The Goal, Not the Role

Alex Nottingham JD MBA and Shelly VanEpps discuss the difference between management and leadership: ‘Great leaders don’t set out to be a leader. They set out to make a difference. It’s not the role, it’s the goal.’


About Shelly VanEpps

Shelly is the VP of Business Development & a Mastery Coach with All-Star Dental Academy. By aiding in the growth and expansion of All-Star, Shelly’s passion for dentistry allows the company to focus on guiding dentists and their teams towards achieving their vision of a successful dental practice. Because each office has their own definition of “success” Shelly focuses her attention on customized coaching by applying her 21 years in the dental field to each department within the office. In addition, as a John Maxwell Certified Leadership Coach, Shelly enjoys working with doctors and office managers on shifting their approach from a managerial approach to a more effective leadership style.

About Alex Nottingham JD MBA

Alex is the CEO and Founder of All-Star Dental Academy®. He is a former Tony Robbins top coach and consultant, having worked with companies upwards of $100 million. His passion is to help others create personal wealth and make a positive impact on the people around them. Alex received his Juris Doctor (JD) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Florida International University.

Episode Transcript

Transcript performed by A.I. Please excuse the typos.


This is Dental All-Stars, where we bring you the best in dentistry on marketing, management, and training. Welcome to Dental All-Stars. I’m Alex Nottingham, founder and CEO of All-Star Dental Academy, and with me is Shelley Van Epps, VP of Business Development and Integrator at All-Star Dental Academy. And we’re talking about leadership and that it’s not the role, it’s the goal. Please welcome Shelley Van Epps. Hello, thank you for having me.



You’re about to do. You’re about to do. I don’t know. I have to figure that out. I always listen to the to the podcast and people like, thanks for having me. I don’t even know what to say when they say that. I know. Good to have you too. It’s nice. Sounds good. I already welcomed you, you know, now you’re telling me again. So we’ll have to work on that. Well, here’s like, yes, good. Okay. So anyways, you’re you’re about to do a whole leadership intensive. So Eric Vickery are are



VP, I’m not a VP. He’s the president. Excuse me. Oh my God. He’s the president. You’re the VP. Oh, he used to be VP. Now for the last three years, he’s the president of coaching and he’s putting on a leadership program we sold out. He’s doing for the doctors and you, integrator, VP, you’re doing it for the team, the integrators, to help them support their doctors and achieving their goals and all about leadership. Yeah.



So we figured, yeah, let’s talk about leadership. That’s one of your strong suits. And I do wanna tell a story at some point, not yet, but I’m gonna make a note about leadership, Alex, Shell, I’m making a note here. I’ll talk about the fire. The fire. Yeah, the fire. I wanna talk about that, cause I’m gonna release a podcast dedicated to you just on that very short, but I figure let’s do a little note here while I have you, cause we’re talking about leadership.



So tell me about leadership. There’s a quote that inspired you that we’ll kind of rally behind in this discussion. And tell me the quote and why did it inspire you? I actually saw it this morning and I thought, oh my gosh, that’s perfect for today when I get to talk to Alex. So it said, great leaders don’t set out to be a leader. They set out to make a difference. It’s not the role. It’s the goal. And so just going back to people who are leaders, they don’t always intend to be a leader.



I actually have an office manager and that’s what she said. She goes, I don’t want to be on leadership anymore. This isn’t what I’m in this for. I want to be able to take care of patients. She’s a hygienist. And she said, I’m just here to take care of patients, but all the team keeps coming to me and asking me questions. I said, that’s because you’re a leader. You are doing it unintentionally. And there are five different levels of leadership. And one of them is just being you and being who you are and people follow you. And that’s…



a good place to be. It’s not to say that every leader is born that way, but man, if you have that right out the gate, how lucky are you that that’s just the way that people want to be and they want to surround themselves with you or surround themselves by you. I don’t know how you say that. Well, I hear Lady Gaga in my mind. I was born this way, right? I was born this way. I was born this way. I was born this way. I was born this way. I was born this way. I was born this way. I was



Yeah, it’s really powerful. And it’s something that I get so excited about because people get confused between management and leadership so often. And we did a podcast about this a long time ago, and that the office manager is obsolete. I know we got to do that again. Let’s do that again. Was it? It was it was you were like, Ooh, you want to say that? And you did a model. You did a whole monologue on that. I’d like to follow up. Let’s make a note to follow up about that more. And I want to, you know, interrogate you on



on why you’re being so aggressive. Now, speaking of which, the other day I was speaking to you about this and I said, actually we were on the call with Payton, the CEO, former CEO of EOS International worldwide. Worldwide. They wrote all the books on EOS and he said that the integrator is a great manager and the, let’s just say the visionary is the leader and you’re like, I don’t like that. I don’t like that. I’m a leader. I’m not a manager, ooh. And so.



I think where he was getting at everybody, we want to imbue people with leadership. Everybody can have some modicum of leadership and leadership and we’ll kind of define that a bit as we go along. Management is actually, it’s not a dirty word. It can be in some cases because it’s kind of like the office manager back to what you’re talking about is over time it’s been quote perverted, I guess, not in that way, but like



It hasn’t been what it was supposed to be in some situations. It’s a title. It’s a role, not a goal. It doesn’t, it’s just that I’m paying homage to you because you were a great team member. Like for my father’s practice where he got in trouble, he had an amazing assistant, my godmother, wonderful person, and then she wanted to be office manager. Wasn’t good at it, but we had to elevate because of pressure and title. But I think…



A good manager is tremendous and you are an amazing manager. You are a phenomenal leader. But a manager is something very rare and I think management, a true manager is very rare. I think we can teach people some leadership skills and emotional intelligence and things like that. But a manager is a skill set. So I will say on the podcast, I’m coaching Shelley here, I do think you are an amazing leader more than a manager.



But I think manager, you are the top manager at our company. And I hope that others can learn how to manage the skill of management, the spreadsheets, the organization, and then using your leadership to inspire people and there. Like my management, I have some leadership capabilities. Management could use some help. That’s just the organization and focus and consistency. So anyways, that can be a whole other topic, leadership versus management. We can get there.



All right. Thank you for that. But I do. I mean that, that is something that really gets me sometimes because people say, Oh, you’re a micromanager and, Oh, you’re always just telling me that you do things and that we need to do things this way and it’s your way or the highway. And these are different things that we hear all the time out there. And we hear you here.



I don’t I guess I don’t hear it a lot personally, but I hear people complain. I talk to a lot of people Alex. Okay, I know you do. You talk a lot. And so I talk a lot. Yeah, you do. Heather too. Heather likes to talk. She’s like, Shelly talks a lot. Oh my gosh. But I love her. Like it’s great. I love talking. It’s it’s my jam. I love it. No, you’re great at that. But truly, like when I’m talking with all the different people out there, it’s.



I’m having a hard time getting them to do what they’re supposed to do. Okay, well, how are you approaching that? And that’s taking it from management into a leadership component because you have to connect with the person who’s doing the job. Yes, you can just say it is what it is. Get it done. Get it done yesterday. I told you to do it. Don’t talk to me anymore. Are you going to say though, you know what I want to throw a wrench in your, in this whole thing.



I think all these people you’re saying that are managers, I don’t think they’re managers. You see micromanagement is not management. So you hear a lot of dentists, and we hear too, I have to micromanage them, I have to nudge them, I have to this, that’s not management. I mean, and doctors are not great managers, and a lot of their office managers are not great managers. The skill of management is not being done. They’re micromanaging, which is not management. So…



Again, we were like nervous about this whole, I want to resurrect management as a good thing, but I’m saying they’re not managing. And so they are controlling, they are acting out of fear. That shouldn’t be put onto management. That’s just, that’s being a, you know, a reactive mother sometimes, I think in office or father, we have to be like, here are the kids. They’re not, they come in late.



They’re not doing, when did you, did you clean the sterilization? No. Did you do this? No. Did you, Oh, I had to pick up after them. You always hear this. Think about it. What do you hear? I got to pick up after them. They’re late. They didn’t do this. They’re not being responsible. I have to yell at them. I have to remind them that’s management. Now I’m sorry. I got my MBA. Not that I’m so high and mighty, but that’s not what I learned in the MBA. They don’t teach you that. Right. Where did management become a bad, you know, I mean, management should be.



overseeing systems and processes. That’s right. And it’s down to its core. That’s what it’s about is overseeing the systems and the processes. Leadership is overseeing and developing the people. That’s right. In its unicorn world, you get both and one person and you’ve got That’s you. Yay. Unicorn. Somebody who can oversee the systems and processes, but also is going to help develop and build up the leaders.



And it’s funny you mentioned this about the cleaning up and things like that. I was just talking with a doctor yesterday. She said, I seriously was walking out of my office and I turned around and I saw a sink full of dishes. When did I become my team’s mom? Yeah. And I said, as soon as you let them do it. And as soon as you let them leave the dishes there without any consequence, any discussion, any setting forth of the expectation.



That’s when you became the person who’s going to continue to pick them up over time after time after time. And it’s a matter of just speaking with them and saying, hey, I don’t come into your house and leave my dishes on your kitchen sink. It felt disrespected by seeing all of this in my kitchen, which is the break room. I need you guys to pick up after yourselves. It’s grown people. I say people now.



I am observing you because I just think you’re a marvelous person is you’re also a great mother and wife. And I see how you interact with your family. And I actually even by saying it’s mothering, you know, in terms of before as a bad thing, being a mom, again, I made another mistake. We’re making mistakes. We’re defining management as bad. We’re just finding being a mother as bad. You can be a proactive mom, which is not I do whatever my kid wants.



I’m a protector, yes, but I have rules and structure. Like you don’t baby your kids. You’re very loving and clear and you’re a leader at home. So yes, that leadership skills or even management systems aspect of it, but the leadership skills back to the goal, not the role, is your goal is not to be a mother. Your goal is to raise healthy children that are productive in society. And it’s a balance and you learn from your mother.



I’ve even met her, but I’ve heard great things about her, and you speak very highly of her. So it’s that at the end of the day, it’s in our office, we’re being proactive, not reactive. We’re focusing on the goal, which is what can I do to make a difference, not the role. I’m a manager. I’m a lead, whatever it is. But it’s that situation. What happens is people revert to reactive mothering or whatever that might be at the office because that’s all they know.



Even as kids, we’re reverting back to, oh, you’re not doing it, you’re not doing that, or pointing fingers, or blaming. It becomes a psychological, you know, thank goodness we have a, what, a therapeutic coach as one of our coaches that kind of help with this stuff, Abby, because it’s kind of descending there. So anyways, I just wanted to throw that out there that I think it goes even deeper. Yeah.



No, it does. And I think that one of the things that really stood out to me about that particular quote in that it’s not the Oh, it’s not the it’s not the role. It’s the goal Is that when you look at the five levels of leadership a lot of times people assume hey, you’re a leader You’re the office manager. I need to follow you I need to adapt to everything that you say and that is off of their position only their impositional leadership



And if you’re going to work your way up that to the pinnacle leader that John Maxwell speaks about in a lot of his books, but the pinnacle leader, you can’t stay in that positional leadership zone for very long, people will start to look at you only as well. I’m going to do what you said that I need to do because you’re the office manager. You want them, or I at least want to get them to, I want to do that for you.



You don’t even have to ask me because I want to make sure, I don’t want to let you down. I want to make sure that everything is running smoothly here. And knowing all of the core values for a business, for an office are being maintained is part of the leader’s responsibility. For me, part of my responsibility as your integrator is to make sure the core values within All-Star are always maintained. That’s the goal.



Yeah, I don’t need the role. That’s my goal. Yeah. So give me the title if you want, but I don’t need it because I know what we’re looking for. Right? Well, I mean, it’s it’s a little unfair because you’re you’re so talented. And it was kind of fortuitous, you know, our meeting, we talked about that in our rocket fuel podcast we did a few weeks ago or whatever. I could put a link have Cheyenne put a link in the show notes about that of how that but now knowing what you are.



but you’re a great person and you work on yourself. And I think that’s really, what the thing is that we have to do. So let’s kind of get down, dentists like to, how do I get it done? Okay, I get it. It’s okay, it’s the role, our goal is the thing. I have to, yeah, I’m a dentist. Yeah, I’m the boss, but that’s not important. Like one of the things at All-Star, I never say, well, I’m the owner, so this is what it is. Never, I will not do that. We have a leadership team and they vote and I’m often…



Most of the time I’m losing end on the voting. That’s fine. It’s humbling. It’s good because I know the company is working the way it needs to work. They’re embodying the vision. The vision is bigger than me, than all of us. That’s how we succeed. So business owner doesn’t mean anything. It just means you have an investment stake. So what? Somebody else has more stock than you do in something else, doesn’t matter. But we all have a common vision. So in your office, it really, it will, we have to challenge the owners, the visionaries, they’re number one.



It really is. I can have a Shelly, but if I’m out of whack, she’s not going to be attracted to be here or she’s out of there. It really doesn’t mean that me or someone you’re listening doctors or entrepreneurs or owners that you have to be, you know, tremendous and fantastic. Just don’t get in the way of the vision of what you’re setting forth. Watch your ego and you, number one, better be being coached.



You should have a business coach like what we do. You should have a mindfulness coach or a personal life coach. Sometimes other coaches do that as well. But have coaching, you’ve got to be investing in yourself, not just clinical, but also personal. That goes to dentists, entrepreneurs, all of you have to be sharp with that and be willing and do the work and it’s hard. That’s number one, because if you can’t transform, sure as hell your team will not and you won’t attract those. When I see a great team.



I see a great doctor and not like they’re so impressive. They’re humble, they’re giving, they have good values and that’s where people are attracted to it. And vulnerable. Yes, absolutely. And very vulnerable. Well, they’re vulnerable because there’s nothing there. There’s no ego. There’s very little ego. Right. They’re just human and people like humanity. And then once we establish that, and that’s a big if, but that’s number one.



then you can orchestrate transformation. As I talked about this in the past, so how do you do that? I talk about the five steps to an all-star business, we’ll put a link to that, all-star practice, put a link to that. But that’s where, once you have it right, that leadership, then you are using mechanisms, like the events that we do, the leadership training that you’re providing, coaching, events, mastermind. All these are methods to help yourself and your team.



And you really, you know, so that’s where we’re rallying behind. How do you get it done? And it was interesting. I posted the other day, just today, Shelley, on even my personal LinkedIn about the mastermind and somebody outside of dentistry is like, yes, those five steps, that’s amazing. And the mastermind is amazing too. And so these are people that are not in dentistry, like they’re validating that this is how we build businesses. What we do at All-Star is we do it over and over again. We know what works.



not from just us, but other industries proven, and we do it over and over. So you have to be willing to do that to be able to orchestrate change in yourself and in your team. Yep, absolutely. Because, so tell me, again, I’m the dentist here, and this is the biggest thing is I get it, I hear my dad, I got it, I got it, he says. So it’s the role, it’s the goal, not the role. How do I, so yes, assuming the dentist is where we’re at the B, they’re doing that.



How do I get my team to be like you, Shelly? To be empowered, to want to make a difference and commit to customer service. How do I attract the team? So we do have a hiring service that helps, but how do I get them to do that? That’s what dentists wanna know. Always be focusing on what is your overall goal? What are your core values? What is the culture that you’re having within your practice? People who want to make



Dentistry better don’t love to come to an office. I’m sorry if the culture is poor and so you only Allow I use this a lot and it’s the matter of your team is only as strong as your weakest link and I’m not all about you know firing and things I’m more about bring that person up we talk about the 80-20 rule a lot You have 20% of your team is causing 80% of the problems



How about we focus on the 20% of your team that are creating 80% of the results. Focus on them versus focusing on the people at the bottom. Look at that middle 60, that’s the rest of your team. They’re looking to be persuaded one way or another. They’re looking to be inspired to go one way or another. Are they gonna head up towards the 20% that are at the top of your practice or the 20% that are at the bottom? Focus on them, bring them up.



the negativity goes away. They self-destruct. They take themselves away because the rest of the team is heading the other direction. That’s right. So focus on the good, the good gets better. Don’t get caught up in the negativity, which brings us right back to- Yes, let’s talk about the story. So this is, we’re gonna give you a little preview, but you’ll hear it again. What I heard before is repetition is the mother of skill. I was talking to Heather, she’s like-



Well, we need to talk about phones more, you know, because people love phones. But she’s like, well, but we discussed this already. I’m like, yeah, so we’ll say it again and again and in different ways again and again and again, because it’s so needed. Repetition is the mother of skill. I mean, and I love Ram Dass. He said, quote, when he tells a story, he says, I’m going to tell a story again. You probably heard it, but imagine how many times I heard it. Right.



When you think about sports, you don’t go to practice one time and then say, okay, I’m ready for the game. You got to hear it over and over. You got to do it again and again. Right. Absolutely. Exactly. Especially when it’s important. You realize we talk in one of the other episodes about phone skills and about the 1.2 million you’re losing a year in LTV, lifetime value of patient. All right. So we have an event that sold out. And well, we got a late start to it because of a bunch of things.



you taking over from a prior person and then whatever. And we’re like, oh no, we have like four months or so now to promote it. And I’m like, we have nobody, okay, hmm. And I’m like, getting nervous. And I’m just like, can we pull out the event? And I’m calling, what’s the refund policy? What’s this, what’s that, what’s that gonna cost? I’m like, oh no. And I’m like, Shelly, what are we gonna do? I’m freaking out. And you’re like, Alex. And.



You’re like, okay, what you said, you said you can be a firefighter or fire lighter. I go, okay, what are you talking about? Just what’s going on? She goes, go read, Dr. Maxwell talks about this in this book. I go, yeah, I like the book. So I wrote it down and immediately I got the book. I read it and I think it was like the next day I said to you. I don’t even know if it was the next day. It might have been the same day. That day. I read it and I’m like, I read the book.



I read that section. She’s like, you did? Because you were a little bit surprised. You’re like, the CEO, because we’re getting to know each other. This is like your year anniversary. Yay. It feels like you’ve been with us for the beginning. And the reason is because you’re so aligned with their values. It’s like, this is home for you. And so you were surprised that a CEO, as a visionary or whatever, talk about vulnerability, would listen. Absolutely, I’m going to listen. Now you know I listen to everything you do and say. And so



He was talking about this idea that a firefighter is someone that cools things down, that brings the fire down. A fire lighter, when adversity hits, will make it hotter, will make it worse. And what are you? And there’s this, I’m going to talk about this in this podcast, but I’ll give it away. There’s these three Cs in terms of handling adversity. It’s going to be, you have to catch the problem, which is, oh no, I’m worried about this event. You have to then check.



What are my options? What’s my logical, rational options to this? I can do this, I can do that. And then finally is change or choice, is then choose a proactive response. And I thought about it and I realized, okay, calmly, if I don’t do it, this is what happens if I do do it. And then I had this inspiration. Well, this idea of certainty, power of certainty, we’re doing it, I trust my team, you are very certain in it. You said, I can do it. And I said,



let’s do it. I don’t care if even just two people show up. We’re going to do an amazing job for two people. Because back to the vision, our vision never said I only do events for a hundred and some on people. It said I’ll do it for whatever it has to do. And all the great entrepreneurial stories are about that. And sure enough, a few hours later, after I said that we’re going to do it, we had 10 people sign up or so. That was one of your leads, but just interesting timing that happened. Coincidence, we’ll say.



And we ended up selling out the event. And so the lesson there was, is A, about leadership. And this is where a good organization works, where we can talk about vulnerability, that your leader can hear from others. And you were sane at the time, and you provided a teaching for me. I listened. And we all can listen to each other. And then we averted a big problem.



know, because who would have known that it ended up being so successful and then we learned from and so on and so forth. So I think it’s an amazing story of leadership working together in an organization. We’re all helping each other. You were being a firefighter to get me to be a firefighter and here we are. Exactly. I love, love, love that part of that book, Developing a Leader Within You.



by Dr. Maxwell because it’s just one of those that applies in so many ways. You hear somebody complaining over here. Okay. Are they fire lighting? Are they firefighting? They’re probably lighting. If they’re over there complaining, you need to put that at ease in your practice because you hear all the time, Oh, they’re gossiping. They’re doing this. They’re doing that. They’re lighting fires all around your practice. You need to put it out. Put it out. You have to have communication, talk with them. And so we just.



It was a fun little application internally, but it applies in so many places and it really is powerful. And it strengthened the company. The company continues to grow. I think it strengthened our relationship. In adversity, you can become closer. You say, okay, I saw my CEO handle adversity and took my advice and chilled out and we all work together. And I think that’s something in the dental practice is we coming together. Adversity isn’t a problem.



It’s an opportunity. If we’re sane about it, it’s how we grow. And I think that that’s just where until AI we got some time a few more decades, but until it takes over, we’re still human beings. We still process these ways. We still desire contact and coaching. It’s it’s the fastest way to grow and it’s a lifelong Tony Robbins. My mentor would say, can I continuous and never-ending improvement?



It’s just an ongoing process. And it’s not that you’re going to figure it out one day. It’s just every day you’re listening to the podcast. You’re, you’re doing a training program on all star. You’re doing coaching. You just rinse and repeat. You do day after day and the results come in time. It’s the process, the journey, not the destination, yada, yada, yada. But that’s what it’s all about. So I love, I love this, this topic. I love what you brought up about the.



It’s the goal, not the role. We all focus on that outcome and come together. And it takes a lot of visionary work from the leader and dedication and just commit with the team. And often, like we said, outside support, whether it’s coaching or events, we have to, again, I’m gonna cite Tony as well, we have to break the state. We’re in such a state where we get this group think when we’re in our own company.



we go to the office or we’re in this, and we only see a myopic view, and we start to build a habit. And then when you talk to somebody else who’s outside, who has a different worldview, you’re in Michigan, you have your whole family, you have different culture, and it’s like, snaps me out of it, right? It’s like, oh, I look at it something differently. Wow, that’s great. And so this is our process as human beings, and just surround yourself by amazing people. And I’m grateful to have you and the amazing all-star team and all the wonderful dentists. We all support each other.



Shelly, thank you again. Great podcast. VP of Business Development, the integrator. Thank you for joining us.



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