This is the second installation in my “Building Lodge Culture” series, which is inspired by School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It by Steve Gruenert and Todd Whitaker. If you haven’t read the first post in the series you can find it here.
Changing culture vs. changing climate
In my previous article, I point out that cultural changes are long lasting while changing in a lodge’s climate tend to be short-lived. The reason for this is pretty inherent to the nature of each one. I’d like to share a story to really drive this point:
I’m very fortunate to have been raised in a lodge that wasn’t very resistant to change. That isn’t to say that it was innovative either, but the majority of the brethren were pretty open to new ideas if the reasoning made sense and the changes were justified.
Shortly after I was raised I was helping out with a fundraiser and as I was loading packages of water I had a sudden realization: this fraternity was nothing more than a glorified service club. Now, there’s nothing wrong with service clubs but I wasn’t interested in being a member of one at the time so I became in inactive, cardholding Mason.
A year or two passed but one evening I suddenly felt inspired to look for some information about Freemasonry online. Looking back, I have no idea what led me to do this but it was a game changer for me. I found a website called “Masons of Texas” (which is now My Freemasonry) and I was introduced to ideas and concepts about our fraternity which I would have never learned about if I limited my Masonic education within the walls of my lodge.
So I became active again and was eventually elected to be the Worshipful Master of my lodge. This was a huge honor and it was an excellent year. A few other brothers and I had been working very hard to improve our lodge and it all came to fruition during this time. Our meetings became solemn and meaningful, we had education during every meeting, we began building a lodge library, we had several very successful events, the list goes on.
Shortly after my year in the East was finished I was hired to teach in a community several towns away. It wasn’t so far that I couldn’t visit my old lodge but it was still far enough away that regular attendance might be a problem, so I transferred my membership to a local lodge in my new town.
Time passed and I began to hear very unfortunate rumors about my old lodge so I paid them a visit during one of their meetings and confirmed my worse fear: the rumors were true! My old lodge had completely reverted to the state it was in before we had begun all of our work, in fact, the lodge was (and is) in worse shape than it ever was!
If you read my previous article then you may have an idea about what went wrong but I spent a long time trying to figure out what happened.
We had successfully changed the lodge’s climate but we had no impact at all on the culture of the lodge.
“Cultural changes are long lasting while changing in a lodge’s climate tend to be short-lived”
What’s the difference?
The moral of my story is that you can spend as much time as you like trying to improve a lodge but if the only thing you manage to change is the climate then things are going to eventually revert back to the way they were.
This isn’t to say that climate isn’t important! A lodge can have a very healthy culture but if you visit on a night where there is a bad climate then you might get the wrong impression.
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between culture and climate:
- Is the lodge’s personality
- Limits our thought processes
- Takes years to evolve
- Is based on values and beliefs
- Is always present even though it cannot be felt
- Is “the way we do things around here” (we’ve all heard this!)
- Determines if improvement is possible
- Is the lodge’s attitude
- Creates a state of mind
- Is easy to change
- Is based on perception
- Can be felt when you enter a room
- Is “the way we feel around here.”
- Is the first thing that improves when positive changes are made
(Source: Gruenert 10)
Another way of looking at it is by associating culture with personality and climate with attitude. Each of us has both and it’s safe to say that our personalities don’t change much but our attitudes certainly can (if any readers spend much time around teenagers then they can attest to that).
This doesn’t mean that our personalities don’t change, in many cases, they naturally change over time and conscious effort can even be made to improve your personality but this takes time and effort (just like changing culture).
Also, keep in mind that a person with a great personality might have a bad attitude one day or a person with a terrible personality can have a great attitude one day. While this may affect our first impressions, their attitudes at that time are in no way indicative of their actual personalities.
Much like the work that goes into improving your personality, Masons who choose to work towards improving their lodge culture need to understand that this journey is a rough and rugged road. It will take several years before the lodge’s culture shifts to a point where it guides the behaviors within the lodge.
“Masons who choose to work towards improving their lodge culture need to understand that this journey is a rough and rugged road. It will take several years before the lodge’s culture shifts to a point where it guides the behaviors within the lodge.”
We know from the first post in this series that culture is “how we do things around here”. If the goal is to change how things are done (and if you’ve read this far then I’ll assume that’s why you’re here) you need to be sure that whatever you’re changing in the lodge is the culture itself and not the climate (although the culture can affect the climate).
In my next post, we’ll look at some actual concepts and tools which can be implemented to begin improving your lodge’s culture. See you then!
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Gruenert, Steve., and Todd Whitaker. School Culture Rewired: How to Define, Assess, and Transform It. Alexandria, Virginia USA: ASCD, 2015. Print.