Learn what's truly important to your dental team

(This is the second part of a CDA Presents Speaker Spotlight series highlighting the various topics that will be covered at CDA Presents in Anaheim.)

CDA Presents the Art and Science of Dentistry in Anaheim is expected to attract more than 25,000 attendees April 30-May 2, and one of the biggest draws is the unique lineup for lectures and workshops.

CDA Update staff spoke with Gary Zelesky, who has been presenting motivational messages to audiences for 30 years. For the last 15 years, he has been speaking to dentistry audiences around the world, from England to Australia. Zelesky is known for including energy and humor in his presentations and will be leading four lectures at CDA Presents.

Zelesky considers lecturing a “passion,” not a “job.”

Below are excerpts from the interview.

You say dentists run into a problem when they to try to motivate their teams based on team position and not team passion. Explain what you mean by that.

Find out what people on your team care about because if they know that you know what they care about, then they are going to begin to care about what you care about. The whole idea of passion is finding what that individual staff member cares about, what brings fuel to them. There are not too many people in the world who say, ‘I can’t wait to be an assistant.’ The front desk person probably doesn’t wake up and say, ‘The ability to collect insurance brings such joy to my stomach.’ Most people are in their job and they don’t like what they do, but if they bring a different attitude it changes everything. So instead of throwing bonuses and incentives at them, find out what is happening on the inside.

Take me through an example that you have come across when someone really finds their passion and it helps them in the dental practice.

I met this orthodontist in Texas who had a passion for guitars and the people who he worked with never knew that. He had a whole warehouse of guitars in his home, and there were no guitars in his practice. So he saved his passion for when he was at home. I told him he needs to a hang a guitar in the office. He looked at me and said, ‘I can do that?’ He did it and his office started looking like the Hard Rock Café. When people came in it would blow them away. His staff started wearing these ‘50s rock shirts, too.

What is the difference between “busy” and “productive”?

When you are busy, you are out of control. When you are productive, you’ve realized what you can control and you are in control. When a person is busy they are in the office doing all kinds of things, but no one knows what they are doing. A person who is productive is intentional and no job is too small or big; they are willing to do whatever it takes.

How does one go about blocking the stress of the day-to-day grind and stay positive and focused on his or her goals?

Everything has got to be visual. When you are facing major stress it is because you are too close to it. Step back and get a bigger picture of what is going on there. And then have your passion some place that you can see it every single day, whatever it might be. Have a picture of that thing that brings you great joy. You have to have something visual that makes you smile.

What is the biggest thing you want attendees of your lectures to take away?

I think the great takeaway is to continue to ask yourself what is the greatest thing that brings you joy. Find it, define it and make it part of your life. So many people are doing what they hate and then they do it for 30 years and they retire and die. I know it sounds a bit flippant, but when you do find what that is, everything changes. The dental team should be feeling like their best days are ahead of them. Don’t be a staff because a staff is an infection, not a team.