Having trouble reading this email? View it in your browser.
San Diego Zoo Global Academy, March 2019

Diversity and Unity in Teams: How to Choose?

Compass logoBy Don Janssen, DVM

As a young veterinary manager at the San Diego Zoo, I had to build a department from the ground up. In my youthful exuberance, I thought I knew what I needed to do. So, I hired the best and the brightest professionals available. I wanted people with diverse talents. But I also knew that the most competent did not always have the skills to build trusting relationships with people.

That created a problem for me. I had to decide which I wanted more: talented professionals or a unified team. How could I have both? Years later, I discovered the solution to that dilemma. The answer had been right in front of me every time I examined an animal or saw one in action.

Unity and Diversity—Animal Life 
The light turned on when I realized each animal has an assortment of structures and functions—from the anatomic to the molecular—that work together in a unified manner. Watching my first California condor in flight opened my eyes to the way this works in animals. The condor was unmistakable in the sky. Not only was it enormous, but it sailed along with the stability and assurance of a small airplane. Watching with binoculars, I saw the intricate wing movements that allowed it to detect and soar on thermals. Flight demands complex actions from all parts of a bird. Every animal operates in this way—as a unified body with separate components all vital to the whole.

Unity through Diversity—Teams 
It's the same with people working in teams. I learned as a department head that my teams thrived when they had the right work environment. Such a workplace was one in which people developed and used their diverse talents and applied them to a unified purpose. Unity, not uniformity, makes a team strong.

I have seen many top-performing individuals whose gifts were impressive, much like an extraordinary wing of a condor. They can perform amazing feats! Yet, successful teams require that each team member's talents, like the condor's wings and central nervous system, work together in synergy. A high-performing team member not working toward the team's purpose is like a wing of a condor working alone. That lone wing would be magnificent in its own way, but useless to the bird. No matter how significant we think we are as individuals, our value to the team only comes from our collective efforts.

Diversity as the Source of Team Strength and Unity 
Achieving a unified team with a depth and breadth of skills is a tough order. Here are a few tips I discovered that have helped me.

  • Give direction and share the "why." 

Great leaders spend extraordinary time and effort developing a vision. Then they communicate it well and frame all activities in that context. Clarity of purpose is inspiring and essential for team unity. It is the leader's number one job. 

  • Support a diversity of strengths in team members. 

Diverse talents are the raw materials for getting the job done. Effective leaders know people well enough to understand, recognize, and help develop their talents into strengths—those that benefit the team. 

  • Value people as people; honor them. 

Team members want their leaders to value who they are—and not just the function they serve. 

  • Select new hires carefully. 

Bringing new people on board should be well thought out. Look for leadership characteristics. Take your time. Remember that your choice can make your culture stronger, weaker, or otherwise altered. 

Teams fall into dysfunction if the workplace lacks unity and does not support diversity. We can, however, set a different course—an upside down one, if you will—where people and relationships matter. In a setting where team members trust, value, and serve one another, teams can stand firm and carry out their missions.

Question: What ideas do you have for using your team's diverse skills and talents as a way to increase team unity? 

For a further discussion on building teams through attention to unity through diversity, read Upside-Down Leadership: A Zoo Veterinarian's Journey to Becoming a Servant Leader. It's available at shopzoo.com.
Click here for more information about the book.

Leadership lessons and insights are contributed by San Diego Zoo Global's retired corporate director of animal health Dr. Donald Janssen, the first of which appeared in the March 2019 issue of the Academy newsletter.
Click here for the Academy newsletter archive.

Academy News

Safari Niagara logoSan Diego Zoo Global Academy Puts the SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium in the Spotlight
The SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium in Florida is part of the Academy's collaborative learning environment.


Administrator's Users Group Webinar                 
Please join us for the Administrator's Users Group Webinar, hosted by Academy partner CypherWorx. The next webinar is Wednesday, May 15, at 11 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

Register for this webinar here.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.


Echidna on a logNew Three-part Course in the Introducing Animals Series: Monotremes

Are monotremes a bit of a mystery to you? Get to know the echidnas and the platypus, as San Diego Zoo Global Academy presents three new Monotremes modules in Introducing Animals, our series about animal species and other taxonomic groups. Separating the content into three modules allows for a focused approach to the material, and each module includes self-assessment opportunities and its own mastery test. Another benefit of the new Monotremes modules is that they are designed to run on your desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or even your phone—anywhere you have an internet connection!

Monotremes 1 explores the physical characteristics, distribution, and habitats of echidnas and platypuses. In Monotremes 2, learners investigate what—and how—monotremes eat, as well as which animals prey on them, and how they avoid being eaten. This module also covers thermoregulation, locomotion, behavior, and social structure. The third and final course in the series, Monotremes 3, explores the fascinating world of monotreme reproduction and investigates the conservation status of monotremes, threats to platypus and echidna species, and how conservationists are helping. The module concludes with a look at some examples of how we can all participate in conservation.

Remarkable images show platypuses and echidnas in ways you've never seen before, and video provides insights into their behavior. Interactivity sprinkled throughout the modules engages participants in the learning process, and questions at the end of each section ensure that they have mastered fundamental concepts before they move on. Each of the Monotremes modules takes about 60 minutes to complete, although participants progress at their own pace and may repeat the entire course or sections of the course as many times as they like.

The modules can easily be integrated into your current training program. Providing online modules that team members can complete anywhere and at any time overcomes one of the major challenges of training: getting all participants together in one place at one time. At the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, participants complete online modules on their own before attending group training programs. They are able to master key vocabulary and concepts, giving them a solid foundation that allows them—and their trainers—to make the most of in-class and on-site training.

The modules are an awesome resource for interpreters, but they offer insights to veteran animal keepers too, providing a glimpse of natural history that helps keepers address husbandry concerns. Whether you've worked with these animals for years or you're a brand-new interpreter or docent, the modules will equip you with a better understanding of these amazing animals.

The three-part Monotremes course joins the following available courses in the Introducing Animals series:

  • Mammals
  • Birds
  • Reptiles
  • Apes
  • Old World Monkeys
  • Cats
  • Lions
  • Cheetahs
  • Tigers
  • Elephants
  • Rhinoceroses
  • Giraffes
  • Gorillas
  • Orangutans
  • Penguins
  • African Penguins
  • Lemurs
  • Hamadryas Baboons
  • Polar Bears
  • Giant Pandas
  • Kangaroos and Kin

We're excited to share these new courses with you on San Diego Zoo Global Academy. Look for a new three-part Bony Fishes series later this year!

View a preview of the Monotremes course on the Academy's Introduction to Animal Species page.

Academy Contributors

The Goodman Center, where do-gooders do better.  logo

Once More, with Feeling

By Andy Goodman, Director, The Goodman Center

In February 2018, we introduced Andy Goodman of The Goodman Center as a new contributor. As a refresher, here is the link to the archive of Academy newsletters where one can access all of the past articles by Andy Goodman, including the February, April, July, and October 2018 issues, and now February 2019, too: SDZG Academy Newsletter Archive.

You've said the same words a thousand times. So, how do you keep them fresh for today's audience? A legendary singer has the answer.

Between in-person speeches and online classes, I give roughly 50 talks a year on the subject of storytelling alone. While I tailor each presentation for the audience at hand, there are certain portions that are invariably repeated. And when I arrive at those portions, a little voice in my subconscious pipes up. "Again?" it asks. "Are you really saying those exact same words again?"

Sound familiar? Even if you're not hearing voices (yet), I'm guessing there are times when you find yourself reciting an all-too-familiar script. Perhaps you're pitching to a prospective donor, interviewing a job candidate, or talking to the press. At first, you're in the moment, but before you know it, your mouth is on autopilot and your mind is... beginning... to.... Sorry, where was I?

As someone who does a lot of public speaking, I must confess this was getting to be a problem; but about a year ago, singing legend Tony Bennett gave me an invaluable piece of advice. (And by that, I mean Tony Bennett was being interviewed on National Public Radio, but the advice he shared was so spot-on that I felt he was talking directly to me.)

The NPR interviewer asked the singer a question about his signature song, "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," one that several other interviewers have posed as well: when you've sung that song so many times, where do you find the inspiration to belt it out with gusto one more time? I turned up the volume on my car radio. If ever there was an analogy to my particular problem, this was it.

Tony chuckled and admitted that this was, indeed, a challenge. He'd lost count of the number of times he'd sung that standard. But whenever "San Francisco" appeared on his set list, he consciously took a moment before the performance to stop and think about what the song meant to him.

He said the song had opened doors for him around the world, and that he'd had the privilege of singing it before kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers. It became an "all-access pass" for a crooner who had been relegated to singing in bars, but was now performing for sold-out crowds in concert halls and arenas.

In those moments of reflection, Tony said he felt grateful for all the song had done for him; and once that feeling started flowing through him, he knew he was ready to perform. Audiences may respond to the lyrics, the song's sentiment, or his delivery, but he believed they also connected with this unspoken feeling of gratitude.

I've taken his words to heart ever since, and now, whenever I'm waiting for my turn to present, I consciously think about the unique opportunity I've been given. When I start to feel gratitude, I know I'm ready to begin. And should that little voice ask, "The same words? Again?" I will be able to answer with conviction, "Yes, the same words—and happy to say them."

For more information about The Goodman Center, visit thegoodmancenter.com.



Excellence Beyond Compliance logoGetting Better All the Time
Sharing Our Experiences, Expertise, and Insights Makes Us All Better

By James F. Gesualdi

To keep ahead, each one of us, no matter what our task, must search for new and better methods—for even that which we now do well must be done better tomorrow.
—James F. Bell

We are all connected. Everything is connected. The more we give of ourselves through sharing our experiences, expertise, and insights, the closer and more positive those connections are and the better we become. Let's creatively explore and consider some of the many ways sharing makes us better.

All of us have benefitted from various professional and personal influences. We have all had teachers, and many of us have had coaches and mentors. Formal learning, practical experiences and personalized mentoring, encouragement, and inspiration elevate our capacity to serve animals, their interests and well-being.

Formal mentoring could perhaps be employed to an even greater extent than it is within the zoological community and zoological organizations. Informal mentoring can take the form of sharing one's knowledge and sensitivities with others within a department or across the zoological community.

Inherent in every mentoring relationship is the potential for "reverse mentoring," whereby the mentor learns a great deal from the mentee. This occurs through conversation, questions, challenging the status quo, seeing things through fresh eyes, and new insights. This is but one of the ways in which mentoring makes us all better.

When reflecting upon the service we are called to provide to animals and people, any good works have likely been aided by good teachers and mentors. One of the greatest joys imaginable is finding others whose intellect, experience, or heart moves you, and having them agree to help show you the way. To have another you hold in high regard (if not awe) agree to undertake to help you is at once humbling and exhilarating. It is similarly fulfilling to be there for someone else, to help them have a better go at making their way. As time passes, and you watch that person grow into greater success, it adds untold meaning and significance to one's own work.

Sometimes sharing may involve communicating about something we didn't get quite right, erred about, or possibly worse. In these difficult situations, there may be prudent limits on sharing, but adversity is a great teacher. Advancing the zoological community, including improving and protecting animal and human lives, depends upon the really hard-learned lessons we face.

We endeavor to at least influence others outside the zoological community, like the public, government agencies, and our critics. In order to seek first to understand their perspectives (thank you, St. Francis), it is almost always beneficial to help, learn from, and engage these "others," even through mentoring. These relationships, now too numerous to count, have shaped or reshaped all of us engaged in them, and opened the door to dialogue in place of conflict.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care Proposed Rule

The Animal Care unit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service recently proposed a new regulation relating to licensing under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and other subjects, including some standards of care for commercial dog breeders. The latter part has drawn considerable attention and seemingly broad bipartisan support. The former portion dealing with licensing and administrative topics, like inspection report appeals, is of great importance to the zoological community.

In response to criticism and litigation relating to the current annual ministerial renewal of licenses, the agency is seeking to change to a licensing regime in which new licenses would be required every three years, or even more frequently when there is a substantial change in the species or number of animals, or types of programs offered. On the surface, this would be a significant change, possibly requiring more focused and more frequent attention to AWA compliance. That's a good thing for enlightened and responsible zoological organizations, the public, other stakeholders such as critics, and, most importantly, the animals. For instance, this would preclude chronic noncompliance issues from going unaddressed while licenses are "rubber stamped" at the time of renewal. It would also check that facilities, staff, training, and other requirements are satisfied before major changes occur at an organization.

Unless extended, comments on the proposed regulation are due May 21, 2019. The Federal Register notice announcing and exploring the rule and setting forth the proposed language is available at: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2019-03-22/pdf/2019-05422.pdf.

For those who practice Excellence Beyond Compliance®, continuously improving animal welfare and maintaining compliance are our overriding priorities. So many of the good practices detailed in the book or discussed in this column mesh perfectly with the proposed licensing changes.

The most important passage in the proposed rule is this agency response to a concern about the added resources required to comply with the new licensing model: ". . . we wish to make clear that licensees are required to be in full compliance at all times under the Act and regulations."  84 Fed. Reg. 10724 (March 22, 2019). AWA compliance is necessary and important, but it matters most of all when used constructively to drive and inspire our ongoing efforts to continuously improve animal welfare, and better serve animals and their interests, especially their well-being.

In closing, it is good that we keep sharing with each other, as this work we do involves mentoring that is worth having or receiving, and certainly worth doing.

I am not a teacher, but an awakener.
—Robert Frost

© 2019 James F. Gesualdi, P.C. The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. This is not, nor should it be construed as, legal advice.

For more information on Excellence Beyond Compliance®, visit excellencebeyondcompliance.com.

Zoo & Conservation News

As an added Academy benefit, you can view the latest San Diego Zoo Global Zoo and Conservation News here.

Photo of a trainer with a cheetah.

Not a Member Yet?

Contact Jon Prange


Academy Newsletters are archived at sdzglobalacademy.org.
Click here for the Academy Newsletter Archive page.


San Diego Zoo Global Academy

Change my e-mail or preferences