You’ve done it. We all do it. We see someone do something or say something, and we have judgment on it. We have a story about it. Doesn’t matter if the story is true or not; we made it up, so it must be true! Or . . . not. The reality is, we haven’t a clue why someone (often, including ourselves!) does something.

We are all competing in an attention economy. From pings and dings to blinks and rings, companies and content constantly compete for our limited time and attention. How do great leaders turn down the noise and tune in to the messages that matter most? What does it take to be heard above the noise? And how do we create communication that cultivates community and connectedness in a distributed, distracted world? To address these questions, we started an interview series called “Can You Hear Me Now?: Top Five Strategies Leaders Use to Diminish Distractions & Win in the Attention Economy.” As a part of this interview series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Richard Kaye.

Dr. Richard Kaye is best known for working with entrepreneurs to help them accelerate the growth of their businesses. He is a frequent guest on podcasts and webinars, and has been featured on radio and television programs, including KGTV in San Diego and KTLA in Los Angeles, and was the subject of a PBS special about him and the work he was doing. Richard has presented workshops, programs, and seminars, in Australia, France, Japan, and Russia, as well as in the United States, and lives, with his wife, Angel, in Taos, New Mexico. He excels at getting people outstanding publicity.

Thank you for making time to visit with us. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is one of your most memorable moments, and what made it memorable?

My goodness. With so many years under my belt, there are countless memorable moments. However, you asked for one.

For the last 25 years or so, since I shut my chiropractic practice of 30 years (that’s another memorable moment!), I’ve been working with entrepreneurs to take their businesses to the next level and improve their bottom line; from napkin idea to those well into revenue, I’ve worked with them all.

A few years ago I was facilitating a breakout session during one of those ubiquitous business growth conferences, on Zoom.

A woman (who was living in the UK at the time) asked some questions; I responded, mentoring her toward her goal of bringing her books, and message, to the world. She clicked on my calendar link and scheduled a 15-minute strategy session. Long story, sort . . . two months later she moved in with me, and a year-and-a-half after that, we were married!

And, as for bringing Angel’s message about raising emotionally resilient kids, well, in my role of working with people seeking publicity, she is a best-selling author, with articles in the Los Angeles Tribune, the Los Angeles Tribune Magazine, and USA TODAY. She also speaks to live audiences, and is a frequent guest on podcasts and webinars.

If you had told me, just before Angel and I met, that that was the shift I would take in my life, well, I never would have guessed.

What is the most unexpected twist in your career story, and what did you discover from your detour?

I was blessed with a stellar chiropractic practice in San Diego. Was featured on the 6:30 news, a morning television talk show for about a year, and had feature stories about me in the San Diego Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. PBS heard about me and soon filmed a special about me and the work I was doing.

Chiropractic was my life.

Then, the twist: one day I was meditating and essentially heard a message: “Close your practice and work with entrepreneurs!” Uh. “Really?” I asked. The response was a resounding. “Yes.” Three weeks later (ya, kinda crazy) I shut 30 years of chiropractic. I already owned 80 acres in Taos, New Mexico. I came out here and have been working with entrepreneurs ever since.

According to a recent Harvard Business School study, the most essential communication skill for leaders is the ability to adapt their communication style. How do you adapt your communication style?

Adaptation is critical, not only for clear communication but for survival! All species must adapt to not only survive, but thrive.

Interesting you should mention that Harvard study. What I remember from that study is that businesses with inadequate communication strategies (read inability to adapt) can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Large companies can lose tens of millions of dollars!

Living in certainly leads to one’s inability to adapt. The more uncertainty you can handle in your life, the better your quality of life. Kind of like being stuck in a perspective, or seeing something needs to be changed, and embracing the uncertainty.

So how to adapt? Best advice I would offer is to listen. Listen to the feedback that is all around you. Real feedback, that is. Don’t listen to the sycophants who will tell you precisely what you want to hear.

Some considerations on specifically adapting your communication skills . . .

There are three basic ways in which we all communicate.

I’ll tell you what they are, then talk about how to adapt your conversation to match that person.

The three basic ways are visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.

To the visual person, describe things visually; paint them pictures so they can see what you are talking about. To the visual person, describe things using verbal cues. To the kinesthetic describe what things feel like.

Clarity is critical as well. What lessons have you learned about how to communicate with clarity in our distributed world of work?

Clear communication is vitally important in every aspect of your life, personal, as well as professional. Have you ever asked someone when and where they would like to go to dinner and the answer is, “Anywhere. It doesn’t matter.” Kind of infuriating isn’t it? You would like a clear answer, at least about what time, and what type of food, yes?

Clarity is critical. The absence of clarity can lead to disastrous consequences. One story comes to mind, that of the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft, in 1999. The spacecraft was designed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Seems there was a total lack of clarity in the measurement system to be used. Seems JPL used the metric system while engineering and building the spacecraft, while the software was programmed using customary US parameters. Oops, one very expensive spacecraft was lost in space.

Speaking of things in space, another example of lack of clarity by just a little bit, caused an enormous error. Many people are aware of the Hubble Space Telescope debacle. A grinding error in the edge of the mirror of 2.2 microns, which is approximately 50th the thickness of a human hair, required a team of astronauts to travel to the Hubble’s orbit and make a repair.

Fortunately, most of us will never have miscommunication that can lead to tens of millions of dollars of calamity.

The lesson to be learned here, is to ensure clarity in your communication. How do you do that?

The easiest form of communication is to tell someone something. And then you just pray they get it.

Second level of communication is to ask them to acknowledge they heard you. That too is fraught with potential for miscommunication.

Third level of communication is put it in writing, and hand it, or e-mail it to somebody.

The fourth level of communication is to have it in writing and countersigned. That’s called a contract. And, in spite of alleged clarity, and a signed agreement, or contract, there’s still miscommunication. If everything we put our signatures to in such contracts would resolve the problems, most attorneys would be selling used cars.

Take away from here? Put it in writing, and check-up. Ensure communication is accurate, and being acted upon with as much accuracy as possible. There’s an old saying, there may not be enough time to do it the first time, but there’s always time to do it over and do it right.

We often discover what works by experiencing what doesn’t. Tell us about a time when your communication didn’t lead to the desired results and what you learned from the experience.

My goodness, only one? One that stands out is the basis of what we just talked about, specifically about clarity of the message. A long time ago, when I was living in San Diego, my son volunteered to pick me up at the airport. I told him my flight information, and made the mistake of not verifying he actually got it. As you can surmise, from the nature of this conversation, he was a no-show. Very apologetic, to say the least, but never-the-less, a no-show. Fortunately, the airport was not that far away, and he was there in 20 minutes, but the lesson was learned.

Verify all communication.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are struggling to have their messages heard and actioned?

Here’s where we’re going to talk a bit about what I really do. The overarching aspect of this is publicity. We’ll get to the individual in a moment; let’s start with publicity for the company. One of my super-powers is getting publicity for people . . . getting articles about them in the Los Angeles Tribune, The Los Angeles Magazine (with their picture on the front cover!), and articles in USA TODAY. For some of our higher-end clients, we also get them interviews on Nasdaq’s television program, New to the Street.

For publicity to be effective, the company culture must be coherent, and the messages congruent. When you have the message consistent, and you have access to the media, you can then bring the message to your masses, that is, to the people with whom you work. Create that culture, and, if you do have media access, polish the message by offering an opportunity for others in the company to appear in, or on, the media. What would it mean for someone on the production line to have the opportunity to be part of the larger picture?

When I was an engineer, there was at least one day a year when the production line workers were able to bring their families to the facility for a family appreciation day. By getting the family involved, for them to be able to see what they were involved with, so see the finished products, instead of just their little corner of the world, there was huge buy-in from the people who worked the floor. They knew they were not just the worker bees; they mattered. And, of course, there were awards and certificates given out, too. It is amazing how hard people will work for just a bit of recognition. Honor those with whom you work, and recognize their contribution, and you’ll find more and more people taking action on things that matter.

It is said the difference between a boss and a leader, is a boss manages their employees, a leader inspires them.

Be a leader.

Leading a distributed team requires a different communication cadence and style from leading a team in person. What are five strategies any leader can deploy to improve communication and clarity when leading a distributed workforce? Please share a story or example for each of you can.

1 . Distributed workforce, or one-on-one, the answer is the same. This goes back to what I mentioned earlier, the three basic ways, or “languages,” in which we all communicate. I’m not talking about Hebrew, French, and Swahili. What I’m really talking about here, is how people process, or take in information. Those three ways again? Visual, auditory, or kinesthetic (body sense). So how does this help you? If you are talking with someone who is an auditory, and you are using visual language, they can’t “hear” you. There is a total disconnect. Let’s make this easier: visual is the highest vibration (by the way, none of these are right, nor better than another; it’s just the way someone is wired, kinda like being left- or right-handed). This person needs to see things to get it. These are the people to whom you can explain something until the cows come home, they won’t get it. However, once you show “it” to them, well, that’s the aha moment.

As an example, you are a real estate salesperson, and you are describing a house to someone, they ain’t gonna get it until they see it. When showing a house to a prospect, and you learn they are a visual learner (discovering someone’s modality is a skill — basically, you ask them a thought-provoking question and watch their eyes. If, when searching for an answer their eyes go up, toward the ceiling, good chance they are visual. If their eyes move to the side, high probability they are auditory. If their eyes go down, probably a kinesthetic. (Please know this is a very simplistic explanation; there is so much more depth to this, but with limited time, this is simply a primer. Kinda like saying all there is to flying an aircraft is taking off and landing; there is so much more.)

So, if you are showing the house to a prospect, and you now know they are visual, you may something such as, “Can’t you just see yourself pulling into that driveway?”

If you are showing to an auditory, perhaps your language would include, “Just imagine the sound of the kids playing in the yard.”

To a kinesthetic, you may offer, “Imagine what it would feel like to feel that grass under your feet.”

Well, that’s all well and good for that one-on-one, how do you deal with this ‘en masse? Incorporate all three modalities when you are addressing the masses. Be certain to include the visuals. Paint visual pictures so they can “see” what you are talking about. For the auditories, describe things using auditory cues. For the kinesthetics describe the feelings of “it.” Such as: Imagine what it will feel like when this is accomplished.

2 . How often have you said something to someone, you were absolutely clear in what you said, and you discover the person to whom you were speaking got it totally wrong? Or, perhaps, the tables were turned, and, while you are absolutely confident in what you heard, you learn it wasn’t even close to what the person said? You’ve had that experience, many times I suspect. Yes? Of course, you have.

Whose responsibility is it to ensure what you say is heard correctly? Well, in the real world that burden rests squarely on the shoulders of the person speaking. The example I’m about to give you, Karen, works great when speaking to a live audience, but for this exercise, will be transcribed. So, to you, the reader, I invite you to read this out loud. That way you’ll get it, and understand the importance of speaking clearly. Reading it out loud will help you anchor what you learn here.

Please, to get the most out of this, play along here, and do read it out loud . . .

I have 26 sheep, and one dies, how many sheep do I have left?

Got an answer?

Great. Let’s say that again: I have 26 sheep, and one dies, how many do I have left?

Same answer? Different answer?

So, and this is why you’ve got to read this out loud . . . gonna say it again, Karen, this time more slowly, and with a slightly different pronunciation.

Ready? If I have 20 sick sheep . . .

Yeah. I know. But, guess what? It is your responsibility to ensure the message is received the way you transmit it.

3 . Listening, paying attention, and getting feedback is so vitally important in all communication scenarios. The other night, as my wife and I were preparing dinner, our listening and getting feedback experience is a perfect example. I took out the cast iron skillet in preparation for cooking the salmon we were having for dinner. I also put a container of garlic butter on the stove. My wife was about to sauté spinach in garlic butter when she asked me, “Are you going to use this for the salmon?”

When I turned around to place the salmon in the pan, I saw she had the spinach and garlic butter well underway. I looked at Angel, and we both laughed. I assumed (we all know what a dangerous word that is) she was asking me about the garlic butter. So, I said, “No.” She was indeed, asking me about the skillet.

OK. No big deal; took out the other cast iron skillet and proceed to cook the salmon. Dinner, by the way, was great.

So, what does this have to do with listening, paying attention, and getting feedback? Only everything. Angel and I were absolutely clear in our communication; only thing is, we were talking about two different things!

The lesson here: Not only must you listen, but you must pay attention to what is actually being said, or in this situation asked about.

4 . You’ve done it. We all do it. We see someone do something or say something, and we have judgment on it. We have a story about it. Doesn’t matter if the story is true or not; we made it up, so it must be true! Or . . . not. The reality is, we haven’t a clue why someone (often, including ourselves!) does something.

We all view the world through our filters, and most of those filters were installed decades ago, by our parents, teachers, rabbis, priests, ministers, school crossing guards, teachers, etc., in many cases we don’t remember, who just showed up in our lives. A really patent example is, no one is born with prejudice, we take that on from other people and adopted it ourself. And guess where those people got their filters from? From the same kind of people in their formative years.

the Talmud reminds us, “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.” How does this translate into strategic communication? Step out of judgment, and remember that whatever it is, all too often we take it on as being about us. Let’s say you have a meeting, business, dinner, or whatever, and the other person doesn’t show. You may feel the person stood you up. They disrespected you. In reality, it may have had nothing to do with you. Truth is, it usually doesn’t. They may have had an emergency, maybe they got caught in traffic. Step out of being quick to judge somebody, and allow circumstances to unfold naturally at their own pace.

More germane to the comment about the Talmud, is when you see or hear something from someone, what part of it is about you? Again, it has everything you do with your filters. Kind of like putting your filter in front of the lens on your camera. It shades everything, not just some things, it shades everything. Everything you do, think, and say, your history, your story, is all through your filter system.

As in all aspects of communication, gather all the data, look at your own perspectives, prejudices, and viewpoints, and then respond.

5 . For the fifth thing, the shortest answer is be present. Here again, you have done it, we all do it. You’re in a conversation, and you’re only partially listening to what the other person is saying. In your mind, you’ve already got the answer, the solution, and you’re formulating a response. If you’re present, you can often tell when the person with whom you’re having a conversation left the conversation. I don’t mean she turned around and walked away, I mean you can tell by their expression and by their mannerism that they’ve tuned you out. They are thinking about dinner, the next meeting, or perhaps how they can exit the conversation without being rude.

You’ve been there and done that. Own it.

What’s fascinating here, or perhaps just curious, is when we do this kind of behavior, it’s acceptable? At least to us. However, when the person with whom we’re speaking does it, it’s downright annoying. Hear the other person out. Let them complete their thought. You may even gain new knowledge or information as they process what they’re saying through their filters. You may wonder how you can do this when sometimes people don’t even seem to take a breath. As they continue speaking, find a space, find a pause, then change the subject, and ask a higher-level question. What is true is, we learn more from asking questions than from talking. If you want to find how to serve someone, ask them real. Simply ask, “How may I serve you?” Ask their perspective on what’s going on.

You may be amazed at what kind of solutions can be derived when you ask questions instead of just keep talking.

What are the three most effective strategies to diminish distractions when there is so much competing for attention?

Sorry. What was the question again? I was distracted.

Be aware of, and pay attention to your desired outcome. Too many of us, and yes, I include myself in this, live in an SOS world, yeah, the Shiny Object Syndrome. This is not just entrepreneurs, but virtually everyone; what’s the next best thing? Some people even do this in relationships! Not a good idea. When you are on a path toward your desired outcome, stay on that path. That’s not to say you can’t explore other avenues, just be true to your desired outcome. A great example of this “syndrome” is the MLM space. I’ll wager most of us know someone who is in the multilevel marking space who was selling one product last month, and is now selling something else. And, they were in a few MLMs before that, and will probably be in another in a few months. Doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with what they are selling; the question is how diversified can you be and still be successful? Better to stick with what works, take a look at what can contribute to that success, to make it better, and pass on everything else that is a distraction.

Be present to your conversation, or present situation. Karen, how do you feel when you’re in a conversation with someone and know they are only partially paying attention? Keep your eyes focused on the person with whom you are speaking. This question reminds me of a conversation I had many years ago, with the CEO of a significant organization. Someone suggested I meet him. There he was, having a conversation with someone. I walked up and stood where he could clearly see me. Never even a glance in my direction. In my arrogance, I was, well, let’s say, less than thrilled with him.

Then, when he finished talking with the other guy, he turned to me and offered me his undivided attention. Wow. I got it. He was totally present with the other person; then with me. There were no distractions. I felt like I was the most important person in the world to him; at least for the duration of that conversation.

How do you feel when someone gives you their undivided attention? I invite you to give that same level of attention to whomever you are in conversation with.

As a matter of fact, should you call me and get my voicemail, you will hear me say, “I’ll return your call when I can give you my undivided attention.” Much better than I’ll call you back at my earliest convenience, or something like that.

Recognize distraction, and ignore it. Goes back to what I suggested a few moments ago. Will that distraction serve you or take you off course? Now, of course . . . if there is an emergency, sure, go for it. Reality is, at least my experience is, what may show up as an emergency is nothing more than someone else’s panic, and seeking help. There’s a wonderful story I heard a long time ago, about someone who is pacing the floor in the middle of the night. His pacing awakened his wife, who asked him what was wrong. He reminded his wife of the note, the payment, which was due tomorrow; the banker to whom he owed the note was his friend. He knew he could not make good on the note. His wife called the friend and told him the note, which her husband owed tomorrow could not be paid; good night. The husband yelled at his wife. “What did you do that for?” “Now,” she said, “it’s his program. Now you can go to sleep!” What distracts you that you can set aside?

What is one skill you would advise every leader to invest in to become a better communicator?

One skill? That’s kinda like asking what is the one thing it takes to be successful. Be a servant leader. Serve the people with whom you work. And, just about everything we’ve spoken about so far . . .

Be present. Listen.

And, take responsibility for your part.

Attempting to shift the blame in an argument, or when something goes wrong, may fulfill your ego for a while, a short while, but, and yes, that’s a but, it resolves nothing. When there is a disagreement, for example, recognize, you have a part in it. No way it’s all someone else’s stuff. If someone screws up, and that is a part of life, and you place the blame squarely on that person, where are you in the equation? Did you train that person? Perhaps you hired him, or her. Where was accountability? Take a close look at what part you played in the situation.

The quality of your life is determined by the quality of the questions you ask, so instead of asking why “this” happened (and blaming someone else), a much better question is, “What can we learn from this?” Clean up the mess and move forward.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I mentioned earlier, that the Talmud reminds us: “We don’t see the world as it is, we see it as we are.”

This means your perception (of everything!) is colored by your own perspective; your own beliefs, biases, and interpretations.

One of my favorite plays, which I saw at Hofstra Univerity, on Long Island, when I was in my early 20s, is a Japanese play, called Rashomon.

In the simplest telling: a man and his bride are murdered, and there is a witness. That’s act One; you see this played out. In each of the subsequent scenes, each person tells their version of the encounter. So, you see the perspective of the murdered man, the bride, the witness, and the murderer. And of course, there is your perspective — you saw the whole thing.

Not only are all their stories different, not one of them matches what you saw!

What is reality?

Mark Twain said it so eloquently: “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

That one inspired idea? Don’t judge anyone. For one thing, you have no idea what’s going on in their universe, and it’s all viewed through your lens anyway!

How can our readers stay connected with you?

You can find a wealth of information about what I do at You’ll see what outstanding publicity looks like.

You can set a time to explore what has to happen for you to build your credibility with great publicity at

And you can always email me at [email protected]

Thank you for these great insights! We wish you continued success.