Most businesses have an artificial separation between their technical aspects and people management. In order to mend this gap, Matt Poepsel, Ph.D. has developed the concept of talent optimization. Sitting down with Alicia Couri, he explains how his transition from military to civilian leadership shaped him into the Godfather of Talent Optimization who helps organizations strike a balance between business goals and shaping individuals. Matt explains how this can help leaders design a better culture for their team, honing them to become highly confident individuals in today’s hybrid work environments.
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Designing Solid Dream Teams Through Talent Optimization With Matt Poepsel, Ph.D.
Transitioning Military Leadership To Civilian Leadership And Beyond
Welcome to Leading with Audacious Confidence. Our mission for the show is to support leaders who are climbing that ladder of success with warnings, practical tips and techniques from leadership experts to highlight not just what it takes to be a leader in this age but, in the process, build your confidence to show up more powerfully in your role.
I’m your host, Alicia Couri, the Founder and CEO of Audacious Concepts Inc., a boutique consulting firm providing audacious solutions to nagging and persistent people issues clogging the revenue pipeline of your organization. From optimizing talent to reducing conflict and improving communication, our brain science, people data tools and expert coaching help you find an elegant solution to get the job done with more ease and less stress. Let’s join in on the conversation.
Welcome to this episode and our guest is Matt Poepsel. Let me tell you who and why he’s here. Matt Poepsel PhD, Dr. Matt or Matty P. as we call him, is a leadership expert and The Godfather of Talent Optimization. He serves as the Vice President of professional services at The Predictive Index. Matt has led product and consulting teams in the rapidly growing Boston Area software companies for many years. He holds a PhD in Psychology with a concentration in leadership and coaching. He served as a cryptographic linguist in the US Marine Corps. We need to know about that. He’s an Ironman Triathlon finisher. I wouldn’t even imagine to be an Ironman or Ironwoman, but congratulations to you. Welcome, Matt.
Thank you so much. I appreciate you having me on.
I was on your show.
We had a great time.
I interviewed your boss for the first season of this show. How is he as a boss?
He’s a tremendously accomplished person. He has built some successful businesses. One of the things that most impressed me about Mike is that he and his business partner Daniel acquired The Predictive Index because they had used it at some of their previous companies and appreciated its power and made a play to acquire it and take it to the next level and have they.
I enjoyed that interview with Mike Zani. Readers, go back to the first season and check out my interview with Mike Zani. He’s the CEO of The Predictive Index. Let’s dive into your journey. First of all, a cryptographic linguist in the US Marine Corps. What is that?
Essentially, a cryptographic linguist is part of the intelligence community. I was trained in how to speak Arabic at the defense language Institute in Monterey, California, where they send service members to go and learn a variety of different languages. I was assigned Arabic. I went on to San Angelo, Texas, where a good fellow air force base is located. We learned all about code breaking and these types of things before I reached what’s known as my fleet assignment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. At the time I was in, I did deployments to Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia.
It was a cryptographic linguist means that you spend a lot of time listening to radio signals, doing translations and trying to either it could be the local news or other types of communication. It was a great experience. I enjoyed joining and serving my country, but then I also enjoyed getting out and taking what I had learned to award my civilian life.
Thank you for your service. How did your years in the Marine Corps translate to civilian life now when you came out and you started to get into leadership roles?
I like to think that it gave me what’s almost like an unfair advantage, but also an unfair disadvantage. The unfair advantage came from the fact that military people had an experience that they tend to be very dependable and reliable. We learned a tremendous amount of information about how to operate efficiently, develop camaraderie and these sorts of things. On my first day of onboarding equivalent in the Marine Corps, unlike in the civilian world, I was given two things. One was a freshly shaved head and the second was a book about leadership principles.
Even from your very first day, they’re indoctrinating you into becoming a leader because in the military, what I came to learn later is you can’t just go to another branch of the service and hire a kernel or a general. You have to develop from within. I thought, as a military person, that this is just how adults experience life. They just train on leadership and how to be excellent at everything. When I got to my first civilian job, I was like, “I want to continue my leadership journey.” They’re like, “That’s on you.”
The disadvantage that it gave me is that the military is a very specific environment. What I was trained in the Marines was that the priorities for leaders, mission accomplishment and troop welfare in that order. You’re going to get the job done. That’s a given, and if you can help people be happy along the way, that’s nice. When I got to the civilian world, I came to realize that it doesn’t quite work so well. I ended up having to learn how to modify that, to say mission accomplishment and troop welfare in equal measure in balance. What I see now is that putting people first as long as we’ve got good context for the mission itself is a much better way to lead in the civilian world than I had experienced before.
I read your profile online about you. You said, “I’m a struggling manager turned capable leader and talent optimization expert.” Talk to me about the struggling manager. Now you’re in civilian life, you’re reading leadership books. You’re trying to become a better leader. What was the struggle?
I went to graduate school. I got my Master’s in Information Systems and my MBA at the same time. That was my effort to translate and make myself relevant in the business world. I felt like coming out of the military was great, but I had no real commercial experience. When I started to continue my education, it was all the technical aspects of work. It’s all about information, supply chains, organizational structures, design and all these things. It’s a very hard technical aspect of the business. What’s very common in leaders is that we spend a lot of time studying markets, trends, economics and all these things. I neglected to think about the people side very much. In my first early leadership assignments, I tried hard to get the technical parts right.
How do we define the work? If you think about the classic Peter Drucker, what is the job of a leader? Define the direction, marshal the resources, define the success metrics and manage the metrics. Where is the people part? With all due respect to Peter Drucker. What I came to find out was that I had the balance wrong. The struggling part was I had poor relationships with the people I worked with and who worked for me.
The real height of it came when I had to let somebody go, who I, myself, had made the decision to hire. I was in my office and I delivered this terrible news to her. It wasn’t her fault. She and I cried. I went home thinking, “Where did I go wrong?” That’s when it dawned on me that I spent so much time trying to learn the technical parts of the business, but I had neglected the people part. What became my new mission is to get the people part right.
How many managers and leaders out there are struggling with that same thing? You’re trying to do your job. You’re trying to get all the pieces of the job together right and you’re expecting everyone else to do their job. It’s like, “Just do your job and everything will be fine,” but it doesn’t work that way in real life.
I find that there’s this artificial separation between, “Are we working on the business or on our people?” It’s like if we do a one-on-one or something, or we do some developmental exercise, then it’s almost like, “Let’s go do the kumbaya thing.” These things are naturally infused, but we operate on either one or the other at a time. I find this is what prevents business and HR leaders from working closely together. The business is focused on those technical aspects we’ve been talking about. Sometimes HR comes in and says, “We have to make sure that the employee engagement and experience is high. We’ve got to make sure to meet the people side of these needs.”
The business becomes distrustful of saying, “If we do all that stuff, I’m paying these people, how do I get my business results?” People’s side of things starts to become trusting, meaning the business employees say, “You’re getting my time and energies in exchange for a paycheck, but I’m looking for something more.” It’s like, there’s this divide between the two that I’ve worked hard to try to break down.
You’re saying something so important because then HR struggles with, “How do we meet these needs? We’ll throw in a training here. We’ll do a retreat here.” They’re trying to piecemeal things to bring some kind of recognition to people. We’ll have awards. We’ll bring in pizza night and beer on Fridays. We’ll try to do all these things to try to bring morale up when it’s day-to-day, we have to integrate it into everyone’s daily life in order for them to enjoy the process of work. It’s not a piecemeal, one-off or check-the-box thing.
I give credit to HR as well because I think that the HR professionals I speak with recognizing that they have a bit of an identity crisis. You see this trend towards, “I’m an HR business partner.” Making sure that we understand that we’re in the business. We’re embedded in the business or, “I’m people operations or the chief people officer. I’m a talent optimization person.” The term HR is almost a four-letter word in a lot of companies.
We can’t have that because the reality is that these are the most highly trained people and professionals that we have. It’s people that make our businesses go. Historically, if we’re training our leaders on the technical aspects of business, they’re incomplete. We need to foster a much stronger partnership between our people professionals and our line of business professionals if we’re going to do right by our bottom line, the performance of the company, as well as by our people.If leaders are only trained on the technical aspects of business, they're incomplete. A stronger partnership between people and professionals must be fostered so this can be done right. Click To Tweet
We touched on Talent Optimization a few times. What exactly is Talent Optimization?
It is a relatively new discipline that has emerged. We first started to codify it in 2018. When we had this realization, myself and a bunch of other leaders at Predictive Index, in particular, we had thousands of clients, but we were finding that they were struggling to produce the business results they wanted. We stood to ourselves well, “Every business leader has some semblance of a plan when they start their fiscal year.”
Let’s say it’s January 1. They’re like, “What’s going to accomplish over the next twelve months?” At the end of December 31st, they look back and rarely does their performance match the aspiration they originally had. We found that it was because if we skip people’s steps along the way, it shows up and it causes all kinds of problems, but what are those people’s steps? We developed this framework called Talent Optimization. It codifies the things that every leader at every level must do.
Four things. 1) Design winning teams. How do we get the right group of people together, make them cohesive, working towards a3 common outcome? How do we hire top talent? How do we make sure we attract the right candidates that we make the right selection decision? We get them onboarded properly. How do we inspire people to greatness? We have employees. We have this privileged relationship with a manager. We have people and peers working with one another. It’s important to get that part right. Finally, how do we diagnose people’s problems that are affecting the business so we can get them fixed? How do we take objective measures, so we’re not doing just subjective things and tie them to the business context?
If we get those four things, then all of a sudden, the business result is going to match the business strategy and the strategic intent. Talent Optimization comes down to two things. It’s how do we optimize the performance and the experience of everybody in the organization? If we violate any of those four things, we skip any steps. We won’t have optimal performance. We won’t have optimal experience then the business and our people suffer as a result.
We’re talking about building solid teams, hiring the right people, inspiring not just leaders but also individuals at every level who are working and how to inspire them. We’re diagnosing any issues and situations before they become real problems in your business. We’re taking whatever your goals, strategies and vision are. We’re looking at the people that we have in the middle of all of that, that have to execute it and then looking at our business results. It’s really what’s between our strategy and our business results. It all relies on our people. You need to have a very solid strategy for your people. That’s what Talent Optimization does.
You brought up two important points in that. 1) All people activities take place within the context of the business. It’s not as if we do all people stuff on Tuesdays, and then on Wednesdays, we work on the business. It’s all intertwined. The other is that we talk about leaders at every level. This is one great thing that came out of my military service. Even when I entered the civilian world and I had no direct reports, I was the most junior person around, and I still considered myself to be a leader. I could lead myself and my peers. I did that. I rose through the ranks very quickly because that was such an unusual way to act.
I wasn’t going to allow a title. Later in my world, I became a product manager. A lot of times, product managers don’t have direct influence or authority. They don’t have reporting relationships with people like software engineers, designers and marketers. They have to use this indirect influence. They can still lead. This indirect leadership prepared me for this new world of work, where it’s highly networked with a lot of specialists, sometimes even multiple companies working together on a project to build a new car or do whatever the thing is.
That mentality that some people say, “I’m not a leader. I’m just an employee.” No, you’re still a leader. You still fit with intel and optimization. When we talk about designing winning teams, maybe you’re not the team leader but a team player. What can you do to help your team be better? “I’m not part of the hiring process.” No, but you’re part of the selection process because we want you to interview a person who’s going to join your team. How can you ensure that they’re a great cultural fit? You always have a role to play, no matter where you are in terms of your title or the things that matter a lot less.
You mentioned culture because that’s a big buzzword. Everybody’s like, “We have to have people to fit into the culture. We have to create a great culture.” Talent Optimization helps organizations design the right fit culturally for their business. It’s not about excluding anyone. It’s about understanding everyone, who they are, what they bring to the table, how you can maximize those strengths. I love what you’re talking about as far as, even if you don’t have direct reports, you’re still a leader.
Through that inspire software tool, it helps individuals to understand themselves on a deeper level and what they bring to life every day when they open their eyes. It’s like, “This is what I’m designed to do every single day.” That grows confidence. This is called Leading with Audacious Confidence. That grows your confidence in immeasurable ways.
A lot of times, we think about confidence as the domain of people who have high levels of dominance and drive. They’re really happy being out in front and they’re the front of the room and all this. That is a type of confidence. However, in your area of specialization, even if you’re a more introverted person and you have deep expertise in, let’s say, data security, you can and deserve to be as confident as you can be when it comes to the things that are exactly within your wheelhouse that are strengths of yours. Everybody deserves to be confident. What I find is that confidence comes from two things. One is awareness. You have to be aware of your values, strengths, tendencies and all these things because otherwise, it’s too random.
You can’t tap into everything you bring to the table. The second is acceptance. The reality is not everybody can be comfortable being in the front of the room or leading the charge. It doesn’t mean that you can’t be confident in what you are naturally good at and where you’re naturally going to have gaps. We all have them. In my example, I’m very comfortable in a world of ideas and possibilities, being visionary, thinking about the future, making these critical connections, very early in a project, I am rubbish at the details and the follow through and all these things.
I learned over time to surround myself with people that could compliment me and help make sure that my big ideas don’t just stay there, that they manifest. That’s one way of looking at it, but I want those who execute projects and details to be supremely confident in our infrastructure, execution, processes and procedures. I want them to be like, “Absolutely, we’re going to do this. It’s going to work.” It’s a different kind of confidence than what I have in a different context.
I love that because it is true and I had that misnomer many years ago when you look at someone who’s out in the forefront as being confident and you being an introvert, not being confident. The beauty of The Predictive Index is understanding who you are and how you are wired for success. You can sit in the confidence of that and stop trying to do and be something that you’re not or trying to do things that are outside your wheelhouse. So much of society tells us who we should be and how we should be.
How about understanding who you are and then leaning into that? That brings confidence. As a leader, a manager or someone who is in charge of people, understanding who your people are on your team, what value they bring, and then you instill confidence in them by valuing and honoring the gift and the strength that they have that they bring to the table every day, that will go so far in HR because that’s an everyday thing. That’s not a drink on Friday thing. That’s an everyday value that you know, “I’m bringing this to the table every day. I’m happy doing this every day.” As a leader, when you understand that on your team and let that shine, your people will be happy to come to work, they’ll work harder and those business results will come through over and over.
When I think about my career, you can see my gray whiskers here. I’ve been around a little while. In reflection, I realized that my career evolved as a leader over a couple of phases. In the first phase, I worked hard to be well-rounded. I knew the gifts that I had like I shared with you a little bit earlier, but I also tried to be reasonably proficient at things like using data and projections. I tried to be reasonably at being a good team player and in invoking employee participation, as well as some of that detailed project execution work. I didn’t love it, but I got reasonably good at it. I tried to make myself well-rounded so I could have a facility with all parts of a business.
I realized I’m not going to ever be really good at some of those things. Now, instead of being well-rounded, my next was to lean into my strengths. In the middle of my career, it was like, “You’re naturally good at being visionary and all these kinds of things. How do you do more of that and start to delegate because now you’re at a director level of VP level? You can start to delegate some of those things to people who are always going to be better than you with that?”
In the later phase of my career, I became a coach and a teacher. I started to pull those strengths and hold up a mirror like you’re suggesting to the people on my team. I stopped working on myself so much. I started making sure I could draw and lift up those people around me. All of a sudden, it became, it was a lot less about me working on myself, as opposed to me working on my ability to help unlock the potential of other people and help them become self-optimizers. That was something that I aspired to or grew toward in the third phase of my career. The next phase. That’s a work in progress. We’ll talk about that some other time.
Readers, this Talent Optimization stuff, you got to look into it because it’s the easy button. If you’re looking to rise in the ranks or even have a better team or results in your business, check that out. As a side note, I am Talent Optimized certified as well as Predictive Index certified. You can reach out to me since I talking to the godfather of talent optimization here. I want to ask you one other question and then I want to jump into some Rapid-fire fund stuff. What have I not asked you that you think is important for leaders to understand about talent optimization and understanding how to connect their strategies and goal to their actual business results?
Maybe about how to lead in this current environment that we’re in. We haven’t talked so much about what’s happened. We would be remiss to not acknowledge that we’ve had a profound shift in a couple of things. In my mind, there’s a framework and I always say that there are a couple of key questions, What’s the work to be done? Who’s doing the work?” Increasingly for me, as I continue to do my research and reflection, there’s a third important question, which is, “Who’s leading the charge?” That recognizes the fact that leadership is a very privileged thing in organizations and something that’s often overlooked.
In terms of the trends, what happened is during the pandemic, it accelerated some trends in the business world that fundamentally changed the work and how it gets done. It accelerated the nature of remote work and digital transformation. It overturned business models overnight. The work fundamentally changed. The worker changed too. What happened was when we were foisted into this situation, it led us to reprioritize what was important to us.
We started to put our kids to Zoom school and things. It fired off the question for people, “Why am I doing this when it comes to going to work?” Once it was relatively safe, we said to our workforce, “Safe, come on back.” The world’s workforce said, “No, thank you. I’m going to be staying remote.” You’re like, “What? Let’s figure this out.” Now we have this prolonged change in the worker and what’s important to them, their priorities and values.
The last question of who’s leading the charge, unfortunately, hasn’t changed yet. I have not seen the next layer of leadership thought and methodology that accommodates the new work and the new worker. That’s currently what I’m doing. Most of my work and research is trying to educate the next generation of leaders on how to lead in this new environment. It’s going to be critically important, not only to our business performance but to ease the challenges and the profound suffering that I see the average worker going through right now. It is a very difficult environment that we’re in. It’s not going to change anytime soon. We have to change as leaders.
I’m going to ask another question on top of that because you mentioned remote work and we did not touch on all of that during this interview. Thank you for that. How do leaders navigate remote work and how can they use Talent Optimization to help them in people coming back to work, remote work and a hybrid work environment that we’re in?
My observation is that the same techniques are necessary. We just do them differently. By that, I mean a lot of times when somebody decides to stay remote, for example, if they’re given that flexibility and opportunity based on their job, they make that decision for what I call personal reasons and not personality reasons.
You may have a highly extroverted team member that enjoys taking their child to kindergarten and walking them to school. They say, “I don’t want to sit in 45 minutes of traffic and miss the opportunity to be there for my children when they’re at this unique stage of their life.” They’re super extroverted. That’s who they are. How are they going to get that need met? Even though they’re remote for me, I need to go out of my way to create FaceTime through Zoom.
I need to call them. I need to do whatever I can to make sure they’ve got plenty of opportunities to scratch that need they have, that itch of being extroverted and working with and through other people. I don’t say, “They chose to work remote because they want to be left alone.” They made a personal choice, not a personality choice. When you go back to things like designing winning teams, one part of that is understanding each team member’s strengths and needs.People who choose remote work don't mean they want to be left alone. They made a personal choice, not a personality choice. Click To Tweet
That’s part of what Talent Optimization says we must do. In the remote context, that doesn’t change. It’s the mechanism by which we meet those needs or that we celebrate and apply those strengths. That part changed. Stick to the core of what’s always mattered, but change and be flexible in the way that you achieve it.
That is brilliant because people will prejudge certain things and not take the time to understand why are they choosing to do this instead of coming back to work because they’d want to come back to work. Who wouldn’t want to sit in 45 minutes of traffic?
It turns out millions of people.
The pandemic has changed the face of work, priorities and of what people are willing to do and not do anymore. The leaders have to respond to that. Owners of businesses have to understand how to respond to that. One of the tools that can help you is Talent Optimization and Talent Optimized certified consultant that can help you navigate that whole sea of the changes that we’ve all been going through. Thank you so much. This has been rich. I want to invite you back because there’s so much we could talk about. I could just do a podcast with you alone.
I would love to come back. There’s so much to talk about. There is so much power in harnessing the capabilities of our people and meeting their needs as well as meeting the needs of the workplace.
We didn’t even dive into those areas like, “What are people’s needs? What are their behavioral types? What do they need in order to succeed in the job that they’re in?” We’ll set aside some time to bring Matty P. back. Are you ready?
We’re going to do some Rapid-fire questions. He doesn’t know what these are. The first question is what is the biggest leadership mistake you’ve ever personally made or was a victim of?
One of the biggest leadership mistakes that I made was thinking that it was about me. I worked hard and I was very self-absorbed in terms of trying to make myself a better leader, only to discover that it’s not about me at all. It’s about them.
What’s the best advice you ever got that you still implement?
I got a lot of great advice along the way. One of the most technical bits of advice because I think a lot of leaders are thinking about the technical parts, especially earlier in their careers. I don’t think it’s unimportant. I remember some guidance from Peter Drucker, the great management thinker and who said, “The job of a leader is to define the direction, marshal the resources, define the success metrics, manage to the metrics.” I have found that regardless of what level you’re in, shaping the work does come down to. I would say where’s the people part, but I do believe that that’s a great piece of advice for folks to share.The job of a leader is to define the direction, marshal the resources, and define success metrics. Click To Tweet
It’s a great starting point to understanding the technical aspects of your role. That the other thing that I would say to compliment that might be something that we sometimes call the platinum rule, which is, “Do unto others as you would have it be done to you, but as they would have it for themselves.” Understanding that people do have unique needs and that I can’t use my brain to think your thoughts.
All of a sudden, you have to be like, “Great.” What might you be experiencing? When you come into a meeting and you’re short with me, it may have nothing to do with me. There might be an entire experience you had. You may have got a tough phone call right before you walked into the meeting. Immediately I’m like, “What is it? What’s happening in our relationship?”
We’re all egocentric. We’re all thinking about us and everything affects us. We’re not thinking, “This person might be going through something right now.”
Flip the script. Let’s get onto their side of the table and ask questions. Be curious. That’s a nice compliment to the Drucker point from earlier. I’ve structured the work, but I’m getting into the mindset of the worker, taking on their perspective and realizing that they may see things differently than me. That happens all the time. I find it in organizations.
Something that reminds me of, too, is using the Pi software and some of the tools in it, we can identify some blind spots that you may not be aware that you have. That is a huge benefit when you can see not just your blind spots but blind spots on the team and call them out because awareness is a powerful experience because then you can be a choice and you can choose to change that behavior, your reactions and responses to things.
You could either have a new hire and just work with them for six months, try to figure them out and just guess, or you could spend the six minutes to take an assessment and fast forward that whole process. Accelerate that, “I understand what you need from me most. Let me figure out how I can get your needs met in the context of our work together.” It’s a much better way to go.
If you were a Castaway on a deserted island, what three things would you hope washed ashore or were airdropped to you that you couldn’t live without? One of them cannot be a cell phone.
I think a good book. I definitely like to read a good book. I need to get better sleep. I’m going to need a comfortable bed. I want to be comfortable while sleeping on this desert island. Can I take a person with me? I would take my bride. I’ll airdrop her in because for many years and I’m still infatuated with her. I’ll stick there.
If you were a song, what song would you be?
It depends on the day. I’ve never tried to imagine myself as a song. Holy cow. I would be Rock Lobster by B-52’s because it makes me happy every time that silly song comes to mind.
Where of that same generation. This last question is, what book are you reading now? You can tell me your top three book suggestions that people must read.
I’m in the process of writing a book. I’m reading about 100 books and I’ve been enjoying the process. If you go upstairs and I think about the bookshelf, I’m really excited about Martha Beck’s The Way of Integrity, which is powerful about trying to find wholeness, and structural integrity and bring our full selves to our work. Dan Pink’s got his book about regret. I feel like that’s a powerful one that I’m also reading and enjoying.
That’s on my list to read next.
I enjoy Dan Pink’s writing. He is generally speaking. I think this is a more human topic. He’s always covered such great topics. There’s another book, No Time to Lose, by the Buddhist Pema Chödrön, where she does her analysis and commentary on an ancient Sanskrit work from Shanti Dave. I enjoy thinking about that spiritual side. Those are probably three of the books for sure that I’m juggling.
I’m looking forward to reading Dan Pink’s book on regret. I heard his interview with Brené Brown and I was like, “I got to get that book.” I’m looking forward to when your book drops. Tell everyone how they can get a hold of you.
LinkedIn is easiest at Matt Poepsel.
Follow him on LinkedIn. He has the best posts all the time. I love reading and interacting with his posts.
I appreciate you.
Thank you so much, Matt. Thank you for reading this episode. Share it with others, download it and enjoy the rest of your day. Don’t forget to step out and lead yourself, your team and your organization with audacious confidence. Until next time.
- Audacious Concepts Inc. – LinkedIn
- Matt Poepsel
- #19: Finding Audacious Confidence with Alicia Couri
- Mike Zani – Past Episode
- The Way of Integrity
- No Time to Lose
- Matt Poepsel – LinkedIn
About Matt Poepsel
Matt Poepsel, PhD is a leadership expert and “The Godfather of Talent Optimization”. He serves as the Vice President of Professional Services at The Predictive Index. Matt has led product and consulting teams in rapidly growing Boston-area software companies for more than 20+ years. He holds a PhD in Psychology with a concentration in leadership and coaching. He served as a cryptographic linguist in the US Marine Corps, and he’s an IRONMAN triathlon finisher.
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