How many times have you heard the old excuse from previous Masters: Well, if they would just read the trestleboard, they would have known about it or I put it in the trestleboard and announced it at our last stated meeting? In todays society, you must communicate effectively if you wish to accomplish the goals and objectives you have established for yourself and the Lodge. Relying on techniques that are traditional and only partially successful will leave you with an empty Lodge and an uncommitted membership.
You must communicate effectively with your membership if your goal is to build an active and growing Lodge. There are many types of communications: verbal,
written, word of mouth, body language, appearance and listening. Each is important if you are going to communicate the three principal tenets of Freemasonry: brotherly love, relief and truth.
Effective public speaking by the Master and his Officers is a necessity to properly communicate with the membership and their families. Many Masters neglect to develop this important skill, and when placed in front of their public, fail to communicate their goals and programs. They fail to recognize that leadership requires effective and persuasive verbal communications. Would you follow a leader who cannot verbally inspire you to greater effort? What would you think of a Master who stumbles and mumbles when placed before a group of people? The answer obvious. You will shake your head with pity and wait for another year. Dont let that person be you.
Reciting ritual during our degrees will help you in developing some speaking ability. However, ritual is simply memory work that is drilled into ones mind and performed repeatedly during practices and degrees. Public speaking requires different skills that can be developed through training and practice.
Very few people in this world can be classified as natural
public speakers. In almost every instance when you have heard someone deliver an effective speech, that person has taken the time and effort to prepare himself to communicate effectively.
Remember that everyone starts at the bottom, everyone has problems with public speaking and everyone can benefit from further practice and instruction. You may never be the best public speaker, but you can certainly improve. Take the time and make the effort to develop your thoughts, to jot down an outline and to think though it until you have found the words you are comfortable with. You will never regret the time and effort expended, and your members, employer and friends will certainly appreciate your new found skill.
It is not possible to communicate verbally with your entire membership.
You must rely on written materials to get your message out to and be understood by those you wish to reach. The quality and style of your written communications will determine whether or not the materials are actually read.
1. The Trestleboard
Reflect back during your years as a junior officer. Did you read your monthly trestleboard? If not, why not? Was it relevant to the actual activities of your Lodge? Take the time to review the actual materials that are included in the trestleboard.
Are they necessary? Are the contents interesting and stimulating to read? If the answer is
no, then you must do something about it because the response of your membership will be the same. The following are some helpful hints regarding the publication of an interesting trestleboard.
a. Eliminate the garbage. Some information need not be duplicated month after month, and year after year. Select only those materials that people will actually enjoy reading.
b. Select a format that will attract the readers interest. Small type that is not easily read will save you printing costs, but it will also insure that your trestleboard will quickly find its final destination, with the other junk mail, in the nearest wastebasket.
c. Utilize representative graphics when possible to attract the readers attention and to accentuate the writers purpose.
d. Accentuate the positive! All messages and articles should make the reader want to be a part of the good times that are occurring within your Lodge. Talk about your past, present and future activities in a positive manner. Nobody wants to join in or be part of a negatively oriented Lodge.
e. Check the final product. Poor quality paper, graphics and production will lead straight to the wastebasket.
f. Plan your monthly production cycle to insure that your readers have the materials in their hands at least two weeks prior to your next stated meeting. A late trestleboard is the same as no trestleboard.
g. Invite your membership to submit, for publication, guest articles on different items of interest.
2. Special Mailers
The trestleboard is a poor vehicle for some information that must actually be read and understood by the membership. The following are examples of alternate means of written communications that you should consider.
a. Special Events
Grand Master visitations, picnics, receptions, fund raisers, etc. require a special type of notification to the membership. A special flier with fun graphics will command attention for your fund raising or social events that may otherwise be forgotten in a trestleboard long thrown away.
b. Goals and Objectives
Utilize a special mailer, which includes the entire package of the results of your teams efforts, to insure that each member is aware of the established goals and objectives pf the Lodge. Your membership will read materials that are in letter form and well produced.
c. Signs and Posters
All who enter your Lodge should be immediately struck with a graphic display of upcoming special and/or social events planned by the Lodge. Leave nothing to chance. Constant reminders by the trestleboard, letters and posters will effectively promote your activities and assist in achieving success, not only for your Lodge, but for you as Master.
Each person communicates messages to others by the very manner in which he dresses, acts and looks. Take care to see that you are communicating the proper message to those that you wish to influence. The following are some helpful hints:
1. Word of Mouth
Your example as Master of the Lodge will be communicated rapidly throughout your Lodge. Human nature, being what it is, will insure that everyone will become informed, either positively or negatively, of your actions. The trick is to
accentuate the positive. By doing so, you set the climate for others to do likewise.
Every Lodge and every organization has its share of nay-sayers. If you listen and react to those who display a negative attitude, you will also become infected with that frame of reference and the entire Lodge will suffer. On one hand, you have been told to discuss your problems and yet, on the other hand, we want you to accentuate the positive. Are the two directions compatible? They most certainly are. Discussing problems places everything on the table.
There is no further need to discuss the negative aspects of your Lodge.
Your goals and objectives together with your plans of action are all that now need to be discussed. Discussing solutions to your problems is the finest way to accentuate the positive. If you communicate positively you will find all the brethren communicating by word of mouth the positive aspects of your Lodge.
Positive thinking infects others with a positive attitude. Even those who do not attend Lodge regularly will be proud of your accomplishments. Our fraternity is essentially a social organization designed to provide happiness and brotherly love. If negative thinking has seeped into your Lodge, change it. A successful Lodge is a positive,
forward moving Lodge. Act now and insure that all word of mouth communications are positive.
2. Body Language
Communication is more than the written and/or spoken word. Many times we tell others more about ourselves and our attitude by the way we look and act. Emotions of anger, disappointment and frustration, if they are apparent to the membership, not by your words, but by the manner in which you communicate with your body and facial expressions, will create a similar atmosphere within your Lodge. Likewise, if you communicate confidence, satisfaction, and brotherly love by your actions, those positive emotions will also infect the brethren. Who will ever follow a leader whose words say
charge, but whose appearance and demeanor indicates
Changing your body language is easy to say, but hard to do. To be successful, you must continually consider how your attitude and actions will effect your brethren. Every Master has problems and frustrations. The plain facts are that your burden will become heavier and the response of the membership lighter if you communicate disappointment and frustrations.
If you are going to lead the troops out of the trenches and up the hill, you must communicate to those who must do the climbing that you are in charge and the hill is not that high. Consider the following as you lead the charge:
a. Leave All Your Blues At Home
Your burdens and frustrations must be kept to yourself. As you prepare to go to Lodge, sit alone for a few minutes, dispel all your problems, and then concentrate on all the positive issues within your Lodge. Think about how you are going to greet your brethren and about the good things you have to say. The important thing is for you to prepare yourself emotionally before you enter any meeting of your Lodge.
b. Put On A Happy Face
While you are driving to Lodge, keep that positive attitude flowing. Park your car, grab your briefcase, brace yourself from within, put on your happy face and, with a little spring in your step, greet your brethren with joy and brotherly love. You may be unhappy within, but that negative disease will not infect others.
c. A Personal Greeting For Everyone
Every single person who enters the front door of your Lodge should feel that his presence and participation is vital to the success of the Lodge. Every officer and every member must greet each other with joy and enthusiasm for their participation that evening. A Brother who is not greeted and brought into the circle is a Brother who feels neglected and unwanted, the worst possible emotion.
As Master, let others do the routine preparation for your meeting and stand by that front door and personally greet everyone who enters. If a new member or a visiting Brother arrives, have someone standing by to personally introduce him to all in attendance. This is their home away.
d. The Clique Includes Everyone
Everyone should feel welcome to participate and be an actual part of every Lodge event.
The human need to be a part of a social group dictates that, within a Masonic Lodge, every member and every visitor should feel that he and his family are a vital part of the in-
group. There must never be anyone who feels that he is an outsider within your Lodge. Extend genuine invitations to everyone, not only by your words, but by your actions.
No matter what the event is, either within the Lodge or perhaps a gathering following a meeting, invite all to attendance. Most probably wont attend but they will not feel excluded. Those who do attend will feel closer to the Lodge and its members. They will be driven to greater participation. Remember your emotions when you felt excluded from a group important to you. Those excluded will go elsewhere. Those included will return.
Your personal appearance and that of your officers communicates the manner in which you lead the Lodge. Take a long look at yourself and your officers. Are you, by your very appearance and manner of dress, silently communicating the message to the brethren of the leadership style reflective of your Lodge and the Masonic fraternity.
The body language of dress and appearance has forever been important to all successful organizations. The age old saying, If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it surely must be a duck, is absolutely true. If you want to be a leader, you must look, act and talk like a leader. The brethren will accept nothing less. The historical traditions of Freemasonry dictate that our meetings and ritual be performed in a formal dignified manner. Do you and your Lodge uphold this standard of excellence or does your manner of dress reflect the standards of less formal clubs or organizations? The sideliners will appreciate that look and feel of a distinguished corps of officers and respond accordingly. A casual and unkept appearance will result in casual and sloppy leadership and ritual. Remember the message you wish to communicate to the membership: leadership and competence.
Communication by the absence of the spoken word is, at times, the most effective communication skill that a Master can utilize to achieve his goals. Positive communication only occurs when two or more parties are able to fully and honestly exchange their views on a particular issue. How many times in your own private or employment situation have you experienced a person who likes to bark orders, but refuses to listen? Be open, patient and understanding with your brethren.
Be open by continually talking with, not to, the membership. Everyone should feel that you are open minded and will listen to their particular ideas or complaints. Be patient by taking the time to hear them out. If an issue can be readily resolved, do it. If not, explain the reasons why you cannot. The bottom line is that you took the time, listened and communicated back your decision. Everyone should leave a discussion feeling good about the exchange and understanding of each others positions.
If a Brothers view is opposite from your goals and objectives,
attempt to brief him fully on the direction which you and your officers have established and ask for his support. Every Lodge has its nay-sayers. Your challenge is to stay on track with your goals and attempt, through continual persuasion, to bring those opposed into the fold. You may never accomplish this task. A few may fall by the wayside, but the others, who are sitting on the fence, will be impressed by your approach and will offer their support.