How to Engage and Retain your line…

Just because you are in a position of leadership doesn’t mean you are an effective leader.  When you approach your year in the East, remember the officers under your direction, keep them engaged and keep them happy.

Looking back, I made some significant changes to my officer line-up and neglected to inform everyone in the line or gather any feedback – I immediately lost two officers who felt left out, don’t make my same mistake. 

5 Ways To Keep Employees (Line Officers) Happy And Engaged:1. Be clear, consistent, and open in your communications.2. Give employees a chance to weigh in on decisions, don’t make assumptions.3. Offer opportunities for development and growth.4. Ask for feedback and act on it quickly, pushing off issues to the last hour is asking for problems.5. Share a long-term plan and focus.

I have found in my leadership roles within my volunteer organizations, just keeping people in the loop often makes the difference between success and failure. Taking that a step further, just informing your “top level” of employees, banking on the information trickling down is unacceptable. To effectively communicate with your employees, you need to address and engage them all. Doing otherwise is a direct recipe for making individuals feel left out, and a major factor in team member loss. 

Contributing Author:
Brother L. K. Bray III is the current Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 43, F. & A.M. of Lancaster, PA. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason and a Member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 2 Scholar.

Symbols of the Craft: The Hourglass and the Scythe

Chances are, if you’re like me you’ve been through the initiation process of Freemasonry and have passed over a bunch of the symbols of the craft without ever really gaining any explanation (or appreciation) of their value.  The symbols of the craft are designed to instill in us the virtues of Masonry and remind us that our time should be used wisely.

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The hourglass and the scythe are prime examples of this reminder.  The hourglass is an emblem of human life and the scythe serves as an emblem of time (or rather how fragile life can be and the abrupt end is always near).

From the Grand Lodge of Texas, via The Masonic Trowel:

“The explanation of the hourglass indicates the brevity of life. Time is the only resource men have in equal abundance. Every day is made up of 24 hours, and each week of seven days. We can use this time for fruitful and profitable purposes or we can squander our time in frivolity and waste.”

“The scythe alludes to the end of our earthly time. It is an impressive symbol of the certainty of death, which no man will escape.”

Contributing Author:
Brother L. K. Bray III is the current Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 43, F. & A.M. of Lancaster, PA. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason and a Member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 2 Scholar.

Self-Improvement: Improving your Health

When it comes to taking good men and making them better, one may wonder if there is room for Physical Fitness and Health.  Freemasonry encourages enlightenment through education and self-improvement via reflection and contemplation – this is all well and good for the spiritual mind, but what about our bodies?  Our body is a vessel that carries us through life, we are only given one, why not make the most of this opportunity to improve ourselves herein?  We should not only seek to take every opportunity to improve ourselves mentally, and spiritually, but physically as well.

Could the Lodge benefit from programs that would encourage physical activity, health and wellness?

Studies have shown that physical activity (such as exercise) not only improves our overall physical health but can have significant benefits for our mental health as well.  Known as the exercise effect, participants in a study found that after physical activity their overall mood had improved and that they were less anxious or depressed when compared to sedentary counterparts.  You can read more on this study: American Psychological Association

From my own experience, Running has provided me an opportunity to become more physically fit, with the added bonus of clarity of mind. The 30-60 minutes I have added to my schedule for Running is my time to unwind, unplug, and experience being present in the moment. It has also afforded me time to reflect on my day (whether it be before I start my day, or after). I have also found my mood improves after a few miles!

In addition to physical exercise, meditation can improve your mental health as well.  Meditation can help reduce stress and help you focus and become more mindful of your present state.  Have you ever had so much on your plate that it feels like your head is going to burst?  Taking a few minutes to meditate can help bring balance back to your life, and gives you the opportunity to pause, and hit the reset button on your mind.  Want to learn more about meditation and the benefits you’ll unlock by learning how to tune into your inner breath? Check out this article: Self.com  as well as Headspace.com

What are you doing to improve your health? Share your story below!

Contributing Author:
Brother L. K. Bray III is the current Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 43, F. & A.M. of Lancaster, PA. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason and a Member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 2 Scholar.  He is also an avid Runner and Member of the LRRC, a local Running Club.

Masters Perspective: Junk Mail

I was recently talking to a friend of mine who commented on seeing me in a recent publication from our Grand Lodge.  I jokingly told him I would sign his copy.  He laughed but told me he already threw out his copy.  I don’t know why, but this really made me stop and consider the current state of the craft.

Our lodge has embraced change very well, in addition to our snail-mailed printed lodge notice, social media, mass email marketing, digital lodge notices, and online event pages have found their way into our communications – our rightful place in remaining current with the times.  Being Worshipful Master gives me unrestricted access to the all the metrics – and it’s rather disheartening.  Our membership boasts numbers above 600, out of that 600 we have email accounts for around 400 members.  Those 400 members get emailed 2-3 times a month with reminders of upcoming events and activities.  Yet, we still get the same lackluster attendance at our stated meetings, rarely anyone on the sidelines for our extra meetings, and it’s the same handful of guys that show up to special events.  We have a wonderful problem of conferring, on average, 4 degrees at every extra meeting.

I have the awesome pleasure to congratulate newly entered, passed, and raised masons – but I can’t help but feel like we’re missing something.  We’re getting them in, but what are we doing to keep them?

Every month I stare at the metrics, 2 members unsubscribe from our emails about every other month, out of the 400+ emails sent, only about 30% bother to open and read the email, and about 12% actually click on links to sign up for activities.  Again, the same handful of guys every time.  I envision my friend throwing away his publication from the Grand Lodge, and wonder how many are following suit.  It’s almost like our notices, emails, and event invites have become all too much and are dangerously walking on the edge of being classified junk mail.

When I took the East I had grand visions of promoting Masonic Education and drawing huge crowds to our Stated and Extra Meetings.  I started this Book Club with high hopes of it just taking off, but soon realized I was really the only person hyped up on this becoming something big.  My Stated Meetings are still just as boring as before, and our Extra Meetings (even though we are constantly raising masons on a monthly basis) are still rarely attended.  Why?  I spent my first months worrying about what would happen if I, GASP, did something different!  Only to realize this was a foolish mistake, and time wasted.

My God when did my Stated Meetings become junk mail?

As a regular podcast listener, and fan, of the Masonic Roundtable, I was delighted when my Senior Deacon decided to propose something new and asked if he could form a “Lecture Series” – with speakers from the TMR.  Jon and Jason came out for the day and gave awesome presentations (not to slight our other guest, Chris, who also gave a great talk about Joseph Fort Newton), but it was in Jon’s presentation that turned on the light in the back of my head.  Without re-hashing the data:

Jon pointed out in his Masonic Survey that men [for the most part] not only come to lodge seeking fellowship and comradery, but more importantly they come to lodge seeking knowledge.  And how is knowledge obtained? Through Masonic Education. 

BAM! Not that there isn’t a place for presentations outside of Masonry, but when guys come to lodge, they are seeking light.  AS the Grand Master put it, they are seeking to add value to their Masonic membership – and a way we can add value is through education.  This would seem rather elementary, but for some reason, the thought just didn’t click for me until that moment.

Unfortunately, I made arrangements for the following months to be loaded with useful, but irrelevant presentations, and what momentum I had, I might have squashed.  I am hopeful that I might be able to salvage just a sliver of that momentum, and it could just be enough to get us back on track.  This month we are being visited by the District Deputy Grand Master and the Masters of the Lodges in my district. Our upcoming meeting will feature some of the old, and some of the mandatory pomp and circumstance – but we’re also going to have a presentation that hasn’t been done in our district yet.  It’s that little unknown that excites me… and it’s also our Strawberry Social.

Lession Learned: Follow your gut, don’t be afriad of what others will think and do what interests you. Had I stuck to that philosphy from the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t be feeling like junk mail.

We are called off from labor over July and August, and when we come back in September I have bigger plans, we’re going to get weird. Stay tuned and find out.

The inspiration for this new vision for the rest of the year ahead:
“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant
It’s Business Time: Adapting a Corporate Path for Freemasonry” by Robert H. Johnson and Jon T. Ruark

Contributing Author:
Brother L. K. Bray III is the current Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 43, F. & A.M. of Lancaster, PA. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason and a Member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 2 Scholar.

Symbols of the Craft: The Beehive

The first mention of honey bees appeared in the First Dynasty, in ancient Eygpt, where images of honey bees were found in the Old Kingdom of Niuserre’s sun temple.  The image depicts workers (beekeepers) blowing smoke into the hive while removing honeycombs, and placing honey into pots.

egyptian-beekeepers-25th-century-bc-photo-researchers

Mackey’s Encyclopedia explains the bee is a symbol of the obedient people, because, says Horapollo, “of all insects, the bee alone had a king [Queen]. ” When we look at the labors of the honeybee, we deem them an emblem of systematized industry.  Freemasons adopted the beehive as a fitting symbol for industry, a virtue taught in the instructions of a Master Mason’s degree.  It is also a symbol of the lodge, and it sometimes shown with seven bees.

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The meaning of the word industry, by today’s standards, symbolizes a large workforce of man and machine.  When we think of industry in today’s sense it includes large production and manufacturing facilities.  We picture the producers of automobiles, heavy equipment, freight, and technology companies.  However, the true sense of the meaning of industry has undergone a transformation from its humble beginnings.  Industry at one time referred to the employment of a very large number of men [workforce], on one undertaking at one place and at the same time; the great Pyramids, the great wall of China, the construction of the temple at Jerusalem by King Solomon are examples of such undertakings.

Contributing Author:
Brother L. K. Bray III is the current Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 43, F. & A.M. of Lancaster, PA. He is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason, and a Member of the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge where he is a Level 2 Scholar.

Assemble the Craft was created to guide new and old Masons on the path of enlightenment, discovery, and personal growth, development, and self-improvement through Research, Book Evaluations, and discussions based on the journey through Masonry and Life.  Assemble the Craft is about bringing Masons together, to encourage group discussion, and to share our experience and knowledge.

**Please note that the views, research, and opinions are that of the participants and do not reflect any Grand Lodge or Official Masonic Body’s endorsement.  All materials are open to the public, so please be sure to keep discussions on the level, and govern yourselves accordingly**