Dennis Hartlieb

How To Best Connect with Our Patients and Teams with Todd Williams

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Do you ever think about how you could better serve your patients and your dental team? What should you do when you have a hard day at the dental office?

Dr. Dennis Hartlieb and Todd Williams answer these questions of service and dealing with tough days and more as they discuss helpful hospitality tips that can change the way that we think about our work as dentists.

In Part 1 of this interview, you'll hear about how Todd's background has helped him focus on the importance aspects of relationships, and how when we focus on how to better the relationships we have with others, we find more personal fulfillment and job satisfaction.

More about Todd Williams

Todd Williams is a Human Behavior Expert, Storyteller and Teacher with over three decades of culture development experience in healthcare, hospitality and countless customer-facing industries.

He spent 20+ years developing and implementing the service delivery training programs for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, one of the most recognized luxury hotel brands in the world. In his role with Centura Health as Vice President of Culture Development, Todd focused on physician and employee engagement, emotional connections, brand differentiation and more.

The innate and irrefutable similarities between healthcare and hospitality show us the best experiences are actually the end result of teams deeply committed to their individual and collective purpose. In other words, our “why” deeply connects and unites us in a way that is paramount to a successful, profitable business who maintains First Place.

Todd will help us see our work, teams and patients in a whole new light, learning to serve with a level of purpose and depth the competition can never duplicate.

You can reach Todd by emailing him at!
Do you want to learn about Todd Williams and his tips from his career in both healthcare and hospitality? Are you unable to listen at the moment?

Read the Full Interview Below

Dennis 0:02  
Hello, Dental Online Trainers! Dr. Dennis Hartlieb here with you. I'm so excited today to share with you my conversation that I had with Mr. Todd Williams. So Todd's not a dentist, but he comes to us with a background in the medical field. Plus, he's got a background in hospitality having worked with the Four Seasons Hotel Group for many years. I think you're going to find the information that Todd shares with us to be incredibly valuable for working with your team. In this first part of our interview, Todd is going to talk about... he's going to give us great tips about engagement with our patients and about holding on to relationships and what really matters, and about how to make meaningful connections with people through stories. So enjoy the recording with Todd, and I look forward to seeing you at our second recording when Todd is going to share more about career paths, and sort of how he got into it! It's going to be a great conversation. So enjoy this Sharecast! And I look forward to seeing you next time. Thanks for joining us. 

Hello, dental online trainers. Wow, what a day! I am so glad and grateful to have a person... Actually, I guess I can start to call your friend now, Todd! I think we've gotten there. Todd is a speaker, who is somewhat unique in our dental industry, because he talks to dentists, but doesn't really have a dental background. And we're going to talk about that! And we're going to sort of figure out and learn about Todd's pathway into talking dentist and talking to us about some of the great stuff that he's done. So first of all, Todd, welcome to our Dental Online Sharecast. Thanks for joining us.

Todd 1:48  
Thank you. It's an honor to be here. Looking forward to this!

Dennis 1:52  
So Todd, I first saw you - and you know, COVID is totally screwed up my my memory with timing! - but I saw you like this... Seriously! So I saw you at the Seattle Study Club Annual Meeting at Amelia Island at the Ritz Carlton. And I can't figure out that was two years ago or three years ago. 

Todd 2:08  
Two! It's good question. I believe it was two years ago. I'm like you... Two years ago! I'm trying to erase one of those years.

Dennis 2:16  
Yeah, it's lost. It's like lost time! It's like a blackout! Like I went out on the town. I really hit it hard! And a year is lost! But anyhow, I had heard your name several times from close colleagues of mine. George Mandelaris had spoken really highly of you. George is a periodontist up here in the Chicago area. And he says, "You've got to see this guy!" speaking about you. And he talked about how you have this Four Seasons experience and how you sort of bring that into the dental workplace with the dental teams and sort of that Four Seasons experience. And that totally captivated me. And I was super eager to see you! And when I saw you at Amelia Island, I tell you, you blew me away. And I've seen a lot of speakers over 30 some years. And there's two things in particular that really struck me. Number one, you connected with the audience that few people are able to do. I mean, Frank Spear connects with an audience, John Kois connects with his audience. But you, you have this gift! And it's almost magical, man! You just drew me in. Like I was... like I was tethered. It was crazy. But I felt like you were speaking just to me, which was just amazing!

Todd 3:25  
Thank you. I appreciate the compliment. Thank you!

Dennis 3:28  
Truly! And then what the other thing is... My daughter is in marketing. And I've really been fascinated by storytelling. And I think... we've had an opportunity to speak with Paul Homily on our Sharecast, and Paul is a phenomenal storyteller. But I don't know that I've ever been around anybody who can share a story the way you do. And I'm super fascinated about that. I want to talk about that a little bit down the road. But, so that was crazy good. So I want to fast forward though. So this past April, you were in Milwaukee speaking to Eddie Morales's study club, and Eddie is a periodontist up here in Milwaukee, where I live. And he invited me, which is great, because he knew that I'm such a fan of yours, because I guess I'm just like, one of your like your little stalkers or something! I'm not sure. But he figured it out. So he invited me. So I've got to paint this picture for the audience. Because you may remember this. So I was invited. I didn't bring my team, my team down in Chicago. But my my social partner, Angela, she's a dentist; she brought her team in. And all the tables are set up for four people at the table because of the COVID restrictions. 

Todd 4:35  

Dennis 4:35  
And so we walked in and we weren't late, but we were sort of later people to get there. And, of course, all the tables in the back of the room were filled, all the tables in the middle of the room were filled. And then there was a couple tables at the front of the room. So Angela and her team take the table that's stage left (or they are on the left of the stage looking at you), and they fill up the four seats there. And there's an empty table in the middle of the... right in front of you, right in the middle, front row. And so I sit there! And I figure, well, people are going to, you know, people are going to sort of join in, you know... People, sort of late comers, and they'll end up at my table with me. And no one else came in!

Todd 5:11  
It was just you! 

Dennis 5:11  
So, it was just me, I was sitting in the center table, right in front of you, as you're doing your presentation. And if you did not engage the audience as well, as you do, I would have thought that you and I were just having this like one on one conversation. And that, for some reason, you're one of my weird friends that has to stand up and talk to me instead of sitting down and talking to me. 

Todd 5:31  
That's hilarious.  

Dennis 5:33  
But talk about tethering in... I swear, I took three pages of notes during that presentation. And afterwards, I was just so... The words that you speak, and the message that you bring! I just thought, you know what? I have to ask if you'll share this with my audience. And so thank you for joining us. And I just want to thank you!

Todd 5:52  
A complete honor! An absolute honor.

Dennis 5:54  
So Todd, talk us a little bit about how, where you are today. We'll talk about how you got there in just a little bit.

Todd 6:01  
Sure. So today, I work for myself, but I am primarily in two main industries, hospitality and hospitals/ healthcare. And both of those, at one time, I was employed by. So there was, for many, many, many years, I was the lead trainer for Four Seasons Hotels. And I was also employed by a couple of different healthcare groups, Cintura Health in Colorado, and then later Advent Health throughout the nation. And now, I work for myself, but I still pour into those two companies on a regular basis, as well as dentistry and others.

Dennis 6:39  
Are you are you still affiliated with Four Seasons Hotel?

Todd 6:42  
I am. I'm considered their preferred consultant for opening. So, that became my specialty when I was with them. I opened up their new properties, helping to establish that culture that that hotel will be known for. You know, the idea is you have a brand with a reputation, with fans that will only stay at a Four Seasons. And we're going to open up a Four Seasons in a new city. And the idea is for a guest to be able to walk in on day one and say, "Yeah, this feels like a Four Seasons!" Not, I should have given them a year to find their sea legs. And so it's those months that lead up to the opening of establishing that culture, building that culture, and helping people understand what Four Seasons is really all about. And, you know, people on the surface say it's about a luxury hotel, but it's really about just the way you feel when you're there. And that's what translates through all of my work... That's the through line in all of my work. It's working on how someone feels when they're in our care.
That's the through line in all of my work. It's working on how someone feels when they're in our care.
Dennis 7:42  
That's so cool. I can't wait to talk more about that. I want to start in the beginning, because I think it's fascinating what you're doing now, and sort of... And I've heard some of your background, and I want to get into that. And I think it'll help the audience. You know, I think it's just interesting. We have a lot of young listeners. And I remember as a young dentist, when I would see someone who's now successful, and they've sort of created, sort of, you know, a level of expertise. It is so hard; it was so hard for me to even imagine that they started out as someone similar to how I was at that at that point in my career. And I think very often, at least I did, I thought people just were born with this... these enabled, these gifts, and they sort of just walked your way into it. And there wasn't... There was already a path that was sort of just, you know, laid out for them. 

Todd 8:35  
Waiting for them. Yeah.

Dennis 8:37  
And I think that's why it's so interesting to sort of hear back, or hear about the early stages and stuff. So...

Todd 8:42  
The journey, and the twists and the turns? And the bumps? 

Dennis 8:45  
Yeah, for sure! I mean, because I think that's... I mean, as interesting as what we're going to talk about at the end. I think that's as interesting. And I think maybe as... Maybe equally pivotal for people as they're trying to find figure out their path, right? To understand that there's going to be pivots, there's going to be, you know, there's going to be these stressors, and these things are going to occur in your life that you have to be able to overcome and change, to be able to be successful at the end. So... 

Todd 8:45  

Dennis 8:49  
Remind me, where did you grow up?

Todd 9:14  
Northern California, San Francisco Bay area. Just right in between San Francisco and San Jose, right by Stanford. I didn't go to Stanford.

Dennis 9:24  
But you got to see it!

Todd 9:26  
I got to see it. Yeah. By osmosis.

Dennis 9:29  
Yeah, exactly! So we've spoken, and I know that... I like learning about parents. I'll tell you the story. So, my dad was... Originally, he was an auto worker for General Motors. He built Fleetwood Cadillacs. He was back in Detroit, and he was in the sweatshops when they were truly sweatshops, and he would come home and he'd just be a wet rag. And he really did not like that at all. He actually ended up leaving that when I was in middle school or high school, and he actually started driving... He drove a bus for our local community, which he ended up loving. And as I think back about my dad, my dad was all about service. My dad was all... He talked endlessly about these old people he'd help on the bus, these old ladies, and he'd make sure that they got off. And that was really just such a part of my dad. But my mom, on the other hand, she was in sales; she sold costume jewelry. And she was fantastic. You know, she was the person who could sell ice to an Eskimo! She was phenomenal, always number one in the nation or one in the zone. And as I look back at my dentistry, I realized that I sort of have this combination. I have this link between this service aptitude that my father had, but the ability of being able to help people understand what a difference what we can deliver will make for them in their lives, sort of the sales view that my mom took and how she approached people. And that sort of melded me into sort of the person I am and how I talk to people with and you know, relate to people in dentistry. So that's why I like sort of hearing about that stuff. Because I look back and I'm like, "Boy, I would be a different person, for sure, without those influences!" You know?

Todd 11:06  
Without that background! Yeah, I completely agree. I think mine's very similar, in the fact that it had a similar influence, I should say. I had a much older dad; my father was born in 1910. So I joke, you know, some of my friends grew up with a generation gap in the house. I kind of grew up with two. My friends were like, "We want a color TV!" My dad was like, "Why TV?" But he retired when I was a young kid. So my parents had a 30 year difference between them. So I saw one parent was the age of the rest of my friends' parents. And then one was so much older. And with my dad, he retired when I was a little kid. And so I joke sometimes that I didn't really grow up with a strong work ethic in the house; I kind of grew up with the retirement ethic. People were like, "What do you want to do when you grow up?" I said, "Retire!" My dad has that job. It's a great job. I don't know why other guys do  this different avenue.

Dennis 12:02  
What did he do before he retired?

Todd 12:05  
He worked for Pacific Gas and Electric. So PG&E, which, you know, their reputation today is all over the place. But his, you know, back then, he was head of the gas department for the Bay Area, which, to me, even in and of itself, ties into the story later. I didn't realize until after my dad passed away years later, really what a position he held within the company. Because after work, and I don't mean at five o'clock at night, I mean, after his retirement, he didn't talk about status. He never talked about... he wasn't the guy saying, "You know, I was head of this area... Head of the entire gas department for the Bay Area!" which you know, if you think about PG&E, Pacific Gas & Electric; he was head of the gas department. I would have never known that. And I really didn't realize his influence until his, you know, until he passed, and we had a celebration service, and hundreds of people showed up that were just word of mouth had heard about my dad passing and, you know, it was meant to be a positive service. And you know, we, if anybody wants to get up and say something about my dad, and the line of people that I'd never met my entire life who got up and told stories about my dad that I'd never heard, that I never knew... It was the most fascinating day to to see this entire work life, that had sort of been hidden my whole life.

Dennis 13:24  
What kind of what kind of stuff did they say about your dad that was so surprising to you?

Todd 13:27  
The kind of leader he was, the the way he would listen, the way he would support his team. The stories of, you know, your father was my boss, and I remember... And then they would tell a story about a time my dad had their back, or the way my dad's office door was always open, but it's just interesting. In my life, my dad never talked about the office door, but he lived in open door life. If a neighbor came by... You know, and I would always see my dad welcome anybody in. My dad was always serving the neighborhood. He went out and bought a station wagon after he'd retired just so he could fill it with tools to help people that needed something to be done. So, as I heard these stories from the workplace, they certainly matched the dad I knew. I just never saw it associated with work. I saw it associated... It was a behavior; it was the way he served humans. And to me growing up, our house... You know, we would have friends over for dinner; my parents would invite friends over dinner, and they tended to be around my dad's age group. So you'd sit at the dinner table, and everybody had gray hair. I was an only child, and you know, I grew up with that "children are to be seen, not heard, at the dinner table!" So I'd eat my meal, but I'd be listening to the conversations and you know, it's nothing but retired people at the table. And they're talking about the softer things in life. You know, they're talking about love. They're talking about it's our umpteenth anniversary, or we just met the great grandkid the other day, or we're taking a vacation. So where other kids, I think, sat at the table at that age hearing dad talk about the latest strategic plan at the, you know, at the office, I heard about who just bought a Winnebago and can't wait to tour the coast of California.

Dennis 15:09  
Wow! What an influence. That's really interesting, right? 

Todd 15:15  
Absolutely! It parlays into everything I talk about today. 100%

Dennis 15:19  
And I think a lot of people also hear like the stresses that are going on with work and stuff like that. That's sort of what I grew up with. I mean, not all of it. I mean, that wasn't everyday conversation. But that was... there was certainly that, right? The stresses! But it doesn't sound like that was a big part of the conversations around the dinner table.

Todd 15:34  
No. And I think that's a really good point to make. Because I think what I saw wasn't that my dad didn't have stress, I think it was kind of that preview. I feel like... I used to joke, if life's a book, I feel like I got to read the end of the book early, because there's a few influences. So, my dad was older. So I was seeing what matters at the end of life. My mom, even though she was younger, she worked as... She was the activities director for three convalescent homes in the area, assisted living homes. I would go and help her sometimes. If she was hosting bingo, I would, you know, help her host bingo, you know. She'd stand up front saying, "B4," and I'd be the guy by the wheelchair saying, "B4!" 

Dennis 16:13  

Todd 16:13  
To the elderly lady... And then later, I got into health care. And a lot of my work was with, you know, the orthopedic wing where I was seeing older folks that might have, you know... a joint gave out and they had it replaced. So, I just feel I had a lot of people in my life towards the end of the book, if you will. And so it wasn't that these people didn't have stress, I like to say it's just sometimes you see what actually floats. And if you think about life, and all the stressors that we have in the workplace, in the end, those aren't the things that last. You don't have the person at 75 still thinking about what they should have said in that meeting, even though back here that day was almost a turning point in their career, in the end, that didn't last. But the way they treated each other at the office, the way they delivered respect, felt respect, changed jobs to find a place or a culture of respect, those things matter in life. Respect lasts. Love lasts. Relationships last. And all the things that we spin our wheels on today tend to be temporary in the book. They don't seem to make it to the last chapter. So, I think that's why sitting around the dinner table, I didn't hear a lot about the stress of work is because it wasn't that they were, you know, consciously pushing the stress away. It didn't last; those things that we spin our wheels over, that we think or make or break moments in life, with a big perspective shift, don't matter as much as we think they do. And seeing that at the end of life was really interesting. And, trust me, later I ran into all those stressors, and I'll talk about that if the questions go there. But I think that's why at the dinner table, we didn't hear about that. 
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Dennis 18:05
Can I ask you a question? So, as you may have heard, dentistry is kind of a high stress profession. You know, we used to lead the league in suicides. And I think fortunately that we're... that's not such an issue. But it's a stressful occupation. What advice? So I think we can all sort of rationalize that, right? Like, "Hey, you know, this is just this, you know, particular patient or a particular team member, or a particular event..." And say we need to set that behind and not let that, you know, bring us down or affect us in our... especially in our relationships, right? Outside of the workplace, or even inside the workplace. How do you? So you can know that! But how do you... How do you bring that in? Because I struggle with that! I'll be honest; this is something I'm better at, at my age at 58 -- way better at it than I was at 48! But still, I wouldn't say I'm great at it.

Todd 19:02
It's still there! Sure. And it's the same for me. I'm in the workplace. And I, I have these stressors, and I have them as well. And, you know, especially, you know, we talked in the beginning about not having a background in dentistry. And yet the irony is I've been speaking with dentists now for four plus years on a regular basis all year long. It's probably the biggest audience I have. So what I've learned along the way, ties into how I would answer that question. And I think it's key to understand when I said the stressors don't make it in the end, they tend to float away. It doesn't mean they weren't important and valid things to navigate and struggle through in the workplace. So I think there's two parts to the way I would answer that. Number one, it's just keeping the perspective that this is here and now. It's okay to stress about the way this went with the patient. It's okay to agonize over the way this is going with my team because It matters now. I think the good news is, it's not a forever thing. I do know that a couple of years from now this isn't going to matter as much as it does today, which almost helps me pour into it with a little more intention. Because I realized this matters now. It's important today; it may not be four years from now. So today, I can give it my all I don't have to meter for a life of this. I can give it my all. So I think that's a nice way to balance the stress. And I think the second thing is trying to pull... There's a phrase I don't like. When I hear people say, "work/life balance." It drives me crazy, because it's acting as though you can separate work from life. 

Dennis 20:42  
Yeah. Right. 

Todd 20:43  
And so then you get people who say, "Okay, Todd, work/ life integration." You're still acting like it's a separate thing you're fitting into life. Work is a part of life. And I think we wear so many hats in today's society, that we burn ourselves out changing hats. And I have the leader hat, I have the boss hat, I have the caregiver hat, I have the dentistry hat, I have the husband, partner, cousin, neighbor hat. I think a lot... Tying in to what you heard when I grew up and seeing the end of the book, and the many, many experiences I've had since then. And all I've learned and especially the research and data that seems to back this up... We do a much better job when we serve the human in front of us. What's the best thing I can bring to the next person that comes across my path, whether that's a family member, whether that's a patient, whether it's the most challenging patient I've had this year, or it's a patient that I'm thrilled walked in the door, my long term team member or my brand new team member, each one deserves the same thing. And that's my best. And so if the hat I'm wearing is how do I become the best servant that I can be, the best caregiver I can be? I love your story, when you talk about your background that your dad wanted to serve, and your mom was a salesperson, but yet selling people things that truly benefit them. Right? Not selling for the commission. It was selling to improve things. I get that! So you bring that together. I'm serving you by showing you what can be better, helping you achieve great results in your life, and feeling satisfaction in that. I don't have one particular group, I would want to do that too. I want family to feel that I'm there to serve them and help them achieve their best life. I want my teammates to feel that. So I think that's how I deal with the stress is that it's just the day to day. It's not work; it's life. And in the end, I do know that the good things, the softer things, the things that are hard to measure -- my passion for serving others. I don't think your dad could have ever given you a rating if you said, "You know, hey, Dad, what's your service level at today?" Right? "67%. But I'm shooting for 72!" But we get into the workplace and oh, we feel so good when we put a metric on everything. And yet the things that matter most can't be measured. 

Dennis 23:19  
So true. So true. 

Todd 23:20  
I think Einstein once said that not everything that's measured matters. And not everything that matters can be measured.
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Dennis 23:27  
Yeah, for sure. One of the things that I've... one of the things I've learned also is that by having experience, by having experience, I know I can get myself out of a particular jam. It might be a patient that I'm struggling with. And that jam might be giving the patient back their money and letting them go their own way. Because I've done that. And that's that's actually very successful to not have that be your problem anymore! But a lot of times, it's just sort of working through the issue, and talking to colleagues, and getting advice and working through... So having that experience does make me feel more rested in that yes, I'm going to get through this. This isn't any fun, not fun for me, for the patient, for the staff, whatever. But there's an end in sight. I know we'll get through this, and this will be okay in the end. I think there's experience that helps with that. And for young dentists, I think reaching out to more seasoned dentists, people with experience, and get that peace of mind that you're going to get through this. And get that mentorship. I think that's all so important. 

Todd 24:29  
You know, Dennis, if I can jump right there for a second to into something you made me think of... I remember there was a time when I was in my hotel years with Four Seasons. And I was at one particular hotel, and we had a guest checking in that, from the calls ahead of time, I just knew was going to be trouble, was going to be a challenge. And I was the lead manager in the front office that day, and so I had coached the employees, "Hey, if this guy at all begins to cause a fuss, you know, I'll be out there in a second." And he caused a fuss, and I went out there. And I was I was proud of my prep. And so no matter what he said, I had, I was like, Nope, I have, you know, this isn't the day of faxes. And I have a fax here that says this, I have a record of a call. The person you're saying you spoke to on the phone was actually me. And I was just, you know... I had great, I felt proud that I had prepped enough to not let this guy win. And he kept asking for, you know, I want someone above you. And finally, my boss, who happened to be there that day, which, you know, normally I was the lead, the highest level person at that moment, but my boss was there. And he came out. And he took over the situation. And he quickly gave the guests what they needed, and what they wanted. And, of course, the guests played into this right away and said, "Thank you so much! I'll remember your name." Then he looked over at me and said, "I'll remember your name. And I'm calling about you!" So I remember I told the the front desk agent, I said, "I'm going to go back in the back with Greg. And one of us may not come out alive." And I went back there. And I said, "What was that?! I have my research..." And he stopped me and he says, "Where were you going?" And I'll never forget that; he didn't have to follow... He did follow, but he that could have been enough. He just said where were you going? You know, it's -- you're racing with a loser! You know, to what? To win? To be the better loser?" And he said -- this was key. He says -- after I kind of humbled out and realized I'd gotten sucked into a race in which there is no winner. He said, "Just go out there and pour everything into the next good guest. And watch how good it feels." And so that sure enough, you know, a little bit later in the day, this young couple checks in and they're like, "Hi! It's our honeymoon! And we can barely afford, you know, two nights. But we have a basic room!" And I just remember that feeling. You think you do! Wait until you see the room you're in! Wait til you see! Sometimes... some of the best advice I've ever had: Don't get into the race to prove you're as bad as they are, let them do what they do. But then the fastest way to get over it, is give everything to the next wonderful person in front of you. And it just... some of the best, most practical advice and I still to this day, think all right, you are tough to deal with, but boy are you about to be blessed. And I think that just really...
Don't get into the race to prove you're as bad as they are; let them do what they do. But then the fastest way to get over it is give everything to the next wonderful person in front of you. 
Dennis 27:30  
That's really great. That's great advice. Because in any industry, you're going to have the people that are just going to rattle you. And they're going to rattle everybody! And anything they go through, they're going to rattle every single person, right? This is just who they are! Right? 

Todd 27:44  
And you're not going to fix them!

Dennis 27:46  
Nope! And you're not going to win. And it's going to be unpleasant. But I think you're right. And then you get to just shower the people who are wonderful, with more wonderfulness...

Todd 27:56  
And who least expect it!

Dennis 27:57  
Yeah, right!

Todd 27:58  
And it refills you so quick. You know, I tell people: growing up, we're all taught the phrase to give is to receive. And yet there's so many studies out there that show that when... it's almost self serving to give to somebody. You know, if you're dealing with stress, find someone who's stressed out and help them through it and watch what it does to you. 

Dennis 28:20  
For sure. 

Todd 28:21  
And so I tell people, maybe the better version of that phrase for 2022 and on, especially after the last two years, is to give this to relieve. Because you relieve person of their burden. But ironically, you relieve yourself, too! So I find that a great way to bring a little relief to a stressful life is just to serve harder.

Dennis 28:40  
Well, you know, I think we all go through the situation to where we have this record spinning in our head... We go down these rabbit holes. It's all about us, you know, blah, blah, blah. And I have found that when I can like pull myself out of that by serving others, doing something, right? It might be... it could be simply just going and bringing in doughnuts for the office staff, it could be bringing a gift, it could be making dinner for Angela. It could be any number of things, but it takes me out of my self-centeredness, right? And it does! It just brings you out of that little pity party, and it brings you into what we're called to do -- is really serve others! 

Todd 29:12  

Dennis 29:12  
And it really gives us a better perspective!

Todd 29:13  
Yeah, and I think it's great to realize that the pity party is allowed. There's nothing wrong with it. But it's also our responsibility to get ourselves out of it. It can drag us down too far. There's a great way! The ladder out is to serve someone else.

Dennis 29:26  
Okay, that's a great way to put it. That's a great expression.
Write your awesome label here.
Dennis 29:32
Yeah, I want to ask you something about your background. So you grew up... When you're in high school, I'm curious what... I'm always super curious when I'm talking to people what they were like in high school, because those are such defining years and stuff. So... Good student, bad student? What kind of student were you?

Todd 29:48  
That's a great question. I would say middle of the road, I could get my A's but I worked for them. You know, I had the friends that you know didn't seem to do anything and got the A. And I would sweat to get that A! But I was... This is funny, and this followed me through college, too. I was an observer. And I would sit in class, and I would watch, sometimes to my own detriment, you know? Look at that! So that's what a student looks like when they're listening to the teacher! That's what a teacher looks like when...

Dennis 30:18  
I want to look like that so they think I'm listening! 

Todd 30:23  
Meanwhile! Now, today, I talk about people's relationships. So it turned out it worked okay! I got what I needed out of school. But I was an observer. And I think I had this... Maybe like your dad, but even younger, just the desire to serve my classmates. And my first aim in my career was I wanted to be a youth minister. Not in a... You know, it was less about religion. It was more at my time in my life in high school, youth ministers were simply people that were out there saying, "Look, we get it! High school is a really tough, awkward time! There's a lot of things going on!" Homes can be incredibly challenging. We're here to be sort of a rock to lean on, an example. Not to preach to you, not to tell you, you could live a better life. But just as you navigate a tough time, we're here to navigate it with you, side by side with you. And, later ending up in healthcare, with, thanks to a funny little turn, I realized it was the same through line. I started in the emergency room in healthcare and remember, you know, nobody comes into the emergency room wanting to be told, Well, you're here because you've made an accident.

Dennis 31:38  
Because were dumb enough to get on that ladder!

Todd 31:41  
Just walk with me through this vulnerable time! Help me get myself back on track! Just partner with me in this time of need. And to this day, that's the core of my work is just partnering with people, whether it's on the clinical side, or it's helping the patients or that relationship. It's how do we become better partners to people in need. And that started in high school. And I think there was a... I was a popular student for different reasons. I think anytime you hear popular student, it was the person at the party, it was the person on the football team, or whatever. And I found that there was this... kind of this... People were magnetically drawn to someone who was there for them. I heard a podcast the other day, a guy referred to it as inverse charisma. In other words, when people spend time with you, they leave feeling better about themselves. They feel better. And so, I saw the youth ministers doing that for people, and I think I wanted to emulate that. So that was my goal was to see if I could make whoever I was with feel better about themselves.

Dennis 32:52  
Wow. When you So... Where did you go to college? I don't recall.

Todd 32:55  
I went off to Westmont College in Santa Barbara, a private Christian liberal arts college, and then had a turn and ended up in healthcare. So even though it wasn't my studies, and wasn't where I was headed.

Dennis 33:07  
So you went to college planning on going into youth ministry. That was sort of... Your focus was going to be... Did you study psychology? 

Todd 33:14  
I was headed towards my M Div, and Master's in Divinity. And then my dad, because of the age difference, this all ties together... He suffered several heart attacks, consecutive, and was in ICU and CCU, which ended up being a total of six months. But I left school to go up and take care of my dad and to help my mom through that time. And then after my dad came out of the hospital, they said your dad may have anywhere from two weeks to six months to live. So I was like, Okay, "I'm just going to stay here and soak up this gift of time and figure out what to do. And began working on a hospital and putting together what I'd studied into, you know, even in ministry... It was studying relationships with people. And so that certainly worked in healthcare. And then my dad lived seven more years. 

Dennis 34:05
What a blessing!

Todd 34:10
Yeah, and I had some wonderful times with him, and I went on, and I began to get my degree in the school of life from that point on. So I never went back for ministry, and just continued to work, and stayed in the workplace, and worked my way through health care. And then, later on, if you want to go there, I can tell you I took the turn to hospitality and how I brought it all together today.
And to this day, that's the core of my work is just partnering with people, whether it's on the clinical side, or it's helping the patients or that relationship. It's how do we become better partners to people in need.
Dennis 34:32  
Yeah, before we go there, because I think that's fascinating, and I'm super eager to share that... You have this an innate ability, or I don't know if it's innate. You have an incredible ability to tell stories. And I'm wondering, did one of your folks, your mom and your dad, were they like that? Did they have that? Were they just like a person who could just weave a story? Did they have that?

Todd 34:57  
No, and I've thought of that before. It didn't come from my parents. And I'm trying to think... It was just influential people in my life. Again, being a part of that youth group growing up, a lot of times I would listen to people. Empathize well, with what I... I'm looking at this counselor in front of a room when I'm in a youth group. And I'm thinking, I know this counselor is not in high school, but they sure seem to understand High School. And it was the way they told the story; it was way they could describe my situation to where I felt, "Hey, I trust you because you understand me!" So maybe that's where it came from. But I think over time, it was just getting more and more comfortable in seeing how much an audience needs someone to take them to a better place. It's interesting, you said something earlier, you said when I was sitting in the front in Milwaukee said, it felt like a conversation. And I teach public speaking. And I tell people all the very first thing I want to teach you -- my public speaking sessions or classes are very, very different than what most sessions are -- lose the word presentation! I don't want you to be on stage giving a presentation. I know it is a presentation. And even if you have slides and data to show, but it's a conversation. We're having a conversation right now. And it's a conversation... you said, it's so funny, because without knowing, that's where I go all the time. The only difference is you're having a conversation from a stage, but it's still a conversation. And even when I'm doing 99% of the talking because I'm a speaker, every nod, every cock of the head, every... when somebody turns to the person and says something and then looks back up, you know that's the other side of the conversation. There's a reason I rarely come with slides. It's because I don't want my presentation driven by slides. I know what I want to say, but it's going to come out in the order of the conversation. Just do you sit down at dinner? 

Dennis 36:56  
So do you change? So, if you have a presentation, and we've talked about this before... You told me once that someone had asked you what you were going to talk about, and you said, "Well, I'll figure it out when I get up there."

Todd 37:08  
That's true!

Dennis 37:08  
Do you have? And so, will you pivot then in your presentation based on the reaction from? You do!


Dennis 37:14  
So you're on a path and you're thinking you're going to go this way, but then you see the reaction, and you will just sort of naturally shift to follow that path.

Todd 37:23  
And I tell people, you know, it has to be explained, because sometimes it sounds like you're just saying you're just going to wing it when you get up there. But it's not that at all! You have a backpack full of stories. I know the aim. So I would ask you and I would say, where do you want this audience to go? What are the three most important things you want the side of us to leave with today? I have a backpack of things that I guarantee you will get them there. The order they come out, will depend on that audience. You know, I look at it... The analogy I use sometimes is it's a little bit like an emergency room. I can't go to an ER at the beginning of the day and say, "Tell me who you're going to treat today and specifically, what you're going to prescribe!" what treatments? But I'm ready. I have a full team, everything's ready. But I need to see who arrives at the door before I begin to tell you what I'm going to do. And it's the same thing. So it's preparing for whatever that audience may bring. And I think it's the same thing, you scale that right down to your day in an office. What are you going to say to this next patient? You know, because people say, "what do I say to a patient?" Well, let's wait and see what the patient shows. But I'll give you things that work. I'll give you keys. It's a little bit like a locksmith. You know, a locksmith plays with a lock until they hear that click, and we refer to that all the time. How do you know the relationship got better? Well, we finally clicked. And what makes it click? You have to pick that lock. So it's showing up with the toolkit. Whether it's a patient, whether it's a long term team member that's a little challenging, or it's a speaking event, you're ready to unlock who's in front of you, you're prepared, you're ready to go. But you'll pivot to their needs. And I think that's when people say, "Hey, you know, the storytelling felt good!" Well, hopefully, it's because you felt that story was for you. And not because it's what I had to say.

You have to pick that lock. So it's showing up with the toolkit. Whether it's a patient, whether it's a long term team member that's a little challenging, or it's a speaking event, you're ready to unlock who's in front of you, you're prepared, you're ready to go. But you'll pivot to their needs.
Dennis 39:12  
So let me ask you if... Because for someone like myself will give scientific presentations, right, I'm going to teach people on... I teach a lot of indirect resin bonding techniques. Aesthetic Dentistry stuff. So when I'm doing a big presentation, I can't really... I mean, I've got to find my slides. This is you know, you have 50 minutes or whatever. But what I have been able to do in workshops, when say there's 30 people or 30 or 40 people, we often will stop if someone has a question, and then we will sort of like okay, let me go let me go to the slide, or let me pull this up, or let me draw on this image and things. Is there a way to do that, do you think, in a big presentation, though? 

Todd 39:50  

Yeah. Even if you are working with slides and stuff.

Todd 39:53  
Yeah. And I get that question all the time. People say, "Well, my work is different! Therefore..." And I'm like, "No, no, no, wait! Don't push it away! We're the same!" You're still speaking to your audience. So there are times I have data that I'm showing, as well: how do I open up a hotel? How do I open up? And so my other work is in hospitals, I oversee the culture of several hospitals across the nation; that's very data driven. And we have specific numbers that we're talking about. But I joke and I say, "You know, we've done blood tests. And it turns out, I haven't found an audience yet that doesn't test as human!" They're ALL human. And it's understanding, and I think you mentioned him earlier, but... (I just blanked on his name!) Kois understands his audience that he's showing the slides to. And so he'll show a slide. But then he'll comment on what he knows people are thinking when they see that slide. And so it keeps it going back and forth between the data and presenting but the humans that I'm conversing with, and so I think that's a great way to bring some life and some storytelling into, you know... If I'm going through a slideshow, and I've done the slideshow, you know, 50 times, and I know right by slide 30, it gets a little dry... Stop! And say exactly that to your room. You know, "Hey, I'll tell you where I go! About this slide right here, I find my thoughts are going in three different directions. And one of them is what's for dinner. But I also know how important the patient feels this slide is, and the patient doesn't know this matters, but it does matter to them, which renews my interest. So, now the audience is like, this person knows me. And they're right back into your data. They're right back into the slides, because you took a break for a moment and addressed the human out there. Because I might have gone to a conference as Dr. so and so. But I'm also really trying to figure out what to feed my kids tonight. And I'm sorry, that's on my mind, too. And when you tell me you realize that? Oh my gosh, I'm right back in again. So I think it's a phenomenal way...

Dennis 42:04  
It's almost like sort of just accepting their humanness, and saying, you know, "Hey, no shame here! We're all human! Let's recalibrate! This is why we're talking about this! And I go there, too." I think that's really, that's really interesting. I think that it's so difficult to be vulnerable when you're presenting, right? Because you're supposed to be the expert. And, you know, to show that human side of it is so important. But that's, I think, probably one of the most challenging [things] for most presenters out there.

Todd 42:33  
And I would jump on that real quick. And the reason you saw me get excited... We used to say this in Four Seasons... People would say, you know, "How do you guys figure it out in Four Seasons what to do to amaze the guests?" And I said, "You just do the opposite of whatever frustrates a guest. It's that easy!

Dennis 42:49  
Whatever has been done, just do the opposite of whatever is usually done!

Todd 42:52  
And that's the thing! If it's typical, and if it's normal, and you do something different, it stands out! So to your point, when you just said it's hard to be vulnerable as a presenter, because we're told you shouldn't be vulnerable as a presenter. And when a presenter gets up on stage and says, you know... Not getting up and saying, "Golly, I'm nervous today, and my throat is dry." That's not what I'm referring to. But if I get up in front of people, and I say, "I have something to present today that is incredibly important to me. And I still to this day wonder if it's as important to an audience as it is to me. And I'll tell you, what you're going to get today is what drives my heart each and every day. This is why... This is my calling! I feel that there is so much purpose in my life behind what I'm about to present." Now that's as vulnerable as you can get. And watch the audience put their stuff down, sit up, because now you're different. You just... You went there. And so it's funny, when you say we're taught not to be vulnerable. What a terrible thing to teach people! 

Dennis 43:19
So true. Yep. 

Todd 43:21
Be you up there! And watch people gravitate to you.
Write your awesome label here.
Dennis 43:59  
Yeah, yeah. Well, I... No truer words. And it's easier as I've gotten older. And you know, watching someone like Frank Spear who would show his failures. I mean, that's... Right? In the early days. I'm like, Boy, this is... Someone who can show their failures is just at such a different level! Right? 

Todd 44:15  

Dennis 44:15  
Yeah, they... 

Todd 44:16  
But we're taught the opposite, right? That's weak. 

Dennis 44:19  
Exactly. Yeah! 

Todd 44:21  
The strongest thing you can do is say here is where I messed up.

Dennis 44:23  
In this world of social media where there's no forgiveness, and people are only showing the very, very best stuff, it makes it even more challenging, right?
Well, I hope you enjoyed the conversation with Todd Williams as much as I enjoyed speaking with Todd. I mean, you can tell because we just kept on talking, and that's why we had to break this into two separate interviews, or two parts! So look forward to part two hitting your podcast station soon. And I really hope you enjoyed that part one of our interview with Todd!
Now also, look out! We are doing our Black Friday promotion for Dental Online Training! if you are interested in becoming a Dental Online Training member, then look to us! Come check out our website at That's one word: So check us out for our great Black Friday promotion. We've got some courses that we're going to be giving with the kit. And we have our course that's coming up in December that you'll be able to be part of at no additional cost. So check that out. All right, I look forward to seeing you soon. So, thanks for joining us! I'm yours for better dentistry, Dr. Dennis Hartlieb.

Dennis Hartlieb, DDS, AAACD

DOT Founder

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