Getting Better All the Time
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
Stake Out a Higher Perspective and Step Up Preparations Amid Great Uncertainty, as Well as Regulatory Change, to Come Out in a Better Place
By James F. Gesualdi
Don't wish it away
Don't look at it like it's forever
Between you and me
I could honestly say
That things can only get better.
—Elton John, Bernie Taupin, and Davey Johnstone
("I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues")
We can make these difficult times better.
"I can't wait until this is over."
"On the other side of this, things will be just grand."
"After we get through this we can…."
All too often, I have caught myself thinking, speaking, and hearing such thoughts. They reflect our feelings about this time of great and seemingly unending uncertainty and change. They are, in part, hopeful expressions of what might be, whenever that may be, and, as such, may comfort us and others because "it is going to be okay." Within many communities, including the zoological world, this reflects the overwhelming and nearly disabling challenges we face. In fairness, it may very well be the path to survival. Survival is great, in the context of making it through a pandemic or of saving an endangered species.
Though occupying more high-risk categories than I like to admit to myself (and that weakness is what got me into those categories to begin with, and why the power of proactivity is so highly valued), we are more capable than we realize. We can seek to change from within and reshape that which is without. Continuous improvement and learning, new insights, fresh perspectives, helping others, and preparing for what may lie ahead will maximize our growth now, to carry us through to a much brighter place.
What we have once gained and seemingly "lost" can still carry us forward.
Over the last few years, the "losses" of some great teachers have broken my heart, and, at the time, left me feeling diminished and longing for their wisdom. Three who come to mind are Memphis, my beautiful black Labrador and "my third daughter"; Sister Patty Tippen, from Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, or IHM, an understanding and wise spiritual director and friend for nearly two decades; and distinguished professor John DeWitt Gregory, brilliant colleague, friend, and mentor. These three (and many others) have had an outsized influence in bringing greater clarity, direction, goodness, and meaning to my life.
Having worked from home the entirety of Memphis's life, we shared the rhythms of the day, all day, every day. She was always only about what mattered: loving companionship, nourishment, and our daily multi-mile walks. Together, we lived a life centered in animal and human well-being. Sister Patty nurtured me through every challenge, crisis, and fall. She helped to get me unstuck from the heaviness of unimportant things, and lifted my consciousness to new heights so that I could see the better way ahead. Professor Gregory sharpened the thinking of all of those around him. He challenged students to be all that they aspired to be, by treating them as the lawyers they were studying to become. Brilliantly, he never wavered from high standards, calling the first installment of the required scholarly paper a "Good Draft." Good, indeed.
Physically, emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually, these teachers imparted more lessons than I have yet to comprehend. Their individual and collective impact will serve me all the remaining days of my life.
The great lesson here is that all they freely gave, just like those pre-pandemic experiences we so freely enjoyed, remains with us. From this elevated platform of greater understanding, we can look forward and bring those better days ahead into being today.
Understanding and preparing for evolving regulatory changes before they arrive: Animal Welfare Act pandemic-related adjustments regarding inspections
A July 22, 2020 U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Care stakeholder announcement provided the agency's Standard Operating Procedures for the resumption of inspections, as local conditions and restrictions allow. These Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are meant to help ensure inspector, zoological organization staff, and animal health and safety, and should be consulted immediately to help you prepare for your next inspection. There may also be elements worth considering for your own enhanced safe operation.
Some components of the SOPs to examine—and a few ideas for zoological organizations
Heads up! Give your inspector a call/heads up if there are additional or special precautions/procedures you have in place that might impact an inspection. This will give the inspector additional time to prepare for those factors, in accordance with their own SOPs.
The answer is: Be prepared for the COVID-19 screening questions the inspector will ask upon arrival.
Note of caution on inspection sequencing of certain species: "Several species/families of animals have tested positive and/or shown symptoms after exposure to COVID-19, including non-human primates, felids, domestic dogs, and mustelids…Be aware of this and abide by any additional measures being implemented at a particular facility regarding inspection of these animals, especially if there are or have been any animals exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 infection. Inspect these animals last to avoid cross-contamination to other animals at the facility."
There are special considerations for exhibitions of certain species, drive-through animal parks, and heavily trafficked areas.
Remote-record review: To the extent necessary, study the means for potential remote-record review and/or be creative to find ways to safely and appropriately fulfill agency requirements and requests.
Some exit briefings must still be on site. Exit briefings are still required; inspection reports containing "Direct or Critical" non-compliant items (NCIs) (defined in Chapter 2 of the Animal Welfare Inspection Guide) must be presented on site because of the severity of the NCI and the short time to complete corrective measures.
More to report and review on the new licensing regulation: Animal care continues its unfolding rollout of more information on the new licensing regulation, effective November 9, 2020. (Previous columns have detailed key elements of the new regulation and can provide a good refresher.) There is now a dedicated page for the "New Licensing Rule" on the agency's website. There is also a July 2020 Tech Note with questions and answers on the Three-year AWA License. A complete information packet on the new licensing regulation will be disseminated to all licensees within the next month or so. The information packet is said to include the new license application form, the updated Blue Book of the AWA, and its regulations, and will inform the licensee which year it is scheduled to transition to the phased-in new three-year license. Until that point, individual licensees will continue with annual license renewals under the existing system.
The term "re-licensing" has been introduced to clarify the process for existing licensees. The new agency guidance now differentiates two types of pre-licensing inspections before a new license will be issued, pursuant to the new regulation. Currently existing licensed zoological organizations will undergo re-licensing. New licensees will undergo pre-licensing. Once the new requirements are fully implemented, license renewals will be eliminated.
Timing matters! The timeframes for submission of a new license application, conducting the necessary re-licensing inspection(s), pursuing any appeal(s) if needed, and obtaining a new license are critical to lawfully maintaining continuity of operations. Start with the application for a new license/re-licensing application at least 90 days prior to the expiration of your current license.
Be mindful of details. A zoological organization needs to indicate if any animals might be involved in overnight travel. This is not limited to "traveling exhibitors," but includes educational and media presentations where animals are off site overnight, and this requires the submission of a proper itinerary. See 9 C.F.R. 2.126(c).
Do the math, family planning too. Because the new licenses will authorize the total number of animals to be maintained, and certain species require special permission, proactively integrate in advance any anticipated or planned changes in animal population or species. This might eliminate the need for future delays or having to secure an additional new license before the three-year term of your new license expires.
If you remember just one thing from this column, understand this: Currently licensed zoological organizations undergoing re-licensing can be cited for non-compliances found during re-licensing inspections—especially critical, direct, or repeat ones—all of which will be noted in an inspection report and posted online after 21 days, unless an inspection report appeal is made in a timely fashion. With respect to the third re-licensing inspection, if needed, any inspection report must be appealed within seven days. So, existing licensees having to appeal their third re-licensing inspection will need to act quickly to make things right and to bring an appeal, or risk being put out of operation. Prepare well in advance for re-licensing, take great care of the animals, and make these appeals unnecessary!
Now is the time to get better. The future is unknown today. There is much uncertainty as to what lies before us. Some changes, like those on the regulatory front, are a bit more predictable and can be managed by thoughtful preparation. Other things seem to defy accurate forecast, but we can still prepare for them by lifting ourselves to a higher vantage point. We can do that ourselves and do it together, starting today. It is not easy, but it is worth every bit of effort to be better. Better people, a better community, better caregivers, better champions of the animals entrusted to our care, and better upholders of the public trust essential to enabling us to be our best in helping animals.
In loving memory of Professor John DeWitt Gregory—friend, good man, and great teacher.
© 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/.
You Have the Story, Now Let's Work on the Telling
By Andy Goodman
The Goodman Center
Having a good story to tell is one thing; delivering it effectively in front of a live audience can be quite another. The Goodman Center regularly provides one-on-one coaching for public speakers, and recently we've seen an uptick in requests for advice, as more and more gatherings feature TED-like talks, use the Ignite or PechaKucha formats (where a set number of slides advance automatically), hold "Fail Fests," or convene "Fast Pitch" competitions that challenge presenters to tell their stories in precisely three minutes.
As diverse as the stories and their tellers may be, invariably I find myself giving similar advice in almost every coaching session. I thought I'd share the most common recommendations with you this month. If you have a story to tell, these tips can help you deliver it with greater clarity and confidence.
Stories live in the specifics.
A presenter I coached recently had this line in her three-minute story: "Our organization brings together existing resources in an innovative, collaborative way." Uh huh. I bet they're also mission-driven, committed to diversity, and engage with the community whenever they can. Jargon like this has no place in storytelling, because it doesn't help the audience see and feel what you actually do.
When one client told me, "We teach children financial literacy," I stopped him and asked for an example. He said, "We show them exactly how much money they can save if they buy a large bag of potato chips at the supermarket and bring a small baggie of chips to school each day, instead of buying the single-serving packages at the cafeteria." To which I replied: "Great. Say that." Sure, it's more words, but shorter isn't better if your audience is still wondering what you really do.
Help your audience travel with you.
When an audience is hearing your story for the first time, they don't have all the context and color that's in your brain. And if your storytelling isn't supported by slides and other graphics, all they have are the words coming out of your mouth and the expressiveness of your delivery. When your story jumps around in time or space, be sure to clearly denote each move.
Recently, I coached a presenter whose story started when he was a teenager, and then jumped to his 30s. His transition sentence between the two eras was five words: "When I was 37…" As you read those words here, they may seem sufficient, but in spoken form, the transition is simply too abrupt. I suggested that when he had finished talking about his teen years, he should take a breath—letting a moment of silence signal the end of a chapter—and they say, "It's 20 years later. I was 37." By just adding two seconds of silence and three words, he will help his audience make the two-decade jump with him.
Embrace the power of the pause.
As the previous tip suggests, pausing between distinct thoughts or passages in your story serves a valuable purpose. The silence creates a space in which the audience can reflect on what they just heard. It can also denote the end of one section of your story and the beginning of another. As TED Talks and Fast Pitch competitions make the clock tick louder in the speaker's mind, the common reaction is to talk faster and deliver a nonstop barrage of words. "The right word may be effective," said Mark Twain, "but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause." It's also worth noting that if you prefer to remain conscious during your talk (which I highly recommend), stopping to take a breath every now and then is a good idea.
When using statistics, cite sources.
Stories and data can coexist peacefully—in fact, a good story can help make data stick—but if you're going to drop in a number or two, be sure to quickly cite the source. In this era of burgeoning fake news, audiences are more skeptical than ever. So saying something such as "There are over 83,000 places where you can legally buy a gun in America" is more likely to generate the response "Says who?" than the jaw drop you were hoping for. But if you add "According to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives…" you give your data point the authority it deserves.
Your first and last words matter most.
Google "audience attention span graph," and you'll see a series of images that essentially deliver the same message: an audience's attention is highest at the beginning, sags in the middle, and surges upward at the end (but rarely to the same height as the beginning). From my experience, this appears to be true whether your talk is 3 minutes or 30.
Whenever I coach public speakers, I always tell them to spend a little extra time polishing their opening and closing. Even the friendliest audience will make a snap judgment about you within the first 10 to 15 seconds of your talk, so keep rewriting until that opening is clear and compelling, and memorize your first few sentences (at the very least) so you can look them in the eyes.
And pay no less attention to your closing. Audience interest always spikes toward the end of a talk, and you want to take advantage of the fact that they are likely to remember the last thing you say. As with your opening, don't stop rewriting until your final sentences offer a clear summary or a compelling call to action, and memorize here, as well, so you're looking at the audience (and not your notes) at the finish.