Is Negativity Bias draining profits from your practice? Join Bethany and Bill Belanger, founder of Integrated Mind Training, in a discussion about negativity bias — the subconscious tendency of individuals to focus more on negative emotions and experiences rather than positive ones — and how it might be damaging to your practice.
Of course, it’s not possible to keep everyone happy (including yourself!) but focusing on negative feedback from your patients and the stressful parts of your day may result in lower job satisfaction, a worse patient experience, and a business that stagnates instead of thriving.

June 21, 2023



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Becca Starks: We have the ear with the students to hear what they’re looking for. They’re very, very few students that we’re working with, with the class of 2023 that will even consider an opportunity that is not private practice.

Dr. Bethany Fishbein: Hey, I am Bethany Fishbein. I am the CEO of The Power Practice and Host of The Power Hour Optometry Podcast. And I just want to first congratulate all of the new optometrists graduating this week from the optometry schools across the country. It’s such an exciting time. It doesn’t feel like that long ago since I and my classmates at New England College of Optometry in 1997 graduated. It goes fast. It’s really an exciting time. So congratulations, first of all, and this show is inspired by and dedicated to you and all of the people that you are hoping will hire you. Once you get your licenses and get out there into the world. So I’ve invited a guest, I have Becca Starks, Becca handles Enterprise Accounts and Operations for KMK Careers. And she’s here to help me sort out some of the things that today’s optometry students are looking for, and help educate some of the optometrists who are looking to hire young optometrists about misconceptions they may have or differing perceptions of this graduating class. So, Becca, thanks for doing this your second podcast ever. That’s awesome.

Becca Starks: Yes, thank you for having me. This is exciting. 

Dr. Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, thank you. It’s an interesting time because we work with mostly established optometric practice owners. So most of the people that I’m speaking to day to day are employers of young optometrists, and they have this vision of what today’s graduates are like, and then I get the opportunity to speak with optometry students and recent grads and they’re not necessarily like that perception at all. So hopefully, you can help us bridge the gap a little bit.

Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So, talk about yourself for a minute here. I want you to just talk about KMK and KMK Careers because when I want to data on students, I knew you were the one to go to. And so I want all of my listeners to understand your involvement with young optometrists today. 

Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely. So KMK for those that don’t know KMK’s foundation is the KMK board review, which was started 18 years ago by Dr. Kyle Cheatham. And now fast forward 18 years we are inside of all of the 23 optometry schools nationwide. We have a team of optometrist instructors that traveled to all of the schools and we have a relationship with both third and fourth-year optometry students and 98, This is a big number to remember 98% of optometry students utilize KMK to pass their boards. So essentially we have a relationship with almost every single optometry student nationwide from the board’s perspective. And so we now have a new division of KMK specifically on careers which is just a natural extension of supporting those same students and finding their first career.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So you’re initially talking to these students when they’re students studying for boards. And then they hopefully pass boards and you know, move on and take more boards and pass those and move on. So what are the services that you’re providing for these students once they’ve graduated as doctors?

Becca Starks: Yeah, so it’s really fun. Personally, I am mostly an employee you’re facing so those that are looking for these candidates. However, we have a team of career advisors and all day long, they’re the luckiest ones in the world. They get to speak to these upcoming grads. So right now they are around the clock talking to those that are about to graduate here and a couple of weeks or maybe have graduated just recently. And uncovering what they’re looking for in a practice is really it’s a one-on-one relationship, so it’s totally free to students. They sign up to get a career advisor. They have calls with that career advisor to uncover what are they looking for what type of practice is it specific specialties, just anything that may be the true motivating factor as to why they want to go to a certain practice. And then essentially we play matchmaker so the career advisors speak to students all day long. I speak to employers all day long, and then we come together and get to build a bridge between the two and hopefully connect great candidates with a great opportunity.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Maybe it’ll be the next Netflix show after Indian matchmaking, Jewish matchmaking. It’ll be optometric career matchmaking. And be a celebrity.

Becca Starks: I think some of us would watch that, at least your listeners would probably enjoy that.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: My husband and I would watch it so 

Becca Starks: same. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So I mean, you’ve got a line of sight into exactly who today’s optometrists or today’s graduating class, today’s brand new optometrists are, can you give some facts and figures of what that class looks like?

Becca Starks: Yeah, so essentially, from a demographic perspective, it’s highly female. The data is showing 70% female and 30% Male.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: 70?

Becca Starks: 70 Percent.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Wow. 

Becca Starks: Yes. And there’s information I believe you are going to be able to put in the show notes. But there is a really robust report. I believe it’s lots and lots of pages. I don’t remember how many but there are highlights within that on pages nine and 10 that give a really good but really quick summary of demographics of this class, within gender within race. There’s even financial information about how many needed to have financial aid, that sort of thing, and some really detailed information even about by school breakdown.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Are you able to roll through some of the things in there that kind of stood out to you?

Becca Starks: So the biggest thing that stands out to me is female and how as you it shows kind of year over year how that transition has changed from much more female than male as it was in the past. Same thing with race, I believe I don’t remember how many years ago it was but just not too long ago. It was predominantly white for professionals graduating and now that’s shifted to highly other races, whether it’s Asian or black or other races that are included in that.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what about the financial piece? Because I feel like that’s such a big topic for new doctors. Is this need to pay back student loans? Do you have any stats on the amount of debt that students are graduating with? 

Becca Starks: Yeah, so the report itself shows 85% of students are utilizing some type of support financial aid, loans, and the average for a graduate right now graduating is about $200,000 in debt. So definitely it is.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: That’s just from optometry school or that’s including undergrad debt?

Becca Starks: That’s actually a good question. We just get the stat of 200,000 and I assumed it was just optometry school. But that’s a good question.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So young, female, and any change in like age demographic? Or is it typically right out of college a year or two out of college starting into Optometry?

Becca Starks: Yeah, So typically, it is kind of a typical route straight out of undergrad and to optometry school. There is about of the 16-1700 graduates there are about 150 of those that are considered you know, like other avenues whether that would be part-time or returning back in at a later point in time.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Okay, so out of 1500 you’re talking about? Very typically, right? 1000 young, female, probably non-white doctors. 

Becca Starks: Yeah. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: If you had to say this is what’s typical. This is the majority. 

Becca Starks: Yeah. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: With debt?

Becca Starks: Yes. A lot of it. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Okay. So, when you talk to this typical doctor and are getting into the field of matching into a career of their dreams, what are they telling you that they want? 

Becca Starks: Yeah. So it’s been interesting to learn that so the things that I came into this thinking people would want my background was actually at LinkedIn for five years before coming on to help launch this division of KMK and I thought it would be very different. I would think pay would exceed everything else. But, interestingly, location is the top deciding factor for these new graduates in determining which practice they want. Obviously, that is the hardest answer because no one can do anything about the location of their practice. But we can touch on this later. Kind of some ideas and tips for those to try to recruit folks into harder locations but definitely the location. Again, before and above pay even this work-life balance coming into play that is much more of a topic. Then I think it has been in years past. Not necessarily meaning, Hey, I want to come in and I want to never work. But this generation is much more just passionate about having that work-life balance of the work to live not live to work mentality. And so location, work-life balance, obviously pay, and structuring pay in a way that is understood to the candidate as well too. So being very upfront about what that pay is so that they know before even applying and putting that in a way that they understand what they actually can make because sometimes it can be hard with percent of production, knowing what that means.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So let’s go into those a little bit more and I want to just go back one to work-life balance because I think that’s probably the biggest misunderstanding between a doc maybe in their 50s and a doc in their 20s. This idea of working to live instead of living to work and it’s respectable and it’s necessary and mental health is important and it’s and life has to work for you. But these older docs, that was not their world. And so when I hear it, it’s complaints. They won’t work weekends, they don’t want to put in 40 hours. They’re asking for a four-day workweek. They’re like it’s coming across as we’re lazy. We’re not dedicated to the practice. We don’t want to be here we’re not going to work as hard as you and it. It creates a disconnect from the start like somebody interviewing, who says I don’t want to work every weekend. All of a sudden has all these judgments thrown on them that they probably don’t deserve. Do you see that with the docs that you’re talking to and you’re matching?

Becca Starks: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it’s the same thing I hear to have. You know, that’s typically the demographic of employers that I’m talking to all day long to have, you know, they came out and maybe cold started or they came out and bought a practice and they’ve been doing it for 20-30 years and like. What?

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Right and they remember, or maybe they’re still working 70 hours a week and they’re there, you know, every day in the practice and their day off there when the cleaning themselves because that’s what the owners do. How do you coach of 50-something and 60-something-year-old practice owners into understanding that it’s not laziness and it’s not to they don’t want to work?

Becca Starks: Yeah, so that is it is a big misconception of the students that it is laziness, and specifically, most students are expecting to work at least one to two Saturdays a month. So it’s not that they’re coming in and saying I only want four-day workweeks, and I’ll never work a weekend. They are expecting a true full work week and one or two Saturdays per month. To your question about how to coach an owner in that situation. I think it’s just taking a step back and looking really high level at your practice as a business and I’ve had this conversation with many owners of I don’t know why we are open Saturdays, honestly, we’ve just always done it and so determined are we doing this because it’s just always been done or when determining this because it is a true business need. And so same thing with later hours or that sort of thing. If it is a true business need 100% voicing that to a candidate that’s a friend and that’s that’s great, but there may be situations where again, it’s just we’re doing this because it’s been done forever. And actually, our patients wouldn’t mind if we didn’t have a late night or we had a late night instead of a Saturday or vice versa.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Do you think docs have like a little bit of that? It’s like that hazy mentality? Like I went through it I put in my time therefore you you need to.

Becca Starks: I think it could be a little of that. Me not being an optometrist. I have to tread lightly because I have not earned my dues. But in the conversations that I’ve had, I think it is a little bit of that at least.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, I worked weekends for 23 years. I’ve never missed it Saturday. I’ve never called out sick. And now I’m going to change my whole practice because this 24-year-old kid doesn’t want to work, like there’s that so what are the students are the new grads thinking about these practice owners, doctors who are in a different demographic from them because there’s got to be misconceptions going that way also.

Becca Starks: Yeah, I don’t get to hear a ton of the misconceptions from the student side. But I think there’s just both sides can teach each other something right like maybe that student can come in and show this business owner who’s been doing this forever, like, wow, I could totally do this differently. And, wow, I’m kind of relieved that you came in and brought up the idea of work-life balance because I as the business owner, really needed that, and wow, my life is different because of it and vice versa. There’s obviously so much that the practice owner can teach and pour into these new grad optometrists. But as far as misconceptions from them, I haven’t heard any to be honest. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: I hear that they look at a private practice. They think they’re not going to be paid as much. So they’re thinking that not necessarily that the owner is cheap, but that it’s not. It’s not as profitable, therefore there’s not as much money in it for them. You didn’t mention the mode of practice. You talked about location, work-life balance, and pay. Are students coming out looking for commercial opportunities? Are they looking for private practice or looking for MD offices? I mean, obviously, students are looking for each of those, but what are you seeing most frequently?

Becca Starks: Yeah, great question. So motor practice is very important and private practice remains. Top of the list for I’d say close to 90% of the new grads.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Serious?

Becca Starks: Yeah, because I hear the same thing. I hear a lot from private practice owners that say that almost come to the call with me very nervous, like “Becca, what’s going on? Why might all the new grads want private equity and why do they want retail? And can I really afford to hire them? Because it sounds like they’re throwing all the money in the world with them.” And then it’s interesting because we have that ear with the students to hear what they’re looking for. They’re very, very few students that we’re working with, with the class of 2023 that will even consider an opportunity that is not private practice. So there’s just a handful of folks that have said all maybe look at private equity or retail, but the vast majority say I truly, truly, truly want to private practice and there’s even a really good group that says, “Not only do I only one a private practice, but I already know that someday I want to partner slash buy this practice as well.” 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Do you think though that it’s, it’s like self-selecting a little bit because retail opportunities are so easy to come by? That they might not even consider needing to work with a company like yours? They just need to go on Ziprecruiter, Indeed, and type in optometrists job and the geography they want and they have their choice. Are you talking to them before they’re job-seeking?

Becca Starks: Yeah, so we actually start a process with them a year before they graduate. And so we have them fill out a profile with us it looks just like a LinkedIn profile, but it’s specifically for KMK, and go in and select all of the different types of practices that they’re open to. And so, we have both from the data from what they input on their profile and then they all have a one-on-one call with a career advisor as well. And so that’s where those points come from, both in the data they enter and then the conversations they have with a career advisor.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And is that when a student should be starting their job search is early in fourth year?

Becca Starks: Yeah, so we were really surprised in the timeline as well that a lot of students start having conversations about the fall before they graduate. So this class of 2023 they were starting interviews, October timeframe, and then a lot of them were during their Christmas break, timeframe holiday break, going on visits to practice owners. And then as soon as the New Year transitioned over there were many that were in contract. So definitely, Fall time is like you can feel good. About yourself being ahead of the game, wintertime is still very safe, you still have a lot of opportunity to be reaching out to candidates, and then as we enter into more of the springtime, a lot of I’d say probably half if not more of those that we’re working with are 100% in contract ready to go.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: When you start working with them. Is there any issue with students who are starting the search and still haven’t passed their boards or won’t have the credentials to work when they graduate?

Becca Starks: Yeah, Yep. There is information from ASCO also about passage rates. And it goes into detail even of school by school, but it essentially shows year over year the decrease in passage rates, and I think we’re at about 70% passage rate, right now. 73%. And so there’s a huge population of students that don’t pass typically it’s part one where the struggle is and so there are some students that will even graduate and still have not passed boards. And another misconception there is, “Oh, these students are lazy or they’re not understanding the information, and I don’t want those students because they won’t be good doctors”. And completely not true. Those are students that could either be not very good test takers. These are also the population that came into optometry school right in the heart of COVID. There are some that have just had really rough life events around the time that it is to take boards and so but they are all great people that will be great doctors, they simply just need to pass this test. Many of them have had really great GPAs some of them have other degrees that help them with the practice management side and so it’s just a matter of getting past that one test or many of them.


Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And how does, how did they navigate that with the job contract like, will an employer sign something with a student who hasn’t yet passed boards?

Becca Starks: Yes, we are running into that actually part one. Board scores were just released this past week. And it was a lot of that there was a lot of celebration and there was a lot of sadness around those that didn’t pass. And the good news is, I don’t know that I’ve come across a single employer partner that we work with that isn’t at least open to the idea of bringing on someone that’s graduated in kind of a super tech role. It’s kind of how we position it to practice under that optometrist owner until they graduate and we even have some that say, “Hey KMK I know that you, as an organization, do great at coaching them and helping them after they fail boards.” I will even invest in that side of the house to ensure that they can pass boards not only to show that, hey, I believe in you and the hardest time in your life student but also that gains them a really loyal employee that again, is going to be a great doctor has just had trouble taking this one test.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Coming in as a super tech though, obviously, they’re coming in at a lower pay scale and they would come in as an optometrist, and they have those student loans. So let’s talk about compensation of obviously it’s going to vary around the country and regionally and how many hours and all of that but what is it that a new OD is looking for as far as the ability to earn money?

Becca Starks: Yeah, good question. So, specifically with this new grad population, the way that I kind of coach, the employer partners that we work with private practice owners is, a lot of times they’ll come into the call and say why pay 16% of production, but with this new grad population, they aren’t able to really wrap their brains around what that is, you could have a $1.5 million, your practice and they still just don’t, they can’t really understand that. And so the recommendation that we give is to at least have some sort of salary and we have information and concrete data on specific areas of the nation. So by all means, if, if we can support you in any way with that, I’m happy to to make sure that you’re competitive, but having some type of salary listed up front is what’s going to entice these new grad population because they can wrap their brains around 140,000. They can’t necessarily wrap their brains around 16% of production. And so totally understand, then obviously the argument private practice owner, I hear you what’s going on in your head is. “Well, I need to motivate them to work hard. Like if I just give them a salary, then what’s the motivation to work hard”, and so there’s been kind of this really nice avenue that we’ve taken with a lot of partners that’s worked well in that advertising a salary a little higher than you probably would have normally, but then decreasing to a really low percent of production, so that there’s some salaries that’s there that’s enticing to a new grad, but a lower percent of production. So for the first year only, so year one higher salary and lower percent of production, and then having that shift for year two and year beyond your two to a lower salary, higher percent of production. And so what that does is again, entices this new grad to apply, and even want to learn more about your practice because there’s a salary, but that little bit of percent of production will get them to realize in their first year of working well. I’m doing the math, and if I would have went on the percent of production, I probably would have made more than my salary. This is making sense this is motivating me to work harder. And then again, you can even have it in the contract that upon year two that shifts to a lower salary that’s guaranteed and a higher percent of production. So as they’ve gotten their feet wet, they’ve learned they’ve been mentored that first year shifting then into percent of production.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So you’re coaching your doctors to do a salary plus a percent of production?

Becca Starks: Yeah, that’s pretty typical. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what about benefits and stuff like that is that important? Yes, it is important. Is that something that a brand new grad is going to give enough importance to that it’s going to help them decide one place versus another? 

Becca Starks: Yeah, such a good question. So I’ll give both sides just agree very important. I would say the majority of private practice owners that we’re working with are offering some sort of benefits, whatever that might look like. Some are very comprehensive, some are very “Hey, we will pay 50% of your medical and leave it at that.” But now that we are in this lane of there is competition from private equity and from retail. Those are just a no-brainer. In those avenues. And so to remain competitive from that regard. They will get a full package of 401K’s with matching with benefits with PTO, all of those things, if they’re considering a retailer or a private equity opportunity in comparison to your private practice opportunity. And so, again, I think most I talked to very few that say “Hey, I’m just percent of production and I don’t give any days off you just you if you’re here you make money if you’re not, you don’t but you can take whatever days you want type of thing”. I have a handful of those but for the most part, most private practices are offering the salary with percent of production, at least something towards medical, and then most do have a 401K whether there’s a match or not with that.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Are there other intangible benefits, other things that would make a practice more attractive?

Becca Starks: Yeah. So I think the thing that’s so such a great opportunity with all of the listeners that would have that are trying to hire than our private practice owners that have been doing this for years to a new grad specifically is mentorship. And so those that are willing to do that are excited about that. Well, maybe “Hey, I haven’t really even thought about that. But I’m gonna share over the last 20 years, I really have learned a lot that I could pour into this next upcoming generation”. And so being very vocal with that, even in a job description, or whatever it is that you’re creating, to entice candidates to come your way and some people put a really extensive plan behind, “Hey, we have a weekly meeting, and you get lunch hour with me every week and we will cover XYZ and some it’s kind of informal of just “Hey, I’m going to be with you I’m alongside you. You can call me when you want”, whatever that looks like, or even if you haven’t, some team members that are fairly recent grads, being able to vocalize that to have hey, we’ve got folks that I brought on board as new grads and couple years later looking them go and so the mentorship side is again that intangible free opportunity that I think a lot of people don’t even necessarily recognize they have the ability to give.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Is it mostly clinical mentorship they’re looking for? is it practice ownership? like when you say mentorship, what are they hoping to learn from you?

Becca Starks: Yeah, definitely medical at the top of that, but there are again, those those candidates that just know that they know that they want to be very involved in the practice management, the business side of the house. And so for those candidates that are interested in it, being willing to say “Hey, here’s I’ll show you all of our programs and all of our software and how I design the day and this is how I designed the business side of the house”, and so in those situations for folks that are interested in that side, I think it’s important to have just kind of an open door policy of “I’ll show you all that. I’ll show you that number. So I’ll let you in on this.”

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: So for practice in a particular geographic area, if you can get your salary and benefits close, but they don’t necessarily have to be higher. They just have to be within range and you can kind of check off all the other boxes. Is there a type of practice like heavy medical versus refractive versus specialty that people are looking for?

Becca Starks: Yeah, so definitely looking at highly medical. And then what I would also say is kind of another somewhat intangible, but if practice owners are open to new specialties that maybe you don’t have in your practice right now. But hey, if there’s somebody who comes in and is passionate about whatever it may be, and they want to bring that into my practice, that’s a really enticing thing for a candidate to really see themselves. They’re in the long haul of “Wow, I’m passionate about myopia management and this practice says, by all means bringing that on.” That’s such a great thing to be able to offer to a candidate and so definitely, medical and specialties are really where the candidates are wrapping their brains around of how do I see myself there.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And what if you’re in rural Wisconsin, where there’s just not a huge population of optometrists looking to settle? What’s the best way for a practice like that to set themselves up to find somebody to join because so many of those are great opportunities to become part of a community to ultimately partner buy a practice have a really low cost of living like it’s how do they make themselves attractive or show how attractive they are I guess I should say.

Becca Starks: Yeah, and I think that so often because I get the luxury of talking to these practice owners in some of these more rural areas. And every time I’m just like, Wow, if I could just record this and let all of these candidates see this owner care about the type of patients they get to see a lot of times it’s the smaller communities that because there’s not a nearby ophthalmology or another office like those are the most medically focused practices. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Absolutely. 

Becca Starks: Yeah. And so, so often I feel better. Oh my gosh, if I could just package this up and get a candidate to truly wrap their head around it. So one of the things that we do on the candidate side is our current advisors do as soon as a student comes in and says, “I only want Miami in New York and LA”, we try to mentor as well and show your kind of cost of living and let’s truly take a look at this and let’s look at your lifestyle and look at

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Miami, LA, how about rural Wisconsin?

Becca Starks: Right? Yep. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And consider Minnesota.

Becca Starks: Exactly. We play that game all day long. Yep. And then to the practice owners, a lot of what I tell them is, they’ll tell me I say they get to brag. So give me your brag book, when they come on as a partner to me, tell me what’s so great about your practice. And then they’re typically ready to end the call and I say, “Okay, based on your area, we also want you to brag on the geographic location just as much as the opportunity and so getting a candidate to truly understand what their life is going to be like, not just when they’re at work with you all day, but once they leave work, and what does this community look like and what can I do there? Is it great for hiking, is it great for the music scene, and the art scene? Is it great to raise a family and maybe I’m not thinking about that right now. But in the next couple of years, I will be.” And so I always say “Somewhere in your job description, however, you want to do it. It’s a post that you’re putting on to kind of an Indeed or an AOA. Having information, just typed information about your geographic area and what makes it so great. And then also, the other added thing you can do is you can always create videos.” Videos are I feel like that’s kind of how we’re all digesting content at this point. And especially this generation of these new grads, and so if you can even do a quick it doesn’t have to be professionally shot but videos of you just speaking informally, almost as if you’re speaking to a candidate who wouldn’t be right in front of you talking about again, envisioning their life there, the more that a practice owner can make a job description or job post about the candidate instead of themselves. The better that that’s going to relay to the candidates have just really getting to understand “Okay, this isn’t what I thought I was thinking Miami, but now I can kind of envision how my life could be in Wisconsin.”

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: That’s a really strong and valid point. Because when I think about a job ad, it’s all about what we need and what we want. We’re looking for an optometrist to work these hours to do this and when I’m interviewing candidates for Associate optometrist, but really for any position I’m always sensitive to an applicant, who all they’re telling me is what this job is going to do for them. Right. So I’m very critical of it as an employer when they’re like, I’m looking to build my clinical confidence in myopia. I’m looking into, you know, whatever. And I think what are you going to do for me? But in the ad, maybe it should be the other way off, Here’s what I’m going to do for you so that they’re interested and intrigued by the post enough to then come in and want to tell me what they are going to do for me so

Becca Starks: Absolutely 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Cool. 

Becca Starks: We even have one it’s a Power Practice member that wrote a personalized it looks just like a letter you would receive from your grandma in the mail and it was so different and so eye-catching and so engaging. It was truly just a personalized letter, Dear Candidate, and then it just spoke really informally like, Hey, I get it. Words are hard, school is hard, but here’s what it would be like living here. Imagine if you could leave work and go out and do this, this, and this and your two hours within this big city so you can go catch a basketball game and be back home at night. And so it was just very, again trying to get that candidate to envision their life not only with that practice but in that geographical location. And so that was an incredible example. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Did it work?

Becca Starks: We’ve gotten some interest. We don’t have anybody signed on yet, but it has enticed interest.

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: And talked about KMK a little bit again, just before we close. So if a practice owner is looking for an associate, they can reach out to you or how do they go about tapping into this database network matching service that you guys have?

Becca Starks: Yeah, absolutely. Yep. I would be the point of contact Becca Starks. And I’m sure you can put my email in the show notes, but it’s just And yeah, we typically just do a really informal introductory call and learn about the practice, learn about what they’re looking for. And then go over kind of our offerings. We’ve got two different offerings to choose from, just depending on what the practice owner is looking for. And then yeah, we just go from there. It’s really simple. It’s free to be in agreement with us and having us promote a practice. And so basically, we get that agreement going and then our current adviser starts promoting any of our partners that we’re working with. And then essentially once we have a student that is a great fit, we play the matchmaking game. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: I love it. Thank you. I think this is valuable information for new grads to help them understand what they’re going out into and some of the misconceptions they might be facing. But hopefully, we did our part today to try and reduce some of those and really give today’s employers a more real picture of new grads who are looking for jobs. So thank you so much for taking the time to do this and give this service to all of the optometrists out there.

Becca Starks: Absolutely. My pleasure, Bethany. Thank you. So much. 

Dr.Bethany Fishbein: Thank you


Read the Transcription

Bill Belanger: Obviously you want to make everybody happy, but that’s probably never going to happen. But what ends up happening is because the emotional reaction to negative emotions is so much stronger than the positive emotions. That company could be saying, okay, well, what are we doing right with these nine clients? Why are they so happy? Let’s talk to them. And let’s get nine other clients just like them. But people tend to get so distracted by the negativity, that you’re fixating so much on that there’s this missed opportunity.

Bethany Fishbein: Hi, I am Bethany Fishbein, CEO of the power practice and host of the Power Hour optometry podcast. Before we get into the content of the podcast, wanted to let you know about an event that we are going to be at sponsored by Euclid at their headquarters in Reston, Virginia on July 31st, and August 1st, it’s really a great event for people who are doing some Ortho-K lenses looking to elevate their game both clinically and on a practice management side. So, it’s an evening and a day, come down to the Reston headquarters, you’re going to learn clinical financial practice management strategies, different ways to address myopia management through case studies we’ll be at the discussion the Euclid’s clinical and scientific affairs team will be there, you get to go on a tour of Euclid see their lens manufacturing facility, and everything that makes them unique to register, go to our website, power The registration fees include a night of hotel dinner the night before breakfast, lunch, the tour, and the educational sessions. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting, and I hope to see you there. So, I’m really kind of excited for conversation today about something that I think plagues a lot of us as business owners, or something about us as business owners that really helps us depending on how you look at it. And the idea is that as practice owners, a lot of us are really constantly very focused on what could go wrong. And it’s a curse and a blessing. So to sort it all out. I’ve got a great guest. This is Bill Belanger. He’s the founder of Integrated mind training, which is a firm that provides psychological coaching for entrepreneurs. Bill is a trained psychotherapist, and he applies those skills along with lots of learnings on Buddhist meditation and Buddhist ways and strong backgrounds in psychology to coaching entrepreneurs. And I feel like he’s just the person to help me figure this out. So, Bill, thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

Bill Belanger: Yeah, thank you for having me.

Bethany Fishbein: My pleasure. So, what had actually sparked this conversation is, I have talked with practice owners all day. And no matter how well things are going, I feel like they’re always zeroed in on that one thing that isn’t going well, or could be better. And when we first made contact about this, you said oh yeah, that’s negativity bias. So, talk a little bit just about what that is and what the term means and give some general information. And we’ll go from there.

Bill Belanger: Yeah, so negativity bias is considered a cognitive distortion. Basically, what that means is, it’s a way that we’re thinking about things incorrectly. And so, there’s a lot of interesting research about it. But the gist of it is that we tend to place more attention and emphasis on negative emotions and experiences than we do for positive bonds. So there’s a lot of research on this. But essentially, I think that the origin of this is from an evolutionary perspective, that it was to our benefit to place more attention on things that were dangerous things that were terrifying things that made us feel unsafe, then unpleasant things. So this is something that we continue to do to this day. So essentially, somebody could have 10, very positive things happen to them over the course of the day, and have one negative thing happen. And they will tend to fixate on that one negative thing and give it more attention. So it’s just a cognitive distortion, because it’s distorting reality, and we make those decisions. And we’re just not seeing things clearly because of that dynamic. Essentially.

Bethany Fishbein: I totally buy that. And I’m aware of it. And I know that I do it as well as many other practice owners. And I think the downside of it is it leads to us almost having like a tough personality to deal with because people around us see that focus on the negative, you can’t ever just be happy. Nothing I do is good enough. Like I hear it when we’re talking to leaders, and it filters into their life in other places as parents. The other side of it though, is I feel like for me as a business owner, it’s like really helpful and it’s good. So you’d call it a cognitive distortion. Is it something that you should be trying to fix? Or is it just kind of knowing about it? That is helpful? Yeah, good question.

Bill Belanger: I think there’s different schools of thought on that. I think for all of these things, awareness is the first part. And just to clarify, negative emotions are not problems to be fixed. So it’s more when it becomes a bias that is filtering all of our experience when it becomes a problem. One thing I want to bring up was the research of Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, who was a researcher in the field of positive psychology. Her research was basically that negative emotions, again, they serve this evolutionary advantage. So if you see a predator coming, it makes sense to really fixate on that more than anything. Or if you put your hand on a stove, you want to focus on that more than anything else. But her research was, well, then why do we have positive emotions? Well, if, if the negative emotions are here to protect us, well, our positive emotions help. And she came up with this theory called the broaden and build theory. So negative emotions tend to restrict awareness. So you become very fixated on the problem in front of you. And it also restricts the behavioral options. So if there’s a danger, the only thing you’re focused on is that danger and is getting away from it. Positive emotions tend to expand awareness, and they build the amount of possibilities and connections that you have. So from that early hunter gatherer perspective, if you have a positive state, like Curiosity, you might explore and find a new food source, or you might connect with somebody, or joy can kind of again, strengthen relationships. So there’s all these benefits to that, but they both serve a purpose. So the goal is never to get rid of negative emotions. Those are important. It’s more that if wearing fortuitous negativity, we’re always seeing the bad and things, we’re always fixating on what can go wrong, then it starts to become a problem, it becomes a problem, both for mental health because it can lead to anxiety and depression and strained relationships. But even from a business perspective, if you don’t care about emotional health whatsoever, it just makes for poor decision making. So in terms of addressing it, there’s a few different ways but I think it always starts with awareness. And noticing your habits, noticing when you’re doing that. So I can pause there. But there’s a few different ways to work with it. But it all starts from just noticing it within yourself.

Bethany Fishbein: So just go back for a second, because you talked about the impact on decision making, just talk about the effect that has on decision making. I’m just I’m interested in hearing more about that.

Bill Belanger: So, there’s some research where they would take people and induce either a neutral state, a positive state or a negative state. And this is done by making people watch, I think it was like five minutes of video. So it could be something really boring, like just grass growing essentially, or was negative emotion. So images of violence or from a war. And then positive emotions was I think, stand up comedy. So people watching this five minutes of stand up, the negative emotions have all types of effects on the ways that people make decisions on their problem solving ability on doing brain teasers on even doing mathematics and all types of things. So for a lot of infant memory as well. So for a lot of these, if you’re in a negative state, a lot of the time, it actually can decrease performance. So positive emotions do the opposite. So you can actually see connections better your cognitively, your cognition is improved from positive emotions. So again, this isn’t only just trying to make people feel happy and talking them up, it really does have a concrete example, or concrete impact on performance.

Bethany Fishbein: So you work with business owners take it more specific, like a business owner that’s focused on problems constantly focused on problems. To me, it feels like they’re gonna put the energy into solving those problems. But then they’re gonna find more problems. Like, I understand the studies are not as good at solving word puzzles, or whatever, but talk about it in a business setting, like how it changes things.

Bill Belanger: So let’s use two different ways of thinking of it. One is just in terms of life satisfaction. So I was working with a client who started a new company, it’s thriving, she has all these happy customers. But she has one big client that there is a hiccup there is some technical issue that with her program, but it becomes all consuming where the clients thinks that she’s a failure, things aren’t really working out, this whole company is going to fail. And it just becomes so distorted, because we’re so trained to look at that negativity, that I think sometimes people have a bad time, accurately assessing where they are and how successful they are. So people can make them miserable. Because as a business owner, you know, there’s never an end to problems, there will always be new, a new problem to solve. There’s always something that has to go on. So you have to kind of find a way for your own sanity to deal with that part of the business and actually remain happy. In terms of a practical application. I can give you an example from my other company. Heal bright when we had we launched many years ago. And what I find myself happening is if we had 10 clients that were happy, and I had one client that was having a problem, I would be spending most of my time fixating on this one problem. But oftentimes it was a small client that wasn’t very consequential, but because of the emotional intensity that we have this client that’s unhappy, it impaired my judgment. So I’m spending all this time on something that actually really wasn’t important to my business. And it was more just a problematic client that was probably going to be bringing negativity no matter what we were doing. So then it becomes you’re putting resources into the wrong thing, because your brain is telling you this negative thing needs attention. And you know, a final example, too, it’s this difference between reactive work and proactive work. So negativity is usually driving us to do this reactive work, where from again, coming back to Dr. Frederick, his research, negative emotions don’t help with creativity and building new things, you need a positive emotional state to do that. So if it’s something where you want to come up with a new product, or a new sales channel, or new marketing, so these are things that really drive business growth, positive emotions are much better. So that’s the other thing I’ve seen with some business owners, if they’re always in this negative reaction, problem solving mode, and their business tends not to grow, they tend to miss opportunities, and they can kind of get left behind. If they go down that downward spiral.

Bethany Fishbein: That helps, I can really see that and I can feel it from the examples that you’re giving, right? Where, like you said, somebody has the vast majority of happy clients and somebody’s having a problem, somebody’s unhappy, we see it in optometric offices, you’ve got that one patient that caused an issue. And all of a sudden, your whole team is focused on how to deal with this at the expense of being able to do anything else. So I absolutely see that. And it’s funny in those situations, I’m quick to say, let it go, give them a refund, whatever they want, get him out the door, don’t think about it onto the next thing. But as a business leader, and as a business owner, I absolutely sometimes fall into that negativity trap myself. So okay, that’s a better explanation of the idea of distortion, right? Nine happy people one is unhappy, but it makes you feel like the world is ending. Everybody’s unhappy. Everybody hates you. Nobody likes you. The business is gonna fail. Yeah. Okay, I feel that.

Bill Belanger: And using that example, to keep it simple. There, you have 10 clients, nine are very happy, and one is unhappy. First of all, if you have a business where 90% of your clients are very happy, that’s amazing. Like that’s a successful business, right? So if you can replicate that, that’s wonderful. Obviously, you want to make everybody happy. But that’s probably never going to happen. But what ends up happening is because the emotional reaction to negative emotions is so much stronger than to positive emotions. That company could be saying, Okay, well, what are we doing right? With these nine clients? Why are they so happy? Let’s talk to them. And let’s get nine other clients just like them. But people tend to get so distracted by the negativity, that you’re fixating so much on that there’s this missed opportunity. And again, this is not to say that you shouldn’t problem solve, and you shouldn’t talk with that unhappy client and figure out what’s going wrong and improve your product, or prove your approach. But it becomes a distortion when you’re not seeing things correctly, then you’re essentially missing an opportunity.

Bethany Fishbein: What are you looking for, to know if you’re in that? So awareness is the first step? How do you gain that awareness? Because it’s easy to see talking about someone else, but when you’re in it, and that patient left a one star Google review? And you’re in the moment? It’s hard to get out of it? Like what are you looking for to make you aware this is what’s going on?

Bill Belanger: Yeah, there’s a few things I think some of this comes from cognitive behavioral therapy, which is challenging thoughts. So using that example of a one star review on Google. So, I have a friend who is about to start a business. And I was talking with another friend about it. And he said, oh, I can’t believe he’s about to take so much risk, he could get one bad review, and it would take his reputation, and he will have, he can’t go back to his job. So that’s a thought that CBT would say is a catastrophic thinking type of thought, because if you don’t really question it, it seems oh, this would be so bad, I got a one-star review. But if you really analyze it, it’s probably not true. In cognitive behavioral therapy, it’s you’re looking at thoughts objectively, and you can even write them down. If you’re in therapy, you can talk to a therapist about it, but you’re trying to really just look at it, and just put the emotions aside temporarily and analyze it. So some of the language and cognitive behavioral therapies, we can have black and white thinking, catastrophic thinking. And these are just thoughts again, they’re just not correct. Because if you get one bad review, of course, that’s that you don’t want that and you want to try to mitigate that as much as possible. But it’s probably not going to tank your business, you’ll probably be okay, and freaking out about it’s probably not going to help. So I think part of it is that being curious about your emotional state is the first step. And then with thoughts, analyze them and make them external by talking about them or writing them and then just say, is this rational and examine it critically? And a lot of times the thoughts that we are very quick to jump to that come from negative emotions aren’t rational, and they don’t really hold up under scrutiny.

Bethany Fishbein: I don’t know if it’s totally the same thing. But we talk about numbers in a business and keeping track of things. And I find for myself personally, keeping track of some of the metrics of a business helped me get that rational thought, when I need it, like, all of a sudden, it’s a slow day, the schedule is empty, and we’re freaking out, our business is going to close. We’ve been in business 20 plus years, it’s not going to close after a bad week. But at that moment, it feels that way. And looking at the numbers and the cycles to see, it’s not that bad. It’s just scheduled funny. We had a period like this before. It provides a contrasting viewpoint to the craziness that’s going on in my head at that moment.

Bill Belanger: Yeah. And that’s a perfect example of something that is objective. So numbers don’t have feelings. It’s very straightforward. So if there isn’t, if your numbers are going down every year, then that’s a problem. And if you’re acknowledging that, and you’re trying to figure that out, that’s not negativity bias, you’re in touch with reality. But if your numbers are going up every year and you’re freaking out, then you can start to say, Okay, there’s something off here. So there’s a mismatch, this is distorted, it’s not actually accurate. And you know, another thing I’ll bring up too, is, in terms of how do you know if you’re having negativity bias and this awareness and curiosity, part of it, you can do that in the moment? So okay, I’m having a freakout because of the one star Google review. But you also want to do on a more macro level of kind of question. How’s your week been? How’s your month, been? Are you in negativity all the time? Or is it generally feeling good? Dr. Frederickson, her research found that for optimal mental health, you should have a positive to negative state and ratio of three to one, three to one of positive outcomes, some negative outcomes. There’s been some arguments about how she came at that number. But I think let’s just say roughly something in that ballpark. Makes sense. So that means it’s an eight hour work day, two hours of the day, you could be in a negative state of stress and anxiety and fear, or whatever. But most of the day, hopefully, you’re feeling pretty good. You’re connecting with people, you’re maybe getting into a flow state, or you’re feeling positive. That’s what she said, that’s where peak performers are at a lot of times. So that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be that if you’re not doing that there’s something wrong with you just want to be clear sign oh, most plenty days, I’m not close to that.

Bethany Fishbein: Because that’s totally what my negativity bias is saying that I suck.

Bill Belanger: Yeah, now I have to figure it out. But it’s less of the prescriptive type of judgment, oh, I’m not having enough. And it’s bad. It’s more just the research shows, when people have more positive emotions, they flourish, they do better, they’re more effective, they’re healthier. But again, it’s interesting that there’s still negative emotions there the people that are doing the best, they still have negative emotions every single day, the other end of the spectrum, or people have, what I love that they’re using this phrase more is toxic positivity, where you can ever feel negative emotions, and always has to be positive. And anything that’s uncomfortable is unacceptable. That goes way too far. It’s more about being balanced. So I’ve seen that too, with other business owners where the negativity bias gets out of control. And not just that, but other there’s other dynamics at play, too. And then you start to get into the burnout stage, where you’re in negative emotions for three years, because you’ve been trying to get a company off the ground, then it can get really extreme and people start having health issues and all types of stuff. 

Bethany Fishbein: Bill, talk about the effect that this has extra kind of on leaders, because when you’re leading a team, like it’s one thing to go through this roller coaster in your own head, right? It’s fully another to take people on this roller coaster with you. And some leaders do it. And then I meet some who feel like they can’t do it at all. And so the healthy negative emotion, they’re, they’re holding in, they’re trying to pretend everything is okay. And then they end up feeling very isolated. Their team never understands them. Nobody gets it except them. Like how do leaders have to manage this not only for themselves, but the people that are working with them?

Bill Belanger: Yeah, interesting question. And I want to be careful to I think that there’s many styles of leadership, I’m certainly not trying to say this is the only way to be a leader. There’s probably an infinite amount of ways people can deal with this. There’s some of the things that I believe in, I think are helpful. Again, with that negativity, it’s finding healthy expressions for that. So I’m a big believer that if you’re a business owner, you should probably be in therapy or work with a coach or just have some type of self care practice, could be meditation, it could be journaling, but a healthy expression for those negative emotions. The way that I would say what is a healthy expression of negative emotions is usually expressing them verbally or people can do it in art therapy or in music or something like that. The talking about negative emotions tends to help with the regulation of them. So for a leader should find an outlet for that. And the other thing And then becomes a little bit of a paradox is that if you are suppressing negative emotions, because you want to be positive, it tends to make them worse. But if you’ve skillfully expressing them, even with subordinates or other people, if you’re doing it a really mindful way, it can actually be a positive thing. So if you’re just naming in a safe relationship, I’m really anxious about this account. And here’s why. But it’s very grounded, Then, it’s kind of ceases to be negative a little bit. But I think it’s just I think, again, the first part is that leaders need to be mindful of their emotional states, because emotions are contagious. So I don’t know if you’re familiar with the research on mirror neurons. But basically, we have these parts in our brain called mirror neurons, that we mirror what other people are feeling. So the research on house, they found this was really funny where I believe they were doing brain studies on monkeys, and seeing what parts of the brain were lighting up with different things. And a researcher walked into the lab was eating his lunch during the break, and the monkeys that were watching them, the part of their brain that usually lights up when the monkeys are eating started lighting up. So first, they thought it was a mistake, they didn’t figure out what was happening. But eventually, they came to the certain mirror neurons, that we tend to feel what other people are feeling around us. And I think we’ve all had that experience. Maybe you walk into a bar, or you’re in a bad part of town, for some reason, when you’re traveling and something feels really off, you’re picking up on what other people are feeling. But again, that happens with leaders as well, where if a leader is really negative, or just really stressed, or whatever, it tends to kind of ripple out into the other people. So again, that doesn’t mean they should never have negativity, but generally being a supportive, warm, curious, open-minded person, you’re going to help other people feel like that as well. And if you are modeling to your employees, that the emotions are okay, or talking about difficult emotions is okay, then you’re going to model that as well. So yeah, I agree with you. I mean, I think for leaders and business owners, it’s there’s a lot more pressure and stress. So they have to be even more aware of this dynamic.

Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, there’s a lot more pressure and stress, and then the stakes of not handling it well are even higher, because of the number of people affected. And the stakes of decreased performance, if that’s what being in this negative state is causing the stakes for that are higher, too. So it’s a tough seat to be in. Are there strategies or techniques? Or what can you share that will help those of us, self included, who are sitting here like, Okay, how do I deal with this? How can we make it better?

Bill Belanger: Yeah, there’s a few things. So again, I think, start with awareness and curiosity. So if you’re in a negative state, just being curious about it, and if mindfulness practice can really help with that, or any meditation practice. So that’s where the pure awareness perspective is just observing without judgment, the cognitive part of it is noticing your thinking patterns. So if your client is upset, and you start paying, and you start thinking, this is a session disaster, and all these horrible things are going to happen, and the company is going to fall apart, it’s just taking a little bit more time to bring awareness to your thinking patterns and see if it’s rational. And then from a behavioral perspective, I think, which is really important is which I think a lot of leaders don’t do a good enough job is really organizing your week, in a way that you’re going to balance your emotions. So whatever that is, for each person is different. But if you know that, hey, when I do yoga, I just feel really good, or I need to go listen to music for work every day. Whatever those things are, it’s about having a consistent source of positive emotions in your week, to when you have these positive emotional states that can help you to recover from the bad effects of negative emotions, you can kind of cut that negativity bias at its root. So a silly example. But when I was in my clinical internship, and I was working with clients that were addicted, I’d be working with some clients that had some pretty heavy stuff. And I had recently been studying some of the positive psychology. So I downloaded a bunch of stand up comedy on my Spotify account. And it’s just silly that sometimes just listening to five minutes of something that would make me laugh, or just shift your perspective has kind of got me out of that. So I think leaders are different, and everybody has a different style. But one thing is just if you’re noticing that the weeks or months or years are going by or lose all this negativity, I really think you have to look into your routine and find some things that are going to make you feel good every week. So you can kind of break that cycle. And that includes vacations, too. I mean, I think that’s another interesting topic. But being able to get out of that context entirely of problem solving, and you’re doing something totally different. I think it’d be really helpful.

Bethany Fishbein: What I like about what you’re saying is that sometimes they think about those kinds of things, vacation, yoga, standup comedy, like doing those kinds of things as anti productivity, like anti performance. And so I like the knowledge that those things are actually because they’re putting you in a better mindset, enhancing the performance, even though it feels like you’re spending that hour, that day, or that week, disconnected from the business by doing it, you’re able to make the business better that, I like.

Bill Belanger: That’s where I think a lot of the self help and workplace talk, they don’t communicate that part as well. So it’s more of like, be kind to yourself. And it’s take a bubble bath and do mindfulness, which is great. But I think for certain leaders, like that’s all well and good, but I don’t have time for that. And I’m running a company and I have responsibility. But even if so let’s say that’s true that you don’t care about all that. It’s just the research shows that when you’re in more positive emotional state, you’re cognitively enhanced, and you’re going to make better decisions. The other thing too, that I think is having the cognitive and emotional flexibility is really important. So I can share before this call, I was reviewing a contract, I wasn’t stressed or too negative about it. But I’m in this really narrow problem solving mode. So it’s an 11 page contract. So I have to print it through, I have to read through every word. And I’m trying to find things that aren’t right trying to identify errors, because what you have to be really discerning and kind of this narrow attention. So that’s a good state to have reviewing the contract. But I had to discipline myself before we were jumping on the podcast, which is hard, because I’m just in a roll with doing the contract stuff, I have to shift states, this is not a good state to be talking with somebody about this. So for me, I just meditated for about five minutes, that’s really all that I really needed. So again, it’s we’re negative states are helpful. Being narrow, having narrow attention is helpful, it’s just wishes most helpful in which context I think is the important part,

Bethany Fishbein: Maybe you can expand a little bit into how to address this or help someone on your team learn this. Because as you’re talking, I’m thinking about some of the things that happen pretty regularly. Like we have a situation recently where a staff member has a lot of stress going on in her personal life outside the office, nothing to do with work, she’s really good at turning it off taking care of the patients when she gets there. But what it’s done, it’s made every reaction and every emotion, negative emotion that happens in the office kind of feel disproportionate, like somebody has a really tough day outside of work, they come in, and they’re nice, and they’re friendly. But somebody says something a certain way. And they say she’s yelling at me, he’s livid. And they’re not they’re questioning something, or maybe a patient is unhappy on a normal day, it would be Yeah, she’s really pissed about this, what can we do to fix it, but it feels much more extreme because of their existing mindset. Some of us are in business partnerships, and you’re not always feeling the distortion at the same way at the same time. So sometimes they can see it in you, but sometimes you can see it in them. Can you signal someone like how do you help somebody else recognize and start to get out of it?

Bill Belanger: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I think it’s admittedly a little trickier helping somebody else. So it’s kind of reminded like the alcoholic anonymous idea, it’s like somebody, they have to decide to stop drinking, you can’t force somebody to feel a certain way, or to change their behavior, it is up to that person. That being said, I think listening and bringing awareness to what somebody’s going through can really help and allowing them to express a negative emotion is maybe your first step. So if somebody feels really stressed and burned out, and you know them well, and something seems off, it’s so simple, but just pulling them aside, just talking to them. And I think what a leaders have to remember is, when you’re having something relational, you have to again, drop that problem solving mindset. And it’s more about just being with the person, it’s listening and allowing them to talk about the negative emotions without trying to solve the problem so much. It’s just when people talk about negative emotions, the reactivity goes down. So there’s some research on that with negative emotions, the amygdala is really lit up. So that’s the part of the brain that signals fight or flight, more of an older part of the brain. When people journal about negative emotions, the amygdala activation goes down. So just being able to talk about that’s why if people often feel better talking to somebody, when something difficult is going on, you’re expressing it, and you’re allowing that to kind of to let go of it and for the brain to kind of get back to the baseline. So I think part of it is giving people a place to talk. And then it’s also a judgment call. So if you know, hey, I’ve been working with this person for five years, they’re really on but they’re going through a divorce or their kid is sick or whatever is happening. Then as a leader, you might just know there might be things they don’t have the capacity to do right now and you might have to pull back or you can take their feedback with that extra little grain of salt where Okay, they’re catastrophizing, like you said, they got negative feedback and then blowing it out of proportion. So I think it’s tempering your expectations. And I also think just generally speaking, it’s which is a bigger conversation, but trying to have a healthy culture at the company, being a good leader where they feel like they can talk to the person that helps a lot. Generally speaking.

Bethany Fishbein: I just want to spend one more minute on that line of listening versus problem solving because I know, for me, that’s a personal. I’m not gonna call it a weakness, but it’s, I work with my husband. And we had to figure out as we opened the business together, like, when is someone just venting? And when do they want you to do something about it in the office, we actually started to ask that question. Are you just venting? Or is this something you’re looking for help to solve? And people stop for a minute? And sometimes they answer, I’m just venting. And then you know, you’re just supposed to listen. But that same personality that problem solver just kicks in, and you start thinking, what do I have to do about this so that they never experience this terrible thing again? And that’s not what they’re looking for always. It’s an interesting thing.

Bill Belanger: Yeah, it’s. I mean, to make a generalization, a lot of the clients that I work with and business owners, they vastly underestimate how helpful listening can be and they overestimate that problem solving mindset in terms of relationships their go-to is this person is coming to me and they’re complaining about something and they have a problem. I have to solve that to figure it out. But a lot of the time, that’s not what the person’s coming to you for. They just want to be heard. So it’s interesting that you say that. I actually think the way that you talked about in the workforce is great. I think that’s a really good example. I have a therapist friend. I think the way that she puts it, when her daughter is upset, she’ll say, Do you want me just to be with you or do you want me to try to fix this? So it’s. It’s just. You want me just to hear you? Do you just want to vent is the first option or are we trying to get into problem solving mode here? I think for a lot of the time, it’s actually just listening and just to say that in terms of listening, listening. I think people make it more complicated, but it’s. You’re just being really open minded. You’re being curious. You’re reflecting back what you’re hearing. You’re using the same language. The person talking to you is saying sort of, they’re saying, I’m so upset that this account didn’t go well. You say, Oh, you’re really upset, or, yeah, it didn’t go well. If you should stay with that. Yeah. So again, I love the intervention that you mentioned, but I think just asking somebody what’s helpful is a good starting point.

Bethany Fishbein: And in those situations, we do it sometimes in consulting, there’s times where somebody is talking to us about a situation and a practice and we’re listening, asking questions, just learning about it. And sometimes before we even get to the role of problem solver, they go, Oh, yeah, okay, good. Thank you so much. I feel so much better. And, um, I think I didn’t even tell you anything yet. And so yeah, having that ability to vocalize it, having that person to be in it with you for a few minutes makes a difference.

Bill Belanger: Definitely.

Bethany Fishbein: Cool! Bill, is there anything else that you want to say on this topic? And you feel like you’re hoping. We talked about we didn’t get to? 

Bill Belanger: Just. I mean, I think we talked about a little bit. But just the one thing that is still coming up is again, this idea of learning to structure positive emotions into your week and how important that is, the difference between reactive work and proactive work and the role that emotions play in that. So that’s just something I would encourage everybody to really be curious about where, especially in the times in your business where you’re struggling and your stress and everything is difficult, you can even if some people I know even put blocks in their calendar. So it’s this is a three hour block every week or thirty minute block every week where you’re just trying to be in this positive emotional state and being brainstorming or be curious. I think what happens is is for some people in the early stages of the business when they’re starting it’s fun, it’s creative, you’re making something new, it’s exciting, and there’s all this treat of energy that kind of gets things going. And then inevitably, there’s more and more problems that come up at a certain stage and people lose touch with that. But I really think for people, it is really important to try for business owners, if you can structure things a little bit differently, if you can outsource some of your work, that your business is going to do the best when you’re at your best and the more that you can spend time in these positive states and these curious and creative states. That’s where business growth comes from, I think, and that’s just I think I would believe it on that. I think that’s something that can help people a lot.

Bethany Fishbein: Yeah, that’s a good message, a good reminder and for me anyway, a thought shift into what the role is of time spent doing things that make you happy and interesting.

Bill Belanger: Yeah.

Bethany Fishbein: Bill, if somebody wants to get in touch with you, where can they find you?

Bill Belanger: So, my website is and you can also just shoot me an email

Bethany Fishbein: Awesome. And our role in the optometric world for a lot of people is to be that sounding board, that partner who listens and helps to reach whatever goals the practice owner has. So, for more information on what we do, you can reach us at

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