The source of all frustration

I remember when a Sr. Director of a large organization walked in and announced, “Communication doesn't work.”  He proceeded to tell me about a recent major re-organization he tried to stop, but which went forward despite his best efforts to re-direct it.  The re-org created mass disruption and confusion.  He was definitely frustrated.

The frustration I’m talking about is the kind that involves other people.  I’m a people expert.  As someone who’s coached and delivered workshops to professionals and executives for over 30 years, you can imagine how many stories I've heard, how much frustration has crossed my doorstep for assistance.  Every kind of situation you can imagine. Take all the frustration you've ever experienced, to that add all the frustration you've ever seen around you, and you begin to have a sense of the amount of, and types of, frustration I've heard about and helped with.  Not just limited to work, but spanning the depths of personal life too.

And I'm expected to provide effective help that produces results in a matter of days, not years.

I'm going to tell you 2 guiding principles and 3 areas of focus that have enabled me to help as many people as I have so you can make frustration evaporate from your own life, replaced by the sweet exhilaration of success I’ve seen thousands of times.

The first of these is, that 80% of what is going on has nothing to do with the other person, it's about you and what you're doing. Before you decide I’m being insensitive, harsh, hostile or overbearing, I’d like you to consider what I’m telling you as a workable truth that has the power to liberate you from any frustrating situation.  Because what it means is that you can do something to change it.   And change it dramatically.  The power to transform any situation or any person begins with your ability to assume the cause role in your communications. 

The second principle has to do with how you’re handling the situation.  You’re in a situation where you want to make something happen or to change something.  It involves another person or people. You try to communicate. Your communication fails to get the results you want.  You get frustrated.

That’s a simple description of what’s happening.  The people I help tell me how communication isn’t working and specifically what about the other person is making it difficult, even what is wrong with the other person.  I often hear, “I tried communicating with them and it didn’t work.”

As soon as you think communication isn’t working, you're going to get frustrated.  Do you ever feel that way?  Feel communication doesn’t work?  You’re not alone. 

Most of the people I help are super achievers and, believe me, even they have many moments of feeling that way.  We super achievers are hard on ourselves and don’t accept defeat easily.

The communication skills I’ve spent years developing, coupled with a unique career that gives me a front row seat as the people I help turn even impossible situations around into victories, has provided me with too much evidence to ignore.   I now know that communication always works.

So, what's the disconnect?

People are eager to tell me what’s frustrating them.  I hear the disconnect as I listen to the stories they tell when they first arrive.  I can clearly see that what they're calling communication, isn't. This, by the way, is true whether it’s about their 1-on-1 communication, meetings, or presentations. 

They think they’re communicating (heck, they really believe it), but what they’re actually doing is not communication. They are talking, persuading, convincing, selling, explaining endlessly, debating, arguing, complaining, demanding, asserting, insisting, challenging, defending, justifying, overpowering, drowning them in details, just putting it out there, scolding, lecturing, posturing, pleading, trying to impress, throwing it out and hoping it lands, dropping hints and leaving clues, being indirect, threatening, forcing, getting emotional, and sometimes outright manipulating. And they are correct – these things do not work. Never have, never will.  When someone is doing even one of these other things, you can be sure the one thing they are not doing is causing real communication to happen.

And, let me be completely clear, not one of these other things is communication.  Not even close.  Not anywhere near the right neighborhood.  No hope of landing success with any of them.  They are communication pretenders.

For example, take the Sr. Director, Bill, who was trying to make the re-org go away.  He started out endlessly explaining why it was a bad idea to everyone who would listen.  When that didn’t work he moved to debating, debates he always lost.  Debating was then replaced with pleading and threatening.  Bill was a loyal, valuable high level director, so others put up with it, but it was all useless in getting anyone to change their mind.  He talked himself blue in the face and had given up on “communication”.

I understand this well myself.  I was a debater until I learned how to communicate.  I could never understand how I could win the debate and lose the issue or the relationship.

“Communication” is one of the most frequently used words we have today, and yet I find hardly anyone really knows what true communication is or how to make it happen. The usual definitions of communication that are casually thrown around are woefully inadequate.  You need to operate with a precision definition to achieve success.

Communication, by definition, is 2-way.  By definition, communication consists of complete clarity, unadulterated listening, and perfect understanding.  By definition, communication requires these to be mutual. 

It's your ability to make true communication, real communication, full communication, happen on a two-way basis, not just for you, but for the other person as well, that determines the outcomes you get.

Bill worked for a very large oil company (I guess they’re all very large actually).  They had announced a re-org that affected thousands of individuals.  The announcement came from the top about a week before I met him.  During the workshop Bill realized that, despite all the talking, he had not communicated his thoughts effectively.  Afterward, he went back and, for the first time, he communicated.  It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?  But he wasn’t doing all these other things any more.  Initially he was told it was too late, the decision had already been made and he had to move forward.  However, Bill went ahead and communicated his thoughts, this time he made it real communication, he communicated effectively, powerfully.  He created understanding at a whole new level.  This powerful and profound understanding penetrated and created a breakthrough. 

Within 48 hours senior leadership retracted the re-org announcement.  I’ve never heard of this before, that a re-org org announcement of this magnitude was retracted 2 weeks after it was made.  It was the equivalent of saying, “We were wrong and we’re changing it back.”  Simply on the basis of, “We understand more today than we did yesterday and, in light of this new understanding, we re-evaluated the situation and our decision.”  Senior leadership was grateful to have a more complete picture of the situation.  Everyone was relieved.  Frustration evaporated. 

The facts never changed.  The level of understanding did.  Bill caused it.  A pure, powerful and profound degree of understanding resulted in a new decision.

What does this mean for you?  Focus in on causing truly effective communication to happen the next time you get frustrated with someone.  Don’t get caught into the trap of doing all those other communication pretenders.  Cause real communication.  Cause:

  1. Complete clarity

  2. Unadulterated listening

  3. Perfect understanding

And make it 2-way, mutual.

The people I help come back to tell me magic happens when they do just that.

They got the promotion, conflict evaporated, the other person changed completely, their teenager’s talking to them, their vision is spreading throughout the organization, they closed the $400 million deal.  I could go on.  I'm swimming in client success stories, so nobody could ever get me to believe it doesn't work.

No tricks. No gimmicks. No sales talk. No debating. No arguing. No persuading. Just pure and profound communication.

That’s what I would love to see happen for you.  Change your approach, make a profound level of communication happen and you'll experience the magic. When you can communicate at a profoundly effective level and get what you want, you won't feel frustrated, you'll feel elated.

The power to transform any situation or any person begins with your ability to assume the cause role in your communications. 

Be the cause!

How to Get Promoted from Director to VP - Executive Insight

If you're looking to get promoted from Director to VP, this powerful checklist will help you prepare to achieve that goal.  Inside the checklist, you'll find a strategic yet practical "roadmap" for making sure the way you communicate with others demonstrates your capacity to step into a VP role. If you're looking to develop that "executive presence" aura that successful leaders have, this free checklist will help you do it.  


I’ve been helping people get promoted for 30 years. Not to mention land big raises too. It's one of the things I most like about my work - helping people achieve their aspirations and dreams.

Recently I’ve had a wave of Directors and Senior Directors I’ve helped become VPs and I thought I'd share 7 key ingredients with you as, for some reason, getting the VP offer seems to be particularly tricky. These ingredients are necessary for ALL leadership roles, yet it seems it’s too easy to get stuck at Director level.

What do you do when you find yourself hitting an invisible wall you can't seem to get through as you're seeking that next step in your career? You come with your innate strategic abilities, you're able to span your attention and efforts across the organization, and you know you can impact key metrics in a meaningful way. Yet, there's that illusive something that seems to be missing.

But the thing I've seen hold people back more than anything is not these items. It's their ability to communicate.

Let's look at why.

As you progress up the organization, your communication skills increasingly go under a microscope.

By the time you’re CEO, you're not only living with this fact of life, you get used to having the magnification turned up to 400X.

What this means is every flaw you have is magnified. So flaws that you get away with as Manager, or as Director, are the kiss of death once you start looking at VP and above.

The reason for this is obvious. Your communication is now going to impact a lot of people. They’re going to read into everything you say and how you say it. There are consequences to even the slightest attitudes you have. Every communication from you matters. It's your main tool for making things happen.

And, most importantly, at these higher levels, it's your communication, and ability to communicate extremely well even under adverse circumstances, that's going to make or break the success of the organization.

What I've seen with my clients is, one for one, when they dramatically improved some very specific leadership type communication skills needed at the higher levels, the promotions not only happened, they happened ahead of schedule.

This is actually true at all levels of the organization, but especially dramatic for the leap between Director and VP.

So what specific skills cause you to rise above and be chosen? The sooner you start manifesting these skills, the sooner your organization organically selects you to be its next leader. It's inevitable. I've seen too much success with these specific skills to think otherwise.

Let me start with a broad statement about the feedback that many of my clients were given prior to coming to me.

I found it interesting that most of my clients were told they needed to develop “executive presence”. 

It's true they did need to develop it, but what was fascinating was they had no clue what it was. To them it was some magical aura that’s invisible but somehow communicates to everyone that you're a leader. It was a total enigma how to do it. They helplessly thought “Some people have it naturally and some (like me) don’t.” They had no idea of the anatomy of this utterly mysterious but vital necessity, which of course put them in a position where there's no hope they’ll ever develop it.

It’s sad that the people giving this feedback don’t themselves know what “executive presence” is. This term is so wildly open to interpretation, it means radically different things to different people. Fortunately, I’ve been helping people develop it for years and can explain, simplify and teach it.

By the way, I love seeing "executive presence" manifest. I feel lucky I get to see it manifest in a very rapid and dramatic fashion in a matter of 3 days because I do “before” and “after” videos of my clients. I just saw it yesterday with my most recent Senior Director. In his first video he looked like a Director. In his final video he looked like an Executive VP and he even had what most people would call an “aura”. 

So, let's look at the anatomy of this aura. 

And how you can start manifesting these skills now yourself to accelerate your next promotion. 


#1. Don't be frazzled.

Frazzled means you come across as overly stressed and somewhat overwhelmed. Being frazzled is an "executive presence" killer. Directors and below are frequently frazzled, with good reason of course. However, while you shouldn’t even do it at the lower levels, you really can’t afford to do it at the upper levels. 

When you're a Vice President, if you get frazzled it freaks people out. A Vice President needs to communicate with poise, calm, be in the moment, not have his/her attention ping-ponging all over the place. The best Executives stop all their mental noise and are calm and in the moment. People walk in to meetings with this kind of Executive full of mental noise themselves and find their own noise calms down and vaporizes in the presence of real self-command. It gets calm.

#2. Senior executives have a strong sense of dignity.

This is a big component of “executive presence”. The last 100+ clients that I asked what the word “dignity” means gave me woefully inadequate or incorrect definitions for it. This is a very important word to know. “Dignity” is the sense of being worthy of esteem and honor. Many of my clients try hard to please others, look to others for approval, let others determine their value, they lose their own sense of worth. Some of them have been hammered by bad feedback and coaching and don’t have a strong sense of their own value. They will say, "I do good work", but that is a far cry from a robust sense of dignity. Dignity radiates from within. It’s not the same as confidence. It’s definitely not arrogance which rubs everyone the wrong way. Dignity is your own sense of being worthy. It's a skill to be able to communicate with dignity. It can be developed. It gives you an aura. It’s vital in the skill set of a senior executive.

#3. Every successful senior executive I’ve seen or worked with communicates with a superior level of intention.

Intention is not effort, it’s not putting energy into it, it's not trying hard. Intention is senior to effort.  It commands attention and understanding. Many people communicate with intent. Executives do it at a superior level. It's the difference between watching someone play tennis on weekends or a champion professional. The amateur doesn’t have the skills to win at the same level, no matter how hard they try or how positive their attitude. This level of communication penetrates, inspires, makes things happen. It is true leadership level communication. 

#4. Give your undivided attention to the person who's talking to you.

Look into their eyes, both when you're speaking as well as listening. When you’re on the phone, make the world go away, tune in and feel the presence of the other person fully. 

Directors and below have so much going on, they’re frequently trying to multitask. With those executives who I would say are very noteworthy, I hear the people around them say, “Wow, when you talk with him/her you feel like you're the only person in the world.” Why is this important? Because people want to be led by someone who makes them feel that way. How you make people feel has everything to do with whether not they want you to lead them.

I recently had someone email me this about his new VP: “I love him! I get 100% of his focus. I feel fantastic talking to him. He’s not rushed. I feel like an eternity has gone by, I hang up the phone and realize it was a 12 minute conversation. That kind of impact in 12 minutes! WOW!”

#5. You need the ability to make deep human connections, to build a warm rapport with anyone.

Your ability to make a deep and real human connection determines how much trust you will enjoy. There's a world of difference between "talking" and making a deep connection, and the difference will have a big impact on your career: Getting others to open up and your ability to listen play a big part in this. I have worked with many people who are trustworthy, but they didn’t know how to make deep connections and people didn't trust them. Once they learned how to make that deep connection, trust grew rapidly. Trust is the basis of the real, solid cooperation you’ll need.

#6. You need to communicate so well that you have the ability to make resistance and conflict evaporate.

The reason for this is because unhandled conflict in the organization will escalate to your level. By the time it gets to you, no one below you has been able to handle it - it will be up to you to make conflict go away.

Of course, the best thing you can do is prevent conflict in the first place. Conflict can almost always be prevented with outstanding communication. Disagreement is a natural part of life when you’re dealing with many viewpoints, but there’s absolutely no reason it needs to turn into conflict. I have seen over and over with clients that conflict is never a result of the issues, it is always a result of communication and understanding breaking down.

While we experience a lot of successful communication, there is nothing in this world that breaks down faster, or with more frequency, than communication …. nothing. As advanced as we are as a civilization, as much communication technology as we have at our fingertips, as breathtaking are our opportunities to communicate to each other and to the world, we still experience communication breakdowns daily, both at work and at home, on a personal, organizational and even international level. You need to be able to rapidly repair it when it breaks.

And when you’re high up in the organization, you’re dealing with so many people, so many multiple viewpoints, so many realities, it becomes important that you can manage all of them simultaneously. It kills your organization if you don't.

Start to demonstrate that conflict and resistance do not happen around you, and that when they do, you confront it head on and make them evaporate and get everything rapidly moving forward, and the people in power will naturally put you in a leadership role very quickly because managing communication, other people's perceptions, realities, expectations, frustrations is an enormous part of a leader's job. 

#7. An unspoken question they’ll ask about you before they decide to promote you is, “Will the organization be happy under him/her?” This is another way of asking, “How good are your communication skills? Are they at a leadership and executive level?” 

It takes outrageously great communication skill to not only communicate well with the person in front of you, but to do it so well that it carries through the rest of the organization.

If you start demonstrating these skills now, I see a promotion in your future regardless of where you are in the organization.

These skills are rare. They will accelerate and raise the trajectory of your career and your income. You’ll feel like this client who recently emailed me:

“I am convinced that the skills I learned have been the biggest factors in changing the trajectory of my career. There is no doubt about it. It makes me smile to compare conversations I had before, where they labeled me as a “strong practitioner” to the daily interactions I have now with senior executives who promoted me 3X in 2 years and treat me like a “high level leader”. I was the only person out of the 500+ of us to receive this many promotions and this particular level of promotion. It is heady stuff and very exciting.”

Get the "Becoming a VP" Checklist

If you're looking to get promoted from Director to VP, this powerful checklist will help you prepare to achieve that goal.  Inside the checklist, you'll find a strategic yet practical "roadmap" for making sure the way you communicate with others demonstrates your capacity to step into a VP role. If you're looking to develop that "executive presence" aura that successful leaders have, this free checklist will help you do it.  

Why relationships are nothing like driving your car

If I want to take a fabulous road trip back to my hometown of Philadelphia, fundamentally I’d decide when I wanted to leave and arrive, I’d map out the route, plan the stops, pack, get in the driver’s seat, start the car and drive.  I’d go straight when I wanted to go straight, turn right when I wanted to turn right, stay on my route, get out to stretch whenever I felt like.   I’d follow my plan, drive as fast, or as slow, as I liked … and I’d eventually get to Philadelphia.  If I were by myself, there wouldn’t be any conflict.  I’d get the outcome I wanted, the way I wanted it, when I wanted it.

Relationships aren’t like that.

Relationships aren’t even like having a passenger in the car. Any relationship you have, whether at work or in your personal life, is like driving a dual-control car. You’re in the same car, but the other person also has their own steering wheel they can turn, and their own full set of controls, including a gas pedal that can accelerate the car anytime, not to mention a set of brakes.  Two people controlling 1 car.

With dual controls, you're going to have a serious problem if the other person turns right while you're turning left, or if they put their foot down on the brake while yours is hard on the gas pedal.

In a car this seems obvious, but in personal and professional relationships I often see two people simultaneously trying to control where the “car” is going and this creates endless difficulty.  I see them struggle for control, or one just gives up in frustration and lets the other take the wheel.  Not a recipe for happiness.  Bad road trip. 

Managing any relationship is like managing a dual-control car.  First of all, it's probably a good idea to agree on the destination. If I want to go to Philadelphia and the other person wants to just cruise up and down California’s coast Highway 1, one is east, the other’s west, we're going to continuously steer in different directions, making the car look crazy, going all over the road.  And there’s one thing that’s certain. Neither are we going to get to Philadelphia, nor are we going to have a nice cruise along the coast down Highway 1.  I’ve seen many personal relationships that look like this, but also many that my clients have at work in large corporations.

And if you think about working on a team or with a group, it can get even crazier the more people are involved controlling the 1 car.  If you don’t all agree on exactly where you want to end up, you can get stuck in places no one wanted.  Not to mention when trust is missing and you’re not looking, they can step on the brakes or turn the wheel – and suddenly you find yourself on a strange road and you don’t know how you got there or how to get out.

It's amazing how things smooth out once you agree on the destination. So this is a skill it's really handy to have:  the ability to get anyone, in any situation, under any circumstance, to come to an agreement with you regarding the destination. Of course, that's just the beginning, but without this beginning you may never even make it out of the driveway.

Let me give you a real example.  I had a client who was trying to negotiate a partnership between his large corporation and another one.   Both stuck in their ways.  They were so busy arguing about what the other side should give them, they didn’t realize they hadn't really agreed whether they both even wanted a partnership.  The whole thing was coming across like something my client was trying to “force down their throats”.  So, he backed the discussions away from the areas of conflict and got them both to discuss, and then agree, they actually did want a partnership, that it should be a real partnership where 1+1 was much greater than 2, that both organizations should benefit tremendously.  It sounds simple, but it took a couple of skillfully conducted meetings just to get to that agreement to even have a partnership. But once that agreement was solidly in place, everything else proceeded smoothly, additional agreements happened rather rapidly and their partnership was announced in the news.

So, the first question to ask when you’re in this dual-controlled car is – what’s the destination we both/all fully agree on and can commit to?   And then use your skills to make that agreement and commitment real.

By the way, I did several fabulous road trips from Philadelphia to California, where I now live. America is stunning.   Took my time, 3 months.   Appalachian Mountains, Mississippi River, Kansas cornfields, Rocky Mountains, magical New Mexico, Utah’s Lake Powell, Grand Canyon, and up the incomparable California coast Highway 1.  When you do a trip like this, you really have to get along well with anyone in the car with you!

Wishing you good travels and relationships on your journey!


If you want to have these skills, go to:  Causative Communication Live!

The Look in Your Eyes

The look in your eye tells me everything I need to know.  I can tell by the look in your eye if you are going to win, barely maintain, or lose.

What is it I see?  I see the strength of your intention.  The strength of your intention tells me how it’s going to turn out for you.

Intention is not generally well understood.  Back when Noah Webster published the first American dictionary in 1828, he stated a great definition for it.  He said intention is:  when the mind with great earnestness fixes its view on any idea, purpose or goal, and will not be called off.  To be in earnest is to be very determined and deliberate in stretching towards an objective. To fix is to establish immovably, without wandering. 

To call something off means to decide it will not happen.  Will not be called off means that nothing – nothing – can make you decide that the outcome you want might not happen.

The word intention comes from the Latin word intentio which meant a stretching out.

Intention is when you have decided the outcome that will happen in advance and this decision is so strong, the only outcome possible is the outcome that you decided. 

Intention is certainty.

I first saw Stephen Curry play basketball in March 4, 2013.  I knew nothing about the Warriors.  The last basketball game I went to before this one was before the turn of the century.  I went to this game because it was a special event for Lithuanians (I’m Lithuanian – the relationship between that and basketball is a story for another day).  That night the Warriors were 2 years from winning the 2015 NBA Championship … with no sign they would win. 

I saw the look in Stephan Curry’s eyes and knew.  I knew he was a star.  I knew the Warriors would go on to win the NBA Championship and that it wouldn’t happen right away (because I didn’t see the same look in everyone else’s eye).  I knew he would uplift the team.  I knew he would uplift the city of Oakland (which you know he did in a big way if you were at the amazing celebration after they won).  I saw that much intention in his eyes.

I wasn’t watching how he played … I was watching the look in his eye.  The intention was unmistakable.  I rarely see that much intention in others and was powerfully impressed.  Look at those eyes.  You can see from the look in his eyes:  he will not be called off.

So, I did something I have never done in my life …. On March 4, 2013 I started following a sports team.  I’ve enjoyed every moment, but I have not been the least bit surprised as the story unfolded and we’ve witnessed the Warriors become one of the best teams in NBA history.  With Stephen Curry as one of the best players ever.

Earlier this week they lost the 1st game of the NBA Western Conference finals to Oklahoma City Thunder.  I wasn’t surprised when this happened either.  I saw the look in their eyes before the game.  I wasn’t looking at anything physical or how they were playing.  Just the look in their eyes.  Intention had diminished.

Yesterday morning, hours before their 2nd game, I read an article by local Sports writer, Tim Kawakami.  He saw the Warriors at practice the day before and wrote:  “Stephen Curry had the look, Draymond Green had the look, Andrew Bogut had the look, Andre Iguodala had the look, Steve Kerr had the look.  Even team Consultant Steve Nash, in a rare practice visit had a unique kind of focused/relaxed/super-alert look on his face at Warriors headquarters.”

I thought, “Ahhhhh …. They’re going to win tonight ….”  And they did.  What a game.

How does this relate to you?  How do you get enough intention to give you that look in your eye?  How do you become the Stephen Curry of your world?

It’s not physical.  It comes from within.

What kills it is uncertainty, doubt, indecision.  Most people have a hard time completely eliminating these from their thoughts.  But that is what it takes.  Making an unwavering decision about an objective and not allowing yourself to be called off.  Very simply, you make a decision and the decision is that strong.  No “maybe yes, but maybe no”.

Don’t confuse this with stubbornness, aggressiveness, force or bullying.  Intention is none of these.  People with these qualities (qualities that drive others away) always have very little, if any, true intention.  Intention is a decision and a consideration – it’s at the level of thought, not energy - and has nothing to do with force.  People with high intention are also capable of extremely gentle and warm communication and very respectful listening – as you can also see with Stephen Curry.

No one can diminish your intention but you.  No one can increase your intention but you.  Your degree of intention has nothing to do with your environment or your circumstances.  We would like to assign responsibility for what happens to us elsewhere because it lets us off the hook. But it’s not the truth.  People had told Stephen Curry he wasn’t going to make it as a basketball player.  He never let it monitor his intention.

His certainty about winning is so great, he doesn’t even turn around to look to see if his shot went in.

The general population doesn’t fully realize how vital intention is.  They don’t realize they didn’t succeed because they didn’t have enough intention.

I’ve worked with losers, mediocre performers and rock stars in their profession, including the world’s foremost experts in their field.  The biggest distinguishing factor is their intention.  I’ve seen amazing stories (and I know you have too) of people, when the world was against them and intention is ALL they had … and they won.

Intention is like a muscle.  It’s one of your greatest capabilities.  The more you exercise it, the bigger it will grow.  You have it in unlimited quantity.  You create it. 

There is nothing you can’t do.  There is no dream that is unattainable for you.  Your intention is powerful magic.  Stretch toward that objective you want.  Make that decision to win.  Decide to have certainty and confidence, complete freedom from doubt about winning.  Don’t be called off.  Use your intention to make it happen.  And win.

The world will see it in the look in your eye … and know that you are a winner.