– Because we are not dedicated “for the good of the order.”
Shortly after I wrote a recent article regarding the problems my home owners association was experiencing, I received several notes regarding the problems in other nonprofit groups in my area. This includes fraternal, political, religious, club sports and other home owner groups. I know many of them as I have actively participated in them over the years, but today they all seem to be struggling to keep their heads above water. It appears most, if not all, are in a self-destruct mode, which caused me to wonder why.
Let’s put our cards on the table; the biggest problem with most nonprofits is they are run by nice people, who mean well, but haven’t a clue as to what they are doing. Many of these offices come with a fancy title, but offer little in terms of insight for performing the work. Very few provide training in how to run a nonprofit effectively. There are some state courses describing pertinent rules and regulations to be observed, but none to my knowledge in terms of how to actually lead and manage. Consequently, nonprofits flounder due to ineffective leadership, causing meetings to become chaotic, financial reports to be prepared with errors, and the attitude of the general membership suffers, causing a decline, all because it is well known management is incompetent. Even worse, stories of embezzlement and gross negligence have become common.
People who serve on the Board of Directors for nonprofits should only do so “for the good of the order,” meaning it has more to do with the overall group and less about the individual. In the early days of our country, the Congress consisted of representatives from farms and other businesses who took turns serving, and at the end of their term, were anxious to return home and tend to their farm or business. There was no thought of lifetime service as there is today. They came, they performed the nation’s business “for the good of the order,” and returned home. This simply is not so anymore.
Today we have people who serve only to fuel their ego or career. There are those who take on a position to give themselves visibility to promote their products and/or services. Of course, the membership has no interest in this, yet the individual persists in his/her agenda. Then there are others who look to add a feather in their cap which will look good on a resume. In Freemasonry, we call this “chasing aprons,” meaning they are actively pursuing fancy Masonic aprons and titles. Most of these people never accomplished much in life and thrive on the adulation associated with such recognition. I have always been of the opinion that such people should be given their apron, then get them out of the way so they do not impede progress.
Such conduct results in what today is called an “Ineptocracy,” an incompetent ruling government where the least capable are elected to positions of authority. Quite often, this is done not because the person has exhibited any special talent, but rather there is nobody willing to serve or, perhaps worse, “it’s his/her turn” to preside. Not surprising, people quite often rise above their level of competency (aka, “The Peter Principle”). This does a disservice to both the organization and the person as well. When a person has risen above their level of competency, it will become obvious to others and will likely affect morale.
Working “for the good of the order,” means you believe in the virtues of the group, that it serves a useful purpose, and that you possess something to help the group, be it a specific talent or you are willing to work in any capacity. This is an important point. If you are unwilling to get your hands dirty, you should not be serving on a Board of Directors. It is like the old saying, “talk is cheap.” The effort of ALL members of the board are required in order to be successful. It is one thing to offer advice, quite another to see it through to completion.
There is one other cause for failure, that people believe management is not “cool.” Translation: a person lacks the discipline, organization, and structure to effectively lead people and hold them accountable. This normally results in either one person doing all the work so others are not burdened, but more likely, everything falls through the cracks and chaos ensues.
Whoever leads a nonprofit, must set the proper tone from the beginning, including the “5-W’s and H,” meaning “Who” is assigned to “What” work, “When” and “Where” it must be performed and “Why.” As to “How,” there may be standard protocols, tools and techniques to be followed, but it may be time to upgrade them. This should be followed by a prioritized list of objectives for the nonprofit to pursue in the operating year.
This brings up an important point, I am a strong proponent of “Managing from the Bottom-Up,” meaning assign responsibility, train accordingly, and get out of their way. Unless there are specific time constraints requiring urgency, it is not necessary to micromanage everything. Most nonprofits are volunteer organizations, and as such, people typically want to go about their jobs without Attila the Hun breathing down their necks.
“Managing from the bottom-up” also includes the formation and empowerment of committees to perform specific functions, such as reviewing finances, planning social affairs, membership and programming, property maintenance, or special projects. By building legitimate committees, you are cultivating people to succeed to the Board over time. This is why they must be allowed to speak and think for themselves.
As I have said repetitively over the years, running a nonprofit organization doesn’t require rocket science. Actually, in most cases, it is quite simple. You need simple and responsible management; someone who knows the governing docs, Robert’s Rules of Order, and knows how to write an agenda and use a gavel. It is not necessary for the leader to have all the answers, but how to formulate the answers with the rest of the board.
One last responsibility the leader must master is to “do yourself out of a job.” Your tenure is typically brief, such as a year or two. Before you leave though, it is essential you have taught the Board to carry on without you. This is actually an on-going process beginning on the first day of your tenure. Take plenty of notes, perhaps a log of your activities, but also create or update checklists, job descriptions, governing docs (e.g., bylaws), and technical “how to” procedures.
The chaos within nonprofit groups these days has gotten worse because the leaders have either forgotten the basics of management or were never trained to begin with, or maybe worse, they’re in it for the wrong reasons, such as accolades. It is like they have come down with a bad case of “The Stupids.” All of this is so unnecessary. We must always remember, we are there to serve for “the good of the order,” and no other reason.
Once again we bring the yearly Allocution from Royal Grand Perfect Matron R. Lucille
R. Lucille Samuel The 1st Royal Grand Perfect Matron Margaret A. McDow Grand Court Ladies Of The Circle Of Perfection Texas PHA
Samuel as she continues to inspire and lead her troops. This Sister spreads love and joy wherever she goes while at the same time holding tightly the reins of leadership. She is a Master at organizing, deputizing and inspiring those whom she leads.
I truly believe in the 3 Cs to success Confidence, Curiosity and Courage.
WHAT DO YOU BRING!
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. Proverbs 16:19
Again it is my honor and privilege to stand before you as we celebrate our 2nd year as the Margaret A. McDow Grand Court. We are blessed beyond measures.
I truly thank the membership for all the time spent in making this great body successful.
We have accomplished so much but we are still on that road to Perfection. I truly believe in the 3 Cs to success Confidence, Curiosity and Courage. We are on a Journey that has no destination. Our compass is set in the direction of continuous labor and service. The road may be rocky at times but the ride will be smooth.
Revelations 2:19 – I know thy works and charity and service and faith and thy patience and thy works; and the last to be more than the first.
Innovation distinguishes between a Leader and a Follower.
Have you ever asked yourself What do I bring to the organization? How does the organization benefit from my presence?
Let’s start with communication. Are you the type that loves to share information or keep it to yourself? Do you feel well if I share then that gives them the upper hand on me. I can’t get to the top if I share my ideas of vision. Sometimes we have to set aside our opinions and selflessness in order for our organizations to thrive and flourish. In order for our mission to be complete support of each other is a must. We are here to serve not to be served. We made a pledge and promised to respect and assist when necessary. Those that came before us paved the way for our benefit. We must maintain the same enthusiasm and honor their memories.
Honesty is another attribute that is not popular in our Order. How can you expect members to respect you if they cannot trust your words? Honesty means being upright of character or action. Would you follow a person that constantly feeds you false information? Honesty is one of the most admired traits of a leader. Being truthful and honest shows respect and integrity. Remember you can pay for school but you can‘t buy class.
What about Flexibility? Are you willing to listen to ideas of others? Do you feel intimidated if someone has a greater idea or suggestion? Are you afraid that your position or title is in jeopardy?
Sometimes leaders become complacent and have a deaf ear to change. You may hear a comment such as you have not been a member long enough to have an opinion. You don’t have enough experience in the Order to have any new ideas. We are never too old to learn. Fresh ideas bring oxygen and motivation. Being able to work with others is a trait that we all must have in order to succeed. A positive attitude will take you further than negativity and animosity. Being the leader does not make you the expert and there is always someone else with more experience. We are an equal opportunist and there is no place in our organization for intimidation and old beliefs of exaggerated prejudice. Many times your attitude of superiority toward members can be the demise of your organization.
Sometimes you need to look in the mirror and ask yourself am I the problem or the solution? Is my work in order? Am I organized? Am I qualified to be in this position? We need to practice what we preach or change our speech. If you can’t lead the song you don’t sing.
You can’t lead anyone if you don’t know how to follow. Using large intelligent words only fool people for so long. Your friends will only cover for you for so long and that smoke screen does not last forever. You can’t use $30 words and have a Dollar Store’s worth of common sense. A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way. Don’t let these collars around your necks out weigh the efforts you put forth in serving the organization. Innovation distinguishes between a Leader and a Follower.
Royal Grand Perfect Matron Samuel can be reached for comment at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
BRYCE ON BUSINESS Common sense is no longer common in the work place (and some lessons for Masonic Lodges).
Probably the main reason why Scott Adams’ “Dilbert” comic strip enjoys the popularity it does is because it is a clever parody of the corporate world. It now appears in hundreds of newspapers around the world. As readers, we can relate to the corporate situations the characters are put in and the inevitable results. What is considered logical and practical is often sacrificed to suit petty personality traits. The underlying theme in the strip is that common sense is not common in the corporate world.
I have assembled a list of items as found in business and compare and contrast how they should be applied in practice (common sense) versus how they are applied in reality. This provides some interesting insight into the philosophy of our corporate culture. Who knows, this might be nothing more than fodder for Scott Adams.
Common Sense: Impressions make a difference as people react to our appearances. How we dress and act send subliminal messages to the people we meet and work with, but we must be wary of facade; an actor rarely assumes the characteristics of the people they portray. The same is true in business; looks will carry you for a while but you have to be able to produce results in order to achieve the confidence and respect you desire.
Reality: Appearances and conduct are no longer considered important. A lot of managers are grateful simply because employees show up for work on time. Slovenly looks are often not disciplined accordingly. Our appearances also influence behavior; if we look bad, we typically lack respect for ourselves and others and treat them accordingly; looking better promotes pride and self-respect.
Common Sense: Our perceptions, right or wrong, dictate our actions. Whether we perceive a situation correctly or not is irrelevant; we will act according to how we see a situation. Knowing this, we should make every effort to correctly interpret a situation so we make the right decision and take the appropriate action.
Reality: We see only what we want to see. Little effort is made to clarify a situation and act on impulses.
Common Sense: The brain should be fully engaged in order to strive to achieve.
Reality: Companies establish working environments that do not stimulate thought. They prefer to have human robots as opposed to encouraging people to exhibit a little initiative.
Common Sense: The only good business relationship is where both parties benefit. The intent should be to create “win-win” situations where both parties prosper, not just one. This promotes cooperation and trust.
Reality: Its a dog-eat-dog world out there. Most companies have little regard for vendors and customers, let alone partners. “Win-lose” situations are still the norm today.
Common Sense: Talk and write to communicate, not to impress. An eloquent vocabulary tends to alienate as oppose to recruiting support for your argument. As such, it is important to know your audience.
Reality: Pompous speeches using a seemingly cryptic language does, in fact, impress people. Your audience may not understand what you are talking about, but they will be buffaloed into believing you. Don’t have any new ideas? Just change the vocabulary and make people believe you have invented a new idea.
Common Sense: All companies have a culture, a way by which their people think and behave. In order for new employees to succeed, they must adapt to the culture or face rejection (e.g., people refusing to work with them).
Reality: New people care little for the thinking and behavior of others. They believe they know better and act like loose cannons.
Common Sense: The customer is treated like a king. By providing excellent service, the customer will offer referrals (new business) as well as repeat business.
Reality: The customer is treated like sheep. By creating bureaucracy, consumers have learned not to expect too much and realize objections are exercises in futility. By vendors creating an aura that their products are “state of the art,” people will react like Pavlov’s dog and purchase the latest gizmo upon its announcement (usually sight unseen).
Common Sense: Business decisions should be based on sound logical facts, such as a Cost/Benefit Analysis with “return on investments” and “break even points.” People are typically not afraid of taking a risk if the facts are presented to them clearly.
Reality: Business decisions are based on emotions with an appeal to the frailties of the human ego, e.g., greed, stature, perks, etc. Politicians and marketers have known this for years, which is why Government initiates actions based on polls as opposed to what is really needed. People are not afraid of taking risks since they know liberal government bankruptcy laws will bail them out in case of failure.
Common Sense: If something is important, write it down. By doing so, we are providing the means for companies to carry on in the event of a catastrophe or a turnover in personnel.
Reality: Rarely is anything written down, particularly designs as it is considered a waste of time. Without documentation, people such as engineers promote job security; e.g., they cannot be fired since they maintain the designs in their heads.
Common Sense: Information is not synonymous with data. Information is the knowledge or intelligence required to support the actions and decisions of a business. People act on information, not data. Data is the raw material used to produce information. Consequently, data should be cataloged so that it may be shared and reused to produce the necessary information.
Reality: Information and data are treated as being synonymous. Rarely is data shared and reused outside of a single computer program. As a result, data redundancy runs rampant in business causing end-users to question the integrity of information from which it is based.
Common Sense: Tell the truth; if you don’t you’ll eventually get caught in a lie which could potentially cost the company business.
Reality: Lying is considered an acceptable form of behavior. In other words, say or promise anything to secure a contract. Let the corporate lawyers figure out later what to do if entanglements ensue.
Common Sense: Lead by example. Never ask someone to do something you are not prepared to do yourself. This will earn you the respect of your workers.
Reality: Most managers have little sensitivity for the type of work their people have to perform. In fact, they prefer a master/slave relationship thereby elevating their ego.
Common Sense: Create an environment that empowers employees and treat them like professionals, thereby giving them a sense of purpose. An empowered employee will be more dedicated and loyal to the company.
Reality: Promise recruits anything, sweat them, then let them go at the end of the assignment. Let us also not forget, employees will jump from job to job. Free-agency saw to that.
Common Sense: Insist on a clean work environment thereby forcing employees to be more disciplined and organized. By doing so, it will be easier to find and manage things, such as products, parts, and paperwork.
Reality: “A cluttered desk is the sign of a brilliant mind” is the normal cop out. By maintaining a pigsty, it is harder for managers to find out what the employee is up to.
Common Sense: Plan and set goals, but recognize that change is constant. As such, it is necessary to be flexible to adjust and adapt to changing conditions.
Reality: Plans are often cast in concrete thereby making it impossible to accommodate change. If a change is requested, blame the developers of the plan. Oh yea, don’t forget to print plans on fancy paper so it might impress others.
Common Sense: Treat problems, not symptoms. To get to the root of a problem, work backwards until you come to the starting point. Still can’t find it? Work forward, from start to end. Better yet, have a second pair of eyes look it over.
Reality: Treat symptoms, not problems. Apply Band-Aids where tourniquets are really needed (thereby pacifying the situation for the moment). Companies tend to develop a punchlist of symptoms and than take a shotgun approach to diagnosing them. Further, corrections are rarely delivered for free but, instead, are issued as updates (for a price).
Common Sense: Build quality into the product during development. By breaking the development process into stages, the product can be reviewed and inspected in increments. By doing so, it is rather easy to backup and correct the problem upon discovery. A quality-built product requires less time to maintain and, as such, reduces maintenance costs.
Reality: Companies inspect products after they have been built, normally by people unfamiliar with the processes and tools used to create the product. The rationale here is that it is seemingly cheaper to discard a product afterwards as opposed to during the development process. The cost of quality is normally bundled into the price of the product, thereby customers assume the price for corrections, not the company.
Common Sense: Share and reuse parts of products. By doing so, it reduces development costs and promotes integration between products. Further, it simplifies maintenance of products through the use of standardized parts.
Reality: Sharing and reuse is avoided (primarily due to the “Not Invented Here” phenomenon). Consequently, considerable redundancy ensues, both in terms of parts and the labor required to redesign each part. The resulting overhead is buried in the price of the product.
Common Sense: The best solutions are the simple solutions. Complicated solutions add to the expense of a project or a product (as well as the time to develop them). Do what is practical, not necessarily what is elegant.
Reality: Companies tend to prefer complicated solutions since they tend to pacify inflated egos or as part of a shell game in marketing the product. Complicated solutions inevitably add costs to the product (as well as markups).
Common Sense: A team of players can outperform any individual effort. As such, companies should be promoting teamwork and a spirit of cooperation.
Reality: Companies offer rewards for individual initiative (not teamwork), thereby resulting in a spirit of competition as opposed to cooperation. The thinking here is along the lines of “natural selection” as contained in Darwin’s theory of evolution whereby the individual with the strongest characteristics climbs to the top of the heap.
Common Sense: Technology should be applied in business on a basis of cost effectiveness. An elegant solution to the wrong problem solves nothing.
Reality: Technology is purchased by companies to “Keep up with the Jones” or as a status symbol. Rarely is it ever purchased for practical business purposes. Companies have been so conditioned to purchase technology, it is like taking their morning vitamin pill; a habit they believe is good for them. This train of thought is so pervasive today that technology often supersedes management. In other words, we do not try to manage our way out of a problem, we throw technology at it instead (this way, when something goes wrong, we can blame the technology).
Common Sense: Do your own work. Give credit where credit is due.
Reality: Piracy is an acceptable form of behavior. It is quite common for employees to take intellectual property from one company to another as they move from job to job. Let the lawyers fight it out if a problem ensues.
Common Sense: Stay focused on the work product (the result or deliverable) and doggedly see something through to completion with your best effort, thereby creating pride in workmanship. Further, accept constructive criticism so that we can learn and improve. Our goal, as employees, is to become craftsmen in our area of expertise.
Let us also not forget that everything begins with a sale. Without a sale, there is no customer service, no development, nada.
Reality: People will only work on those items they deem important, in no particular priority. Further, people like to “rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic” and, by doing so, try to make things look better on the surface than they really are. This is usually done by juggling the books. Companies avoid tackling major projects for two reasons; first, they no longer possess the management skills to accomplish the work, and second; rewards and systems of remuneration are based on a short-term mentality.
THE HUMAN SPIRIT
Common Sense: Since the inception of our company in 1971, the underlying theme in our methodologies and writings is the recognition of the vital role the human being plays in business. You have heard us say on numerous occasions:
* Everything begins and ends with the human being. * Systems are for people * Business is about people, not numbers. * Information is for people, not for the computer. * We accomplish projects through people. * Our corporate slogan: “Software for the finest computer – the Mind”
Knowing this, there should be greater respect for the human spirit and, as such, we should be sharpening our people skills as opposed to our technical skills. Technology will always have a role to play, but humans should never become subservient to it.
Reality: The human element is too often overlooked or forgotten. Technology is having an adverse effect on our social skills. For example, we can now electronically contact just about anyone anywhere on the planet, but we do not know how to effectively communicate or work with others. Some people believe the ideal business is one run totally by machines and not by people, thereby affording us more leisure time, a sort of “business in a closet.” But as long as we have people as customers, people as vendors, and need people to execute projects, we should always respect the dignity of the human spirit.
Some would suggest the Common Sense items listed above are naive concepts; that business doesn’t work this way. They are probably right, but then again, this is what makes “Dilbert” so funny. We all look for Common Sense in the work place, but are no longer surprised when things go awry. Consequently, these Common Sense items are considered “Uncommon” in today’s world.
I’ll close with one final Common Sense maxim admonished by my grandmother years ago which I have always found to be true, “In every person’s life, you must eat at least one spoonful of dirt.”
First published: September 18, 2006. Updated 2019.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at email@example.com
Is it dying? How many candidates have you raised in the last year? Have you analyzed what you are doing wrong and what you are doing right?
How is your retention? Do you raise Brothers that never come back? Or are they gone after about three months?
Are you raising Masons that shouldn’t be there just because you hastily gave them a petition? Are you raising Masons who are applying before they are ready to accept what it means to be a Mason? Are you raising Masons that do not fit into the peace and harmony of your Lodge? Do you have a really good Investigating-Petitioning process that screens out those that won’t fit and those who will quit?
Do you have a good mentoring system, not only for those who are going through the degrees but Master Masons in their first year and beyond if needed?
Brother Rhit Moore
Meet Brother Rhit Moore who suffered through three meltdowns of his Lodge before he got wise. Brother Moore will explain to you what he and other committed members of his Lodge implemented the fourth time around to create a successful Lodge. He will explain how his Lodge raises 20 to 40 new Master Masons every year who stay.
Brother Moore doesn’t have a magic wand. He learned what needed to be done the hard way. But he and other members of Fort Worth Lodge learned from their mistakes and kept on trying. Now they have a system that works for them and Fort Worth Lodge is in a new renaissance.
It’s not exactly “rocket science” but some people still don’t know how to do it.
Recently I was adding up the number of Board of Directors I have served on over the years for nonprofit organizations. This includes computer societies, fraternal organizations, homeowner associations, even Little League. The number was over 50 where I have served in some capacity or other, everything from president, to vice president, secretary, division director, finance chairman, publicity and public relations, newsletter editor, webmaster, even historian. In other words, I think I’ve learned a thing or two about nonprofit organizations over the years. One of the first things I learned early on is that unless you manage the nonprofit group, it will manage you.
Running a nonprofit group is not exactly rocket science and is actually pretty simple, but surprisingly few people grasp the basics and end up bungling the organization thereby creating upheaval for its constituents. If you are truly interested in properly managing a nonprofit group, consider these ten principles that have served me well over the years:
Know the rules
Get a copy of the governing docs, read them, and keep them with you. Do not try to hide them. In fact, make them available to your constituents either in paper form or as a download on the computer (such as a PDF file). Got a briefcase dedicated to your group? Keep a copy of the docs in it and, if an electronic version is available, place an icon on your desktop to quickly access it.
Get to know your constituents
How can you expect to adequately serve them if you do not know what their interests are or the group’s priorities as they perceive them? They won’t always be correct, but understand their perceptions and deal with them accordingly. You might want to circulate a survey to get their view on certain subjects, and to solicit their support.
Not only with the other members of the board, but with your constituency as well. Failure to do so only raises suspicions about what you are doing. Newsletters, e-mail blasts, and web pages are invaluable in this regard, particularly the latter where you can post news, governing docs, contact information, meeting minutes, audit reports, correspondence, etc. Simple communications will clear up a lot of the problems you will face as an officer on the board.
Keep good records, regardless if government regulations require it or not. Whether you are maintaining records with pencil and paper or by computer, it is important that accurate records be maintained, particularly about the group’s membership, logs of activities, attendance, finances, minutes, etc. It is not really that complicated to perform; you just need someone who pays attention to detail. Don’t have the manpower to do it yourself? Then hire someone, such as a management company, who can competently keep track of things.
Lead – people like to know where they are headed
If you are in charge of the group, articulate your objectives and prepare a plan to get you there. Also, do not try to micromanage everything. Nonprofit groups are primarily volunteer organizations and the last thing they want is Attila the Hun breathing down their necks. Instead, manage from the bottom-up. Delegate responsibility, empower people, and follow-up. Make sure your people know their responsibilities and are properly trained. Other than that, get out of their way and let them get on with their work.
Add value to your service
People like to think they are getting their money’s worth for paying their dues. In planning your organization’s activities, be creative and imaginative, not stale and repetitive. In other words, beware of falling into a rut. Your biggest obstacle will typically be apathy. If your group’s mission is to do nothing more than meet periodically, make it fun and interesting, make it so people want to come and participate. Try new subjects, new venues, new menus, etc. Even if you are on a tight budget, try to make things professional and first class. Change with the times and never be afraid of failure. You won’t always bat 1.000 but you will certainly hit a few out of the park and score a lot of runs.
Keep an eye on finances
As officers of the Board, you have a fiduciary responsibility to maintain the group’s finances and report on their status. I cannot stress enough the importance of having a well thought-out and itemized budget. Operating without one is simply irresponsible. And when you have a budget, manage according to it; if you don’t have the money allocated, don’t spend it. Obviously, you should also have routine finance reports produced (at least on a monthly basis) showing an opening balance, income, expenses, and a closing balance. Most PC based financial packages can easily do this for you. At the end of the year, perform a review of your finances by an independent party, either a compilation as performed by a CPA or a review by an internal committee. Post the results so the constituency can be assured their money has been properly handled.
Run an effective meeting
Nobody wants to attend an inconsequential meeting. Whether it is a weekly/monthly board meeting or an annual meeting, run it professionally. Print up an agenda in advance and stick to it. Start and end on time and maintain order. Got a gavel? Do not hesitate to use it judiciously. Maintain civility and decorum. Allow people to have their say but know when issues are getting out of hand or sidetracked. And do yourself a favor, get a copy of Robert’s Rules of Order and study it.
Beware of politics
Like it or not, man is a political animal. Politics in a nonprofit group can get uglier than in the corporate world. Some people go on a power trip even in the most trivial of organizations. Try not to lose sight of the fact that this is a volunteer organization and what the mission of the group is. Keep an eye on rumors and confront backstabbers, there is no room for such shenanigans in a nonprofit group. If you are the president, try to maintain an “open door” policy to communicate with your constituents. It is when you close the door that trouble starts to brew. Also, ask yourself the following, “Who serves who?” Does the board serve its constituents, or do the constituents serve the board? If your answer is the latter, then dissent will naturally follow.
Maintain control over your vendors
Try to keep a good relationship with those companies and people who either work for or come in contact with your group, particularly lawyers. Always remember who works for whom. I have seen instances where attorneys have taken over nonprofit groups (at a substantial cost I might add). The role of the lawyer is to only offer advice; he or she doesn’t make the decision, you do (the client). One last note on vendors, make sure you maintain a file of all contracts and correspondence with them. Believe me, you’re going to need it when it comes time to sever relations with them. Keep a paper trail.
un your nonprofit group like a business. Come to think of it, it is a business, at least in the eyes of the State who recognizes you as a legal entity (one that can be penalized and sued). There are those who will naively resist this notion, but like it or not, a nonprofit group is a business. Consider this, what happens when the money runs out?
I mentioned earlier that you might want to hire a management company to perform the administrative detail of your group. To me, this is an admission that the Board is either too lazy or incompetent to perform their duties (or they have more money than they know what to do with). Just remember, it’s not rocket science.
Keep the Faith!
Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.
Tim Bryce is a freelance writer and management consultant in the Tampa Bay area of Florida. He is a member of Dunedin Lodge No. 192 F.& A.M.
They are known as The Knights of The Masonic Roundtable or simply as The Masonic Roundtable. They are five innovative, hard working, and extremely nice Masons who got together in 2014 to spread Masonic light around the world via their weekly show.
Phoenixmasonry (and Freemason Information) is delighted to have had the opportunity to meet the Knights and publish this interview so we can all get to know them better.
Elena Llamas, Director of Public Relations for Phoenixmasonry: Hello, Knights, thank you for this interview. It is an honor and privilege to interview you. It has been two years since you got together and you are going strong, meeting every single week. Is it fair to assume that you will be around in the foreseeable future? I hope so!
Jason: Hi, Elena! Thanks so much for spending some time with us. The hosts of TMR always told each other that we’d keep going until the show stopped being fun. We’re still having a blast, so things are looking good!
Robert: Agreed. It’s become a highlight of the week for me.
Elena: That’s great! Why the name Knights of the Masonic Roundtable? And how did you get started? I understand Jon’s love for technology, gadgets, and Masonry was the starting point.
Jon: It was! Being a self-proclaimed Android nerd, I followed a site called Droid Life which introduced a live show talking all things Android that week (new phones, new announcements from manufacturers). What was neat was that they also added commentary very organically, and you could tell they knew their material. I figured someone should do a similar show but for Masonry. I didn’t anticipate that someone to be me!
I was such a huge fan of other Masonic podcasts, such as The Winding Stairs, and Whence Came You? and blogs like the Millennial Freemason, and although I had “friended” most of them in the past, I did not really know them well. On a whim, I asked all of them if they would be willing to try it out as an experiment. Ego stroking worked in my favor.
Robert: It sure did, Jon. Ha!
Juan: When I first heard Jon explain the concept and when I found out that Robert was also on board, I didn’t need to hear anything else. I saw it as an opportunity to continue learning about the Craft and sharing that knowledge with other Brothers.
Jason: We wanted the show to be a roundtable discussion, so we kept the “Roundtable” name and The Masonic Roundtable was born. We added in the Knights as a homage to the York Rite (Knights Templar, specifically), of which four out of the five hosts are members.
Robert: We’re working on Jason. 🙂
Jason: Yes, I’m the host with the vintage Knight Templar triangle apron hanging up in his studio who isn’t a member. Oh, the irony!
Elena: I noticed it! Jon had a great idea and, in turn, you all have been part of the inspiration for Phoenixmasonry’s own show, airing soon, which will be different from yours, of course, and also online.
Jason: We can’t wait to see it! The fraternity desperately needs new sources of quality, well-researched Masonic education. We’re looking forward to seeing what Phoenixmasonry comes up with.
Elena: Thank you! You have certainly laid such a standard for others! Tell us about your logo. Is this your design? And please explain its meaning.
Jason: Yes! This is our trademarked design. The logo is absolutely critical to the show’s branding. Juan came up with some early designs for the artwork and I added the symbolism and other enhancements. I try to pack as much symbolism into my designs as possible while keeping them minimalist in style.
Elena: That certainly was accomplished with the logo.
Jason: The essential design elements of our logo include the following:
First, you’ll notice the circumpunct: represented by the outer rings and the dot in the middle of the square and compasses, which is an admonishment to ourselves (and our viewers) to manage time wisely. Our time on the Earth is finite. It is our duty to God to manage the time that we have as best we can. The circumpunct has historically represented Deity, and its inclusion in our design emphasizes the centrality of our duty to God.
Second, the triangle, which interlocks with the circumpunct, represents the three tenets of Freemasonry: brotherly love, relief, and truth.
The five five-pointed stars represent the five original Knights of The Masonic Roundtable. They also allude to the five orders of architecture.
Jason: Each order of architecture is unique in its own way, adding a very specific kind of beauty to the building a given column adorns. Each of the five hosts is unique in his own personality and perspective, and each host adds a flavor to the show that would be sorely missed otherwise.
Elena: I agree.
Jason: As stars produce light, the representation of the hosts as stars alludes to the entire point of the show, which is to spread Masonic light and knowledge everywhere we can. As stars bring light, we attempt to do the same by sparking constructive Masonic discourse.
Elena: What beautiful symbolism!
Jason: Finally, the words “MORE LIGHT,” which appear in the bottom of the design, allude to our sign off, “Keep searching for more light!”, which is our admonishment to our viewers and listeners to keep the discourse going long after the episode ends. Every Mason has a duty to use his/her time on this earth to learn as much as he (or she) can.
As you can see, this design is the very heart and soul of our show, which is one of the reasons why we turned it into a set of lapel pins we sell on our website to cover our production and hosting costs. We packed even more symbolism into the pins by using specific colors as an homage to the Royal Arch (red), Cryptic Council (purple), Allied Masonic Degrees (green), Scottish Rite (white), and Blue Lodge (blue) bodies of Masonry.
Elena: The pins are lovely! You are on your 130th episode. I spent a lot of time on your YouTube channel and was so impressed by the range of topics you discuss. I recommend readers set aside a weekend or two for a Roundtable marathon. Your topics vary from what a Masonic political party would possibly be like to in depth discussion on Masonic studies, interviews with Masonic personalities, and discussion on different currents within Masonry and other religious observances. Do you have a system for coming up with each week’s topic?
Jason: We start with topics we ourselves want to discuss. We have a backlog of topic ideas (and potential guest hosts/experts to bring onto the show to complement the topics) that we pull from. Our best show topics, however, have come as suggestions from our listeners. We love taking listener recommendations for topics. Our episodes on Racism in Freemasonry, Essentials of Lodge Leadership, the Kabbalah, and Masonic Ciphers were all requested by listeners. We get new suggestions each week, and never tire of hearing topics about which listeners would like to learn more. Some of our topics span episodes (like our four-part series on the four cardinal virtues), but most of our episodes are standalone.
Elena: I have noticed that you are very responsive to questions and comments from your audience.
Jason: Social media is my favorite part of each episode!
Juan: I agree with Jason. Social Media, when used adequately, can be a very versatile tool. There have been many times when we have a particular opinion on a topic, only because we have ignored some alternative explanations. All it takes is a Brother to share his view on our Facebook page and now we have a new perspective to consider.
Robert: It’s always fun and nerve racking to be put on the spot with a position you’ve decided to take on the episode when a listener who is watching live decides to ask you right there on the show about what you just said. I love it. It’s an exercise in logical discussion and that’s what is truly different about this program and why I think it’s gotten the success it has.
Nick: Coming from the blogging world, I still get comments from posts I wrote years ago. I think that is useful and helpful. Since The Masonic Roundtable is a topical show by design, I definitely like the questions that keep coming in, even from episodes we did from a while back. It keeps my mind humming with new thoughts and new perspectives.
Elena: You start out each episode with a bit of trivia, Masonic news, conversation, and more. It is a great way to keep your viewers updated and interested while having fun.
Jason: It took us a lot of trial and error to find the right balance of special segments and discussion. If you go back to our early episodes (please don’t judge too harshly!), you’ll find much more inconsistency in the format. Over time, we’ve refined how we do the show (largely due to feedback we receive from our listeners). We’ve got the format down pretty solid nowadays, but we can always change it up as our audience’s needs evolve.
Elena: You film from your personal offices, living rooms, and sometimes even hotel rooms. You must have worked out a system for making sure your families give you time every week for the show. Jason’s cat isn’t having any of that (see image below).
Juan: In my home, I have a dedicated Art Studio/Office space that is separate from the rest of the house. My family knows that Tuesday Nights I am recording TMR and they know to stay away from the Studio (It’s too messy in there anyway).
Elena: With a weekly show, plus your non-Masonic jobs and other Masonic endeavors, how do you manage to remain enthusiastic about the show, week after week?
Jason: It’s difficult. From the very beginning, we had to make a conscious effort to make the show a priority. I’ve had plenty of nights where I would have much rather gone to bed early then stayed up late doing the show. Every Wednesday is a big struggle for me at work because I’m dragging from staying up late the night before. But what I’ve personally found is that the discussions I have with the other hosts and the interaction we get from those watching live makes the sleep deprivation totally worth it. There’s a reason we keep coming back every week; that reason is that our listeners are amazing.
Robert: It is definitely a struggle sometimes. There will be times (frequently) I’m “live from mobile masonic command”, as the fellas have called it. As you’ve said, with work, kids, families it gets a bit nuts. I’ve blown off Masonic meetings to do the show at times but the District Deputy Grand Master meetings are the ones I can’t miss and why I am sometimes driving and doing the show. The listeners have not complained about the noise in the car…which I am deeply appreciative of. 😉
Juan: I enjoy doing the show and I love my Fellow Knights, but there are times when I may have had a rough day and don’t feel particularly motivated. All it takes is for me to let the Brothers know how I feel and they cheer me up, just in time to sit in front of the camera and forget the difficulties of the day. It’s the cheapest therapy in town, if you ask me.
Elena: Are you invited to Lodges and Masonic events as a group to talk about your show? I think you are a great example of how technology and Masonry can combine to produce refreshing and new possibilities.
Jason: We have had the privilege of speaking individually and collectively across the country, both virtually and in-person! In June, I was invited to do a virtual presentation in a lodge in Wisconsin. It was a great instance where we were able to use technology to enhance and promote Masonic education! On a larger scale, we were invited to be the featured speakers at the Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge in March of this year. We streamed the entire event live–a first for the Academy–and had an amazing turnout!
Juan: The Pennsylvania Academy of Masonic Knowledge event was an amazing experience, but we recognize that it is a little more difficult to bring all five of us to speak at an event (It’s possible though). However, we get invitations to speak at Lodges individually on a regular basis. I’m one of those strange creatures who really enjoys public speaking and I love doing it to spread Masonic Education. Getting to sit with Brothers from around the Country is a great privilege of our profession.
Robert: It has been wonderful to share fellowship with lodges all around the country. I think we really had an amazing opportunity and experience when we all were in PA for the Academy.
Jason: Brethren tuned in from as far away as Texas! The event itself included individual presentations from each of the hosts and a combined presentation at the end. Best of all, you can still go back and watch the entire event on our youtube channel! It’s just another way that we were able to use technology to expand the reach of Masonic education.
Elena: If a lodge wanted one or more of you to come speak, what would they need to do?
Jason: The first step, like everything in Masonry, is to ask us! We’ve got a calendar of speaking engagements listed on our website. I’m personally happy to do presentations virtually any time I can fit them in, and if you’re near the Washington, D.C. metro area (or want to do something virtually) you might be able to get me and Jon as a 2-for-1. If I can help contribute to your lodge’s commitment to providing quality Masonic education to its members, then I’ll do so in any way that I can!
Robert: True story. Just ask. I maintain a page on the Whence Came You? website, and I try to get those dates to Jon, since he does most of the website work. He does a great job. We will travel far and wide to share fellowship and have discussion with the brothers.
Juan: If a Lodge wanted to invite us as a group, TheMasonicRoundtable.com is the place to go. If a Lodge wanted to invite me personally, they can do so through TheWindingStairs.com or through Facebook. My presentations are usually related to the practical side of Masonry. How to Apply Freemasonry to our everyday lives.
Elena: You provide an amazing and unique Masonic service.
Jason: Thanks so much!
Elena: The sound and video on your shows is always top quality, your settings are always well put together (as in, not a mess), you are always well groomed and wide-awake. Us viewers appreciate your effort and presentation. There is nothing worse than trying to plow through a poorly produced video with audio problems, with a distracting background, or unprepared hosts.
Robert: I totally agree. How many times have you started listening to an old .mp3 file and the quality was horrible? You know people make podcasts like that still? In 2016! When we decided to make the show an audio podcast as well, yes it wasn’t always so, we wanted to make sure we didn’t have this same problem. For the audiophiles out there, 320 kbps stereo is where I wanted to go. That’s what I did on Whence Came You? However, after playing around with cost / benefit we settled on 192 kbps stereo. I think it’s easy to listen to and it sounds like we’re there in your car, or your house or wherever you listen to us. It’s a crucial element. You could have a great show but if the audio is tinny etc. I know I’m not even going to give it one minute of my time. We didn’t want to ever have that as a problem for our listeners.
Jason: Post-production of our show is huge. We record it live, and started the show thinking we’d do video only; however, our audience begged for an audio-only version and after a couple of weeks we gave in. Good thing, too, as most of our audience listens to our audio-only podcast these days. We don’t do any post-production on the videos at present, but RJ is the man when it comes to making our discussions sound as good and clear as possible on the audio podcast.
Elena: After watching so many of your episodes, I walked away with a sense that all of you are very inquisitive, very respectful of your guests and topics, and well rounded and diverse as to points of view. The variety you provide as a group is unique and a real innovation in Freemasonry.
Robert: Whoa! Innovations!? We can’t have any of that. (Jokes) Being respectful is what we do as part of being Freemasons. While many of the topics and discussions we have on the show are highly charged and many more could not even be discussed in lodge, we’re not in lodge. We ask ourselves “How would a Mason discuss this topic?” Juan has been instrumental in keeping us grounded.
Juan: We are there for one another. We share a common interest, but don’t always share on the same opinions. The diversity of opinions helps us get out of our comfort zone and evaluate things from a more objective viewpoint. I like it when we present our Brothers as many facts as possible and allow them to formulate their own conclusions. We refuse to shy away from difficult subjects, so we have to be careful that our opinions are expressed as just that, our opinions.
Elena: Thus, your shows are more about exploring and discussing topics than about explaining each of your positions on the subjects. You don’t seem to want to teach or preach as much as you do propose, introduce your topics, and learn from your guests and issues.
Jason: We’re not experts, nor do we purport to be. We’re here to encourage Masons to arrive at their own conclusions vice imposing our personal worldviews on our listeners. We try to structure our discussions in such a way that there’s no right or wrong answer. We’re all here to learn, not only from each other, but from our listeners as well. That’s why we place such a heavy emphasis on audience interaction.
Robert: To be fair, there are times where I and others will openly disagree. I’ve gotten grumpy on a few episodes. But it’s usually on a topic in which there is heated debate. Again, something about the compasses keeps me out of trouble. As for teaching, well, I think we are all teachers already. And since our show is a discussion, it helps to think about it in terms of a bunch of teachers sitting around with other teachers, who would be the listeners, talking about these topics. We’re not out there getting preachy.
Juan: I’ve come to accept our level of responsibility grows proportionally as the size of our audience grows. Like that old sage, Ben Parker, once said “with great power comes great responsibility”. Although we have to be clear in our message, I don’t think we need to hit our listeners over the head with forced opinions. We are here to discuss, not to convince.
Jon: I try to apply the liberal art of rhetoric every show.
Elena: Do you have a large non-Masonic following?
Robert: The analytics and data show we have a huge following. I’d defer to Jon at this point. But I would point out that the non masons we do have usually are courting the fraternity and later join. We get letters all the time that say things like “ …I joined because your show finally gave me the push I needed. I receive my EA degree next week!” It’s humbling to say the least.
Jon: Facebook and Google analytics don’t have an “is mason” metric, so it’s a little hard to determine those who have taken the degrees and who haven’t. Get on it, Google!
Elena: Do you have other demographic data as to your followers? Age, region, that sort of thing?
Jason: Jon’s the Masonic data expert. He’ll give the best answer on this one!
Jon: Yup. Me again. Although all ages, genders, and areas listen to the show, our largest audience is men, 25-35, in the United States. That tells me that the connected generation wants to hear more about Freemasonry and younger Masons want to have more masonic education. I’d love for Grand Lodges to make our show irrelevant (Ok, maybe not quite, but close).
Elena: Ha, ha. Interesting data, thank you! Individually, you have some very interesting projects. Let’s start with Jason. You are a blogger. You have The 2-Foot Ruler: Masonry in Plain Language blog. Tell us about it.
Jason: Ah yes, the 2-Foot Ruler. It began as a play on the Masonic working tool known as the 24-inch gauge. I began the blog with the intention of trying to explain the Craft in plain language so that non-Masons could understand us a bit better, but I’ve found that–at least for me–it’s difficult to write with consistency. That’s why the blog has languished as I’ve gotten more involved with TMR, the Midnight Freemasons, and other projects. I typically only write about things about which I’m very passionate. This is why you’ll see a number of my blog posts dedicated to topics of religious anti-masonry, marriage equality, homosexuality in Masonry, and transgender equality. For me, writing is cathartic. Even if my opinions or pieces don’t influence policy at the Grand Lodge level, I still feel as if I’m contributing to positive discussion through my writing.
Elena: That is great, Jason, thank you! Robert, you are the managing editor of the Midnight Freemasons.
Robert: Yes, years ago, when I started with “Whence Came You?” podcast, I read a piece called “Freemasons and Beer” and I ran across the piece on this website called “The Midnight Freemason”. It was run by Illustrious Bro. Todd E. Creason who is a famous Freemason in and of himself, having published half a dozen books. I asked for permission to read his piece on the show and Todd approved, but he had never heard of the a podcast before. We struck up a mentor mentee relationship of sorts. Eventually he got too busy and “The Midnight Freemason” was going to go dark, as we say. I stepped up to the plate. He gave me everything I needed to run the site and here we are. We changed the name from “The Midnight Freemason” to the “Midnight Freemasons”. We went from just one author, Todd, to having half a dozen to having thirteen or fourteen at one point. We have over a million views and climbing. I may be biassed but I think it’s the best Masonic blog out there. Three new articles every week. It’s really an online magazine. Consistency is the name of the game and I think we have achieved that.
Elena: That is amazing consistency, yes! Jason, you are also a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog.
Jason: Yes! I’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to share the blogosphere with RJ, Todd, and a bunch of other deeply insightful Masons who make up the writing cadre of The Midnight Freemasons. I was talking to RJ at one point about a long piece I was writing on Christian Anti-Masonry, based partially off of an experience I had with a narrow-minded individual in a coin shop. He suggested I write the piece as a guest contribution to The Midnight Freemasons, and things snowballed from there. As my 2-foot Ruler posts waned, I devoted more time to my work with the Midnight Freemasons.
Elena: Juan, you were a professional artist prior to producing Masonic art. Shortly after joining Freemasonry, you developed a collection of Masonic Art and Custom Masonic Aprons. How is that project going and where can people view and purchase your work?
Juan: Shortly after becoming a Mason, I began working on a collection of Masonic Art for me. I set out to create the kind of work I would love to have hanging on my office walls. The collection has now grown to include paintings, fine prints and hand painted aprons, which can be purchased by visiting www.TheWindingStairs.com/Shop.
Elena: Your artwork is part of private and corporate collections in the United States, South America, The Caribbean, Europe and Australia now.
Juan: I feel very fortunate that I was able to pursue my dream of being a professional artist. Before I created any Masonic artwork, I had been living off of my art for over 6 years. I have displayed my work in New York, Las Vegas, California, Florida, and Puerto Rico. From there, and through my online sales, I now have collectors in many countries around the world. I feel very honored to be able to say that.
Elena: Congratulations, Juan! You are also the host of The Winding Stairs Freemasonry Podcast. Tell us a bit about that project.
Juan: I describe The Winding Stairs as being dedicated to Masonic Education and the art of self improvement. I strongly believe that many Brothers miss opportunities to improve their lives, because they are not given the proper instruction of applying the lessons of Freemasonry to their personal lives. I try to bridge that gap through my podcast episodes, videos, and online courses.
Earlier this year I started a project within The Winding Stairs, called Applied Freemasonry. In this program, I give Brothers exclusive access to in depth lessons and tools to help them find the practical aspects of Freemasonry. It includes a weekly video conference where we help each Brother individually find real life solutions to the problems they may face in life, by using the teachings of Freemasonry. It is almost like a virtual mentorship session, every week. I am very proud of this program and what it is doing for the Brothers who have joined it. You can learn more about it by visiting www.TheWindingStairs.com/mentorship
Elena: What a fantastic service! Nick, you are the lead blogger on The Millennial Freemason blog. Can you share something about your blog?
Nick: I was raised in March of 2006. Being a Mason for a decade now, I have gotten to see and experience a lot of online Masonry, including this site. When I started in Masonry, we were in the bad old days of Masonry on the Internet. Most lodge sites were either 5 years behind on information or filled with construction worker gifs and bad patriotic MIDIs.
I never really intended to blog for as long as I have. When I started the blog, it’s main focus was my time at the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota as Junior Warden, just months after I had been raised. I think it was more therapy than anything else. People were still maintaining LiveJournals, knowing that most weren’t being read.
One day, after writing a few blog posts, Jeff Day, who ran the blog aggregator “King Solomon’s Lodge”, noticed my site. He asked if he could include it and not thinking of it, I said, “sure.” That was the watershed moment. Now, I was getting comments daily, posts were hitting the thousands of hits in a day, and my voice was being amplified.
I have been lucky. Many of the past bloggers, all great content creators, have disappeared. It was the golden age of Masonic blogging but only a few of us are still here, like Tom Accuosti of the Tao of Masonry. And, because I’ve been blogging for so long, I sometimes feel like the old guy on the Masonic Roundtable, which is good in a way; Masonry without a grumpy Past Master would just not be Masonry.
I hope I can keep at it because of the friendships I’ve made. It’s also still a way for me to keep sane in an otherwise topsy turvy Masonic world. It’s just a nice way to stay connected. Masonic blogging still has a place and I hope to be a strong part of it.
Elena: Looks like you will, after all this time! Robert, you produce and host the weekly Podcast/internet radio program Whence Came You?
Robert: It started in 2011. I’ve been writing, hosting and producing the show for more than 5 years now. We have over 250 episodes. It started out as an idea to just do one show. That’s it. Is Freemasonry secret or not? I read a paper on that subject, hosted it and put it out on iTunes. Once I saw how many people downloaded it, I started producing it every other week and now it’s every week. So here we are, over 250 episodes, over a million downloads and it’s been ridiculously successful and so rewarding to hear from the fans of that show. The show has grown organically from the start. Now we have a whole WCY team, largely behind the curtain, but they are there. Adam Thayer is my guest host and book reviewer, Matt Dobbrow is our digital media archivist and study group coordinator, Ill. Steve Harrison is our guy for The Masonic Minute, Bill Hosler is developing a ROKU channel for us and some other tech stuff, and Frater O is our anonymous esotericist. We have a lot of fun and it’s another endeavor to spread the light of Freemasonry all over the world.
Elena: That sounds like a great team! Wait, did you say anonymous esotericist? Your information on The Masonic Roundtable website says you are also a photographer and an avid home brewer, AND you are working on three Masonic books!?
Robert: I am! I think we are all working on Masonic books, that is every Freemason who writes. I’ll believe myself when I finish one of them. Photography has always been a love of mine. I did it professionally for some years when I lived in Orange County, CA. But, when you do something for a living, the hobby becomes the burden. I still enjoy photography but now I use my phone to document everything, my SLR is packed away. As for the beer? Who doesn’t love Zymurgy?
Elena: What aspects of Freemasonry are you writing about and why in three different books?
Robert: My main project is something which has been in the works for three years and has consumed tons of time. It’s largely a book on Occult Anatomy but like nothing that’s ever been done before. I’m co-authoring the book with a good friend and brother. The hope is that it will be a book for all, not just Freemasons. The other two books focus on the Craft specifically. One will be a collection of my unpublished essays and the other is a book on Anxiety and Depression, something I’ve struggled with for the last ten years. That book ties into the craft as well, albeit loosely. It is a book I would hate to market to just one group of people, namely Freemasons.
Elena: That is wonderful, Robert. It is evident that each of you is a lover of technology, online advancements, and social media. You make great use of the programs available!
Jason: We’re constantly looking for innovative ways to leverage technology to expand the reach of Masonic education. We’re blessed to live in a world that is, for the first time in its history, truly connected. As technology continues to evolve, we hope to evolve with it. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll all be sitting in a virtual lodge meeting together from our respective bedrooms. UGLE, the Grand Lodge of Ireland, and the Grand Lodge of Manitoba in Canada have all set precedent for a virtual Masonic experience. I think we’re on the cusp of seeing virtual lodges become normative, and I’m excited to see that happen.
Nick: I have met so many friends, including my now co-host Jon Ruark, through the many Internet hotspots I frequented, including the Sanctum Sanctorum and the Masonic Society forum. Internet Masonry has been good for me and good for the Craft as a whole because it forces us to see outside of the four lodge walls. The world is wide but flat in this new era.
In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in Masonry today is what I term, “provincial Masonry.” Masons, particularly new Masons, leave because they aren’t exposed to new and different styles of Freemasonry. It’s somewhat by design. The lodge serves as locus for Masonic activity and many brothers like that. But this lack of travel breeds insularity which, for new Masons, tells them to conform to a local style or be left outside. I’ve chatted with so many brothers who have stayed because of Internet Masonry. It’s powerful and strengthens a bond that would have otherwise broken.
Elena: Lodges, Grand Lodges, and Masons should take notes. Writing is obviously another interest you all share, in addition to your great enthusiasm and dedication to Freemasonry through technology.
Robert: We do love to write. It’s therapy.
Jason: RJ nailed it here. Writing is cathartic. It’s a way for us to express ourselves and get heard, even if our opinions don’t translate into policy changes at the Grand Lodge level.
Elena: You are definitely being heard! Jon, I need to ask a silly question. You have two cats, Tesla and Edison. I am sure this isn’t the first time someone asks you this: do they fight a lot, given that scientists Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla had a rather famous disagreement?
Jon: Ha! Edison’s the younger one and they do tumble around quite a bit still, but I still root for Tesla as part of a redemption for history! AC/DC!
Elena: How funny.
Elena: Thank you again, Knights, for this interview! Phoenixmasonry hopes to catch up with you at a later time to see what is new with the show and hosts. It was a true pleasure to interview you and good luck with year number three of this wonderful show! Don’t forget to tune in to catch The Knights of The Masonic Roundtable live every Tuesday night at 10pm ET.
Below are more interesting biographical facts on each of the Knights, more photos, and the links to all their sites:
Jon T. Ruark is a Past Master and charter member of The Patriot Lodge No. 1957 in Fairfax, VA. His Masonic interests lean toward the esoteric and philosophical aspect. He lives in Virginia with his wife, 4 children, and 2 cats; Tesla and Edison.
Jason M. Richards is the Senior Warden Acacia Lodge No. 16 in Clifton, VA, where he was raised in 2012. He is also active in the Allied Masonic Degrees and the Royal Arch. His favorite Masonic research topics include the history of American Freemasonry, the sociocultural impact of Freemasonry, and the history and evolution of Masonic mythos. He is passionate about the way Freemasonry presents itself to the outside world and, to help promote a healthy image of the fraternity, works regularly with the Grand Lodge of Virginia Committee on Public Relations. He lives in Virginia with his wife, child under construction, cats, and ever-expanding collection of bow ties.
Juan Sepúlveda is a member of Orange Blossom Lodge No. 80 F. & A.M. in Kissimmee Florida. A member of the Orlando Valley of the Ancient And Accepted Scottish Rite, S.J. He is a professional artist and public speaker focused on helping men in their pursuit of excellence. He is passionate about history, Masonic education and allegorical teachings.
Nick Johnson is a lover of codes, symbols, esoteric craziness, and “secret” stuff; he became interested in Freemasonry and its symbols as a young man. With the help of his grandfather, Bro. Nick joined Corinthian Lodge No. 67 in Farmington, MN in the spring of 2006 and served as Master in 2010. He is also a Past High Priest of Corinthian Chapter No. 33, RAM, Past Illustrious Master of Northfield Council No. 12, R&SM, the current Grand Chaplain of the Grand Council of Cryptic Masons of Minnesota, and Past Commander of Faribault Commandery No. 8. He’s also involved in AMD, Knight Masons, the York Rite Sovereign College, and is a member of the Royal Order of Scotland. He lives in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul area with his wife and kids.
Robert Johnson is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois who serves as a District Education Officer and will be following up in October as a District Deputy Grand Master. He is a Past Master and current Secretary of Waukegan Lodge #78. He’s also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD and the Scottish Rite. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and will write original Masonic papers from time to time. He is a husband and father of 4. He works full time in the executive medical industry. Also, he does not have any cats.
BRYCE ON MANAGEMENT – Does your Lodge operate as a team or as a group of individuals?
As you travel around corporate America these days, you hear a lot about “teams”; that groups, departments or whole divisions are trying to behave more as a team as opposed to a group of individuals. Its the latest catch phrase du jour. I guess someone finally figured out the power of teamwork. Then again, how much of this represents sincere effort? My corporate contacts tell me its mostly facade. They contend they get some nifty new corporate shirts and some great pep talks, but aside from this, little else. As much as corporations tout the need for teamwork, most still encourage rugged individualism.
There is more to creating a team than simply saying you are one. New shirts and axioms are nice, but in order for this to work, people have to think and act as a team. In other words, success hinges on it becoming a natural part of the corporate culture.
Teachers, coaches, and drill instructors have long understood the value of teamwork. The intent is to turn a heterogeneous working environment into a homogeneous environment whereby everyone is working in a concerted effort towards common goals. However, do corporate managers truly understand teamwork? Not necessarily. Many still create competitive environments in the hope the strongest person will rise to the surface. Teamwork is more about cooperation than it is about competition.
This brings up an important point: Teamwork is taught. It means developing a disciplined work environment where the participants must conform to a specific set of rules. Inevitably, it means breaking some work habits and creating new ones. This can be painful, yet necessary if you want to achieve the desired results. Basically, you are teaching people how to live and work together as opposed to apart.
In the United States there is more of a natural inclination to teach individualism as opposed to teamwork; perhaps this is because we are a nation based on freedoms. For example, our public school systems have minimal dress and hair codes; each student is allowed to look and dress as they personally see fit, many with some very questionable taste. This is permitted as it is believed the individual must be allowed to freely express him/herself. This may be fine, but it certainly does not promote a spirit of teamwork. Compare it to other countries, such as Japan, where students are required to wear school uniforms and are given group assignments, such as the preparation and cleanup of their daily lunch. In Japan, students are taught the value of cooperation at an early age which has the added benefit of improving their socialization skills.
As mentioned, teamwork requires the establishment of a working environment conducive to teamwork. It doesn’t happen simply by making some platitudinous statements. A manager must do more, much more; some suggestions:
1. First and foremost: Lead. All teams need a leader who can articulate goals and give direction. The team must trust and believe in its leader. Without such confidence, the team will not likely follow the leader, particularly in times of difficulty. The leader should also be wary of leading by democratic rule. Soliciting input is one thing, as is having assistants, but there can only be one ultimate leader to guide the team.
2. Institute uniform operating practices that everyone will be expected to conform to, such as operating hours of work, dress code, office appearance, speech and conduct, etc. Such uniformity stresses the equality of the workers. As another suggestion, downplay job titles and put more emphasis on work assignments instead. Job titles tend to emphasize a person’s stature in a company and can be disruptive in terms of equality.
3. Establish standard practices for executing work assignments, thereby everyone is following the same methods, and using the same tools and techniques in their work effort. This improves communications, provides for the interchangeability of workers, and promotes the development of quality work products.
4. Make sure everyone knows their responsibilities and assignments and understands their importance. Nobody wants to be regarded as the weakest link and, as such, the manager must be able to communicate their importance and carefully balance the workload. Yes, there will be those workers who will undoubtedly excel over others, but teamwork is a group effort. If a weaker worker needs additional training, either give it to him/her or replace the person.
5. Routinely check progress. Whenever applicable, keep statistics on both team and individual performance. However, it is not important to publish such stats. It is important for the leader to know the team’s strengths and weaknesses, but it is nobody else’s business.
6. Be on the lookout for conflicts in working relationships. Some people will simply not get along and it is up to the manager to referee such conflicts. Either have the people work out their differences, keep them apart, or rid yourself of them. You want harmony, not contention, on your team.
7. Allow time for the team to meet and discuss issues as a group. This keeps everyone in tune with common goals, problems, and the team’s general progress. It also allows the team to socialize and form a camaraderie (a bonding of unity).
8. Recognize individual achievement but reward on a team basis as opposed to an individual basis.
Are we really trying to promote teamwork or is this nothing more than the latest corporate fad that is being implemented more for public relations than anything else? Let’s hope for the former and not the latter. Teamwork is a powerful concept, particularly when there is anything of substance to be done.
Shrewd managers intuitively understand the need for teamwork. Let me give you an example from the world of entertainment. Jack Benny, the famous comedian of yesteryear had a great appreciation for teamwork. His radio and television shows were consistently at the top of the rating charts for a number of years. When asked what his secret to success was, Benny simply said teamwork. To Jack, it wasn’t important that he personally got the best lines and laughs week after week. In fact, he was often the butt of many of the jokes. Instead, he made sure his cast, guests, and writers all received the accolades they deserved. It was more important to Benny that people said they had tuned into “The Show” as opposed to tuning in to see “Jack Benny.” He was right.
I realize there are instances in business when it becomes necessary to exercise individualism, but these are becoming a rarity. Instead companies can find greater glory as a team as opposed to a group of individuals.
“Individual glory is insignificant when compared to achieving victory as a team.” – Dot Richardson, M.D. U.S. Olympic Softball Team Two time Gold Medal Champions
“There is more to building a team than buying new uniforms.” – Bryce’s Law
One of the problems in Freemasonry is a problem that is indigenous to most large, prestigious organizations, societies and politics. It is that these prominent groups attract leaders who are all about gaining the position of leadership and little about improving or growing the group. We call these people medal or title chasers. They get to be top leader not by what they do but who they know, by favors and even bribery.
There is an old saying: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The fact that leadership positions in these groups brings to the leader a lot of power and prestige can be a corruptible factor. This tendency is not confined to private groups and societies. We can see it in large corporations and in politics.
Some good well intentioned people who obtain leadership face such a quagmire when they get to the top that they decide not to push for reforms. They are not up to a fight, a bloody battle where they will have to make some tough decisions for the good of the organization
Either leadership type will “go with the flow” and cruise through their time in office refusing to create any waves lest they lose their coveted position. They are caretakers, seat warmers, who cruise and smooze through their time as top leader. But in the long run the group suffers.
None of this describes the leadership style of Grand Princess Captain Lucille Samuel. Not a wilting flower, Samuel is all into building relationships based on TRUST, SINCERITY & THE GOOD OF THE ORDER. At the same time she refuses to accept mediocrity and will not hesitate to discipline those who are bringing her Order down. Lastly she is not afraid to vocally criticize her Order demanding that it straighten up and fly right.
Here in the second Allocution The Beehive has published from Grand Princess Captain Samuel given at her Grand Session last week she does just that.
Speak not in the ears of a fool; for he will despise the wisdom of thy word.
R. Lucille Samuel Grand Princess Captain Lone Star Grand Guild of Texas PHA Heroines of the Templars Crusade International Grand Senior Shepherdess International Grand Deputy of Texas International Grand Court of Cyrene Crusaders
Those of you that are computer savvy I want you to take a moment to ride with me. Those of you that are not I will be your driver. Most people know that when a computer is infected with a virus it completely shuts down all programs. All your files and software are infected by an unknown virus that usually cannot be cured. Most of the time the computer has to be thoroughly wiped clean and all software and hardware reloaded. This is so costly and time consuming especially when 80% of our time is spent on computer technology.
Many people are afraid to learn or become acquainted with computers or any type of advanced technology. They don’t feel confident or brave enough to tackle the age of modern information.
I am sure all of you can relate to the Mainframe of our organization which is our Lodges, Chapters and Palaces. Because we allow these viruses to enter our organizations and spread their infectious ignorance our Order is becoming a Social Club instead of a well respected Masonic Order.
We have lost our confidence in ourselves and forgotten that this great Order is based upon true brother and sisterhood and not friendship. It is respect for all others and not only listening but truly hearing what you were taught during your obligation at the Altar. The most sincere respect of another is hearing what others have to say and not always monopolizing the conversation.
How can you consider yourself a member of any organization when you can’t look your own brother or sister in the eye? How can you deny others admission into the order because of the hatred you have for their friend or mentor? What gives you the right to slander your brother or sister because of envy or hatred? Did you know Haters are people with NO vision and they envy progress? Many people live for compliments and not accomplishments.
. R. Lucille Samuel Grand Princess Captain Lone Star Grand Guild of Texas PHA Heroines of the Templars Crusade International Grand Senior Shepherdess International Grand Deputy of Texas International Grand Court of Cyrene Crusaders
Instead of being the problem try solving the problem! All these smiling wolves in sheep’s clothing need to be eliminated. Don’t come to me with gossip about me. Stop the gossip instead of entertaining it. You can’t play both sides of the fence or ride the fence. You either saddle that horse and ride or stay in the Barn! Some of you are pretty weak when you allow friendship to override integrity and your own self respect. When you allow your supposedly friends (by the way they are only using you in case you did not know) to handle their dirty work so they can gain control of the Order then that makes you a pawn in their chess game. If you are so blind that you allow potentially great members to be turned away then why did you ever petition our Order? As Reverend Sampson says Are You A Fan or a Follower? Always remember a FAKE person is like GOLD because FAKE never FADES!
We need to STAND UP and TAKE BACK this Masonic Order. Those that do not have the confidence or strength to work with us instead of against us need to step aside! Our strength and struggles are the backbone of this Order. We cannot be cowards and allow this virus to infect us any longer. This virus needs to be deleted like Spam Mail! Courage is needed to speak up and say what is on our minds. Complaining to each other will solve absolutely nothing. The greatest power in the world is pen and paper. USE IT! Compromising is out of the question. Leaders you have the power to make a change. If members cannot follow the programs then get rid of them. You cannot voice any opinions sitting at home and complaining. Attend your meetings and be a part of the positive so we can eliminate the negative.
Many people have a fear of losing friendship if they voice their opinions during meetings. When you are conducting business, friendship takes a back seat. You have to be ambitious if you are pursuing leadership. Be persistent in all your efforts. When you are a threat you are always the target.
The mentality of new members today seems to be how soon can I get in and how soon can I take over. If we start at the door and work our way to the East it is well worth the wait. We have members currently that have never taken the time to thoroughly read the Constitution or the Ritual. But if you ask them when the next Ball or White Party is they have the answer.
Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
You will find many leaders that are lost in the clouds over their Egos. People place them on pedestals. But you are not a leader when your members don’t respect you. Leadership is defined by results and not attributes. If you really want to know the true character of a person just observe how they treat their subordinates and not their equals.
We need to stay encouraged and promote encouragement. Problems are not stop signs they are guidelines.
If we portray a lack of confidence we will not succeed and potentially fail. We cannot worry about popularity or disapproval of others. This is about regaining control of this Great Masonic Order. We would all prosper if we learned to stop trying to change the rules of the game and play the hand we are dealt.
You already know that people outside of the Order already consider us as devil worshipers or members of a cult. WE NEED TO EDUCATE in the Communities what we are all about. Show them that we are believers of GOD and our true sense of honor!
When we exhibit confidence in ourselves it earns the respect of others and our membership. We must stand tall and portray competence and empower ourselves with knowledge so we are able to educate new members.
Until we stop fighting amongst each other the enemy will always win. We have to learn the meaning of FAITH again. We are not our Brother or Sisters Keeper when we can’t stand the sight of each other. If we want peace and perseverance we must LET GO AND LET GOD!
In closing I ask that we all remember:
Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.
Please do not hesitate to contact Grand Princess Captain R. Lucille Samuel at firstname.lastname@example.org
We don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.
― Steve Goodier
Life’s like the piano and the violin, it’s about how smart you could play the melodies to make a good harmony.
― Lucy ‘Aisy
Grand Master Cleveland Wilson
The lessons of life often come hard. It takes years and a lot of hurt sometimes to “get it.” And it takes a giant of a human being to “let go.”
Such a man is Arkansas Prince Hall Grand Master Cleveland Wilson.
I know. I have talked with him face to face many times.
The easy way out is to wag your finger, to wall yourself up in your own little world, to bunker down and say the hell with everybody else. But that’s not the way of Freemasonry.
Freemasonry is universal and a light unto the world. Even when there is contention where no contention should exist, Freemasonry can heal the darker side of man if you will just listen to its message.
Grand Master Cleveland Wilson is listening. He knows the true meaning of Freemasonry. And so he is going to take the high road and to be out front as a healer and practitioner of peace.
That’s why Grand Master Wilson has issued a proclamation that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas will recognize all and every legitimate Bodies of Free and Accepted Masons who recognize Prince Hall wheresoever dispersed across the face of the globe. Whether that Body recognizes the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas or not, it doesn’t matter.
42 states now recognize Prince Hall. Very few of them recognize Prince Hall Arkansas. Now Prince Hall Arkansas recognizes them all.
Here is the way I see the thinking of Grand Master Wilson.
We’re going to love you whether or not you love us back. It’s the 21st century. We are moving on. We are not going to be about conflict, contention or competition with anybody. We’re into what Freemasonry is all about – peace and harmony.
Now that’s a man who “gets it,” who has “let go.” That’s a great Mason who is taking the high road.
The text of note, at the end of the document, saying:
BE IT RESOLVED, that it shall be the policy of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas to recognize and offer to enter into fraternal relations with any all Grand Lodges which (1) hold a seat in the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America, Inc. and (2) have entered into an agreement, treaty, or compact or recognition with the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge who is a member of the Conference of Grand Masters of Prince Hall Masons, Inc. in their respective state, and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that policy shall be made effective 22, February 2014.
Can such a change defuse Masonic politics? BRYCE ON FREEMASONRY
Harmony is an essential ingredient to any Masonic Lodge. It is one of the main reasons men gravitate to Lodge; to escape the harsh realities of the world and sit among men who enjoy the company of others and respect the dignity of each other. To this end, it is forbidden to discuss religion and politics, be it related to government or the fraternity. Even during Masonic elections, campaigning is rebuked as it may offend someone. Despite our best intentions though, politics creeps into Masonry, particularly at election time.
It is not uncommon to have Masons whisper behind the scenes to garner votes, to seek endorsements, and run a political machine to maintain control. Far too often we have seen people elevated to a level of responsibility, yet accomplish nothing of substance during their tenure, whether it is a Worshipful Master of a Lodge, a District Deputy Grand Master, or a Grand Master. In such cases, people are looking for nothing more than recognition to feed their ego. This is why such things as aprons and titles are coveted, thereby representing badges of recognition.
It has become customary to recognize Masons as “Worshipful,” “Right Worshipful,” “Very Worshipful,” or “Most Worshipful.” Further, in correspondence we recognize ourselves as PM, PDDGM, PDI, PGM, etc. I have been guilty of this myself, but have been having second thoughts about such pompous titles. It is my belief Masons meet upon the level; that equality is of paramount importance in a Masonic Lodge; that each member’s voice weighs no more than another. Unfortunately, this is no longer true and we bow to men of title instead.
Wouldn’t it be an interesting experiment to drop the titles completely, particularly those no longer in office? Instead, we just refer to each other as “Brother” such as, “Bro. Bryce,” “Bro. Smith,” “Bro. Jones,” etc. Allow sitting officers to carry the title of their office, but when finished, revert back to the “Brother” moniker.
Some might resist and complain, “But I worked too hard for that title!” For whom did you work? A fraternity that promotes meeting upon the level or for your personal glory? Eliminating such titles could very well help defuse the politics of Masonry and encourage those people who truly have the best interests of the fraternity in mind.
What do you think?
Keep the Faith!
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