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Team Building
Interview 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 teams.

Mr. T: Teams are big business nowadays. Sports teams. Computer teams. Company teams. Medical teams. What makes Earth system science teams unique?

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 learn.

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 skills.

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 may occur.

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.