with Ms. Edie Alberts, Ph.D.,
Human Resources Specialist and team-building
consultant with Lambdex International.
Interviewer: Mr. Frank Telos,
Reporter for the World Science Globe,
Internet News Corporation.
Mr. Telos: Good evening, Dr. Alberts. Or is it morning where you are?
Dr. Alberts: It's around midnight here in Adelaide, Australia, Frank, but
that's okay. I just got in and I'm all revved up from the trip,
so, I'm looking forward to talking with you.
Mr. T: Thank
you again for taking the time. May I begin by asking you how
you became a team-building consultant?
Dr. A: I
was a teacher, a professor, actually. A lot of my friends loved
the pace of college life - but not me. I became itchy and wanted
to get out into the world. For me, consulting is perfect. I
like listening to people, I like solving problems, and I love
traveling. Consulting allows me to do all of those things.
Mr. T: And
you help scientists form teams?
Dr. A: That's
right. My background is in chemistry and psychology. I combine
all of my strengths to help groups of scientists become productive
Mr. T: Teams
are big business nowadays. Sports teams. Computer teams. Company
teams. Medical teams. What makes Earth system science teams
Dr. A: Earth
system science is a pretty new science. It began when scientists
in biology, physics, geology, and environmental science realized
that they needed to work together if they wanted to understand
the Earth as a whole system rather than studying the parts of
the Earth separately. So, each scientist offers a different
piece to the puzzle - atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere, and
hydrosphere. The Earth system science team puts the puzzle's
pieces together. The team idea is important because Earth system
scientists often have to work quickly, especially when they're
dealing with a possible natural disaster. There's a lot of pressure
to find the right answers to save lives. Winning for these teams
can be a matter of life and death.
Mr. T: I
bet the pressure helps the scientists form a team, and quick!
Dr. A: Pressure
can be a real team-builder.
Mr. T: Based
on your experience as a consultant, what makes it hard for people
to form a team?
Dr. A: The
two most difficult skills that everyone I know has to learn
when they join a team are Active Listening and Active Participation.
Mr. T: Would
you take a moment and describe Active Listening for me?
Dr. A: Sure,
first of all simple hearing is different from Active Listening.
Active Listening means hearing plus thinking hard about what
you're hearing. Then, a key step is asking questions to make
sure you've heard it right - and understand - before you start
giving your opinion. Team members that use Active Listening
actually help each other, they learn about their differences,
and they reach conclusions together. These skills help the team
fit all the pieces of the Earth system science puzzle together.
Mr. T: It
seems to me that Active Listening might be a good skill for
families, too. How about Active Participation?
Dr. A: Another
skill that's great for families. Families are an interesting
kind of team, aren't they? Active Participation means that the
team members not only try to contribute equally to the project,
but they help to support each other's work. They are in a constant
learning mode— learning about each other and the problem at
the same time.
Mr. T: Active
Listening and Active Participation. I bet they're not easy to
Dr. A: They
take work, energy, and patience. Everyone, and I mean everyone,
on a team needs to work at these skills. Like any new skill,
practice begins to turn into habit. But e-Missions demand these
Mr. T: I've
never heard of an e-Mission.
Dr. A: An
e-Mission forms when there is a chance of a terrible natural
event, like a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, an earthquake,
or drought. An e-Mission can also form in response to the outbreak
of a disease. This is known as an epidemic. Sometimes an e-Mission
is long term, like global warming and glacial melting. When
a country or government thinks there might be a crisis coming,
they contact an organization like e-Mission Headquarters, who
forms Emergency Response Teams. These teams investigate the
situation and try to come up with solutions to problems that
Mr. T: Oh,
that's interesting. Please continue.
Dr. A: Scientists
might be flown in from all over the world. Or they might all
be found in one area of the country. Sometimes, they might not
know each other, because scientists usually work with others
in their own specialties. They've all worked on research teams,
learning, studying, exploring nature; but they are strangers
to each other for this Emergency Response Team. Scientists have
all learned how to share ideas, to unravel problems. They are
very bright, very sincere, and very proud. But all people have
different habits they've learned in life and in their careers
that get in the way of productive teamwork. These habits I call
"walls." Every team begins with walls. Getting rid
of walls quickly, so they can work together, is really important.
So, to build science teams I take what my scientists do best
and try to help them understand where their walls are.
Mr. T: What
is the first thing you might do with a new team?
Dr. A: Over
the years, I have developed a list of team rules that are important
for productive teamwork. The first thing I do with a new team
is to have them select five team rules from the list. The selection
process needs to be done as a team so that every member agrees
to follow the team rules.
Mr. T: That
sounds great. Can I get a copy of the team rules?
Dr. A: I'll
send you my team rules list. Almost all the rules support Active
Listening and Active Participation, in one way or another.
Mr. T: I
look forward to getting them. Maybe they'll help us here at
World Science Globe.
Dr. A: I'd
be pleased if they did. Just remember, they may look simple
on paper, but talking about them will show you how differently
each member of the team thinks.
Mr. T: I
know you want to get some sleep, Dr. Alberts. I want to thank
you for spending some time with me.
Dr. A: It
was my pleasure.
Footnote: The individuals and corporations
in this interview are fictitious. Any relationship to organizations
or persons, past or present, is strictly coincidental.