an experienced Master who is serving his lodge as a Master should….. and I see a group of officers that are also a credit to their lodge. So did this just magically happen or was there a process that allowed or encouraged each of the officers to become skilled in their positions. AND….through experience and gaining knowledge in each chair were they prepared for the next chair, their next step on the Journey to the East?
In the business world, succession planning prepares the person for positions requiring greater skill, ability and in particular, greater leadership. And it is this last item that is most applicable to the Masonic progression through the chairs….the Mason is being prepared to take on progressive leadership, culminating in being the Worshipful Master. …the LEADER of the lodge.
So how does this leadership get developed? The development of these skills does not happen by itself! Yes there may be natural talent, but even this talent requires polishing.
So before I comment to the how…..I’d first like to talk a little about leadership.
There are several skills required to be a leader. The Mason must demonstrate confidence; he must motivate himself; he must be sympathetic to the needs of others; he must be strong enough to give others certain freedoms and responsibilities and yet be able to retain control; he must be able to praise good work and apportion merciful blame where necessary; and finally he must be loyal to Grand Lodge, his lodge and the members therein.
What makes a leader? A dictator is the top man in a country, but he cannot by any stretch of the imagination be classed as a leader. He leads by brute force and fear. We are a volunteer organization….a real leader has to direct those over whom he has very limited control, and therefore must do this by force of character.
One of the most important offices in Masonry is that of the Worshipful Master.
This does not mean that the first instance of being a leader arises at the time of being installed as Worshipful Master. The challenge to a member’s leadership skills comes much earlier in a Mason’s life with his appointment or election to a Lodge office. He suddenly is situated in the limelight with everyone in attendance watching and noticing his every move, whether it is good or bad. Although a junior officer in a Lodge is not usually called upon to make that many decisions, he still can exercise and develop leadership.
So let’s now discuss to some extent how we get there...how we prepare for leadership and in particular the leadership expected of a Worshipful Master.
Some topics come to mind...
· Gaining experience
· Developing one’s skills
· Being allowed to do things and take part
To properly cover these topics could be a long speech in itself, and given that I have already been talking for some time I’d like to limit myself to providing an overview and throw out some ideas that will I hope give you something t think about.....so in no particular order...
The junior members and junior officers must be allowed to gain experience in the workings of the lodge and to develop skills and experience therein....
When I became a junior officer in Nickel Lodge some 15 years ago, the Worshipful Master at that time, W.Bro. Grant Boyce developed a comprehensive succession plan for the officers and those that might become officers that involved progressive ritual delivery, committee membership, leadership in those committees and other endeavours that were designed to develop those skills that would allow them to be a credible Master of the Lodge. Most of the ritual work was done by the Officers or members with only select pieces done by the Past Masters.
The point here is that W.Bro, Boyce planned the years ahead....note I say YEARS in that his plan was designed to be carried on by his successors. We need to plan for future leadership not just by year, but a multi-year plan that trains and provides experience.
We need to develop confidence and competence. This can only be done by allowing the officer to experience progressive responsibility, at the same time ensuring the safety mechanisms exist to guide and assist the development.
The development of the leadership required for the Masters Chair starts before you even become an officer, and for some, even before you become a Mason. In terms of being a lodge officer the intenseness of the preparation increases the moment you take a chair.
The development of leadership involves the need to learn to think differently; one has to start to look at the bigger picture; to think not only about oneself, but to develop the habit of thinking of others…you are being developed and are developing others.
This brings me to some comments about Mentoring. We talk about it a fair bit, but I believe we do not do it to the extent that we should. I have been mentored by many people throughout my Masonic journey and they have all had roles in developing the skills and knowledge I have today…..and in addition they have contributed to the Mason I am today.
(please no witty comments here as to my skills….I have opened the door andI know some of you are thinking of things to say)
I cannot overstate the value of Mentoring…..the Mentor is the provider of knowledge, the guide…. the friend and is an indispensible factor in developing both the Mason and the leader of the future.
Who can be the mentor?......the answer is easy…anyone that has the commitment and the necessary skills and drive to be one. Mentoring has so many different facets that all of us have something we can offer. I believe that we should all be mentoring in some way. Look at yourself, if you are not providing some mentoring to someone….and remember this can be done on so many levels and to varying degrees, we are missing out on one of what I believe are the great responsibilities of Masonry….the chance to make a brother a better Mason.
Returning to the focus of leadership…..
I believe we should be identifying those with the potential to assume greater responsibility in the organization. We must offer developmental experiences to those that can move into the future leadership role. We need to ensure we develop long term commitment and retention. Appoint people to work on a project, to lead a committee, to organize an event…all of these will develop their leadership skills. One thing to remember, you can provide guidance but you need to allow some level of autonomy to allow for the development required.
Another important point I want to make….not everyone has the ability or more importantly the desire to be the leader of the lodge. Does this make them a lesser Mason…categorically NO….their role within Masonry just takes a different path. Some of our brethren have skills/contributions that are of value elsewhere within the organization (William Mercer Wilson Medal)
When the lodge is deciding on who should be the next in line for the starting officer chair, I believe this should be done predominantly based on merit
It should not be solely based on seniority….the next guy in line based on membership. Not the warm body approach. The new officer should be someone with talent and that WANTS to assume the position. A healthy lodge is one where there are a number of possible new officers.
We NEED to take more interest in the development of our officers, our leaders of the future. We often let them develop on their own….they need our help….it ALSO helps enforce the …esprit de corps…the working together.
So…what was the point of tonight’s talk?
The main thrust in the talk in terms of my ongoing theme is towards Participation and that the Mason progressing through the chairs towards the East needs to prepare himself for the ultimate leadership within the lodge, that of Worshipful Master.
With the right leader the lodge will flourish, the brethren will be guided through the year meeting goals and advancing our craft until the Master passes the gavel onto the new Master, the new leader. But the fundamental message here is that the development of that leader starts years before and MUST continue through the Masonic journey to prepare the Mason for the position of Worshipful Master of the Lodge. This needs to be planned for.
Worshipful Master....I thank you for your indulgencies this evening and my Brethren I thank each and every one of you for your kind attention.
R.W. Bro. Clive D. Stephenson
District Deputy Grand Master
Tuesday January 19, 2016