Lessons in Courageous Communication: Navigating Challenges and Inspiring Change with Katherine Eitel Belt


Podcast Summary

In this podcast episode, Katherine Eitel Belt, a renowned communications coach, shares valuable insights and personal experiences about the importance of embracing imperfection and taking action. Katherine reflects on her own struggles with perfectionism, which often hindered her decision-making process and held her back from seizing opportunities. As a perfectionist, she was afraid of making wrong choices, resulting in delayed decisions or missed chances. 

Katherine emphasizes the need for a growth mindset and the willingness to step out before having all the answers or achieving perfection. She encourages individuals to start walking, make adjustments along the way, and trust that feedback and learning will guide them towards improvement. She mentions that even when something seems perfect in theory, the reality often differs upon implementation. Through her experiences, Katherine discovered that waiting for perfection only delays progress, and it’s essential to embrace imperfection and begin the journey towards one’s goals. 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic served as a powerful lesson for Katherine. Like many others, her speaking engagements and workshops were abruptly canceled, leading to uncertainty and challenges for her business. However, she realized that in order to adapt and survive, she needed to think creatively and be willing to launch initiatives that were not perfect. The pandemic reinforced the idea that waiting for perfection is not feasible, and it’s crucial to take action even when circumstances are uncertain. 

Katherine also shares a deeply personal and challenging experience as a mother. Her son, once an accomplished athlete, suffered a severe injury and became addicted to painkillers. Witnessing his downward spiral and battling his addiction was a dark and difficult period in her life. She highlights the importance of maintaining hope and not placing people on pedestals, as everyone has their own struggles and challenges to overcome. Through perseverance, her son has now been clean for over a year and is making positive contributions in helping others on their recovery journey. 

In her coaching and speaking engagements, Katherine focuses on three main areas: patient facing communication, team facing communication, and audience facing communication. She offers guidance on unscripted patient interactions, leadership development, team retreats, and effective presentations. Katherine believes in empowering individuals with communication skills that are rooted in authenticity and respect. She also mentions the upcoming release of her book on courageous conversations, which aims to help professionals improve their communication skills, whether it be within a dental practice or any other area of life. 

Throughout the podcast, Katherine expresses her gratitude for the mentors who have guided her along her journey, including Linda Miles, Kathy Jamison, Mark LeBlanc, Paul Homoly, Naomi Rhode, and Vanessa Emerson. She acknowledges their influence and the lessons they imparted to her. 

In closing, if Katherine had a chance to share a brief sentiment with her 19-year-old self, she would advise her to be brave, follow her dreams, and trust her heart. Her message encourages individuals to step out of their comfort zones, embrace imperfection, and have the courage to pursue their passions. 

Overall, Katherine Eitel Belt’s podcast episode provides valuable insights into the importance of overcoming perfectionism, embracing imperfection, and taking action. Her personal experiences serve as a reminder that everyone faces challenges and struggles, and it’s essential to maintain hope, support one another, and continue growing on both personal and professional levels. 

Connect with Katherine:

IG @katherineeitelbelt

FB: Katherine Eitel Belt

LI: Katherine Eitel Belt


Podcast Transcript

Shawn Zajas  00:00 

Hey guys, I am so excited today to have the honor to interview. Katherine, I tell belt and Katherine ice have to say your reputation completely precedes you. I remember at a Vanessa Emerson event, you’re getting called to the stage. And the standing ovation, the love the respect that you had from everyone in the audience was palpable. And I was like, who is a woman? I need to get to know her. So thank you so much today for joining me. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  00:31 

I’m so glad to be here and excited for our conversation. So thank you for saying those nice things. 


Shawn Zajas  00:37 

So I, I love dentistry. I think it’s a crazy, crazy, interesting industry. And this podcast, like, thankfully, for me, at least, is not about clinical excellence, or technological innovation. It’s really about what empowers dental professionals to all of a sudden have that feeling of like, Hey, I have permission to pioneer something great. And that could be clinically. But oftentimes I see it starting another business, it’s just stepping up and leading. And I know you have such a great perspective on this because you coach and train so many of the dentists that are the leaders in dentistry. So what what is your take on that? 


Katherine Eitel Belt  01:21 

Oh, yeah, I think I think we all have a passion that’s calling us. Sometimes it’s to stay in our practice and be expert at something we can give to patients. But often, there’s a pull, to expanding that outside the practice of dentistry. And, you know, like anything, there’s some fear of the unknown. There’s some fear of the what if I don’t make it, of course, we all deal with impostor syndrome at some level. And so I think that’s the human condition. And I think understanding it is half the battle, you know, knowing that, or believing that you’re not alone, every confident person, underneath that confidence has had moments or still has moments of wondering if it’s enough, if it’s, you know, good enough, all of that. So I think we know the answers to what we’re called or pulled to do, I think, because whatever we’re called and pulled to it’s like, it’s like, knowing, oh, you just ate something. And it was so delicious to you, someone else eats it and goes, I don’t know, not, you know, not so much. So it’s a very individual. I mean, interested, I was just coaching someone this last week. And they two female dentists, just in the practice in their normal dental practice, discovered and became interested in as mothers getting children assessed from birth, for sleep for airway for dental concerns, educating patients, or parents on what to look for, and what to expect along the growth journey for their child from infancy on, instead of having them be three years old, or five years old, or whatever the standard is for bringing them in. And so they have just exploded, they’ve exploded in their community. And now they’re having a passion for sharing this with other hygienists and dentists and assistants, that, that there is this whole market of young parents that really don’t have this information and are very willing to pay to have their child looked after and to be coached on what they should be looking for. So it’s a good example of something they were interested in on their own. And now they’re able to share that. And so I think just my take, is that pay attention to what interests you and what piques you and what makes you, you know, you’d stay up reading that book about because you’re just interested. And then there’s some there’s something there, there’s a gem inside there, of what might be calling you. 


Shawn Zajas  04:14 

Yeah, I think that’s so great. Because oftentimes, when I think of like, how do you form a business model, to bring value, you know, in a business sense, we always say follow the pain. And I think, appropriately so. Or follow, like your passion. So it’s like pleasure. Yeah. Either like passion or pain or like you said, pleasure brings you to something that that has that resonance. Now, I’m curious, you’re in dentistry. You are a coach, you’re a great trainer, and speaker. What was it that brought you into this industry? Was it all of a sudden the pain of man, dentists don’t know how to communicate? I feel like I could fit that. Or was it just like, what was it for you? 


Katherine Eitel Belt  04:58 

Um, well, it was too Things I got into dentistry, I’ll tell you not not from a love of dentistry. I started in it was a job, I was a dental assistant, I became a dental chairside assistant in Texas you can, or at least back then this was in the ad actually late 70s. And you could just pull someone off the street and give them a section and say, here’s what you do. And that’s what we did. And so I was in college, and I just needed a job to make my little car payment on my little car, you know. And so it was a job, I did not love it. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it. And I was I think a very mediocre dental assistant. And one of the things I would say the first thing that happened for me, and I and I tell this, this is my opening story in my courageous conversations, presentation and training. I call it my colleagues story because my boss had had enough of sort of this average employee, but instead of given me the workforce and telling me all the things that needed to change, and, you know, he actually fired me, and then said, about you and he did, he had my final paycheck, slid it across the desk to me. And then he said, I’m actually laying off all my dental assistants, I’m never going to work with a dental assistant again. And I was like, What are you talking about? I mean, I get that I’m being fired, please, I begged him, please look out, I can do better, I need the job. And he said, No, it’s It’s not that he said, You know, I think you’re amazing. I think you’re smart. I think you’re I think you’re personable, I think you’ve got a lot of the qualities I’m looking for. But you’re just not focused. Like it’s not a love for you. And he said, so. But I decided not just you, I’m just not going to work with dental assistants. And I was like, I don’t, I don’t get it. And he said, Well, let me make this really easy for you. Starting tomorrow morning, I’m going to interview for a brand new position. And I’m never going to call it a dental assistant, because that’s not what it’s going to be. Now they may assist me. But I’m going to call this position a dental colleague, I want a dental colleague across the chair, I want someone who’s in love with what we’re doing, who’s in love with learning who’s in love with staying a little bit into lunch or a little after work, or on a Saturday for a CTE course, they’re pushing me to go to Courses, they’re in the game because they love it. And I don’t have any doubt you could do it. And I hope you show up tomorrow morning for the interview. But no promises because it’s a whole new job description, whole new pay scale, whole new title, everything. So I hope you show up. But if you do or you don’t work good, you know, I just realized that we’re out of alignment. And you deserve to work in a place where it’s fun for you. It’s interesting, it’s compelling. And I want you to have that experience. And if it’s not in dentistry, or it’s not with me, then I want to set that free, because you deserve to have more, and I deserve to have more. And I would rather work with nothing than have less. And that occurred to me today. It was brilliant. And I was 19 years old. And so I did show up for the interview. And I did get the job. And I worked with him for seven more years. And I fell in love with dentistry. And he it was because he he he drew a line in the sand but in a way that uplifted me, you know and I teasingly say in my speech that, you know, I walked out to my car thinking why am I smiling? I’m holding my final pitch, I just got fired. I’m sure I’ve just got fired. But how is it that I feel better about myself than before he fired me and I did it. And that’s a pretty amazing, courageous conversation. And so that’s the basis of that, of that teaching that I do. So I think, for me, I got introduced to a way of, of communicating and a style of leadership that was rooted in how can we hold our standards high. And instead of demanding that people meet that standard, how can we invite them to meet that standard. And I got a, I was lucky, I got a really firsthand example of that early in my professional life, and got to experience the benefits of it. So I am forever grateful for that man and for that conversation. And for I mean, I think I would probably still be working there today. But I got married. And so seven years later, my then husband was transferred to California. And so when I moved to California, I knew I wanted to stay in dentistry because I had fallen in love with it. But the second thing that happened is I saw an ad in the newspaper that will be foreign to many of your listeners, but that’s how we used to look for jobs. I picked up the local newspaper and there was an ad of RIT actually originally the Add was for a salesperson for a dental consulting business. And I sucked at sales. But very quickly, I had to sub for a trainer for that program. And the minute that I stepped into those shoes of trainer, I knew that I knew that somewhere in that world was where I wanted to be. And I realized that probably working inside the dental office for that brilliant man was the foundation that was going to, you know, take me into teaching a different a different way from from my experience. So I I worked several years for that dental consulting company and didn’t really love the company and what they stood for, but fell in love with teaching and coaching and watching people reach their potential. And so eventually, I broke away and started my own program. So for several decades, I was a full practice management consultant, just like a lot of our, our esteemed colleagues. But when I turned 50, I had some pretty big life transformations. And really, I think it 50 stepped into my true self and potential and took a hard look at the business and realize there, I could do all of the pieces. I mean, I can read a p&l, and I can coach on profitability, and I understand block scheduling and insurance, coding and all of those things. But they weren’t they didn’t come up on my schedule and me go Oh, yeah, you know, insurance coding. And so what when communication, or team dynamics, or leadership came or even communicating with patients, when those pieces came up on my schedule, then I lit up. And of course, just like we talked about earlier, those are the times where you kind of know, it’s showing you the way. So I took a jump off a cliff, I wasn’t sure that people would pay for just communications coaching only. But it turns out, you know, 12 years later, I mean, Lion speak was born, then we rebranded and I narrowed my focus and stepped out of consulting and, and I’ve been doing it ever since. And so it’s been a wonderful journey. So I think it was those two things, it was that early experience. And then it was falling in love with dentistry at that level, and being led by a brilliant leader, although he would tell you, he doesn’t consider himself a good leader, but I just know being on the receiving end he was. And then that second piece where I sort of accidentally stepped into training and consulting and realized that helping other people in that way, particularly in the realm of communication is a is somehow a natural gift. And I mean, I’ve had to just like you are just like anyone I’ve had to learn. I’ve had some missteps. I made some mistakes, you know, early and still. And so it hasn’t been without its growth curve or without, it’s learning to be better at it. But I did have a natural interest and propensity toward those subjects. So 


Shawn Zajas  13:06 

yeah, okay, so Catherine, I didn’t know anything about your story. And I just assumed and I wonder if anyone else ever has, that you just came from, like, the corporate world, being a corporate trainer, corporate speaking, and then just all of a sudden somehow got, like, pulled into dentistry. Because the level of excellence you have is akin to just like a corporate speaker. So I had no idea. Yeah, I mean, 


Katherine Eitel Belt  13:37 

I tell dental assistants all the time, or dental professionals of at any level. I’m you, you’re me. I just found what I loved and had a little natural ability toward and I nurtured it. And I got good at it. And I had many coaches, many mentors, many mistakes that taught me things and I just got better over time because I wanted to be better. I wanted to be more effective. And yeah, so anybody it doesn’t, I don’t have a college degree in coaching. I have I have some certifications. And I’ve, you know, I’ve worked hard for some designations and things but I didn’t go to college to learn to do this. And you don’t have to, you really don’t have to, you have to be good at it and willing to advance your craft. That’s it. 


Shawn Zajas  14:29 

Amen. So I’m thinking back to that time when you got fired as an assistant, and I’m thinking did you ever find out from the dentist? What inspired him in that moment to all of a sudden go, Okay, this isn’t working business, as usual, isn’t working. And I want to call this person I don’t know, almost like give them honor. And not just have them be an assistant but somehow a colleague, it feels like a peer it feels like someone that can contribute that and come alongside the dentist and be part of the success be part of the care. Yeah, like that nothing’s revolutionary that 


Katherine Eitel Belt  15:07 

your people, right whole new way, especially me at night Tina was just a kid really, you know, now I’m 64 years old, it’s like I look back and think was such a baby. But he I think it was partly who he was, he was not the kind of man who enjoyed putting people down or having people feel less than so he did that with his patients, he did it with all the team members, his family. So it really was who he was, he was determined that whatever he did, would not tear someone down. So I think I got lucky in that regard. But I do think that he had had enough, you know, of, of, of accepting less than he wanted. And he was probably late 30s. I mean, I thought he was old at the time. But you know, now he’s probably in his late 30s. And I think he just he was feeling a little, not maybe a little a lot frustrated, maybe a little angry, and wanted it to stop. And I think, saw my potential and just saw that I wasn’t leaning into that potential, and couldn’t figure out why and decided, you know, I don’t want to, I don’t want to have this conversation out of anger. Or out of my frustration, I want to do it. So he waited till the end of the day. And I came into the consultation. And I remember thinking this is going to be I mean, I was smart enough to know, I hadn’t done very well that day. And I would and I think I was expecting to discipline I wouldn’t expect to be fired. But I was expecting a disciplinary kind of conversation. So I was a little surprised by his demeanor, been very calm and sort of, you know, smiled at me welcomed me into there and was like, Okay, well, maybe, maybe I’m not gonna, you know, and, and so I think he, you know, it’s so funny. Years later, probably 1520 years later, I’m speaking for the Texas State Dental Association, and he was in my audience. And he came, I told that story. And he came up to me at the break and said, I cannot believe you told that story. And I said, he said, Do you always tell it? And I said, Well, I tell it a lot. Is it okay? And he’s like, Well, yeah, but I don’t remember it being I mean, I remember it, but I don’t remember it being that big of a deal, like you. And I said, Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it. And I told that to my audiences like to him, it was just part of being the boss and part of leading these young people that he had working for him. And but to, to me, it was a pivotal life moment. And so I talk about the fact that we have these conversations every day, and 30 years from now, we’re not going to remember the conversation or remember it very well or being significant. But someone we had that, for better or worse, is going to remember it, and it will have a major impact on them. So they matter, they matter. And it mattered to me, and changed my standard for myself and for anyone in the future who would work for me or the ways that I would coach other people to become leaders. And really, I’ve dedicated my career now, and my life to helping people communicate like that, in a way that they hold their standard. They don’t mince any words, they don’t back up, they don’t make excuses. They don’t have to justify anything, they don’t apologize for wanting something in a certain way. And yet, when they draw that line it up, it lifts people up, even if they’re going to part ways they part ways. uplifted, rather than destructive, you know, being disruptive or tearing someone down. And so there are ways that you can learn to communicate that way with your family, with your neighbors, with your co workers, with your team, with audiences. And that’s what and with patients, that’s what we teach. 


Shawn Zajas  19:05 

That’s okay, so eight, that’s crazy, because now I’m connecting that, like the day that you had a chance to start loving dentistry. Because of this, this moment with this dentists is also like a day that you’re able to use for inspiration when you became more of the consultant coach leader. Right. So talk about a transformative time, but but also for you to recognize that moment. I didn’t 


Katherine Eitel Belt  19:33 

realize it till later, you know, but in retrospect, it certainly was a you know, I think we all have conversations we’ve had in our life that when we think back we think like my life was different after that conversation, you know, again, for better or worse. And that one would make my top five still today. You know, 


Shawn Zajas  19:53 

I mean, I can see why, you know, as you’re talking about the ability to communicate that way. I feel blessed because like that, that was like my mom. Oh, yeah. I was always nervous about having to, you know, let go of someone that was on our team and my dad didn’t like it. My mom could do it in a way that they would be like, tearing up thanking her for the fact that she loved them enough to like, free. Yeah, exactly. And all of a sudden, I’m like, do they just hugged my mom? Are they crying? Because they feel like, they’re like friends now. And they feel so loved and cared for? And I’m like, how did she do that? But it is. It is a gift. So Mike, my question is, and of course, it can be developed, like I don’t want to say it’s, it’s something that is either innate, and you know, you’re out of luck if you don’t have it. But so when all of a sudden, you realized that you loved helping people you loved, you know, the consulting, the coaching, and then all of a sudden onto more of the leading and speaking, did you all of a sudden, then look back and realize like, oh, wow, as a in middle school, or in high school, I kind of had those natural aptitudes or some sort of an interest, like, was there ever something from your childhood? That you then all of a sudden connected, okay, this makes sense. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  21:10 

Yeah. I’m gonna stop right here, because my husband’s forgotten. I’m on it. Okay. Okay. Okay, Tom. Tom. Okay, sorry. 


Shawn Zajas  21:29 

He no worries. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  21:31 

All right. So ask, you’re just just between us ask the question again. 


Shawn Zajas  21:35 

Yeah. Like, what? Was there a time that all of a sudden, you then started realizing, like, wow, it made sense. Because in high school, you know, I had, you know, I had an ability to either like emotional intelligence with my friends were I was a good listener, or I really cared about them. Like, was there that connection between, you know, here I am, I love helping people in a professional way. And wow, I realized there was like, seeds of that or little sprouts of that in my, in my upbringing or my childhood. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  22:05 

I mean, I you know, one of my I was always paused. I remember getting there was a doll when I was younger, called the Chatty Cathy Doll, and he pulled the string and said different things, you know. And so they would, they would teasingly call me, Chatty Cathy. So I think I was always communicative and liked communicating. But I don’t know that I was great. A great listener, that’s often the case with really outgoing people is that they like to talk a lot. And often the focus is on them. So I haven’t really had to learn to balance where I put my attention. But I do think I was drawn to communicating. So I grew up in a tiny little town, Texas town, tiny, you know, 38 kids in my graduating class, like really tiny. And so we were in Texas, because Texas and southern north of Houston, a little town called Montgomery, it’s much larger now. But it was really tiny when I was going to school there. And, and so it wasn’t hard to be a cheerleader, or, you know, in the band, or all these things. They were desperate for kids, you know, to, to take it in this tiny little school. But of all the things I was involved in the one thing I most loved was theater. And we didn’t have a big thing. But they I remember my senior year, we did a one act play competition, we entered into it. And I had a starring role in this one act play at a competition and we went, we didn’t go all the way to state but we went very close. And I remember I love two things about I loved performing, and creating that sort of character connection with an audience and bringing that to life. But I also loved the team that it took to put that on, and how and then anything else I did, I didn’t have that feeling. But that little troupe of actors, as we kind of went, you know, through these competitions, was just super tight. And I really loved so I think, early on, I began to fall in love with what was what was it that made those teams either not come together well, or come together so well like in that in that little troop? And I definitely got a love for the stage. So yeah, so I think you know, there were some signs, maybe some little things early on, but I wasn’t a good speaker in the beginning I and I’ve had people say, Oh, I can’t imagine. But the truth is, I remember I remember it was the San Diego Dental Society. It was one of my first professional dental speeches and people if they weren’t asleep, they were leaving early, and it was bad. I got terrible reviews. And it really I laugh about it now, because, of course, it was near my hometown. I live in Temecula, California, just north of San Diego because of course, I couldn’t have done it somewhere, you know, in Kansas or something. But right here where I live, but it taught me or it quickly taught me that I had the focus on the wrong thing. I thought well all, you know, what I knew, would be interesting enough, if I just could show them how much I knew, which is all the focus on me. And I quickly learned the hard way. And then maybe the soft way, with some coaching, with some really good coaches that said, Oh, we can tell you right away, you’ve got to focus on their own thing, you’ve got to involve them, you’ve got to create an emotional connection with your audience, not only to you, but to your subject. And you’ve got to be able to do that in the first few minutes. And so, you know, it just learning from the grades and some experts that I had good information that wasn’t my and most dental professionals do. There’s something they’re really good Invisalign, or lasers or implants, or, you know, sleep dentistry, or whatever it is, they have some areas of interest, they’ve gotten good at it, they have extra training, they have a lot of experience. And so knowledge isn’t actually I call it the curse of knowledge for speakers, because sometimes we’ve been convincing the audience how much we know will be enough for them to want to listen to us and hear us again. And it’s not that it’s how well we can deliver that information in a way that’s digestible, helpful. Interesting, that that’s what that’s what makes people want to continue to hear us so I had to learn all of that. 


Shawn Zajas  26:48 

But that’s amazing that at that point in your life, you already had the humility to like, I need help, I am going to get coaching, like I’m going to ask for help like that acknowledgement. I’ve seen in like the top performers across every industry, right? It’s that whole, that’s where I want to go. And I can only get there if I seek asked, knock, read, study, you know, get coaching. And so that’s amazing. In that journey, to even just being where you’re at now, Katherine, like so many people would love to have stepped out, stepped up pioneer lead the way that you have, what was the mindset that you had to shed in order to get to where you’re at? 


Katherine Eitel Belt  27:33 



Shawn Zajas  27:36 

Okay, so that is something that so in tandem with your excellence, perfectionism, I feel like masks itself sometimes as excellence. But I know there’s a difference. But I feel like you’ve probably had a natural propensity toward excellence and toward being graded, 


Katherine Eitel Belt  27:51 

which can be a curse, you know, and Anna, and a wonderful thing, but I just, I really held myself and my company back, taking much longer to, you know, a perfect a real perfectionist has a hard time making a decision, because they’re very, their biggest fear is they’ll make a wrong one. And so they just don’t make anyone or it takes them forever to make one. And then the opportunities passed, you know, and so, I have an I still fight with that. So I still fight with that. So I think there was that, um, and I had to change my mindset, I had to, I had to work on how could I bring my best and know that it would not be perfect that even if I think of the very best speech I’ve ever given, I can think of a few things that if I could just go back and do it, I would do that differently. You know, that it’s a very common saying, but people say, you know, there’s the speech you meant to give, there’s the speech you gave, and there’s the speech you wish you gave. And you will always have those three speeches at play. And that’s true, whether you’re doing case presentation to a patient or standing up before your team at a team meeting. I mean, I say speech, but I mean, anytime you’re standing up and trying to influence people to do something different that you know, will be good for them. That’s what I’m talking about. And so, you know, just, I had to just get a bigger, better growth mindset and growth is stepping out before you have all the answers stepping out before it’s perfect. Just start walking and adjust along the way and that had to become my new mindset that I will adjust. I will be given the feedback along the way and I’ll make the adjustments and once you finally start trusting that you know, I found that when I when I would get it to what I thought was perfect. Whether that was a speech or was a business model or a marketing piece or a website. I’d get it to where I thought okay, it’s you know, Now that looks perfect to me. And then we would launch it, or we would start it, or I would give it and then you’d be it always, the reality of it was different than I thought it would be. So, after a lot of those experiences, you start to go, we can get this as perfect as we want. But the but the truth is, once we go, we’re gonna, there’s no other way to know what’s missing, or what’s not working until we start walking down this path. So let’s just go, it’s good enough to go. The COVID really taught us that like, you know, just like dentists, and I’m sure you guys said the same thing. I mean, the day COVID hit, big time, my overnight my schedule, every speech, every workshop, every training, everything wiped out, wiped out. And I had to rally my team. Well, I, you know, I did the, what they call the duvet dive, right, I hid under the covers for a couple of days and cried. And then after about, you know, we’re like, okay, you got to come out, and you got a company to salvage you know, and so I had to gather my team around and we had to make a new plan. And it and we didn’t have a lot of time, right? You’re the bills are still due and you know, everything people are still going, do I still have a job? do we what do we do? And so, you know, I had to I had to get creative, and we had to roll things out that were not perfect to stay in business. And we did. So I think those are good lessons for me and good mindsets to have as a business professional. Just start walking. And and business and the market. Clients patients, they’ll they’ll tell you what needs to be there. And but don’t wait till it’s perfect. Because the best day to start was yesterday. So you just Yeah. You know, it’s like the best day to plant a tree was 10 years ago. Right? Good. You just gotta go. Yeah. 


Shawn Zajas  31:53 

Well, so that speaks to me so much. Because I think the same thing was my early journey. Was this whole, like fear of failure? Yeah. And what would that say about me and I remember so many times that my dad and I together, we’d have a great idea. We’d start baking it out. But we pull the plug on it still in the boardroom, right before it ever had a chance to interact with the marketplace. So over like a five year period, I remember we put the kibosh on so many things, because we almost felt like we had this pressure, we had to hit the home run. Sure, sure. And all we do is Rob ourselves of all those opportunities to actually learn. I tell people like learning doesn’t take place when you’re planning and theorizing. It actually takes place once you’ve launched and you see the market responds, 


Katherine Eitel Belt  32:36 

yeah, yeah, that’s where the learning absolutely takes place. And, and I just know that the path is going to wander, and it has brought me to places I never could have predicted like, I’m writing a book right now. I’m courageous conversations will 12 years ago, when we decided, Okay, we’re gonna try to make a go of just just being a communications coach only. And we started having some success with that. But I always in the beginning thought we’re talking communications, coaching, that’s what we’re or leadership communication, that’s what we’re talking about. But everybody why would give the leadership communication speech, or we’d go in to do some training inside of a company or a practice. And the piece that everybody wanted more of, and really lit up was around this thing of courageous conversation. So when we get to that part, they say, Oh, I wish we’d had the whole day on mat, or I wish we’d had the whole afternoon on that. Or I wish, you know, we just had a speech on that. And that’s the market saying that’s the piece we want. Right? And so I thought, okay, so I did. And then now I’m writing a book on it. And in the writing of the book, we’ve realized that we have this universal process to help people a get in the right mindset to have a courageous conversation, and be to have the skills to have the actual conversation. And it’s universal. So now, what the editor and publisher are talking to us about is a series of books that will will start with courageous conversations, but then we’re going to say, well, we’ll partner with someone to do courageous conversations for business owners or courageous conversations for parents or courageous conversations for you know, who knows firefighters or you know, whatever, I don’t know. But we’ll partner with people who are experts in those fields. Take our universal process. And so my point is, I didn’t start out thinking I’m going to have a series of books. I started out saying, I think I have something to contribute in terms of the leadership communications piece. And it was in doing that, that people began to say that’s the piece that’s interesting, and I want more of that and so and now you know, as we got in deeper now, now we’re learning Oh, there’s this Big opportunity. So I think it’s just attribute to just start. Just start and trust and know and plan that it’s probably going to go in a completely, but you don’t get to discover what the new direction is until you’re on the path. That’s when it’s going to be revealed to you. So the sooner you get on the path, the sooner it gets revealed. Yeah. So 


Shawn Zajas  35:25 

that is that is incredibly profound and inspiring. And it’s also ironic that you just shared that because I was Googling you know your name. And I wrote a book afterwards thinking like, surely there’s a book and nothing came up. And I’m like, Okay, I need to have this talk with Katherine. Because clearly, there’s a book inside of 


Katherine Eitel Belt  35:44 

you. I’m hoping that we’ll see. And now 


Shawn Zajas  35:47 

to come to find out that it’s not just a book, it’s a series that is incredibly exciting. Please let me know as details firm, absolutely. Because I would love to broadcast to my whole audience, about the book, whether there’s a preorder all of that. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  36:01 

We’re so excited. We’re our goal is to get it done by the end of the year. That’s kind of the contract we signed with the publisher. So so hopefully in the year, we’ll have that thing wrapped up. 


Shawn Zajas  36:11 

That is so exciting. So let’s see, I just love, you’re in motion, you’re going for things you’re leading, tell me about a time when things really didn’t pan out. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  36:21 

Besides bad speech. 


Shawn Zajas  36:25 

I mean, more in your personally like, because, unless, unless that actually was a really a time that you took really hard. I just mean like, I’m always fascinated by how people get back up. And you’re here, which means you did get back up like the dark night of the soul that sometimes people don’t get out of. And I feel like all of us face it in some some way or another. And I’m curious what that might look like for you. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  36:51 

I’ve had several. I mean, I’ve had a blessed life I truly have. But I’ve also had some very dark times. And you know, it’s so funny. I’m glad you asked this question. I’m glad. I’m glad you asked it of other people, too. Because I think it’s easy to put people who are ahead of you in the game and the game of business or the game of life. People who are a little bit ahead of me, I tend to put on a pedestal. And then I was always really shocked when I found out oh, they also have a life like me. And so I think it’s I think we should be careful how we put people on a pedestal. And I know people do it about me, because when I share this story, and I have shared the story over the years, there are many people who come up and say thank you, because I never ever would have thought that you would have understood this. Because I have it in my life too. So my probably biggest out of several dark, dark moments. I have two sons, Hunter and Austin. And my youngest son Austin was a very elite athlete in high school and early, you know, early in his life. He was a motocross rider, and he was the still holds the title of being the youngest rider to ever go amateur Pro, which I know sounds like an oxymoron, it kind of is. But they’re able to even as being under 18, they’re able to actually get paid for their winnings. So so he traveled all over the United States. And even outside of it, he was on the cover of motocross magazines and you know, was just this straight A student leader of his class, or elite athlete, and he got hurt. And the short story is that like many people who have some sort of either physical tragedy or sometimes an emotional tragedy, they are at least I’m hoping this is changing, but at least 10 or so years ago. My now it’s been about 12 they would give them pain killers without any warnings or any instructions. So I remember he it was a major injury. I mean, he was broke both of his arms, shattered his pelvis ruptured his spleen, bruised his liver concussion. So you know, stitches, broken bones all you know all the plates and screws in his arms, and you know, all of that in the hospital for weeks. So we go to get him out and they handed us you know, the antibiotics and the ointments and the, you know, all the things big bag of all the things we had to do. And inside there was this prescription for painkillers and opiates. And so the short story is he got addicted. And when they run out, they use all their money, all of his winnings before we even knew what was happening to purchase more on the street. And then when they can’t do that they steal and When they can’t do that, they go to any little bit of money they can find. And they shoot heroin because they can’t afford to buy the pills anymore. So they buy the cheapest thing they can. And of course, we know, now that very few people make it out of that addiction. And to watch this son of mine fall from this very beautiful place of having the world that is fingertips to essentially being a heroin addict. You know, one step from the St. Anthony’s for a while he was on the street was a really dark place. And I think a lot of people would be surprised that I have that experience or understand that kind of pain as a mother as a just, you know, even from his perspective, you know, as an addict, I learned a lot about that addiction. So, so again, short story is through the last 12 years, he you know, went in and out of rehabs lots of relapses. But, and through in very early on my husband and I divorced. So I was doing this as a single mother, still working, still trying to put on the big positive face on the stage and in front of my clients and keep my business afloat. But but you know, all around it holding your breath that when the phone rang, it was going to be bad news. And often was, so but I’m really happy to report that that young man has a fighting spirit inside of him. And we’ve had some you can imagine the courageous conversations that we’ve had to have in what I’ve had to be, I had to reach out for coaching, you know, how do I, as a mother, have the right conversation so that I, because I’m clear, I can’t do the work for him, I can’t want it more than he wants it. And do you know, I mean, he, he, it was hard, I mean, got Hep C, he, I mean, just lots of things that they have to deal with and clean up afterwards. But anyway, he’s been clean for over a year now. And is working and is in really good. I think a really good mental, emotional place. He’s now 30. And, you know, realizes that his life is his passing right before his eyes. And so I’m, I probably am prouder of him now than I would have ever been on that motocross bike, because this was the fight of his life. This, this was the fight of his life. And he’s done it. And he’s already now in his program, helping others that are just coming in, you know very much behind where he was, because it’s an epidemic, no doubt about it. And so I think he’s found a purpose. And I think he’s sees that all of that hard, 10 year 12 year journey, you know, may have been grooming him for some great work that he can do in the future. But those were some really hard, dark times. And I in writing the book, I’m planning on with his permission, of course, planning on using one of the courageous conversations that because sometimes it’s not just at work, sometimes sometimes it’s in it’s the same, everything applies. And I say in my speeches, when I tell the story, sometimes the stakes are not just work, that sometimes they’re people, you care very much about the most important people and sometimes the stakes are life or death. And so it matters what you say, it matters, the words you choose, in matters, the state of mind you’re in, when you meet them in a bad state of mind, you know, when they’re not in a good place, how do you maintain here and be of have the best service that you can? Still holding your place? And you know, and so it’s a, it’s a rich, it’s a rich conversation, and I’m grateful for the experience, but there were some, there were many nights, you know, where I thought, if that phone rings, it’s not going to be good news. So, yeah, yeah. 


Shawn Zajas  44:15 

Well, I think that’s amazing, because I wasn’t expecting your story to be one that was you as a human as as a mother, not in the professional space. And that just brings me back to being like, man, like dentists, dental professionals, it’s like, I’ve read some of the books from some of the consultants that are, you know, trying to offer services to dentists and they talk about the pressure with their spouse and, and their kids and in their community, having to have it all together and be the one that’s making all the money in being able to provide for college for their kids. And you just realized, like, yeah, them as clinician, it’s just one hat. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  44:55 

It’s just one hat. And I’ll tell you, I remember when I met my current husband I remember very quickly, he said, it’s almost like you’re two people. It’s like you’re this Katherine at work. But then there’s the Catherine at home that is not quite as doesn’t seem not as strong. That’s not quite the right word, but not as determined, or much more willing to take the backseat and not claim her life. And but over here, you know, you just go for it and business, you’re just, you know, but at home, not so much. And I it was reconciling those two Catherine’s you know, again, I got coaching for it and and I’m so grateful for it. But it was to reconcile the two halves of me. And how could I be just as strong and just as self directed, and just to become one whole person. So that meant being slightly different at work, more transparent, more real, and then being stronger at home where I had to draw some lines, and I had to have some boundaries. And I had to have unbounded love and forgiveness and hold that space, hold that space and hold the expectation that he would find his way out. It’s a very tough thing to navigate, but I only share it. While I share it for a couple of reasons. I want people to have hope that whatever the challenge is, and might be different than that. But whatever the challenge is, that there there is good reason not to give up hope because it was very easy for us, it would have been very easy for us the statistics were not in our favor, and they still aren’t done it in our favor. But the second reason is that just just don’t put people on a pedestal, because it might not be that but they’re dealing with something. And it’s just the human condition. And when you can say I don’t know what it is, but they’ve got theirs. And I’ve got mine. And all we can do is just hold that space for each other and know that these are human beings feeling their way in the dark, every single one of us so 


Shawn Zajas  47:12 

yeah. Hey, man. Okay, so about your son really quick. Yeah, it is so cool. That he’s at a place now, where you say he’s almost like kind of getting to give back to those that aren’t as far as he is. And one might even say, you know, his mom, being the speaker that she’s like, I could see him having a platform 


Katherine Eitel Belt  47:37 

I could do we’ve someday we’ve talked about it, how, you know, when he’s ready, if he’s ready. I don’t, you know, he’s got his own journey. And he’s got to make his own way. But, but I’ve said, I think there is a platform for this, not just in dentistry, but in the world, about the the kinds of impacts that courageous conversations and courageous decisions can can make in a life and in the lives that you influence. And so we’re, we’ve, we’ve had conversations about it, but I think he wants to get further down the road, you know, and in the addiction world one year isn’t, is like a drop in the bucket. So I think a few more years, you know, under his belt and, and really having, you know, that independent life really secure for himself is what he’s working on all of his energy going there. And I think that’s rightly placed. But I suspect, whether it’s with me, or you know, somewhere on his own, he’s, I actually know, in my heart that he’s going to, he’s going to make a positive impact on some lives in one way or the other. Yeah. 


Shawn Zajas  48:45 

1,000% It’s like when we go through trials and tragedies and, and difficulties. There’s always the gold that we can find. And instead of being bitter or frustrated about what we had to go through, we can realize, oh, my gosh, as a person, I now have this perspective, or I now have this message or I now have this resilience and an ability to influence so that others don’t fall in the way that I did. And I think that’s what’s so beautiful about I think even what you do to just empower dentists to be able to communicate better to be able to lead to people to be more real with their teams, so that they can have those honest conversations. And then I want to buy that book. You haven’t written it yet, but that book about how you reconcile the two halves, I find myself at times wondering if I have like, almost like it feels like a split personality because at work, there’s a certain there’s a certain mindset, there’s a certain way I go about leading and then all of a sudden I’m at home with my wife and five kids and it just feels very different. Yeah. And I would love to be more integrated. Yeah. and more whole. So yeah, maybe maybe I need a coaching appointment after that, with you can’t 


Katherine Eitel Belt  50:07 

really coach on that, but I do, I do know that it made life better when I could show up really authentic and, and confident in those in that one person. And it really is just about, you know, understanding yourself and knowing that you can have boundaries in both places, and you can still love people through that discussion of your boundaries. And, and yeah, so I think those, and I learned a lot of that from others that helped me, I remember a coach saying to me what, you know, I was, I had drawn a line for him, this was early on, you know, no drugs in the house anymore. You can stay here until you get a job or whatever, he had just come out of a rehab. You can stay, you know, but and then he, I found evidence that he quickly broken it. And I didn’t hold my line. And so my coach said, So tell me about that, you know, and I said, Well, you know, I don’t I don’t know how to do this. I mean, we’re dealing with really life or death kind. And she goes what tell me exactly what you’re afraid of. I said, I’m afraid I’m going to get a call from the morgue, in home. And I don’t think I can live with it. And she said, well, but you would only get that call if he continued to use. Right? And I said, Well, of course he is. And she goes, That’s my point. We do know what he does when you do this. He he several times gone back to using so we kind of know the answer. And couldn’t you get that call right now? Couldn’t you get the call right now? And I said, I guess I could? And she said, so we’re actually not preventing that. Because that’s happening regardless. Wow, what if we tried a different? What if you did hold the line with love? Right? But you hold it? And and what would that? What would he do with that. And so, you know, to having someone to teach you to have the courage to do it. And she said, let’s practice it. Because here’s what’s going to happen, he’s going to come at you with anger, and he’s going to come at you with tears, and then he’s going to beg, and then he’s going to go back to anger. And then, and that’s exactly what he did. But she had already practice all of that with me. So that when it happened, I was I was able to hold steady, emotionally, and it was super helpful. So I can’t claim all of the, you know, I mean, it, all I can claim is I wanted to do whatever I could, to, from from where I was to make it possible for him to recover, doing the recovery. It was his work, and much harder, I think, than mine. So, you know, he gets all the credit. But I did get coaching for that. And and so now faced with other hard things in my life, I’m able to lean back on those skills and say, No, I can still hold a pretty, pretty clear line. And do it with love and do it with inviting people to join me if if it works for them. And if it doesn’t, I get it. Right. And so yeah, that’s a that’s a mature, you know that that happens. 


Shawn Zajas  53:18 

Yeah. And that’s what you’re gonna go over a little bit of in the book, right? 100%. Okay. Okay. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  53:25 

The book is about is how, okay, leave people. And still, because I think I think business owners and managers in these consolidated dental practices, and they’re, they’re promoting people into leadership, because they might be the hygiene team lead or, but this is the first time that they’ve actually been called to lead a group of people toward an objective. And I think we’re doing that often without giving them the skills to have these conversations. And without knowing how to have a coaching, conversation that leaves people feeling uplifted, invites them into a different standard, you will probably fail ultimately, and I think we’re losing people too quickly out of these positions, not because they don’t have the talent, but because they don’t have the skills. So the book is really about and I think, wouldn’t you agree, Shawn, that we’re living in a world where we just turn on the TV or turn on your social media, people have an inability, it’s almost epidemic. They have an inability to communicate respectfully, when they have a difference of opinion, or a difference of perspective. And so helping the helping our professionals and industry just feels like turning the faucet on to a drip because I think there’s a whole world out there that doesn’t know how to have these conversations in this positive way. And I think when we learned it at work, we ended up taking it home to our dinner table and our children get to experience an example that they’re not getting anywhere else. And I think that’s I think that’s worth putting out in the world. And that’s really what the book is about. 


Shawn Zajas  55:03 

100% So A, I would love to interview you during like the launch time period, you know, whatever that pre launch is, let me help. So, in the spirit of honor, is there anyone in the industry that you would like to just like honor again as as an innovator, or as a pioneer? 


Katherine Eitel Belt  55:27 

Well, my early mentors are names that many of your, your listeners will remember Linda miles. She’s been a tremendous mentor for me, Kathy Jamison, some of those early pioneers from the speaking world, Mark LeBlanc, Paul homily, and Naomi roadies, were three people that had big influences on me. Currently, I would give a shout out to Vanessa Emerson, she, you know, she worked for me for many years. That’s where she started. She came to work as an assistant for me when I was early in my consulting career. And she was so she got so good at marketing me as a speaker, that she helped some friends. And pretty soon she was, you know, she had a business, right. And so, I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud of her. And she, it’s funny how sometimes the student becomes the teacher. And I think she’s really demonstrated that people can stretch out, I think it’s taught me to let go and let people fly when they’re ready. Because I certainly didn’t want to let her go, that’s for sure. But she’s gone on to really, you know, improve our industry and improve a lot of lives. So yeah, and just, you know, I have some mentors now outside of dentistry, Sarah canal. And Duffy, you know, some of the people that we know, that really are really champions for women in dentistry and women in business and women in general. So I think those are, those are some of the people that I really admire. 


Shawn Zajas  57:02 

Hey, man, well, I mean, I can tell you, you were so generous with honoring people. And that is that is absolutely beautiful. Okay, so if someone’s listening right now, and they’re like, Man, I want to get a hold of Katherine. To learn more, to hire her as a coach or to speak somewhere, what is the best thing for them to do? 


Katherine Eitel Belt  57:25 

Well, I would just maybe clear up what what exactly we do. So lion speak, you know, the overarching umbrella is communications coaching, but we deliver it in three different lanes or sectors, if you will. So one sector is patient facing communication. So telephone skills, the treatment presentation and financial conversations, we have a lot of practices with the communication skills if they’re transitioning off of insurance. So any of those patient facing communications we do, we’re sort of known as the unscripted communications coach, because we really believe people need to step into their authentic voice, but they need to have some guidelines. So we make sure we land the plane with whether it’s on the phone or in person. So there’s that. Then our second lane is team facing communications. And that’s where courageous conversations really lives. We do a lot of team retreats, team culture, work and leadership coaching for owners and managers or team leads. And then our third is we describe it as audience facing communication. So we have a train the speaker and a train the trainer program, in that we are super excited. We just launched a few months ago, an on demand video series for how to become a great presenter, whether again, whether it’s to your team, or whether it’s from the stage, but how do you put your thoughts together? How do you organize them? How do you deliver them with interest, whether that story are metaphors, or, you know, something that brings color to the black and white logic? And then the video talks about how you move your body on the stage? What you know, how do you practice? How do you handle your nerves, things like that. So that that’s an on demand, very affordable video series. We do offer coaching but at this point, the the videos are a prerequisite to the coaching because it’s really the basics of it. And we’re actually I’m editing now doing the final edits for a similar product for courageous conversations. So dental practices and business owners will be able to purchase the videos, or access to the videos on how to have a courageous conversation within within your practice. So I’m excited. We’re hoping to have that out in just a few months. So excited about that. So the best way to reach us is probably to go to the website which is Lion speak.net. So li O N SPE k.net. And then you can always send an email to info at Lion speak.net and let me know let us know what your questions are, how we can connect with you. We do a lot of coffee chats. complimentary coffee chats, just bring your bring your issue, bring your question. It’s kind of a no selling zone if we’re just hoping that you’ll like the advice and want more so, but, but we’re happy to do a complimentary coaching session, if there’s something in particular, so let us know if we can help with that. And that’s probably the best way Our phone number is 800-595-7060. So that’s another way to get a hold of us. 


Shawn Zajas  1:00:28 

Awesome. Okay, so here’s my question for my close. Let’s go back to 19 year old Catherine, and you’re walking down the street and you see her not too far off. And you know, you only have one moment to communicate a brief sentiment to her. What do you share with her 


Katherine Eitel Belt  1:00:49 

19 year old Catherine? I would say Be brave. Be brave, be brave and follow your dreams. Follow? Follow your heart. 


Shawn Zajas  1:01:07 

I absolutely love that. Catherine, thank you so much. It has been easy to honor you as an innovator as a leader as a pioneer. I love what you’re doing in dentistry. I think it’s a crazy industry. And it’s just I love where it’s going. And it’s going so many places because people are stepping up and they’re making the change that they want to see. So thank you so much for letting me interview you today. 


Katherine Eitel Belt  1:01:34 

Well, thank you for having me. It’s been a joy awesome 

More Podcasts