If a large branch falls in the woods and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?  If I empty the dishwasher and there is no one in the house to recognize my significant contribution to the stability of the home, does it count?  Yes, my contributions count and the branch does make a sound.  The significance is in the events and not whether or not there was an audience.

If you as a worker in the animal care industry find that you are making significant contributions but are unsure if anyone hears or cares, I’d like you to know that we do care and we want to hear.

We want to hear your story, what brought you to such a noble profession, what made you stay when things around you made you feel less than secure, and what made you decide to be world famous at what you do.

Through the trainings that we offer we have the fortunate opportunity to hear people’s stories.  And I must admit they are humbling and amazing and funny and we want to hear more.  Just recently I spoke with a woman who was a chauffeur prior to coming into our industry. Another gentleman was a chef looking for something different. There’s also the story of the son who got into the industry because it was part of the family legacy.  I believe people want to share their stories because it makes them more real. I believe we need to hear each other’s stories because it makes us more real and in doing so we care a little more.

I recently met with a lab animal group that had come under some significant pressure from animal rights extremists.  Just asking them why they stayed at their job blew me away.   Here are some of their replies: “Because I didn’t want to stop caring for the animals” … “the people protesting what I do still deserve the benefits of our research” and … “the people that I work with care about me and we need each other”.  What great testimonies of commitment to purpose.

These are the stories we need to hear. These are stories that make us real to each other and spur us on to continue pursuits of excellence and dedication for the noble thing we do.

There will be branches in the woods that fall and no one hears, and there will be times you make significant contributions to the world around you with no audience.  May this be of one of many forms of encouragement to keep doing what you do, keep creating chapters to your story. It still matters!  And some day maybe you will have the chance to share your story with others.

I remember as a child my mom would always tell me to stop always asking “why” and just do what I was told.  I believe she was on to something that most parents understand.   There are times when you just need to do what you are told and trust, especially as a 5 year old child.  On a visit with my God Son who at the time was 4 we had the most riveting conversation all based on the word “why”.  Never in my life had I been asked so many “why” questions, “why doesn’t Spiderman run out of webs, why does Kryptonite make Superman lose his powers, why don’t you live in Atlanta …… why is the sky blue?

I believe as we get older there is a transition point where the ban on asking why is lifted and we slowly emerge into a world where it’s okay to ask why.  This can be a scary and challenging place for some.  Asking why has the potential to challenge assumptions and reveal answers that may be difficult at times to answer and embrace.

There are problem solving techniques that require asking why to uncover the root cause of a problem.  There are times when we ask why out of frustration because we have no other recourse of action.  There are times when we ask why to get better understanding and clarity of purpose.  All are legitimate reasons to ask why.

Have you ever been given a task and wanted desperately to ask a why question?  “Why me, why this way or why now” Or have there been times when these why questions have been asked of you?  There is a time and place to ask why.  Maybe not in the middle of a crisis requiring immediate action but certainly there should be space for why questions in the course of our day.  Consider this:  If you want clarification or deeper understanding, you may have to ask”why”.  If someone asks why of you, it’s often because they want clarification and deeper understanding.  As shocking as it may be, sometimes our communication is not always as eloquent and thorough as we would hope.

As a progressive leader encourage those around you to ask the “why” questions and embrace the questions when asked of you.  The more clarity and purpose you can provide to your staff the better chance of their success, your success and the success of the organization.  Should you not currently be in a position of leadership, let this be your permission to ask those why questions, your supervisor isn’t my “mom”;) it’s okay to ask.

One of the great things about doing something over and over is that the more you do it the less you have to think about doing it.  It becomes automatic, almost natural.  A habit is defined as an acquired pattern of behavior that often occurs automatically.  We sometimes form habits without any intention, yet there are other times when we develop habits out of intention and necessity.

It’s just as easy to form a bad habit as it is to form a good habit.  It is often said that doing something at least 21 times solidifies a habit.  Whether that is true in every case is up for debate.  The reality, however, is that the more you do something, the more likely you will repeat it.  If you’re going to be consistent at something makes sure it’s something that is going to move you into your desired direction.

As we move into another year and think about how we want to make adjustments and improvements in our lives either at home or at work, creating good habits to sustain improvements is essential.

Here are a few tips that may help you if you are looking to create good habits in the New Year.

  1. Write it down – What do you want to achieve?  Write it, post it, type it and keep it in front of you.
  2. Consciously execute – You may choose to do it daily or every other day.  Whatever the case, don’t miss opportunities to put into practice the new habit.
  3.  Keep it simple – If you’re not a runner don’t expect to run a marathon after a month of practice.  Start small and work your way up.
  4. Be consistent – When you practice your habit do it the same way all the time (and make sure you do it correctly all the time.)
  5. Have an accountability partner – They may not practice the habit with you but will encourage you when you succeed or if you slip up a bit.
  6. Bonus Tip- Don’t beat yourself up if you slip.  If you get off the wagon, dust yourself off and get back on.

Look to create good habits this year.  And take some time to see if those around you could use a partner to help them develop good habits, too.

“Time flies”!  Whether you’re having fun or not, time really doesn’t wait for any of us.  In looking back on a year that seems to have flown by there are so many things that I have reflected on.  The most significant is that over this past year, we at ACTS have been able to connect with so many people all over the world in ways that I never imagined possible.

As you read this article just before the holidays I want to say thank you to all the good people that we have had the chance to connect with over the past year.  Thank you for the opportunity to share our passion and expertise with you.  Thank you for sharing your passion and expertise with us. Thank you for reaching out to us, thank you for stopping by our booth, for visiting our website and for joining us on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

We do what we do for people like you in our industry.  One of our mantras at ACTS is “Trained people perform better”.  It’s a pretty simple statement but it keeps in front of us the idea that people, above all, matter the most. It’s our desire to provide the best training we can, to not only ensure the highest quality of animal care but also to empower people to do be their absolute best.

Sometime it is very easy to look into the future and think about all the things that are to come, which is a good thing, but we want to stop and reflect for a moment and take the time to Thank You for helping make this year memorable.

It’s my hope that you will be able to take a moment during this crazy and exhilarating time to reflect back on your 2011 and take the opportunity to thank those people who have helped make a positive impact in your life and career this year.

So from all of us at ACTS we want to wish you a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous and empowered 2012!

  Animal Welfare Training in China

ACTS was given the opportunity to provide a basic laboratory animal science course at the Shanghai College of Agriculture and Forestry to 3rd year Animal Science students.  Our training focused primarily on commonly used animals/mammals in research (rodents, rabbits, dogs and nonhuman primates).  The logistics to actually get us to China and provide this training were monumental and could not have been accomplished without the heroic efforts of Jayne Mackta at GR8 and all of the organizations that support her endeavors.


What may have been a fairly routine training program here in theUSturned out to be much more complex when transported toChina.  There were so many questions unanswered that at times we wondered how this would ever work.  How many students will be in the class? Will any of them understand our English? If we get our training materials translated, will the translation be accurate?  What will the lab space look like?  Where will the animals for the labs come from and in what condition will they be?  Will our supplies arrive in time and will they be able to get the anesthetic drugs we need for the lab?  Did I mention if the students will understand our English?


The good thing about having the distraction of developing and coordinating this training program is that we never had a chance to over think the reality of spending almost 3 weeks in a hotel on a college campus 40 minutes south of Shanghai, China with little Western influence.


Now that it’s all behind us, there are a few reflections we feel worth sharing.


There are many in China that are passionately committed to promoting  animal welfare training at all levels of animal care; from the classroom to the laboratory to the board room -  people are talking about animal welfare.


The students were extremely interested in learning the basics of laboratory animal science.  Without exception, each of the students demonstrated a greater understanding of animal welfare by the end of the course.  As is the case with any school, there will be some in the course that may not go on to a career in laboratory animal science. But for those that do, we were able to provide a foundation of understanding as well as basic technical competence that can be taken to the next stage in their career.


The surface of opportunities for collaborating in teaching and training has just barely been scratched.  Our program was able to touch the lives of 23 students, 4 assistant trainers, 2 translators and several faculty and staff at the college.   We are excited at the prospect of going back and providing more focused training for the faculty at the college so that our efforts there will be sustainable over time as the faculty eventually take over the administration of this laboratory animal science program.   We were reminded that this is just one school out of many that can and will benefit from such a program.


Animal welfare is important inChinaand without exception the people we worked with were eager to do their best in demonstrating this fact.  Like the US with its varied views on how animals are valued, China is a big country with lots of people also demonstrating varying ideas on the value of animals in their society.  On our last day inChina, we had a large celebratory meal with senior administration from the college and leaders from local animal research institutions.  We all expressed our joy for the success of the program and the future of laboratory animal care and welfare inChina.  I couldn’t help but notice that the center piece of this lavish table was three fish bowls. (Much of the discussion was in Mandarin, so I had plenty of time to take-in my surroundings). The center most bowl, and largest of the three, had a dead fish floating at the water’s surface.  One of the smaller bowls had a few fish that were clearly on “their last leg/fin”.  Penetrating all ofChinawith this important message of promoting animal welfare is overwhelming.  So we will do our part with the people we can influence, and hope their influence will be much further reaching than ours.  And just maybe on our next visit, we will be able to report that even the fish are alive and well.


This isn’t a self serving memoir, although a memoir might be something I would like to do in my future.  Instead, I hope this article will serve to illustrate /   help you to better understand the power of self-motivation.   The premise being that if we can motivate ourselves then external motivators will enhance our drive toward excellence.  I use my story because from a very early age I knew what I wanted to be a veterinarian and, in spite of some difficulties and setbacks, I achieved my goal..    It may be that my experience will provide enough clarity to verify the premise. I was born to parents of modest income inWest Philadelphia.  I sometimes would like to say “yeah, I grew up in the hood” but in reality I just grew up in a home where my parents cared about me, pushed me to be better when I wasn’t at my best and let me ride my bike without a helmet.  My neighborhood was fairly integrated, meaning there were black people and white people living as neighbors.  Many neighborhoods in Philly at that time were segregated.  As a kid I spent as much time as possible outside playing with all of my friends.  I could be found playing sports in the street, running around the neighborhood, sitting out on the porch steps late at night, playing monopoly and pre-pubescent games that my mom would die if she know I was playing J

It was a fairly normal existence from the way I saw it.  But as I look back there were a few pivotal things that I believe made the difference for me.  I will just list them in order of remembrance and not occurrence as I don’t think the chronology is so much important as is the activity.  In second grade we spent the entire school year in North Carolina living on my cousin’s farms (The school district in Philadelphia was going on strike and my parents didn’t want us to miss school.)   My Cousin Joe was always happy to let me help him take care of the animals, and I would help as much as I could.  When I returned to Philly I went to private school through high school.  My dad and mom were big readers and encouraged us to do the same.  My mom always made a point to take us to the library often during the summers.  I think I read every book that had anything to do with animals.  It was through this extensive reading that I decided I was going to be a veterinarian.

During high school I started to see that things don’t always go as planned.  All set for college, I was destined to do well at the University of Maryland and begin my journey to becoming a vet.   However, only a week before enrolling I was told that there wasn’t money for me to go to school.  Student loans and grants all fell through and my parents didn’t have the money to send me to college.  Thankfully, with a bit of faith and lots of favors from family and friends I found a way to enroll.  Once in college I found out quickly that maintaining good grades was way harder than I thought it would be. I had to work really hard to make good grades.  In spite of all of my hard work I didn’t get into vet school immediately after completing my undergraduate studies as I’d expected.  I received an invitation to attend a summer program for potential vet students (thank you Tuskegee University) .  I worked hard in the program and at the end of the summer session was admitted into vet school.  Today I run my own training company; I have worked for a variety of institutions, and have crossed paths with some of the most amazing people in the industry. I continue to look forward to new opportunities to make a significant impact for good in the lives of the people we have the privilege of working with.

In summary, the foundation of the motivational factors in my life is two-fold. First, as a little kid I already knew that I wanted to be a vet.   I didn’t realize how hard it would be but I believed it could be possible for me.  Second, I believed if I worked hard to move through obstacles and challenges it would pay off. In life people can be and do whatever they put their mind to. They just have to put their mind to something they believe in.  Providing external motivators like bonuses, titles, autonomy, money and verbal encouragement are great, but they will never truly satisfy if there is no internal driver or motivator.   If you are working with a person who seems to lack self motivation, take the time to help them find or rediscover what motivates them.  Or, if you feel stuck and appear to have lost your internal motivator, make it a priority to find it because the reality is true for us all - if we aren’t self motivated, no amount of external motivation will ultimately satisfy.  To discover our internal motivators, and help others find theirs is a significant key to unlocking potential and allowing our best abilities to shine.

Hosted by University Laboratory Animal Resources, University of Pennsylvania


  • Educational Seminars on Transgenic Technology and Rodent Breeding
  • Formal Vendor 15min Presentations
  • Complimentary Lunch
  • Vendor Fair

When: Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 @ 9am-4pm. Registration check-in at 8:30am

Where: University of Pennsylvania - Bio-medical Research Building (BRB) II/III, 421 Curie Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104

Cost: Free!

Session Topics:

Mouse Tales: Introduction to Mouse Breeding and Colony Management

More Tails from the Crypt: Advance Mouse Colony Management

Cryopreservation, Genotyping, and more!

Interested in participating as a vendor? Register Here

Questions? Contact William Singleton at William@ACTStraining.com

Sometimes the most effective leaders within an organization are among the biggest personnel problem an organization faces.  This is too often true because the formal leadership within an organization does not fully comprehend who all of its leaders are.  While organizations try to tap into and nurture individuals that “they” feel possess natural leadership skills, they often fail to recognize an equally important layer of leadership that carries as much, if not more, importance in realizing the highest level of performance the group is capable of achieving.  Informal leaders can be found within most organization and as stated they may be one of your greatest challenges or conversely they may be one of your greatest assets.   Failing to ignore that optimum performance from any group can seldom be obtained if formal leaders do not recognize who fills the informal leadership roles within the various layers of its organization.

Who are informal leaders?  Informal leaders are those individuals within the organization that have been “elected” by their peers to lead and set performance standards.  Typically informal leaders are not titled and if they are, they would be considered low level management.  We have previously defined leadership as being the ability to influence.  Our ability to influence others has also been confirmed to not be necessarily be associated with possessing a title or degree.  So who are your informal leaders?  Maybe it is that employee that comes in on a Monday morning with a great attitude and all the staff follow suit.  Perhaps it’s the same tech that comes into work in a foul mood and the entire group has to tip toe around them to the point of suppressing their joy or contentment for fear of retaliation from this tech.  The informal leaders have the ability to improve the overall performance of the group or to derail productivity.  As leaders it is critical that we take the time to identify these individuals and work with them to the point where they are on board with company policies, practices and vision.  Encouragement and periodic reward for their services to the group is essential.

Note:  Informal leaders don’t necessarily need to be promoted; just recognized and appreciated.

It is the effective management of informal leaders that allows formal leaders to assure the performance of the collective group is moving in the direction of an organization’s goals.  Good informal leaders can help make your organization be a better place to work.


That’s right.  You are a leader.  Not because of your title. Not because of your position on the Deacon board neither because you have father 3 wonderful children.  You are a leader because you are.  Independent of all the accomplishments around you, independent of your natural leadership talents you are a leader.

Maybe for some this idea of your ability to be a leader seems unrealistic.  Maybe you have shied away from any activity or opportunity that would thrust you into the sphere of leadership.  And then there are others of you that whole heartedly concur with the premise that you are a leader.  You probably see yourself as a leader in many different areas of your life, whether at home or at the “office”.

The reality is that all of us have the ability to be a leader.  Leaders aren’t born leaders; they are born little babies that have all the fundamental needs of a pinkie (a newborn mouse).  When was the last time you saw a pinkie leading a charge against anything.  Just like that little pinkie, we have to grow, learn and be nurtured.  The reality is that we can all develop into leaders; leaders in all areas of our lives.  Sure some of us may never lead a charge against the opposition but most of us will have a chance to demonstrate influence in multiple areas of our lives.

Now for those of you that do see yourself as a leader…Awesome!!!  But bear with me as I ask you why.  And before you answer the question please don’t tell me it’s because you have some title of authority or you have achieved success academically.  True leadership never comes from a title or because of gained possessions.  Have you ever met a manager that couldn’t manage well or a parent that struggled as a parent?  The hard reality is that if you consider yourself to be a leader, you are because you worked at.  And as much as I would love to give everyone an “Easy Button” there is no such thing for leaders.  Being a leader will take time and energy and determination and persistence, practice and patience.  And unfortunately promotions of epic proportion, good genetics or a nurturing environment (helpful though they may be) are not strong predictors of your leadership potential.

And here is the good news; our ability to be a leader and not just a leader but a good leader lies completely in our ability to understand what skills it takes to be a leader and pursue after it as if your life depends on it.   Maybe your life will not depend on you being a good leader, but someone else’s life may.

So for those of you that are leaders, congratulations keep doing what you do and for those of you, who have not quite unleashed that leader inside of you, go for it, you can do it we believe in you and we need you.


Leadership is your ability to inspire and influence the people.  Although some may be born with nature leadership traits, true leadership comes from learning and can be practiced by anyone who has the willingness to put aside his or her personal interests for the best interests of the team. Great leaders know that everyone on their team has a significant role to play in achieving the goal.  It’s a leader’s responsibility to facilitate bringing out the best effort of those around them.

When applied consistently, following principles will help you achieve continuous success as a leader:

You Matter.  Lead now because your leadership is needed now more than ever.

Set challenging goals and expect the best from your team. Goals will help create a sense of purpose and urgency.

You go first.  Lead by example.  Your team needs to know which way to go and that the way is clear.

Hire the right people and assign tasks based on individual strengths and capabilities. Each team member needs to know their role.

Let your team know you care.  Show them with both word and actions.

Help your team create a set of ground rules describing behaviors they want and don't want as they work together.  A self-regulated team frees up the leaders time to plan and create vision.

Build trust along the way.  You can’t do much of anything on your own.  Trust can be hard to achieve and easy to lose.  Be a person worthy of another’s’ trust.

Don't de-motivate your team by over-managing their efforts, but do give them both positive and constructive feedback on their performance.  You hired them to do a job now let them go and do it.

Listen to your team's ideas and suggestions, as well as their concerns and complaints. Take their comments seriously and act upon their input.  Every member of the team has a voice that needs to be heard.

Celebrate your team's successes. Recognize individuals, as well as the team collectively for their efforts and accomplishments.  Don’t wait for permission to recognize your people, even if you have to sacrifice some of your personal resources to do so.

Finally always remember that good leaders are constantly growing and learning.  Take the time to read, learn what it takes to be better at leading and then go make a difference for you and your team.


AuthorCaroline Thompson

Keep it Simple

There is profound beauty in the simple.  A lone flower bursting through an early spring snowfall, a group of geese flying south for the winter or a single rose on an otherwise ordinary bush.  The power of simplicity should never be lost in anything that is to be done.  Some of the most lasting and powerful messages are conveyed through simple means.

When designing presentation for any size audience the ability to communicate a powerful message simply, is a skill we should all strive for.  I have been guilty of trying to make my presentation “intellectual or slick” in an attempt to impress those that have opportunity to hear me speak.  However, what I have learned time and time again, my attempts at anything other than simple often come up short.  Sure I may have used big words and impressive charts and graphs, and even threw in a few timely and sometimes humorous videos to impressed my audience, but and the end of the presentation I still see that many in the audience have not taken away any information of significance.

What I have found is that for me to be at my best and to convey powerful messages during a presentation, I have to keep it simple.  What are the 3-5 points that I want my audience to take home?  To many points can make in difficult for me and the audience to stay focused.  What is the best imagine or case that I can use to convey each of those points.  Can I create a compelling story at the conclusion of my presentation that reinforces my points and leaves a lasting and powerful message with my audience?

If my goal is to be profound, to say words or convey ideas that will make the deepest impact in to my audience I must keep it relatable and I must make it memorable and I must keep it simple.

Have you ever sent an email to someone that is right across the hall from you when it would have been better to just walk to their office, down the hall? Have you ever received an email notifying you of a meeting cancelation just as you were preparing to go? Have you ever sent an email devoid of greeting or signature to convey a feeling? How about sending an email that you were supposed to forward but instead you hit the “reply all” button? Maybe you’ve sent an email to clarify a process or procedure. Email is truly magic and it’s hard to imagine life without it. Yet just a few years ago (well maybe more than a few years ago) we didn’t have email and for the most part we got along just fine. Email has made communication more accessible, timelier and more far reaching. An email can be sent from my office to colleagues around the world in the time it takes me to finish writing this sentence. There should be no doubt that email is a powerful tool that speeds the time of business, keeps us closer connected and is relatively easy to use. Quick communications, reminders, clarification and many other forms of communication are used quite successfully with email. As with any powerful tool, it should be used appropriately. I would even dare say we should probably be trained to use email to its greatest benefit. Imagine being like me and having a top of line food processor yet only use it to make pesto. Taking the time to learn all the many valuable uses of email will give us a better grasp of the tool to use it to its fullest benefit. Even the best of us can at times use email inappropriately. The list below includes a few selected gems on the effective use of emailing: • Don’t send an email when a face to face conversation would be better • Don’t send an email if you are too angry to craft it carefully • Don’t send an email without checking for spelling and grammar • There’s no shame in having an email proofread, sometimes 4 eyes are better than 2. • Don’t send an email to the wrong person, check your addresses. • Email in its simplistic form, is an extension of you, don’t try to be someone you’re not • Email can be a huge time trap, dedicate certain times of the day for reading and replying. Take the time to master the art of email; it can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal.