Look for my presentation on Generations at the upcoming AALAS meeting!

Let me start out with a question:

Have you ever attended a sporting event and felt like you couldn’t celebrate your team’s success because the person next to you, also a fan of your team, was different from you?  It just doesn’t happen, does it?  Instead, when the touch down is scored, all the nearby fans get hugs and high fives because in that moment, we acknowledge that which unifies us.

But in the rest of life, and especially in the workplace, this unification and true “team spirit” doesn’t automatically and seamlessly happen.

At AALAS, I will present on Generations. The goal of my presentation is to help attendees appreciate the differences and similarities in individuals, independent of their generation label or date of birth.  My objective is to demonstrate how we can find ways to appreciate the similarities that unite us – in essence, those things we share in common.

Once we agree that our goal is worthy and our objective is achievable, we can discontinue further conversation regarding the disruptive nature of generational differences and instead recognize those differences as assets. Now the focus will turn to how to develop strong, vibrant, and diverse “winning” teams that do great work.

All around us, we are bombarded by pressures and entities that want to label us and put us in nice neat boxes. Boxes that define the whole of us by our individual parts - based on ethnic origin, zip code, academic success, sport affiliations, religious and political affiliations, date of birth and many other characteristics and traits. 

Over the course of my talk we will see that we do often fall into categories that others may use to define us, yet we should not – really must not - be compelled to limit who we are or what we can achieve based on the limitations prescribed by the “box”.

Great teams and great leaders look for opportunities to unify their people.  So instead of separating ourselves because of differences, let’s find ways to embrace our differences (and unique talents and contributions!) and work together towards common goals and shared causes.

See you in Denver!

William Singleton, DVM DACLAM

AuthorWilliam Singleton

Whether you’re looking to develop your leadership skills, challenge your current way of thinking, or just want to relax, we’ve got something for everyone! Here are our book picks for Summer 2019:

  1. Leaders Eat Last  by Simon Sinek
    Leaders need to create places of safety. We are influenced and impacted by internal chemicals/hormones. These chemicals reward us for finding community, securing safety, and finding personal connections. Leaders take care of the people entrusted to their care. Great leaders always see their people first and then their bottom line (whatever that might be).

  2. The Culture Code by  Dan Coyle
    Successful culture is built around trust, safety, and vulnerability. This was the most insightful book that I read this past year. It confirms what I believe about building great teams. Talent and technical competence are absolutely critical for any teams’ success. But when team members feel safe and valued, that’s when you will see exponential growth.

  3. Go Giver by Bob Burg & John David Mann 
    Success is not about receiving - it’s about giving. This allegory unpacks how giving is the shortest path to success. The story accounts the journey of a sales rep who is trying to land a big contract and willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. He learns that by giving he is finally able to receive.

  4. Radical Candor by Kim Scot 
    Don’t beat around the bush; say what needs to be said, but it needs to come from a place of care and compassion. Developing great relationships with your peoples sometimes requires that you have tough conversations. This book shares techniques and examples of how to do this in a way that builds strong relationships.

  5. Whiteout by Ken Follett
    Modern thriller that has its origins in an animal facility. Ken Follet is a great writer and he does a good job talking through the use of animals in research.

  6. Columbus Day by Craig Alanson
    Sci-Fi that’s fun and really entertaining. A great escape. You will be wanting more at the end and the good news is that this is a series of 7 books and all equally entertaining. You will fall in love with a “little beer can” named Skippy.

  7. Paris by Edward Rutherfurd
    Epic multigenerational drama center in Paris over a 500-year period. I couldn’t put it down. Great historical fiction

    We hope you enjoy these as much as we did! Happy reading and we will see you back at the ACTS Book Corner this fall.

AuthorCaroline Thompson
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by William Singleton

For the past 10 years, we’ve provided training and program evaluations to teams across the biomedical research community. And for such a highly technical industry, you’d probably be surprised to hear that the most valuable skills we’ve taught and/or observed were not technical at all!

Soft skills (i.e. leadership, empathy, positive attitude) are arguably the most important for any team or organization. Ironically, they are often the hardest to learn and consistently the least taught.

Maybe one of the challenges with the idea of soft skills is in the name. The word “soft” might have a connotation of being a bit squishy, or even cute and cuddly like a stuffed animal – so what exactly is a “soft” skill? The term was first introduced in the military to distinguish between work on mechanical items (hard skills) versus work dealing directly with people (soft skills).

Soft skills are often hard to define and difficult to measure. So it’s no wonder the idea of incorporating them into requirements for employment and ongoing training have not always been embraced by many institutions. It is much easier to quantify hard skills like educational background, work experience, and technical training, which is why these are more traditionally used to satisfy job expectations. Similarly, training and development has leaned more towards hard skills because they are assessed, taught and measured in straight-forward methods.

The body of data regarding the importance of soft skills in the workplace is mounting.
The need to engage with individuals in meaningful and productive ways is being seen as equal to and, in some cases more important than, the technical abilities and knowledge we bring to the work we do. Institutions that want to succeed recognize soft skills as essential for their workforce. They hire strong candidates that have these competencies and skills, and offer training to support growth among their employees. Additionally, they develop novel metrics to measure their effectiveness in the workplace.

It may be a while before we adjust the language of hard vs soft skills, but at least we can start today to recognize the importance of soft skills and emphasizing the need for them in the workplace. How will you begin to prioritize training and development in these critical (softer) areas among your team?

AuthorCaroline Thompson

When you look at various people in your life, you’ll likely see a noticeable difference between those who lean into change and those who run from it. Some of the most significant events in my life have resulted from change that I initially feared or even tried to avoid. There are several skills we can learn from the “leaners” that can be applied to our professional and personal lives.

Why is change so scary?
The word “change” is often associated with fear or dread. Most of us crave comfort and/or control, so it’s no wonder the idea of either of these being disrupted elicits a reaction. This is likely because the emotional part of the brain processes information significantly faster than the logical part of the brain. When emotion takes over, our ability to reason can be hindered. For many, it’s the fear of the unknown that causes our minds to race with questions or our palms to sweat from the sudden loss of control. 

While we may not always have control over change, we do have control over how we respond to it. I believe there are generally two types of people: those who lean into change, and those who run from it.

It would be naïve to think that those who lean into change are simply more “brave” than others. I would argue that there are conscious choices we make that allow us to embrace change – but don’t get me wrong: it takes work. Those who “lean in” are typically:

  • Open-minded

  • Ambitious

  • Eager to learn

  • Willing to take on new projects

Are you seeing a theme here? They raise their hand. They go out on a limb. They are willing to take risks. Does this come easier to some than others? Of course! There are many experiences from our past that may prevent us from taking risks or making a big move, but I believe the people in this category are characterized by the ability (or choice) to focus on looking forward rather than backward. Looking at what’s ahead prevents us from being distracted by what may be holding us back.

Those who lean into change are more likely to grow in their career and to be organizational leaders. By embracing change and being seen as someone who says “yes,” the “leaners” are sought out for their talents and willingness to tackle projects others are afraid of. They tend to experience more personal growth, as well. By developing emotional intelligence, those who lean into change are more likely to have strong interpersonal relationships in and outside of work.

Three practical ways to lean in.
So how do we face our fears and proactively embrace change? Here are some actionable steps we can all take to keep us moving in the right direction. 

1.    Be prepared. When faced with change, ask questions - don’t make assumptions. Create a plan of action for yourself or your team. Setting expectations ahead of change is an important part of change management and can help calm people’s fears.

2.    Don’t freak out. No, but seriously. Focus on the things you know, NOT the unknowns. Ignore the gossip, and take it one day at a time. This is the time when a healthy dose of emotional intelligence really comes in handy: remain calm and choose logic over fear.

3.    Think happy thoughts. A positive attitude goes a long way. Most change affects more than just one person, so help rally the troops. If you sense anxiety among your fellow team members, remind them that you’re all in it together. If you’re in a leadership role, over-communicate. If you don’t know all the answers, it’s ok to say so. Honesty is always a good policy - give them a reason to trust you!

If we all focus on trying to lean into change, imagine the difference in our workplaces! How much time and energy is spent complaining, doubting, speculating and “running the other way?” A team characterized by openness and a willingness to take risks is an unstoppable force. By leaning into change, we not only spark personal growth, but also help advance our organization’s mission.

AuthorCaroline Thompson
2018 Tech Week Logo .jpg

Here's a few tips to get the most out of your staff for Tech Week and all year long!

1.       Spend time with your staff.
Whether it’s stopping by their office to say hello or scheduling a team lunch, make a point to spend intentional time with your team.

2.       Invest in their career development.
Incorporate flexible training opportunities to encourage growth and development among your staff. Invite them to a one-time training session or provide a link to an online webinar – it makes them feel valued when you invest in them as an individual.

3.       Brag on their successes.
Do you have a bulletin board in a high-traffic area? Consider creating a team spotlight section to highlight the accomplishments (big and small) of your staff members. A little goes a long way when it comes to public recognition!

4.       Be their advocate.
Look for opportunities to support your team, especially when it comes to dealing with outside departments and leadership. Make it known that you’ve got their back!

5.       Listen to them and seek their input.
In a large organization, it can be difficult to have a voice. Create a forum to collect input from your staff – for tech week or all year round! And be prepared to respond or take action – nothing is worse than feedback falling on deaf ears.

6.       Have fewer formal meetings.
Meetings often feel like a necessary evil. Review the calendar and clean house: cut unnecessary meetings, aim for 30 minute blocks instead of an hour, or consider a biweekly schedule instead of weekly! Try implementing a five-minute stand-up meeting for quick updates.

7.       Get to know your staff.
Be sure to engage with others on a personal level – whether it’s starting off a staff meeting with a personal story or taking the time to recognize employee birthdays, make it personal.

8.       Set clear expectations.
Let them know exactly what you want from them. Make sure they have the skills and training to fulfill those expectations, and give them the space and opportunity to demonstrate what they know.

9.       Stop spending money to endear trust and loyalty.
Instead of expensive extracurricular activities, find out what motivates your staff – you may find that it won’t cost you anything!

10.   Encourage Small Wins.
Provide opportunities for your staff to grow in their daily roles and tasks. Small consistent steps can lead to accomplishing big goals.

AuthorWilliam Singleton
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Have you ever found yourself wondering where the time went? At the beginning of the year, it seems like time is unlimited, with plenty of time to accomplish all the things you want to get done. And then, before you know it, it's September and school is back in session; and the year is essentially over after Halloween!

As I am looking back on 2018, I’m wondering how I spent all my time, and if I made the most of it. As with most years, we had successes along with failures, and a few "suggestions for improvement" (thanks AAALAC for that great phrase). I see SFI’s as those areas in both our work and personal lives that could use a gentle and consistent flow of – “better.”

A few highlights of the year include our 10-Year Celebration and enhancements to ACTS Academy, our online training platform. One of our goals this year for was to grow our brand awareness as we celebrated our 10th Anniversary. It was exciting to see this come together internally within the ACTS Team and with our larger ACTS community. Additionally, we wanted to provide better integration of ACTS Academy into our portfolio of services. (Thanks Ed for championing ACTS Academy!) We look forward to rolling out these new updates in 2019.

This look back at the past year (and 10 years of ACTS) has allowed me to reflect on what’s really important. As we look toward the new year, here are a few “suggestions for improvement” we could all benefit from:

  • Be grateful for all the gifts/blessings/opportunities that have come our way.

  • Work smart and work hard.

  • Don’t beat ourselves up when we don't hit our mark, but instead recognize our failure, make corrections, and get back in the game.

  • The best is yet to come - live and appreciate the moment as we actively lean into our future.

If you haven't, take some time to look back at your year - how did it go for you?  What are some personal successes and "suggestions for improvement?" As we lean into our future, we want to use this moment to say Thank You for being a part of our journey. Happy Holidays from all of us at ACTS!



AuthorCaroline Thompson

by: William Singleton

I recently heard a quote from Ron Howard that seemed provocative, “Collaboration always fails.” Hmmmm. I thought the goal was to be more collaborative, to get more people to the table. To quote my mentor, Jack Welch, “get more brains in the game.” Collaboration can't fail; it has to work and it must work every time. Doesn't it?

A Real Brain Teaser
I probably wouldn’t think twice about this statement if it came from someone that was committed to go alone on their life journey or even just plain bitter. But, this is Ron Howard, the great childhood actor and maybe even greater movie director and producer. He's been through challenges and still is making great things happen in his world.

How could he have possibly achieved his level of success without collaboration? It seems impossible, in fact, I am sure it is. Because I fundamentally know that collaboration is a good thing. Most of us know that collaboration is good. Who among us can achieve more or say that we have arrive at our current station without that help, influence, or collaboration with others.

The definition of collaboration is the act of working with someone to create or produce something. This definition stands in direct opposition to Mr. Howard's quote. I respect him and the work he has done so maybe I need to think a bit more about what he was trying to say. And here is what I have concluded

A Collective Mindset
Collaboration always fails when it works. Collaboration is that act of bringing others along to collectively create something. Ten people sitting in my office that look like me, think like me and act like me is not a collaboration as good as that may sound. However, 10 people that are different from me in thought, background, and expertise sitting in my office with the intent to create something is a sure bet to have some failure.

And, so, I get it... the goal of collaboration is to fail, and fail and fail again until you, the collective, the “collaboration” gets it right. 

Working Together Better
We have so many opportunities for collaboration in our workspace. With members of our team, with other departments within our organization, with outside companies and agencies. What is our mindset when we approach collaboration? Are we looking to create the best idea or our personal best idea?

Maybe we think having multiple teams or experts at the table is a good thing, but it's only a good thing if every brain is in the game, every voice is heard, and at the end of the day you come out of the process, after much failure, with something that truly represents the purest form of collaboration.

AuthorCaroline Thompson

by William Singleton

It was 2005 and I had worked hard to attain what I considered a fairly successful job at a great university supporting veterinary services and training. I remember visiting a friend in Atlanta that summer and thinking to myself “well, this is it!” As I sat waiting for a business plan template to download, I had the realization that starting this new adventure would require me to leave behind the work that I knew and loved.

The true origin of ACTS can be traced back to my first year out of vet school when a well-meaning lady in my church asked me to fill in for the director of the youth program. I had no experience and little to offer, but I was willing. And after a few weeks, something unexpected happened – the kids started showing up on time. Not only that, they started asking me questions (some of which I thought were better suited for their parents) and I realized that I was actually relating to them! It wasn't long before I knew something bigger was happening – a sense of fulfillment I had never experienced before. It soon became clear that training was a natural extension of something that was at my core. I had the ability to support growth and development in people by helping them understand things that were important to them. 

Starting a business was never my goal, but it ended up being the path that made the most sense if I wanted to pursue my passion.

And what better place to start than the animal care community that I knew and loved?

In 2007, ACTS became an official company and our first contract was executed in early 2008. Those days were exhilarating. We all have dreams, big and small, and I can honestly say that ACTS was, and still is, a dream come true. It kept me awake at night and got me up early in the morning. Even when the bills were coming in faster than the money, I knew that this was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I was fortunate to have lots of support in the beginning. My good friend Paula Clifford was an essential part of getting ACTS off the ground, and we would not be where we are today without her optimism and vision. She has since moved on to other opportunities, but will always be considered a part of the ACTS family. In addition to Paula, I’ve had the pleasure to partner with numerous others who have added so much value to our organization. ACTS is definitely a team effort and I’m grateful to get to work alongside so many bright and committed individuals.

For the past 10 years, ACTS has been serving the lab animal community with management and species-specific training, as well as providing certification courses and consulting services. It still overwhelms me to think that it all started with a dream to help others. It wasn't always easy, and I still cringe at the thought of my first training seminar and how little I was prepared! There have been failures – many of them – but with the support of many, along with a commitment to our mission, I have never lost sight of why this work matters.

If we don’t do what we are doing, there’s a chance that no one else will.

My guiding principle has been that people matter most and that drives everything that I do and is at the center of what our consultants believe. How can we help our clients get just a little bit better every day? I shared that thought while recently giving a talk in Australia and found myself getting choked up. Who would have thought that a punky little kid from West Philly (emphasis on the little) would ever start a company training people that work with animals AND that company would be the vehicle for him to travel around the world to share that message?  People matter most.

Should we have the fortune and grace to still be relevant in another 10 years I am confident that our mission will remain the same. It never hurts to dream!

AuthorWilliam Singleton
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by: William Singleton

There is profound beauty in the simple. A lone flower bursting through an early spring snowfall; a flock of geese flying south for the winter; or a single rose on an otherwise ordinary bush. The power of simplicity should never be overlooked - some of the most lasting and powerful messages are conveyed through simple means.

When designing presentations for any size audience, from 1 to 1000+, the ability to communicate important (even complex) information in a simple way can be extremely powerful. I’m the first to admit my tendency to make a presentation “intellectual or slick” in an attempt to impress an audience. However, I have learned over time that my attempts come up short when I neglect to keep it simple. Sure, I may have used big words and impressive charts and graphs, and even threw in a few timely and sometimes humorous anecdotes. But, in the end, did they walk away with the key information I was trying to relay?  Probably not.

What I have found is that for me to be at my best and to convey powerful messages, I have to keep it simple.

  • What are the 3-4 points that I want my audience to take home? Too many points can make it difficult for me, and the audience, to stay focused.
  • What is the best image or case that I can use to convey each of those points? Find something that they connect to – make it stick!
  • Can I create a compelling story that reinforces my points and leaves a lasting impression? Identify why it’s important and why they should care.

Whether I’m giving a keynote presentation or explaining to my five-year-old why she has to clean up after she plays, the same principals apply.

If the goal is to be profound, to say words or convey ideas that will make the deepest impact, we must keep it simple.


AuthorCaroline Thompson

By William Singleton


As you look to the coming year and start setting goals for your staff, it is vital to incorporate ongoing opportunities for learning and development. Not only does this benefit the individual by keeping them motivated and feeling valued, it also benefits the organization by improving the overall quality of the team and services you provide. While it's easy to focus on timelines and budget, remember to take a step back and evaluate your resources; from quantity to quality, maximizing resources is one goal that should be on everyone's list! 

At ACTS, we are committed to providing high-quality training to animal care professionals around the world. In addition to in-person training, we now offer virtual options through our online platform ACTS Academy. We would love to help you incorporate ACTS into your 2018 Goals.  Click here for a free assessment to identify specific areas where your team could use additional development. One of our representatives will respond with a free consultation for you and your team. 

Happy New Year from all of us at ACTS!

AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton


Recently, I’ve had a recurring thought. It doesn’t exactly keep me up at night, but it does pop into my mind periodically, forcing me to stop and give it my full attention. The thought? Well, it’s really more of a question: What if compliance isn’t enough? 

It may surprise you to know that the origin of this thought didn’t come from a heavy debate in an IACUC meeting discussing the continued failure of an institution to meet regulatory requirements. Ironically, it was born out of a discussion with a group of friends hashing out the importance of…wait for it…The 10 Commandments

As I recall, I didn’t have much to contribute to the conversation, but I did find myself in agreement with the view that obeying all ten commandments is a “good thing.” But then it hit me -- some of the most unloving people I know pride themselves on being bible-toting ‘commandment keepers.’ The effort is there, but something is definitely missing. Maybe compliance alone isn’t enough, after all! 

I began to consider some of the organizations I partner with. What if we’ve been so focused on compliance, that we are missing the bigger picture? What if compliance is just the minimum standard and we should be targeting something a bit loftier?

  • Is it possible to have a USDA site visit with no findings (which, for the record is a great thing) but still have issues with animal care and welfare? 
  • What if full accreditation from AAALAC is just the beginning for your organization, rather than the ultimate goal?

What I discovered in the conversation with my friends is probably true in any situation. When you discuss compliance, you delve into the nuances of the law, often focusing on the trees and not seeing the forest. It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in the formalities of rules and regulations, but how do we move beyond compliance to those places that really matter most?

I don’t think the answer is simple, but I do think it’s something we can work toward. What is most important? Being thoughtful about what is important to us personally, as a team, and as an organization will inform how we manage and influence culture in our work space and how we train others to work in these spaces. What are we really trying to accomplish – compliance or changing the world?

Compliance isn’t the end game, it’s a step along the way toward continuous improvement: getting a little bit better every day.



AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

So here it is, the secret sauce, the pièce de résistance, the holy grail, the alpha and omega, the lynchpin, the one thing in our quest to get a little better every day (if you’re not sitting down, you should be)… practice. That’s right, practice. Good habits are fortified with good practice.

I suspect you might be a bit skeptical as I was, but here’s the thing… it’s true. In any area of our lives where we aspire to be better professionally or personally, practice will play a role in our achievement.

Real World Examples
If we start from a place of familiarity, I think we can move into more abstract spaces of understanding while retaining the application.

A little kid wants to play the violin just like Itzhak Perlman or Lucia Micarelli, two amazingly talented musicians. There are three fundamental things they need to do: get a violin, get a good teacher, practice, and then perform. This is no guarantee they will achieve the level of success of either Micarelli or Perlman, but it sure puts them in a position for the best success possible.

A young man wants to impress his sweetheart on Valentine’s Day with a decadent chocolate soufflé prior to asking for their hand in marriage. He doesn’t cook, but it will mean so much if he could make this as a testament of his love. He goes online, finds a recipe that he believes he can follow, purchases the ingredients, and gives it a go. First round results…inedible. Second round… inedible but the dog liked it. (I know dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate, but his dog took one for the team). Third round… pretty good and mom was impressed. Mom’s can be tough critics. Fourth round… the sweetheart said yes and loved the soufflé!

We can’t get from here to there without practice.

In the Vivarium
A technician starts a new job. We run them through the training gauntlet putting them in a mock room for a few weeks or have them work on studies or projects that are just for their learning. And, when they reach a level of success in practice then we release them to “impress their sweetheart.”

A new manager starts managing the same group she has worked with for 10 years. We run her through the training gauntlet by sending her to a management training school where they take her through the most common scenarios that will be experienced as a manager. After achieving a level of competence, she is released to manage her new direct reports.

A senior executive looks at her staff and sees a 25 year difference in their faces. She doesn’t know them or their frame of references, but wants to. She retains an executive coach that understands her specific growth needs and together they start an intense dive in developing skills and understanding that will allow her to better interact and lead her team. She accepts a volunteer position in her church to work with the young adults to hone the skills she is learning with her coach. Five years later during her retirement dinner, her staff thank her for taking the time to get to know them and for leading them so well.

The Key to Managing Well
Without practice, none of it will work. Great resources, great instruction, a great coach, and even great passion will get us not get us there without practice.

Maybe you think you don’t have time to practice because of your busy schedule. I will tell you that because you have so much going on you have to take the time to practice. Getting better in real time is hard and, in most cases, it doesn’t happen well. If we want to have continued success, we must be committed to practice.

Reposted from ALN Magazine

AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

In my office space, we look to create processes that are sustainable and reflect the best way to perform routine tasks. We look at how we utilize our space and ask are we creating products and programs that aren’t being utilized. Because we do a lot of flexing based on customer’s need, we don’t create such rigid processes that prevent us from meeting their need. That said, we still find great value in the premise that we can “find a better way every day,” as the late, great Jack Welch always said.

I know there are many programs within the animal care community that have formally and publicly embrace “Lean Culture” and I am sure there are many more that are interested in giving it a try. In full disclosure, I am not a formal lean practitioner, but I completely believe in and have develop a mindset of “better everyday.”

What I want to do is create a compelling case for the adoption of a culture of continuous improvement in those areas of your work where it makes most sense. If the idea of lean is not for you, consider how you and your team can embrace the basic concept that all of us have the capacity to get a little better every day.

So why continuous improvement? To improve efficiencies and maximizes resources and profits.

On any given day, there is a lot of work to be done and often with limited resources or time to get it done. How are you going to get it all accomplished in ways that are most productive without driving yourself and your team to exhaustion and frustration?

The pace of innovation is blistering. Our ability to recognize when improvement is needed is critical to our success, the success of our organization and the advancement of science that is good and life-saving. And, if that’s not reason enough… all of the cool kids are doing it.

Question Everything
A culture of continuous improvement allows you the permission to stop and look at what is really happening in the office or the animal facility and ask a few simple but profound questions.

  • What works?
  • What doesn’t work?
  • What works but takes to long to get done?
  • What works but we don’t need to be doing any more?
  • What’s not working but should be?
  • What are we trying to get to work that should be eliminated?

The process isn’t easy. Being honest about what you do well and not so well is a challenge. Looking for ways to improve when things are going pretty good is equally challenging.

However, this is the privilege of the corner office: looking for ways to improve the people and processes around you. What can you do today that will help you and your team get just a little bit better?

Reposted from ALN Magazine

AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

Lately I have been thinking about athletes that manage to perform at greater levels even as they get “older” (whatever that means). What is the secret, how do you manage to improve when you are at the top of your game? Across the board, when asked they say taking care of their bodies and continuing to work on the game. Athletes that are great at what they do practice all the time and not just before game day. And they practice the basics of the game as well as the nuances of the game and they practice winning. And most practice with a trainer, someone with the knowledge that can guide them through the development and perfection of their skill and mental toughness. Athletes this committed always play to win, even when they know they can. Winning is never a surprise because that is the plan…to win. And as they continue to improve they expect to win.

What does that mean for you? Quite simply, if you want to be successful in whatever you do you have to train, and you have to work on getting better at the basics and in the nuances. Although I have never read the book I am reminded of the title, “What got you here, won’t get you there”. Something different, and I would say better, needs to happen to keep you in “the game” and winning. Here are three things worth considering as you aspire to perform at greater levels. You must take care of your body, (that’s right – if you’re not in good health what good are the great skills and talent you have finely honed). You must get someone to help because we all need help as we strive to get a bit better every day and in every way. You must expect to win and you must celebrate your winning.

Think about what you do while at work and let’s assume for the sake of this article that you love what you do. Have you gotten any better at what you do since you started the job… I would suspect that you have. And your improvement happened through very focused and deliberate effort. No matter what your job there will be parts that come easy while other equally important parts will require more effort to become successful. At some point, you have sought after the advice and counsel of a trusted colleague to help you navigate through a tricky spot. Have you resisted a heavy lunch because you knew you had a busy afternoon and didn’t want to get sluggish, so you went for the salad with grilled chicken over the burger and fries? And you have won. You’ve had great meetings, made great hires and met personal and organizational goals in addition to many other successes.

The trick is to keep doing those things and when you need more (whether for an eating plan that will ensure more focused energy or acquiring additional training, certifications and coaching) seek it out. At some point, winning will get tough again and when it does you want to be able to stare it down and be prepared to win again.

AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

Below is my first article for ALN Magazine. This has been reposted with permission. 

Welcome to The Corner Office.

This column is for all of us sitting in that proverbial corner office with its big windows and private bathroom and have struggled, succeeded and sometimes failed at providing the leadership necessary for our success and that of our staff.

Trying to get it right all the time is quite the ambitious undertaking and should be attempted with caution. That said, getting it right is actually what we are called to do as we sit in our “corner office.”

Collectively, getting it right on a granular level might look different for each of us, however at 30,000 feet getting it right really looks the same; providing quality animal care and welfare, expert support of research initiatives and the growth and development of those who report to us.

For the purpose of this column, we are going to stay at 30,000 feet considering the areas of training (learning and development) critical to assisting us in leading our staff to success. I have been told that very simple principles and tools repeatedly practiced can have a huge effect closer to “the ground”—where the real work also happens. Let’s see if that’s true.

A Different Perspective
Have you ever been on a flight with a mountain of work you were planning to get done? Often, this is the only opportunity for some uninterrupted time. Well, on this trip we are going to get that mountain of work done, but first let’s take some time to look out of the window.

What I hope we see at this height is perspective. Things do look quite different when we take a step back. If we want to have any impact on what happens on the ground, there are a few things we can do at this level to achieve personal success and the success of our staff.
Inspired by those of us that sit in the corner office and want to do good work and dedicated to those who aspire to sit in the corner office, let’s take this journey together and get some perspective at 30,000 feet.

AuthorLisa Cassaro

By William Singleton

I was planning on writing a short article about habits and how to create good habits. I have been reading a great book titled: The Power of Habit – Why we do what we do and how to change by Charles Duhigg.  But instead of talking specifically about habits, which I will address later, I want to talk about “Will Power” and how it influences habits.

What does will power have to do with habits? Let’s say you want to change your habit of getting a sweet treat at the end of the day when you are feeling a little bored. Some days you have great success and end your day feeling good about not having that sweet treat. Then there are days when you have polished off a coffee packed with sugar and a mid size bag of M & M’s with peanuts (yum). But now you feel bad because you fell back into your bad habit.

Studies have been shown that will power, when nurtured and encouraged, can influence our habits. But how do you build will power, and how does any of this really help in our ability to deliver great services to the people we work with and the animals we care for?  

If at the end of the day you tend to go for a sweet treat and you want to stop, you have to come up with an alternative to the treat that gives you the same sense of satisfaction. For example, maybe instead of getting that treat you take a break for 5 to 10 minutes - talk with a coworker or take a walk through the building. To strengthen your resolve you remove all candy and sweets from your office. On day 1 you have a great meeting with your boss to start the day and then you have excellent outcomes on the clinical cases you have been managing. Come mid afternoon when you get that nudge, you quickly shake it off by going for a little walk in the court yard of your building and you return to work refreshed and whistling a tune. On day 2 you get to work late, your boss gives you some bogus assignment and you have a contentious meeting with the husbandry manager, not sure how you maintained the little bit of professionalism you had left. Come mid afternoon and that nudge hits you hard, you pop up from your desk and go for a walk - to the nearest convenience store and grab 2 bags of M & M’s!  Ugh!!!  What happened?  Here’s what happened: On day 1 things went well and you didn’t have to dig into your will power much at all.  On day 2 the situation was much different from the start and late in the day your supply of will power was empty so you fell back to a habit that was as familiar and comfortable as breathing. Interesting how we often fall into bad habits at the end of the day or after high stress situations.

What if the habit you need to change is that you have a short fuse with people at the end of a long day.  Or maybe it’s hitting that snooze button one time too many just to get those few extra minutes of sleep.  Fortified will power says that even when I am at my weakest point I will still choose to do the right thing.  Depleted will power says that at my weakest point all bets are off.  

Here are 3 takeaways:

1. Make a conscious decision to develop good habits so your default actions will tend to be good.

2. Practice the discipline of will power; create a plan/strategy for how you will handle those movements when you are tempted to fall back into a habit that is counter-productive.

3. If you manage people, think of their habits that are less than ideal. What can you do to foster an environment where their will power remains strong throughout the course of the day?

So much more to talk about here so be on the lookout for a follow up to this on our website or my LinkedIn page.

Here’s to an endless supply of will power!

AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

When Teams Get Better...

  • Team members supports each other more.
  • Each member starts to master and really own their area of responsibility.
  • There is a lot more talking (productive talking).
  • Everyone gets better clarity on why they are on the team.
  • They start to have way more fun.

Quotes from team members:

"I never thought I would ever look forward to coming to work every day"

"We use to lose people all the time to other companies. Now people are lining up to work here."

"I really wasn't good at my first job assignment, but when my manager moved me to customer service, that's when I knew I was in my dream job"

"I left soon after we took on the "team" philosophy it was lame and way too intrusive. This will never work!"

"Who knew winning could be such fun. Come to think of it, even when we don't do so well we acknowledge it and figure out how it happened and how to avoid it in the future."


AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

In our last blog post, we talked about giving back.  As a follow up, I think it might be helpful now to briefly discuss how we stay filled up so we always have something to give.

“I know I’m filled to be emptied again, the seed I receive I will sow.”   These are the lyrics to I song I heard recently, and I continue to be convicted by the truth in them.  The premise being that we are at our best when we are giving.  But if we are constantly giving, do we at some point run out with nothing left to give?  Can’t have that, - if I am empty I can’t give you anything.  If I see all that I have as a limited resource that is too precious to part with, I may be extremely reserved on how I give it away.  I will fear that what I put out might be too hard to get back, or that the person I give to may not appropriately use what I give them.

How are we filled?  I believe we are filled most literally by our desire to learn, to be open to knowledge, always building on what we already know, and generously sharing what we have learned or experienced.  It creates a flow in our lives, a space and a process of giving and receiving.

A person committed to giving back, must be committed to learning – keeping our cup full.  What are we doing to stay fresh, timely and relevant?  What are we reading? What are we thinking about? What actions are we practicing that will keep us filled up?  I think there may be a temptation among those of us that are a bit busy to be so busy that we are neither doing anything new nor are we learning anything new.  If we want to be good at giving we should probably be good at getting filled up. As those lyrics constantly remind me, my purpose for being filled is to give.  So  in all of my giving I can’t neglect the importance of staying well read, relevant and fresh so that the seeds I sow have the best chance of finding a good place to grow.

Tell us what you are doing to get “filled up.”  What are you reading?  What are you thinking about? What actions are you perfecting?  We would love to hear from you and have you share with all of our readers.   You may give us all some great new ideas on how to fill our cup.

AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

How are you giving back?  What plans are we putting in to place to insure the accomplishments of our efforts are sustained long after we are no longer on the scene?  What plans and actions are we setting into motion to insure those that work for us have the best chance to excel at their current job and then possibly find success in other endeavors?

During the month of February, we in the US recognize the accomplishments of African Americans, both famous and not so famous, for the pioneering work they have done and continue to do in all walks of life.

I title this “Giving Back” because I think of how fortunate I have been in my life to know that others like me have made it possible to achieve and believe I could be and do whatever I put my mind to.  We all have different people and life experiences that have helped in both big and small ways to place us on our current path.  I am grateful for them all.  Yet many will never know how they touched and impacted my life.  So I pay it forward…….

Giving back is my way of saying thank you to all those, independent of ethnic origin, whom have contributed to the success I continue to achieve in my life. 

And here is what giving back looks like for me:

  • Mentoring students and professionals as they navigate through career choices.
  • Training a younger generation how to be a great leader.
  • Lecturing in high schools and colleges, sharing my passion for the field of laboratory animal medicine.
  • Keeping an attitude that is upbeat and positive.  Someone may follow my lead and I would like it to lead them in a great direction.
  • Contributing time and resources to my alma maters.

So how can you give back?  What opportunities are just within your reach where can you share your gifts, talents and optimism? It need not be grand or worthy of praise and accolade.  At home or at work, who is benefiting the most from your accomplishments?

We may never go to the moon or break the sound barrier in a Prius but we can have a positive life changing impact on others.

- If any of this resonated with you please feel free to share how you are giving back or even ways in which others have given back to you.

We look forward to hearing from you.

AuthorWilliam Singleton

By William Singleton

The following notes were captured from the keynote presentation by Bill Hybills, Senior Pastor at Willow Creek Community Church during the Global Leadership Summit.  In some cases I have expounded on some of the points discussed because of how deeply they resonate with me and where I am in my life.

Your leadership matters, taking the time to develop your leadership skills is critical for you and for those you lead.

  • We all have the capacity to lead; we must learn how to do it well. (Instinct is natural, proper execution is learned)
  • Leaders engage those they lead
  • Leaders move people from one place to another
  • A good leader recognizes people need to know how much you care before you tell them how much you know.

Several critical functions of leadership were discussed during the introduction, which are bulleted below:

  • Leaders demonstrate humility
  • Leaders are not afraid to ask themselves and have others ask them tough questions.
  • Humility is essential for good leadership
  • Leaders are constantly learning and achieving more
  • Leaders cast vision for their team
  • Leaders build teams and great teams always start with “who” before “what”.

The 5 Intangibles of Leadership – This was the heart of his presentation.  Good leaders will posses these qualities.  Good leaders who don’t possess these qualities will learn them.

1. Grit...Not hominy. Passion and perseverance, using up your effort to the end, not leaving any reserves in the tank. Play when hurt, play hard, play to win.  This is the stuff that makes for good leaders.

Think about The Little Engine That Could (a popular childhood story that has such lasting implications throughout our lives).  Against all odds that little train had purpose, passion and committed to a great vision (getting those toys to the kids on the other side of the hill). That little train had GRIT!

I think I Can, I think I Can, I think I Can up, the hill he went...... Hit the top and on the way down he said, "I thought I could, I thought I could."

You will get predictably more out the efforts you undertake when you, like the that little train, chant I think I can, I think I can.  Then the sweet release to come down that other side of that hill...I knew I could, I knew I could.

The kids over the mountain need those toys... What is your goal, what is driving your passion?  What’s on the other side of that mountain for you. Grit expects and demands difficulty.  Good leaders don’t just get one hill, they get many hills one after the next. Beware of ease.  You have to will yourself to task achievement both mentally and physically.  Push your ability on the job push, your body off the job.  Ease is the enemy of Grit. It's grit that gets the toys over the mountain!

2.  Self awareness (Discover your blind spots) – what’s keeping you from breaking free. Find out what is driving your decisions.  How does your past influence decisions you make today, particularly if your decisions don’t drive you toward great results.

Blind Spots- where are my blind spots.  You think you are great in certain areas but everyone knows the opposite.  All leaders have blind spots.  Unfortunately, you and I are blind to our blind spots! You need help to discover them.  Will you let those trusted few around you tell you where your blind spots are?  Once identified, you can place blind spots in your weakness category.  Weakness category – that list of attributes where you know you don’t excel.  Some you will work on to improve while others you will allow others to compensate. You must get input from others.  They must be candid and caring.  “Where do I suck that I don't know about.”  This is for your good as a leader.  Everyone will win as you become more aware.  The toys have to get over the mountain

3.  Resourceful.  Finding ways to get things done.Are you curious, a lover of learning and flexible?  If so you most likely are a resourceful leader.

Read the biography of the Wright brothers. Failure after failure after failure until you figure it out. Single focus on something that needs to be done but isn't easy.  They didn’t do what they did for money or fame; they did it because they believed it could be done.

What are real problems in your organization? What needs to be done that won’t promise you tenure or an office with a door or a window? Do it: and remember you are that leaders that doesn’t need to do it on your own.  You have people around you waiting for you to release their grit on your greatest challenge.  Let them help!

4.  Self sacrificing love...The exploits of King David's mighty men of valor are captured in the Bibles 2nd book of Samuel chapter 23.  David sees that these men aren’t following him because David is a great man or leader, they are following him because they share the same hunger and passion.  And David realizes that the things that he couldn't do on his own, together with these men they accomplish amazing things.  David’s response is to love these men, the men he knows God has placed around him.  Invest in those around you, honor them for they will be to you all that your heart desires.  They are your gift.  You will never get to those “kids” by yourself.  Love those people that help you get there. Forget the professional posture that we easily put on.  Love the people that are helping you succeed.  Love the people that got you there.  King David reminds us to love the God that put us where we are.  “This is not the picture of the world’s leadership. “

Where is the love from those that lead you? That’s not the right question to ask.  If you don't see it then you better bring it because nothing else matters.  Because love never fails; it always makes things better.  Who loved you on your way up, who took the time to make you feel valued, who propelled you to do more and love more and be better?  People matter most (my favorite quote).  What will you do with them?  Love them over and over and over again.  As a leader, you have to be okay with being vulnerable. You will find success at a level you have never experienced when you can say goodbye to the ego that would keep you isolated and afraid to those people around you.

5.  Create a sense of meaning.  What is your why.  What is in your top box, that thing that drives you? Do you need to reevaluate what's in your top box? Your “why” may be greater and bigger than the thing you do or the product you make.  Your why can change over time and that's okay.  What drives you to get better and better

I’ve discovered my why and it’s about you.  How can I help make you better....that is my why!

A fuzzy why, a limp why, someone else's why, no why at all, no worries.  Take the time to discover your why.  It will make all the difference in the world.

Your leadership matters.  Across industry across disciplines across religion across races, across genders and generations, “your” leadership matters!  There are so many “kids waiting on the other side of that mountain” for their toys.

AuthorWilliam Singleton