Sunday, December 6, 2009

Infinite possibilities


Today is the day after the bi-annual AASR Honours ceremony her in southern California. Our hosts, the Valley of San Diego, put on a magnificent event. It was indeed an honour to be in the company of so many distinguished masons - "the future leaders of the Rite," as our SGIG put it.

As I think back on the day, I am stuck on one thing that was said by our KCCH candidate. To paraphrase him, he said that the working tools of the craft are finite. But, there exists an infinite amount of possible uses for these tools in a mason's life. Infinite possible uses and an infinite amount of possible combinations. Talk about an amazing tool box.

I remain convinced that the Scottish Rite is the preeminent leadership academy for men. The lessons of the degrees of the Rite are just as valid today as they were when Bro. Pike put pen to paper. One has but to knock on the door and ask to be admitted. Something so freely given, yet so powerful.

The active candidate for the 33rd degree mentioned that the learning never stops. That even though he had reached the 33rd and last degree, there is still much to do - still room to grow and improve. What an amazing thought and motivator.

More on this amazing night soon ... I'm still processing it all.

Until then, enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Intendant of the Building


In facilitating a recent discussion on Pike's Morals and Dogma vs. Morals and Dogma for the 21st Century, I mentioned that Pike was very intentional in his writings - choosing specific words to convey a specific meaning and tone. Take the title of the the 8th Degree - Intendant of the Building.

Intendant: a political position first developed by Cardinal Richelieu during the reign of French King Louis XIII. Under Louis XIV, the intendant became the most important means for centralizing royal authority. The intendant was usually a non-noble, so his power and position were directly dependent on the favor of the king. He was granted full power over finance, justice and police. He could try cases, unseat judges, collect taxes and regulate local municipal governments among other powers.

Pike says in Morals and Dogma, "In this Degree you have been taught the important lesson, that none are entitled to advance in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, who have not by study and application made themselves familiar with Masonic learning and jurisprudence. ... How far you advance, depends upon yourself alone."

So, what does this opening statement have to do with the title of the degree? Tons.

With the 8th degree, the candidate learns that the progress of civilization and organizations is based upon the transmission of knowledge to subsequent generations. It is education that binds generations together. Without a commitment to education, no society or company can endure. Masonry illustrates this commitment through the work of its members in guiding the candidate’s journey thru the degrees and beyond.

As the candidate becomes a Master of the Royal Secret, and is thus made a full member of the Valley and of Scottish Rite Masonry, it is his responsibility to know his responsibilities - to become familiar with Masonic learning and jurisprudence. The same is true in any business. A new hire must quickly become familiar with the organization's culture, customs, rules, and norms.

Many companies have introductory sessions for new hires, employee handbooks, mentors, or other ways to assure that knowledge is passed from one generation of employee to the next. Masonry is no different. The employee who familiarizes himself with this new information the quickest - and who can use this new information to his advantage - will easily find opportunities to excel and promote. As Pike says, "How far you advance, depends on yourself alone."

As an Intendant, you should have the full knowledge of the lessons, traditions, and codes that make up Masonry (or your business) in order properly wield the power to which you have been entrusted. Remember, "how far you advance, depends upon yourself alone."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

In whom do you put your trust?


I came across an old book whilst searching through Google's book site. It's called The Triumph over Midian by A.L.O.E. - 1894.

In the preface to the story, the author makes an interesting comment, "A humble task has been mine; that of endeavouring to show that the same faith by which heroes of old out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to fight the armies of the aliens, is still, as the gift of God's grace, bestowed upon the lowliest Christian." [ital. from the original]

It reminded me of the comment made during the first degree when the Wor. Master asks the aspirant, "in whom do you put your trust?" Over 100 years ago, the author's comment mirror's the Wor. Master's response to the aspirant's answer.

It made me think about current literature. Who are our heroes? What values do they demonstrate? Do we see these types of morality plays in modern literature?

As part of a commentary on the book (beautifully reprinted by Lamplighter Publishing), I found the following passage:

The Midianites of the heart, wreak havoc in our lives.
  • Disappointment, the intruder who leaves a famine in our soul.
  • Discontent, the thief who robs us of all peace.
  • Dissension, the leader of hatred who poisons our joy.
  • Distrust, the most dangerous enemy of all, who incites paralyzing fear of what the morrow might bring.
Similar in theme is the 6th Degree in the Scottish Rite - the Intimate Secretary. The 6th degree examines duty and conflict. Conflict can be seen as a business problem and is a common destroyer of relationships and organizations if not handled properly. The candidate is instructed on the ways to be peaceful, avoiding violence and argument, and respecting differences of opinion. He is warned against taking sides; seeing that is better to seek the common ground that unites people of reason.

Disappointment can be seen as a conflict between an anticipated response and actual results.
Discontent can be seen as a conflict between what you have and what you want.
Dissension is actual conflict, disagreement, quarrel, or discord.
With Distrust, the conflict is between various unknowns.

Pike counters conflict with duty.

From Morals and Dogma, Pike says, "You are especially taught in this Degree to be zealous and faithful; to be disinterested and benevolent; and to act the peacemaker, in the case of dissensions, disputes, and quarrels among the brethren." He goes on to say, "Duty is the moral magnetism which controls and guides the true Mason's course over the tumultuous seas of life."

Pike's comments stir thoughts of servant leadership when he says, "Suffer other to be praised in thy presence, and entertain their good and glory with delight; but at no hand disparage them, or lessen the report, or make an objection; and think not the advancement of thy brother is lessening of thy worth. Upbraid no man's weakness to him to discomfit him, neither report it to disparage him, neither delight to remember it to lessen him, or set thyself above him; nor ever praise thyself or dispraise any man else ..."

The First degree, the 6th degree, and Gideon's victory over the Midianites ... all tied to good leadership qualities? Trust someone who is worthy of your trust. Act the peacemaker - both with others and within yourself. Mediate conflicts in a disinterested and benevolent (win-win) fashion. Don't speak ill of others. Take joy in the successes of those around you.

Sounds like good advice to me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009



The concept of legacy returns again in the 16th degree. The candidate is asked, “will you leave the world in a better state than you found it?” This time, legacy is examined from an intentional standpoint, of starting with the end in mind. In this, the second of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, your image of the end of your life becomes a reference by which everything else is measured. You set the image and then purposefully go about your life to fulfill your dreams and desires.

The 16th Degree considers relationships in terms of the way we treat the people over whom we have power – suggesting mercy and generosity. The lessons council that there may be a time when we need to restrain ourselves and be patient, temporarily resigning our own interests for another’s advantage. This strategy of patience and restraint is the hallmark of the Asian business model.

So, how then do you go about leaving the world in a better state? Certainly, it's done one purposeful step at a time. Pike said, "This Masonry teaches, as a great Truth; a great moral landmark, that out to guide the course of all mankind. It teaches its toiling children that the scene of their daily life is all spiritual, that the very implements of their toil, the fabrics they weave, the merchandise they barter, are designed for spiritual ends; that so believing, their daily lot may be to them a sphere for the noblest improvement."

Look at the things that you do in your day. How do you view them? Is work a chore? Is it a blessing? It's all in how you see it, or frame it, that counts. If you are seeing work as a chore, then you need to reframe how you see it. Remember to put all of your best efforts into your work. Your work, after all, recommends you. Imagine each day that you are auditioning for your job - that employment the next day depends on how well you perform today (in this troubled economy - that sentiment is not too far from the truth most times). Look at yourself honestly. Would you hire you? Would you follow you? If not, why?

Sure, times are tough. But, as Pike said, "very near to us lies the mines of wisdom; unsuspected they lie al around us. There is a secret in the simplest things, a wonder in the plainest, a charm in the dullest." A happy and content life is all in how you see it.

In terms of legacy, why not choose a happy and contented life. "To every [leader] there will be opportunity enough for these. They cannot be written on his tomb; but they will be written deep in the hearts of men, of friends, of children, of kindred all around him, in the book of great account, and, in their eternal influences, on the great pages of the Universe.

Still think you won't leave your mark on this world? Think again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Degrees of Leadership - a short talk


I just sent the short talk version of Degrees of Leadership to Amazon for publishing on Kindle. If approved, it'll be available for purchase/download on the Kindle Service in a few days.

It's a perfect bite sized version of the upcoming book, as well as being an outstanding 25 minute "short talk" for Lodge meetings.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Review - Not Everyone Gets a Trophy


As the membership rolls of many of America’s Masonic Lodges dwindle, Lodges consolidate, and Masonic charities struggle with their fundraising goals, Masonry is looking to Generation Y, some 70 million strong, to save the day. Yet, when older Masons reach out to these young men, they are having trouble understanding, connecting with, and retaining this vibrant and energetic generation. Thankfully, there is help.

Bruce Tulgan’s Not Everyone Gets a Trophy: How to Manage Generation Y is an important guide for understanding what drives and defines this “high-maintenance” generation. It examines the myths about this often misunderstood group of young men (and women), all whilst offering practical guidance on harnessing and redirecting Gen Y’s creativity and intellect without having to completely re-work Masonry’s unique culture. Just kidding … sort of.

While the focus of the book is on managing and leading Gen Y in the workplace, much like Robert D. Putnam’s Bowling Alone, there is an incredible wealth of information available in this easy-to-read volume, much of which can be applied to the Craft.

Starting with Gen Y’s roll as a potential member your Lodge, Tulgan notes that Gen Y is the most “work-life balance” focused generation. (The lessons of the lecture on the 24 inch gauge will ring especially true to Gen Y.) As such, the questions in their minds whilst being interviewed for potential membership are not about whether they will fit into your Lodge, but whether and how Masonry will fit into their lives and busy schedules.

Every Mason can remember his first visit to Lodge. The same things that were on your mind then are going through a Gen Y candidate’s mind now. “Where am I? What is this place? What is going on here? … Who are all these people? What role does each person play? How are they accustomed to doing things around here? … Why am I here? What is at stake for me? (Kindle Loc. 1286-93)” The answers today are the much the same as when you were their age, they are just packaged in different terms. This book helps you to speak their language.

There is a polular belief among the older generations that Gen Y arrives expecting the top job from day one (Tulgan’s myth number four). According to Tulgan, this represents not overconfidence, but simply the passionate propensity of Gen Y to take on the unclaimed, uncharted, or undiscovered as the quickest way to gain respect and to be taken seriously. This overconfidence, however, can get Gen Y into trouble in the Lodge Room. Tulgan notes that leaders need to institute a proactive, consistent, and continual mentoring relationship to ensure that these new Entered Apprentices work well with their new Lodge brothers. Remember the lesson of the 4th Degree of the Scottish Rite, "may one command who does not know how to obey?" This teaching the young Mason how to be a proper follower includes spelling out desired behaviors, norms, and communication styles, including the venerable “Masonic Tradition." “You cannot—and should not—teach them what to believe, but you can certainly teach them how to behave. ... [I]t is certainly your place to teach them how to be good citizens within your organization. (Kindle Loc. 1589-61).”

Another dominant Gen Y stereotype that the author seeks to dispel is the belief that Gen Y is generally disloyal or disinclined towards staying in one place for too long. The author counters this myth by describing a new brand of loyalty, one he calls “transactional loyalty.” Unlike the previous generations who were trained to accept the chain of command and long-range rewards, Gen Y’s transactional loyalty is based on optimising their unique needs and wants, which often includes their need to continuously learn from and glean as much as they can from each new encounter. Like the lessons illustrated in 19th Degree, they are very much interested in building bridges to the future. This passion can be harnessed, focussed towards common goals.

Rigorous self-evaluation is not just a key component of learning good judgment. It is the beginning, middle, and end of self-management. It is the essential habit of self-improvement."

Masters who follow “traditional” management approaches might completely misinterpret Gen Y’s attitudes and behaviors and miss the real value of this generation as key contributors to our country’s Lodges. This book illuminates Gen Y’s many gifts in the Lodgeroom and lays out a outstanding approach to help Masters and Wardens update their leadership styles.

The bottom line is that whilst every generation brings new talents and values to the Lodgeroom, decoding the uniqueness of the Gen Y state of mind makes this book a worth a look. The fact that it’s available both in print and on Kindle makes it even better.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leaders and Followers


I was thinking of leaders and followers in light of the current health care debate in Congress ...

With the solid foundation of instruction gained in the Craft Lodge, the Master Mason begins his journey in the Scottish Rite with the Lodge of Perfection.

Many themes are utilized in conferring the lessons of the degrees of this Lodge including, an enlightened citizenry (4°-6°), an independent judiciary (7°), an economic order based on capital and labor (8°), the upper house of the legislature (9°), the lower house of the legislature (10°), trial by jury (11°), the chief executive (12°), and a constitution or fundamental set of laws (13°).

The lessons are set against the historical backdrop of the Old Testament; the building of King Solomon’s Temple and the Babylonian captivity.

The Lodge of Perfection begins with the 4th degree and asks the question that strikes at the heart of the leader/follower relationship, “may one command who does not know how to obey?

Any study of leadership should wisely consider what it means to follow. In the Scottish Rite, a candidate learns first to practice obedience, silence, and fidelity as fit attributes for a follower. The type of followers that the Scottish Rite seeks are participants, actively engaged in the process and in support of the aims of the organization ...