A Band of Docent’s Can Make Your Organization Rock!!
Memphis Zoo & Aquarium
I have always loved music! I love to sing along to the radio when a song come on and I typically know every word. I cannot tell you who the artist is though. My best friend can listen to music and identify the different back beats. He will bust out with some portion of the song that I never thought of. I may hear it, but I don’t keep it to memory. I have another friend that can tap out the rhythm on any flat surface. Don’t ask him the words though, he can only repeat a few. My youngest child will walk around the house whistling a tune all day, when you ask him the name his response is “I dunno, it was on the radio.” Individually, we all might be entertaining – however, get us all together and we make a
great team! We are a complete package. We are kinda like these guys!
(Slide Insert Image)
The Beatles – truly a music phenomenon. The Beatles had a special rapport with one another, they inspired each other and energized each other. There was a special kind of synergy that their audience loved and couldn’t get enough of. They were not ordinary by any means – they went above and beyond what was expected of them. They influenced multiple generations – they continue to grow their legacy even though they officially disbanded in 1970. But I am not here to give you a lesson on the history of the Beatles, I am here to talk to you about teamwork, the Beatles just happen to be a great example of just that. In my opinion, the Beatles are the ultimate demonstration of teamwork. When the team is this good, the outcome is great and the process is not obvious. While the process is not obvious, anyone who has been on a team knows that it takes dedication and collaboration to have a great outcome.
Since I am not intimately familiar how the Docent Programs work for your specific organization, I will use ours as an example throughout my conversation with you. The Docent Organization at the Memphis Zoo has so many working parts that are both visible and invisible to our guest. We have a group of over 200 individuals who are titled as a Memphis Zoological Society Docent, however, our team is so much larger than that. We are supported by the education department, the zoo keepers, the zoo staff, the maintenance department, the horticulturalist, tram drivers, café workers, the public- the list can go on all day – because everyone is important for our team to be successful. We are not
complete without any of those moving parts, which brings me to key point number 1.
(Slide) 1. Work as if you are not the leader of the band – but as if you are all equals. The organization can only be as successful as those that support it allow it to be.
Not everyone has the talent to play the bass guitar, just like not everyone want to be the one standing in front of a large crown talking about Panda Poo. Crowds can be overwhelming, having every eye in the room on you as you stand there in your khakis can be nerve wracking. You suddenly start wondering, do I have my facts right. Is the Panda doing something strange behind me. Are they standing here out of pity for me or are they really interested. Oh gosh – it’s so hot out here – I did remember to zip, right.. Smile… You don’t have to be the one with the poo holding court, maybe you are more comfortable organizing behind the scenes. But don’t forget about the poo – trust me one day you might want to hold it and even talk about it. So key point number 2.
(Slide) 2. When working on a team – volunteer to do the tasks that play to your strengths. These are tasks that are ones that you are good at and comfortable with. Sometimes you cannot always do the tasks that play to your strengths and you are comfortable with, it’s ok – challenge yourself and try something new. I have an example of just that.
STORY OF JESSICA (image of Jessica)
Jessica Mann – she is one of our wonderful Memphis Docents and her story is one of inspiration:
“All my life I was scared of snakes. I met a few on the farm growing up and would run away screaming. When I went through training in 1990, the first behind the scenes tour we did was of the herpetarium. I had no idea what they talked about I stayed in the doorway with my eyes glued to the floor. I just knew they had something loose in there. Over the years, Cheryl and Val got me to help them with the large Burmese python that they would take out like we do Lola now. I worked the crowd and stayed away from the snake, but I learned the information and began to be curious about snakes. I
got to where I could stand next to Val or Cheryl when they had a snake out, and eventually I even touched them.
In 2003 I went started DAP training. I was a little bored with doing touch carts and station guide and needed something new to do. In the first DAP class, staff brought in all of the level one animals. They had 3 snakes, Monty the ball python, Sandy the Kenyan sand boa, and Dozer the hognose. I went straight for the snakes, since I knew if I couldn’t work with them there was no use in continuing with my training. Val put the hognose in my hands and I fell in love. He was small and so cute. It took awhile for me to work with Monty since she was so much bigger. The real turning point was working in the herpetarium with their snakes. A keeper who is no longer at the Zoo gave me the New World Python hatchling (Val). She was small so I liked using her. After I got used to her, I tried other snakes in the herpetarium and really fell in love with snakes. When Lola came to the education department I would help Cheryl and Val with her, but I only worked at the tail end. After Val died, I had to start working with both ends since Cheryl’s snake partner was gone. One of Val’s missions in life was to help people get over their fear of snakes. I have taken that task over from her and really my being afraid of snakes most of my life is a great icebreaker with people. They realize that they too can overcome that fear.
One of the happiest days at the Zoo happened before Val died. It was Saturday and I was out in the plaza with a snake talking to visitors. I don’t even remember what snake it was. A lady I was talking to told her friend that I was the Snake Lady at the Zoo. Val was in the animal room when I took the snake back and I told her what the visitor said. She had a huge smile on her face, it made her day.”
Not only did Jessica evolve her skills and experiment with new ideas she maintained enthusiasm for her goal. Enthusiasm is pivotal in the evolution of teamwork. With the right amount of enthusiasm you can get just about anyone to love what you are talking about. The Docents here at the Memphis Zoo are fortunate to have just that perfect person at the helm of our ship. Dr. Helen Beady. She came to us in February 2009
Helen’s Story Slide(image of Helen)
Dr. Helen Beady came to the Memphis Zoo in February of 2009. From my first introduction to her, I knew she was the perfect person to lead us! She joined us with no animal experience aside from that she had with family pets. It is always such a pleasure to hear her speak as she carries with her an enthusiasm that is beyond compare! When she speaks, you want to hear what she has to say. When I asked her the simple questions of “what keeps you motivated” her response was “I am a self-motivated person, that comes from the drive my parents instilled in me and my siblings. They were extremely
hard workers. I believe in doing my best, I am really motivated by those nay-sayers who will tell you that you probably want be able to do that; like the USDA RUS Grant for education. Everyone knows education does not get grants!” And boy did she do just that, in her short time here she has accomplished that and much more to include Founding the NanoZoo Concept, securing distance education grants, secured a City of Memphis Grant and the list continues. She manages to:
(Slide) 3. Evolve/Experiment and keep pumping the Enthusiasm
Dr Beady continues to keep us inspired, she experiments with the possibilities and looks outside the box for solutions to any problems she may encounter. She is a great individual, but, she makes the team wonderful!! She knows that every individual is important, that each member of the team is significant to the outcome. Some of the most important business teams have proven this idea successful time and time again – consider Amazon, they started out as a simple bookseller and have evolved to a company synonymous with success. They have team members ranging from the corporate
big wigs to independent individual sellers who are looking to find homes for their collections. And not only books but just about anything else you can imagine. Apple is another example. They started out in the ’70’s with a computer for the school systems. Now 40 years later they are established as leaders in not only computers for the schools but also for the homes and businesses. Their products can be seen everywhere you go in one format or another. They evolved and experimented with the possibilities – they found success along the way!
(Slide) 4. Give everybody a chance – Rock stars as well as pop ones!
As I mentioned before, everyone deserves a chance. Every team member is a member of a team!!
How many times have you seen people quitting an organization because they were never appreciated. I have seen managers respecting the rock stars but not the others – Always remember that you need all sorts of people in team to make the it happen.”For example, drummers always feel underappreciated in rock groups, and Ringo Starr was no exception. So Lennon and McCartney would write a song for him to sing on almost every album. As the Beatles matured as a team, they worked even harder to recognize and embrace each player. It worked: The individual Beatles became brands within the brand”.
(Slide) 5. And most importantly – Bring people who are different from you and of course, Embrace the difference!
An organization is pretty dull if everyone thinks the same, looks the same and reacts the same. I am a firm believer that I can learn something from everyone! While my friend Melinda and I went through all of our training together from day one, we are different. We respond to a visitors question different and both answers will be correct. We interpret things differently and we have different points of view.
We make a great team! How boring would we be if we didn’t. Most people are scared to bring in people who are different from themselves. Reason. They cannot agree to disagree. Ideas are not discussed and are instead imposed!. And the result. We all know.”The most successful songwriting duo in history, in contrast, was composed of two individuals — John Lennon and Paul McCartney — who were dissimilar in almost every respect. When they first met, in July 1957, Lennon was a cynical, angry, sarcastic young man of 16 who was constantly getting into trouble. Ultimately, he came to loathe the Beatles’ fame. McCartney, on the other hand, was optimistic and hardworking. He liked to please, and would later adore celebrity. Despite their differences, they were drawn together by a shared love of American rock and roll and their powerful musical ambitions.” And you can’t deny, they made a great team!!
Trust each member of your team to do what they do best and respect the way they play their role!
(Slide) The Beatles, John, Paul, George and Ringo, were a talented musical group, but behind their success was a well-planned business endeavor. The goal of this business was to make public to the world the musical and songwriting talents of these young Britons. A process was put in place that allowed for various stages of the production to flow smoothly from beginning to end.
The process was well-coordinated, involving several individuals in key roles: it really was a team effort. Their team was broken down into members with three essential roles: the individual team members: John, Paul, George and Ringo; their facilitator, Producer George Martin; and their sponsor, Manager Brian Epstein.
Whether you are the infamous Beatles or a Band of Docents – each and every member is important, vital and significant to the outcome of your goal. If you keep in mind the five points:
- Work as if you are not the leader of the band – but as if you are all equals. The organization can only be as successful as those that support it allow it to be.
- When working on a team – volunteer to do the tasks that play to your strengths. These are tasks that are ones that you are good at and comfortable with. Sometimes you cannot always do the tasks that play to your strengths and you are comfortable with, it’s ok – challenge yourself and try something new. I have an example of just that.
- Evolve/Experiment and keep pumping the Enthusiasm
- Give everybody a chance – Rock stars as well as pop ones!
- And most importantly – Bring people who are different from you and of course, Embrace the difference!
You will be successful!