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San Diego Zoo Global Academy, June 2020. Red panda in a tree

Transforming Moments of Crisis into Lasting Opportunities

Servant Leadership Institute logoBy Don Janssen, DVM            

Leaders watch for opportunities to bring hope and to change things for the better. But what do we do when, in a moment, troublesome circumstances intervene? 

Seven years ago, I was unaware I was approaching such a moment. I had just gone to bed. The little finger of my right hand moved erratically. With effort, I stopped it. But it soon started up again. What was going on? For the next year, I studied my symptoms in my own silent world. I shared it with no one. I felt okay, but I had undeniable symptoms of slow movement and overwhelming fatigue. And then there was that little finger, which had a mind of its own. When my wife noticed my lips and tongue quivering when drinking, it was time to seek a diagnosis and acknowledge what I suspected was true. That night seven years ago marked the beginning of my life with Parkinson's disease.

We all experience critical moments, whether they be personal or professional, large or small. The current pandemic crisis is an extreme example, and a critical moment like none other. Any such moment, regardless of its size, challenges our expectations and disrupts our life plans. We have little control over them or when they happen; they just do. In the complex and dynamic workplace, leaders often face troubling moments that matter. But the best leaders overcome them. They use these moments to change the course of things for the better.

Is it possible to prepare ourselves for these unpredictable moments? And how do exceptional leaders transform these fiery moments into productive opportunities? Here are six tactics to consider:

  • Relax. You're not alone. Everyone encounters these moments. No one is immune. Being fearful at these unwelcome times is part of being human. Acknowledging that fear can help us move forward.
  • Listen, think, and reflect. Such moments rarely demand immediate action, even in a crisis. Leaders look for what will happen next. They can't do that if they jump to solve the problem of the moment. Take time to understand the issues and seek wisdom. Interpret the facts and put them into perspective. Be realistic, but not pessimistic.
  • Search for what others don't see. This is the pivotal point. Others won't see what you can see because they aren't going through what you are. So, take advantage of your unique perspective and go deep below the surface. Be creative and find new directions and alternative possibilities. Look for changes needed in yourself and your sphere of influence.
  • Lean in. Act with boldness. Be courageous, like a first responder. Take a direct path and go through, not around, difficulties. Others will naturally follow your lead. By engaging the circumstance, you're less likely to be trapped by it later.
  • Connect with others. Communicate early and often. Err on the side of transparency. Cultivate empathy by nurturing a concern for others. In a crisis, adjust your message as new information comes to light. Be the calming influence in the middle of the storm. Use what you learn to serve others' needs first, not your own. You may discover a bigger purpose that isn't even about you.
  • Be grateful. Finding reasons for gratitude helps to stay positive. Acknowledge the people and circumstances that helped you through the troublesome time. Those disruptive moments are far better teachers than the triumphant ones. View them as the valuable gifts they are.

I admit I'm not happy about having Parkinson's disease, what it has taken away, and where it's likely to lead. I'd welcome a cure. But I'm no victim. Experiencing such a disease keeps a lid on my ego. It's a constant reminder I have little control over the circumstances in my life. It has trained me to accept the hand I've been dealt, and to view the world from a more tolerant perspective. It's brought me precious relationships I wouldn't otherwise have had. Those are opportunities and abilities I've gained, not just a disability with loss.

Moments of adversity shaped the lives of our most extraordinary leaders. These experiences forged their character, transforming them into strong, humble leaders. As a result, they could speak with authority and wisdom instead of resigning themselves to fear and defeat. They saw these as opportunities to grow themselves, serve others, and spread hope. After all, isn't that what leaders are called to do?

Have you changed in fundamental ways because of crucial moments that mattered in your life?
How have they made you a better leader? 

Don Janssen, DVM, is a veterinarian and retired corporate director of animal health at San Diego Zoo Global. He is the author of  Upside Down Leadership: A Zoo Veterinarian's Journey to Becoming a Servant Leader. It's available at shopzoo.com.

Academy News

Update: Free Courses for Teachers and Students (Age 13 and Up)
Extended through August 31, 2020.
Please click here for the program.

Introducing Animals: Three New Modules Available
Keepers, interpreters, guides, and docents can explore the fascinating lives of animals through the San Diego Zoo Global Academy, with our Introducing Animals series about animal species and other taxonomic groups. Now, you can log in and view three all-new courses: Red Pandas, California Condors, and Koalas.

Each of these three courses explores the behavior, ecology, reproduction, and conservation of these unique animals. Remarkable images show them in ways you've never seen before, and video provides insights into their behavior. Interactivity sprinkled throughout 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 course takes about 60 minutes to complete, although participants progress at their own pace and may repeat an entire course or sections of a course as many times as they like.

The courses can easily be integrated into your current training program. Online courses that team members can complete anywhere and at any time overcome 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 courses 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 courses are an awesome resource for interpreters, but they offer insights to veteran animal care staff too, providing a glimpse of natural history that helps animal care employees 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 Red Pandas, California Condors, and Koalas courses join Kangaroos and Kin, Lemurs, Penguins, African Penguins, Hamadryas Baboons, Old World Monkeys, Birds, Giraffes, Rhinoceroses, Elephants, Cats, Orangutans, Great Apes, Lions, Cheetahs, Polar Bears, Giant Pandas, Tigers, and Gorillas in the Introducing Animals series.

For more information about the animal species modules, please contact Donna Parham, dparham@sandiegozoo.org.


Chimp Haven. A new beginningThe San Diego Zoo Global Academy Puts Chimp Haven in the Spotlight!
Chimp Haven, Inc. in Keithville, Louisiana is part of the Academy's collaborative learning environment!

Watch a video about Chimp Haven


CypherworxAdministrator's Users Group Webinar                
Please join us for the Administrator's Users Group Webinar, hosted by Academy partner CypherWorx. The next webinar is Friday, June 19, at 11 a.m. PDT.

Register here

Academy Contributors

Excellence Beyond Compliance logo

Getting Better All the Time
Animal Welfare Act Compliance: Necessary for Lawful Operation, Essential During a Pandemic, and the Starting Point for Successful Animal Welfare Programs

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

Animal Welfare Act Compliance Is Essential to Zoological Organization Success
The U.S. Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the federal law that authorizes zoological organizations to allow members of the public to view and be inspired by animals. Complete and ongoing compliance with the AWA's extensive regulations is required in order to maintain the license necessary to exhibit the animals to the public. AWA compliance is also a starting point for providing good, quality lives for the animals entrusted to our care.  

Game-changing New AWA Licensing Regulation
A significant change in the AWA regulations impacting every licensed zoological organization was published May 13, 2020, and will become effective November 9, 2020: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2020-05-13/pdf/2020-07837.pdf.

Currently, a zoological organization licensed to exhibit animals under the AWA annually submits a renewal application affirming compliance, along with the requisite fee, and is all but automatically issued a one-year license renewal. Under the new regulation, to be implemented over the next three years, licensees will now be granted three-year, non-renewable licenses, to maintain a maximum number of animals and specifically authorized species. Every three years, a new license application must be submitted, and a pre-licensing inspection must find the facility in complete compliance for a new license to be issued.   

The new regulations allow licensees to obtain authorization for maximum numbers of animals to be maintained during the period of the license, in increments of 50. Licensees must also have express authorization to maintain the following species: (1) certain nonhuman primates; (2) exotic and wild felids ("including but not limited to lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, cougars, lynx, servals, bobcats, caracals, and any hybrid cross thereof"); (3) hyenas and/or exotic and wild canids ("including but not limited to wolves, coyotes, foxes, and jackals"); (4) bears; and (5) megaherbivores (elephants, giraffes, rhinos, hippos) (85 Fed. Reg. at 28795). Changes in the total number of animals at the facility above the amount indicated on the license, or type of animals maintained (when the new animals are of a group of species requiring special authorization) will require a new license in advance of such change.  

Like the current licensing process, license applicants will be afforded three pre-licensing inspections to demonstrate full compliance. Under the new system, a denial after a third pre-licensing inspection can be appealed to the agency head, and then potentially to an administrative law judge. Certain facilities with clean compliance records may be entitled to a temporary license to continue operating pending the appeals.

This new licensing approach is the result of serious concerns regarding the current ministerial renewal process. High-profile situations involving licenses being renewed in the midst of agency enforcement procedures hastened the change, even though the vast majority of licensees are in substantial compliance with the AWA.

The agency stated that in order to protect animal welfare and the public, it is necessary to: (1) demonstrate AWA compliance (via pre-licensing inspection); (2) possess adequate knowledge and experience for the number and nature of animals maintained; and (3) have adequate programs for maintaining compliance of "aging facilities." This reasoning underscores the importance of appropriate staffing, competence and expertise, training, facilities, and upkeep, including ongoing preventative maintenance. The agency also noted that organizations with strong compliance records should "be able to confidently demonstrate compliance" (85 Fed. Reg. at 28783).

The Excellence Beyond Compliance® book and this column have urged the good practices of "self-certified compliance reporting" post-inspection and pre-license renewal, as well as website posting of inspection reports, self-certified compliance reports and improvement plans, as effective and transparent means of promoting compliance and advancing animal welfare. These practices should now be universally adopted to put zoological organizations in the best position for their next license.

Inspection Report Appeals Process Formalized
The new regulation also codifies the helpful and long-standing inspection report appeals process for challenging the findings in an inspection report (New 9 C.F.R. 2.13). The agency noted: "[b]y providing licensees with the opportunity to appeal a noncompliance documented on an inspection report, we are able to consider facts that may not have been available to the inspector at the time of the inspection and therefore to ensure that the USDA has all available information" (85 Fed. Reg. at 28787).

Updated Agency AWA Guidance on Lion and Tiger Enclosures, Marine Mammals, Drive-through Zoos and Parks, and Informal Consultations
The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care unit released the latest edition of its Animal Welfare Inspection Guide in March 2020. The Inspection Guide is an essential reference for agency inspectors, and is meant to promote consistent, higher-quality inspections. Zoological organization staff should be familiar with the Inspection Guide, and incorporate relevant insights into their regulatory compliance and animal welfare programs. It is invaluable to learn from the Inspection Guide before being thrust into an unfortunate situation where it is consulted after the fact to better understand the implications of something that has already happened.

The updated Inspection Guide has several new, reformatted, or revised sections worthy of immediate review, if applicable to your organization and the animals in your care. The marine mammal facility inspection information previously included in an appendix is now in the chapter on specific types of inspections. In that same chapter, the lengthy text on lion and tiger enclosure height inspections has been streamlined to just one page. Significantly, the section on drive-through zoo/park inspections has been greatly expanded from less than two pages to seven. It provides much greater detail on what the inspectors are to look for in terms of animals, handling, feeding (including compatibility in mixed-species settings), water, environmental hazards, records, and staff training and qualifications. If any of these are applicable to your facility, please read those sections of the Inspection Guide immediately. Then, take an honest assessment of anything you may want to address or seek clarification on before your next inspection.

Every regulated zoological organization should review the entirely new section on courtesy calls and courtesy visits. These occur when you ask your inspector or the agency to come out and review plans for a new facility, program, or species—or seek clarification, guidance, or suggestions to better your understanding of the AWA. These are distinct from inspections and compliance visits. In addition to spelling out these helpful, proactive forms of engagement, the Inspection Guide also notes how they will be documented in the agency's records (and thus likely subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act). So, in the absence of pandemic-specific guidance from the agency, courtesy calls and visits (or virtual ones) might be in order to better protect the animals, staff, public, inspectors, and the zoological organization.

For Those Who Love Giraffes—and Doing the Right Thing by Them
Please see the agency's Animal Care Aid Protecting Giraffes in Cold Weather, which updates and expands upon the old Tech Note and has other helpful suggestions for enhancing giraffe welfare.

The Excellence Beyond Compliance® Approach
The ideas in the book and in this column are meant to empower us to do even more good work, by taking responsibility for getting better and improving our capacity to do the right thing. The better we become as individuals, professionals, and team members within our organizations and the zoological community, the more effectively we can serve animals and people through complete and ongoing AWA compliance and enhancing animal welfare.

For Patti Milito, with gratitude for 19 years of working together and making a difference for animals and people.

© 2020 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® see http://excellencebeyondcompliance.com/.

More About James F. Gesualdi
The San Diego Zoo Global Academy is pleased to share a link to an ABA Journal article about Academy columnist James F. Gesualdi, written by Amanda Robert:
A Love of Dolphins Sparked Lawyer's 30-year Crusade to Improve Well-being of Animals.

Zoo & Conservation News

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