Celebrating 300 years

Hearts & Minds

For Ray Reed, past Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes and Past Provincial Grand Master of Buckinghamshire, the process of change that he helped to introduce within Freemasonry is only just beginning

What did your early career teach you?

I joined BP Chemicals straight from school and served a five-year apprenticeship as an instrument and electronics engineer before moving on to Reckitt & Colman when I was 23. The next 15 years were manic – two years after joining I was asked to set up and manage a new work-study department, followed by secondment as company negotiator with trade unions, then I became human resources director before becoming general manager.

Each move involved a new discipline and took me out of my comfort zone. I like the challenge of being thrown in at the deep end and rarely get stressed. If I had, I think I would have failed. These challenges opened my eyes to the fact most of what goes on in business management is common sense. Get a great team around you, identify what works, question what doesn’t, create a strategy and focus on improvement.

Equally, I learned that people at all levels love you to listen to and debate their ideas for improvement – it gives them confidence that they are part of the change process and makes them feel valued.

Why did you establish your own company?

By 1980 we were selling off the industrial division. Reckitt & Colman wanted me to stay but I was nearly 40 and wanted a new challenge, something completely different. Close friends thought I was mad.

My old sales director had left to do his own thing, working for an American company in psychological assessment. He asked me if I’d advise him on setting up a business, so I talked him into going to the US. Instead of working for the American company, we bought the franchise for the UK. About three years later, we found ourselves bigger than the US business, so we bought them out.

Family has been so important in the success of the business. My wife Doreen, who was a business partner, has been a vital cog from the outset and, after I retired in 2005, our son Martin has grown the business to become one of the top five assessment companies in the world. We are still a private entity and I continue to serve as a non-executive director.

What drove you to join Freemasonry?

I had been attending masonic social events from the age of 16 and always felt comfortable in the company of members. One day shortly after I married I asked my father-in-law, ‘What’s Freemasonry all about?’ I can recall his exact words: ‘I’ve been waiting for you to ask, I’ll get you a form. I can’t tell you what it’s about, you’ll have to trust me.’ In today’s fast-moving world such an approach would be laughed at, but that was the norm then.

Freemasonry was so popular in those days so I had to wait three years to be initiated, which just made me want it more. I joined Thesaurus Lodge [No. 3891] in North Yorkshire on 11 May 1967. It was the perfect lodge for me: great ceremonial, friendly and very encouraging with new candidates. I realised as a 27-year-old that while my business life was driving me into new areas and becoming ever more demanding, Freemasonry was developing me as a person, giving me a new-found confidence and a better understanding of my values in life.

Did you feel ready to become Provincial Grand Master?

No. Sadly, Lord Burnham died in office in 2005 and I received a letter asking me to take the role – not long after I had been appointed an APGM. There was no training, just a patent that told you to run the Province in accordance with the rules and regulations of the United Grand Lodge of England. And that was it, you were on your own. That suited me; it comes back to being thrown in at the deep end.

We identified member expectations through surveys, set a modernisation strategy that took account of these results, communicated them to members and then monitored the progress. Member collaboration was vital to the process – we set out to make masonic life more enjoyable, to improve our image in the local community and to market the Craft as a power for good within society.

It appears to me that succession planning is as vital at lodge level as it is at Provincial and UGLE level’

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve had as a PGM?

When I became Provincial Grand Master, the Past Pro Provincial Grand Master of Middlesex, Gordon Bourne, suggested I miss out the sweet course and coffee at the Festive Board in order to make time for talking to members. At first I thought, ‘This is a bit stupid’ – but within three months, members were coming up to me with really creative ideas to improve the Province’s image. It was a great success.

Gordon also suggested that at non-installation meeting dinners, I ask lodges to sit me with the five newest members of the lodge. That was magic; few realised the significance of the Provincial Grand Master role, so they talked openly and honestly. I heard their expectations, what they liked and did not like about their lodges and Freemasonry. The insights we collected helped convince Grand Lodge Officers to sit off the top table. It really broke so many historic barriers.

How important is the process of succession planning?

The second highest resignation levels in the Craft are those of Past Masters resigning shortly after completing their year in office. It therefore appears to me that succession planning is as vital at lodge level as it is at Provincial and UGLE level.

While there is no right or wrong approach to succession planning, lodges may well benefit from discussing the future aspirations with their lodge Masters well before they end their year in office. This should be done to ensure commitment and motivation, and in order to take any necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of resignation. One thing is for sure: if a member has an ambition toward a specific discipline – be it administrative, ceremonial or charitable – he is more likely to succeed in that discipline than in a role he has been cajoled into and does not really aspire to.

When did you become a member of the Board of General Purposes?

After a couple of years as a Provincial Grand Master I found myself sat next to Anthony Wilson, President of the Board, at a dinner. We had an enlightening discussion about Freemasonry’s past, present and future. Little did I know I had been recommended to him as a Board member and the next day I was asked to join. It was a complete shock and I embarked on another steep learning curve, but I loved being on the Board. We were all like-minded, giving our time freely and seeking to positively influence both the present and future of the Craft for our members.

How does change occur in the world of Freemasonry?

Historically, change has happened very slowly as we are a bottom-up organisation. Even small change in the past caused the shutters to go up. Members were perhaps fearful that there was a desire to change our traditions, which has never been on the agenda.Over recent years, Freemasonry has created a strategy for 2015-2020. Webinar technology has been tested and rolled out in the Provinces for member training and coaching, which can take place online at home. Even after one year of the strategy being communicated in 2015, membership loss dropped dramatically; indeed, several Provinces increased their numbers. This is a sure indication that members are getting behind the change process. We just need to win the hearts and minds of those who are yet to come to the party.

Published in UGLE
Wednesday, 30 April 2014 17:57

Grand Master's address - April 2014

Craft Annual Investiture 

30 April 2014 
An address by the MW The Grand Master HRH The Duke of Kent, KG 

Brethren, I want to start by saying a very warm welcome to you all, and to thank you for re-electing me as Grand Master at the last meeting in March. I particularly congratulate all those that I have had the pleasure of investing today.

Whether you have been appointed to or promoted in Grand Rank, I want to emphasise that two of your key tasks are recruitment and retention. It has become clear from the research carried out by the Membership Focus Group chaired by the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes that these tasks are more important than ever before. I am particularly concerned to hear that very few members recruit at all, and that there is an unacceptably high loss rate after each of the three degrees and indeed during the first ten years of membership.

The Membership Focus Group has been formed to analyse the statistics and to make proposals to stem the loss of members. It is already clear that the Mentoring Scheme will play a vital role going forward. It is therefore important that Lodge Mentors appoint appropriate personal mentors to look after each new candidate, rather than trying to do all the mentoring themselves. I look to you all, as Grand Officers, supporting the Mentoring Scheme.

Naturally, I expect you will also be good examples to others whatever their rank – not only in your good conduct and supportive approach but also by demonstrating your enjoyment of Freemasonry.

Yesterday evening I hosted a dinner for Provincial and District Grand Masters. The support of and direction from your respective Provincial and District Grand Masters is paramount and I am pleased to hear how closely they, in turn, are working with the Centre, here at Freemasons’ Hall. This inclusive approach is core to the future of the English Constitution.

I continue to hear of the good work done by the Provinces in their local communities and no better example has been the help given to the victims of the recent floods, especially in the West Country. This good work was supported when I recently had the opportunity to visit two Provinces. In Gloucestershire where I also attended their annual service in Gloucester Cathedral and also in Cornwall. I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the members I met in both Provinces.

Finally Brethren, I want to express our thanks to the Grand Director of Ceremonies and his Deputies for the smooth running of the impressive ceremony that you have just witnessed, as well as to the Grand Secretary and his staff for all their hard work leading up to today’s investiture.

Published in Speeches
Wednesday, 13 June 2012 01:01

Principles with imagination

HRH The Duke of Kent explains why transparency is critical for Freemasonry and urges an active spirit of openness

Our concern must be for the future, especially with the approach of our three-hundredth anniversary in 2017. In planning for this great anniversary, I believe these times demand innovation, and imaginative thinking, while retaining our principles.

In this I make no apology for again reminding everyone of the need truly to demonstrate transparency, and to work towards regaining our enviable reputation in society. To do this we have to show how and why we are relevant and to concentrate on the positive aspects of Freemasonry, in particular our generous tradition of giving to a wide variety of causes.

In regards to transparency, we still have some way to go in dispelling the myths that remain deep rooted in many people’s minds, not least the media. Very considerable progress has been made in this direction already, but challenges remain, and there is still work to do to overcome prejudices and misconception.

I am very pleased that we have already achieved two firsts of some importance in tackling this challenge. The first of these was the commissioning of the first ever independent, third party report, written by non-masons, on the Future of Freemasonry. This report has been highly successful and has itself acted as the catalyst for the second of our two innovations, namely the first media tour, conducted by the Grand Secretary.

I recommend that you all take advantage of this active spirit of openness to talk with equal frankness to your family and friends. I think that if you follow this advice, you may well be surprised by the positive reception you will gain.

I want to congratulate all those whom I had the pleasure of investing. To attain Grand Rank in the Craft is a very high accolade of which you can feel justly proud. This promotion does, however, come with an obligation always to set the highest example in standards of integrity, honesty and fairness wherever you are.

Among those I have appointed to acting office are the new Grand Chancellor, the president of the Grand Charity and the Deputy President of the Board of General Purposes, and I want to take this opportunity of thanking their predecessors.

First of all, Brother Alan Englefield, who as the first Grand Chancellor, has made an invaluable contribution to bringing us closer to other Grand Lodges around the world, as well as to maintaining our position as the Mother Grand Lodge. Secondly to Grahame Elliott, who as president of the Grand Charity, as well as presiding over the Grand Charity itself, was instrumental in the successful move of the four charities into this building and thirdly, to Michael Lawson who has given a long and dedicated period of service on the board since 1988. To all three brethren we owe a considerable debt of gratitude.

Published in UGLE

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