Towards A Modern Learning Strategy With Matt Donovan And Learning Influence Skills With Alex D. Tremble

The Chief Learning Officer role is one of the leadership roles that are most closely-linked to curiosity. With 25 years of experience in leading teams to create innovative solutions in corporate learning through modern learning strategy, Matt Donovan is indubitably the best person for that role at GP Strategies. Matt spoke at the Novartis’ Curiosity Month about the intersection between the shift in the role of the learner and how technology plays a role in it. Joining Dr. Diane Hamilton in this conversation, he shares some of his insights and ongoing efforts in the creation of this disruptive force in corporate education. Corporate education is constantly on the move. Matt’s work is perhaps one of the best efforts out there to keep education relevant in the constantly-changing learning environment.

Many public sector employees are very passionate about their mission of serving the American people, but very hesitant when it comes to developing leadership and influence skills. Understandably, many of these unsung heroes prefer not to get political in the fear that it might divert their focus from the mission. However, it is a fact that with better leadership skills, these public servants can set themselves up to better serve the American people. Known as the Federal Career Coach, Alex D. Tremble has spent the past seven years coaching and advising some of the nation’s most senior-level government leaders. Listen in as he shares some interesting details about this line of work with Dr. Diane Hamilton.

TTL 777 | Modern Learning Strategy


I’m glad you joined us because we have Matt Donovan and Alex D. Tremble here. Matt is the Chief Learning and Innovation Officer at GP Strategies and Alex, also known as the Federal Career Coach is a speaker, author and leadership expert. It’s going to be a great show.

Watch the episode here

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Towards A Modern Learning Strategy With Matt Donovan

I am here with Matt Donovan, who is the Chief Learning and Innovation Officer at GP Strategies. I had heard of Matt because he and I both spoke at Novartis’ Curiosity Month. I was interested in Matt’s work. It’s exciting to have you here, Matt.

Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be with you.

This is fun. I’m curious what your topic was when you spoke for Novartis because I know curiosity month was such a big deal with all the stuff that they’re doing there to develop learning and that sense of wanting to explore. You working as a chief learning officer, I imagine that you deal with quite a bit of things that are curiosity-based.

One of the big topics that we were talking about is the intersection between the shift in the role or expectations of the learner and how technology plays a role in that. One of the biggest things we were seeing is when you shift to what I call modern learning strategy, the first rule is that the learners must take accountability for their journey. I’ve often talked a lot about that belief as a designer. I’m a classically trained instructional designer in the design development space for a long time. It’s a fallacy to believe that we can design for relevance. We can create the conditions for it, but we can’t guarantee it. Relevance is what’s comes from inside. It’s an intrinsic value.

That’s why learners have to take that accountability to drive that relevance moment. That’s where the intersection with curiosity plays that powerful role. The question is how do they start to think about meeting their needs when they need it in the format that’s going to support them the best? Our goal is to create an ecosystem that wraps around them. When it was coming up with the curiosity month, that was like, “How do you create the conditions and that right ecosystem that supports and enables those learners to take accountability and ownership?” The path that they need in order to create the learning systems they need in order to reform them.

It’s one of the questions I was asking when I created the Curiosity Code Index, which determined the factors that keep people from being curious. I’m like, “How can we get people to be more curious?” You got to figure out what’s inhibiting it, to begin with. I found that the four things were fear, assumptions, technology and environment were the four factors that can be problematic. With technology, it was either over or under-utilization of it. Some people become overwhelmed by it or they fear it. It can overlap with fear and assumptions or what they tell themselves that, “This is going to be too much trouble. I’m not going to be able to figure it out.” All these things were fascinating to me because I thought, “If you can figure out what it is that’s inhibiting it, then you can make a plan to overcome it.” You’re helping people with learning strategies and solutions. What kind of things are you helping to create? Tell me what you do and a few strategies.

My role is to look across the disruptive learning technology landscape and take a look at it and say, “How do we use those to create a better learning experience?” We’re tracking over 141 platforms in 36 different segments or categories. I think of this as, “How we use the tools and these platforms to drive an outcome?” That’s why it lays out those in those 36 categories. My goal is to kill the shiny object syndrome and get back to thinking about, “What are we trying to do with the platform? How are we trying to enable, support and see what’s working well from the experience affordance? How are users able to do it?”

It’s bringing in that user design to our learning experiences, rather than traditional content-centric. We want to convey a thought, “Have a learning outcome where we need to design and bring those platforms in a way in which that’s going to be more usable and consumable to reduce the fear, the barriers to adoption, make that experience as transparent as possible so they can get in, get what they need and get back to where they’re going.”

My goal is to continually make sense of this highly disruptive space. Many years ago, the technology landscape was a big platform. Your LMS. You had some survey tools and a couple of emerging test engines for the most part, but now it’s a very complex environment. You throw in the emerging AI, Artificial Intelligence, whether it’s in the creation of the recommendation of or the servicing that the learner experience all the way through. It’s becoming complex in being able to do that. That’s what I love doing is being able to say, “I’m not a technophilic. I don’t love technology. The point is how do we create that best experience using the right tools to do that?”

[bctt tweet=”In modern learning strategy, the first rule is that the learners must take accountability for their journey.” via=”no”]

I’m teaching a course and you’re giving us some ideas for things to talk about in class because they’re all trying to come up with their company. A lot of them want to create games because it’s a technology school or apps. I’ve worked in everything from Moodle to Canvas in all the universities use these LMSs or Blackboard. When you’ve taught more than 1000 courses that I’ve taught, I’ve seen many different ways of the way information is presented.

I love the asynchronous nature of online learning, but then the nature of that sometimes becomes challenging because of the interaction. Having gone to school in multiple ways, my undergrad in traditional and then later I took online, I have a love, hate relationship sometimes with both. You get some of that interactive, great quality of synchronous, but I’d love to be able to work at 4:00 and 5:00 in the morning when no one else wants to take my class. Are you dealing with more synchronous or asynchronous situations and since it’s a work setting, it’s a little bit different than an education setting?

We’re doing a lot with semi-synchronous experiences where we’re blending both because I think there are some aspects. One of the frameworks I like to use is a great framework, Conrad Gottfredson and Bob Mosher about Five Moments of Learning Need. I like the concept. It’s very learner-centric. The premise is that you have these points when you need to learn something. When I’m learning something for the first time, I need more context. I’m building the scaffolding around it. I’m getting a framework for understanding. When something goes wrong or something changes, I don’t need all of the historical contexts. I needed it very point-specific. What we’re finding is that we’re trying to create learning systems that meet not only those five moments of learning need that is in place, but I’ve also gone into two others as well.

The other two are when I need to innovate and when I need to grow for my next role. Those all require a little bit of that offline or that asynchronous, “Let me think, reflect, and consume.” I love you were talking around emotional intelligence. As you’re trying to build that concept of empathy, you can’t learn that from a 60-minute web-based class by yourself. I can cognitively understand the message, but in order to start to apply that, or you take a concept like a growth mindset, that’s in my discussion, application and feedback with others. That’s where we look at those extended learning systems that have both synchronous and asynchronous. You’re bringing in data to help you progress. Things I may have been doing from diagnostics to help me know where am I at and how will I progress over time. Feeding that back into me. We’re looking at much more beyond point specific learning into these long learning journeys.

I love the idea of a learning journey. This is exactly the term that we’re creating with an app. Based on my curiosity research, we’re using Flerish, an app that was backed by Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn. Some of the things we’re creating are different ways to get over these fears, assumptions technology and environment through these journeys. It’s a challenge for me to visualize sometimes the creativity behind some of these people who can create these things, but I know what I want to be included in some of these. You mentioned some of the things that are hard to include.

When I was looking at revising the MBA program at Ford School of Business, we were looking at, “How can you incorporate soft skills? If everybody’s being hired for their knowledge and fired for their behaviors, how do you do that in an asynchronous way?” That is a challenging thing. What has been your most effective way to build things like soft skills, emotional intelligence, critical thinking and those types of things that are a little more challenging?

It’s trying to get back to as application-focused as you can be. No matter how soft the skill is, “Can I drive early and often practice into it? Can I get them to start to own the learning experience, get them to step into it, apply it and move away from the passive consumption and get them integrated into it?” One of my most exciting career points that I’ve ever had is I worked with a startup or a dot-com called This was from 1999 to 2000. It was a large venture that’s a huge funded dot-com boom. It has $250 million in venture capital. The goal was to build the next generation online MBA program.

I still contend to this day, it was of the best. It included partnerships at the time with the top tier online MBA programs, Columbia, Stanford and London School of Economics. The idea was that we created a scenario-based online accredited MBA curriculum, but it all started off instead of walking in and saying, “We’re going to introduce you to the concept of managing in a global economy.” Instead of saying, “I’m going to walk you through a whole bunch of case studies or topics on it.” When you walk in, the first thing I give you is, “Welcome to my authentic, but the fictional company. I need a global management plan from you in six weeks. Here’s the template and here’s a load of resources. We have it set up in this authentic case that’s dynamic that evolves, but we’ve curated all these resources.”

This was powerful in the sense that all of a sudden, we’re trying to put them into that authentic application. That context, applying it and struggling with these ideas, as they’re trying to think through not only economic factors, but cultural factors as you start to think about, “How would I take my business and move it there?” That’s what I think is one of the things we’re trying to get to. We won’t get to transactional convenience knowledge, “How do we get the application and then peer-based review, feedback and connection with others?” That’s what starts to get to retention and transfer. To your point, it’s not static knowledge, it’s applied, reflect upon and grown around that.

TTL 777 | Modern Learning Strategy
Modern Learning Strategy: We need to look across the disruptive learning technology landscape and see how it can be used to create a better learning experience.


When I worked at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Institute, they would do a simulation in one of my marketing classes and that was well done. I love the idea of, “Here’s your company. Here’s the thing things you got to deal with,” but they always kept students separate. They didn’t have, “I had my company, but I didn’t deal with you with your company.” I’d like to have seen some of those simulations where they have to rely on each other. I’m the warehouse person or you’re my retailer or I’m the manufacturer. To have them switch around would be an interesting challenge to see how they work together. They would more or less, put people on teams. My team is all on warehousing but they wouldn’t interact with other students within the class. They were more playing against the computer. Do you have it set up where the companies can simulate situations that are relevant to their own work environment? That would be interesting.

We do have those kinds of situations. It can be narrow within a specific business unit and a specific process workflow or we’ll get more generic like a business acumen set up around that. We do the whole continuum of that journey, the base, building blocks of those skillsets, but also then putting them into that application. I think that starting from the pieces and the parts, but also getting them to that systems lens. Can they view this as a system versus a systematic set of discrete pieces? That’s probably from a business standpoint especially with what we’re finding with so much disruption is, “How can you get a system’s view of the business environment and how you apply fluid business acumen to a moving live system?” It’s one of the most challenging, but that’s where those simulations do come in and become very helpful.

They can start to see how variables and applications start to play out over time. I did this or then switching to that other view. I love what you were saying about being able to say, “Can I take a different role? Can I look at the system from a different perspective so I can start to see those?” The way to look at a system is one of the most complex things I’m seeing across. All of our workforce skillsets are being able to see the big picture, but still also balanced, “Here’s what I need to do and my section now,” but have a full grasp of how it affects the bigger system.

I think that it will get you out of the silo effect and you will get an appreciation for sharing that you may not have until you see what it’s like to have empathy for somebody else’s situation. I deal a lot with that with my work with perception because a lot of us can only see things from our cubicle or district or group or region or whatever we’re in. To build real curiosity and build some of these skills, you have to look at not only your cubicle or your silo, but outside your industry. In my book about curiosity, I wrote about a hospital that went to the Ferrari team to help them with being efficient. They came to this hospital, the Ferrari team who took apart cars and put them back together again to give them an outside perspective. Can you do some of that? I know you’re working with a lot of the Global 500 and how out there can you get with some of your training?

We do run the gamut. We do have an opportunity. That’s one of the things in being able to work in a place like GP. We do get exposure to companies that have a range of that. There are definitely parts of the overall offerings where we can get to those cool initiatives with that. We also still try and flesh out that full learning journey with some of the things that are the building blocks and the core elements. It’s almost what I call, not in a bad way, but disposable in the sense that, “I consume it. I got what I need and move on.”

Building that on-demand where the learners are in control to pull that as their curiosity thick or thin, drives them into where they need to go or we put them through a deep experience like that. We definitely have worked on that. We’ve been doing some of that in our defense and aerospace system, as well as finance and insurance spaces. We’ve done quite a bit in those spaces. It is growing in some of the other sectors that we’re looking at. High-tech is one of those that are on that edge of thinking through a whole variety of those in full system mechanics.

I watched one of your interviews. You were talking about performance support for retail space and different things. You’re dealing with all kinds of different information. I’m curious how you set this up. A lot of that small tweaks work for this retail area compared to some of the other areas or is a lot of it similar and you don’t have to change that much in the training?

You are hitting on one of the biggest challenges that we’re facing and that’s how do you get that mass optimization approach? There’s a lot of good concepts. I talk a lot about the three layers of relevance when we go into our designs. The first layer is let’s say, you are talking about a concept like business acumen. One of the elements of that is to be able to read a financial statement, for example. There are lots of off-the-shelf, great little pieces that you can bring together that are portable that talk about how to read an income statement, a cashflow, or a balance sheet. You can get that straight there, but what you won’t find that’s portable is, “How do I read my company’s income statement?” More importantly, “How do I use the business acumen model that we’re using and the other data points in to make a decision that will then affect the income statement or take data from the income statement and do that?”

What we’re seeing in the blend is there’s a lot of portability of that first layer of relevance. This is valuable for me to know, but it’s that 2nd and the 3rd that’s unique to the learners. That’s how we focus on a lot of our development energy, is not to rebuild some great first layer stuff. It’s how can we help our partners get to that contextual that gets them closer to performance and helps them be able to see that 2nd and 3rd layers of putting it up for them.

[bctt tweet=”One of the biggest challenges facing higher educational institutions right now is how to stay relevant.” via=”no”]

I’m thinking of how in the past courses that I’ve built in the house, it’s almost like Legos. You have this part and then you build on it. Maybe in the first base layer, everybody has that same need for that base, but then you build in different directions and it would be nice to have portability of the pieces of it. As technology becomes more flexible, we can do some that. I’ve seen a lot of people struggle with that. In the education space, the hard thing is you’re designing programs that might take you years to write, to polish and to get through the approval process of senates and different things. By the time it comes out, you don’t even know if those jobs are going to be relevant that you’re talking about. How do you deal with that?

It is a real challenge that we’re seeing with disruption. This is a problem across the state is that we’re seeing the shelf life of jobs, functions and skillsets are getting shorter. We all know that, but the premise that we can do a top-down high-level predictor of being able to nail that from a top-down strategy is not realistic. Organizations can’t wait to figure out all the jobs that give you all the training and then train everybody because by the time you’ve done that top-down, it’s changed. The key is that we have to shift the basic transactional consumer model from an institution or corporation to a learner where the learners or consumer to become a vibrant part of the learning ecosystem.

They become the engine that drives that 2nd and 3rd layer of relevance. They’re the ones that start to feed it. Can you create a more agile framework that has the large structures of in general role directions and outputs, but you’re bringing some of that nuance in a more fluid way to it? From a higher education perspective, how do you start to integrate that more quickly into your process so you can get a curriculum place? In organizations, how do you feel comfortable that you’ve built an ecosystem where people are saying, “When something’s changed or something goes wrong, I don’t have to wait from top-down to go figure it out.” We’ve created a robust social learning mechanism that allows us to learn from each other quickly to be able to make the adjustments that we need to do.

We move them in from a best practice, all the way to a continuum of, “This is something we need to be as a core fundamental element we teach.” That’s scratching the surface. You’ve probably hit on one of the biggest challenges facing higher ed institutions is how do they remain relevant? That is a huge question. One of the things I do is a bridge. I ran to fill in a little bit of that gap. In my professional performance improvement and instructional design, I created a case competition that was working with ISPI, International Society for Performance Improvement. We worked with a three-way, with top-tier institutions so that they could think of a dynamic sixteen-week case competition where we would bring in graduate-level programs and we would also partner with key businesses.

It’s a blend between able to be a capstone initiative on a fictitious, but an authentic example. I would set them up over a case study in an industry and then they would come up with their ideas, decisions and apply it. They would get feedback from the field on how they apply it. It almost becomes that strong bridge between what they’re teaching in the classroom, into the real world of managing a controlled, but authentic client experience. It’s one of the things that is a passion work for me. I love working in that bridge between the emerging professionals coming out of our programs to having instant impact and value in the workspace.

I get interested in several aspects of all this. Some of it is the bells and whistles. That stuff was fun in itself to see what technology comes out. Are they using chatbots or anything unusual that they don’t use in college training programs in the corporations?

There are a couple of things. We do use some interesting technologies like chatbots. It’s a good entry example of an extended learning experience from an AI or automation direction. The other side is we’re seeing some adaptive learning techniques to create personalized learning journeys where you can use to uncover unconscious incompetence. I didn’t know I was wrong in being able to do that. Those are some of the interesting ones. We’re also seeing the concept of micro-credentialing or being able to micro degrees, nano degrees. We’re seeing about being able to break up and have that more portable across that. Using those badging and credentialing strategies to be able to represent a building block set of skillsets that can be reconfigured into new ways. Those are a handful of some of the interesting things we’re seeing.

A lot of keeping track of it through blockchain is also interesting to me.

That is fascinating how you start to solve some of the challenges.

TTL 777 | Modern Learning Strategy
Modern Learning Strategy: The shelf lives of jobs, functions and skillsets are getting shorter.


It’s because you learn from here and from there. If you can keep track of everything, it’s going to be interesting to see the future of education in general of how they track everything. If it’s pick and choose or ala carte. What happens to the glue of the soft skills and the humanities that hold things together? There are many questions in education. A lot of it is not taught in the schools. A lot of it sometimes falls to the companies. What you’re doing is interesting. I knew that anybody who I’ve met who spoke at Novartis was always fascinating and this is definitely not an exception. Everything you’re working on fascinates me. A lot of people want to know how they can follow your work, what you’re doing and what’s happening at GP Strategies? How can they follow you?

You can reach out and connect with me on LinkedIn. You can go to and we have our blog and post. We’ll be having an Innovation Space. You’ll see me out there right off the top tab on the Innovation Space. I’m also, under the Twitter tag @HazmattDonovan. Those are a couple of different ways. You’ll see me out there sharing information throughout, but I would love to connect with people. I love to bring from that innovation space, being able to go beyond the immediate space, extending out and seeing new perspectives from new industries, new different thoughts, how can they bring value and then share that across the industry.

Thank you for being on the show, Matt. I enjoyed it.

Thank you for having me.

Learning Influence Skills With Alex D. Tremble

I am here with Alex Tremble, the Federal Career Coach, who is an award-winning speaker, author, and leadership expert with many years of experience coaching and advising some of our nation’s most senior-level government leaders. I’m excited to have you here, Alex. Welcome.

It is exciting to be here with you. I’ve been going through watching all of your past interviews and I’ve been following you.

I appreciate that. It means a lot coming from you. You do a lot of amazing things. I was looking at your site. I’m interested in how you got into this more government and there’s a lot of speakers, but yours is focused. I want to get a little background on you.

I get to ask a lot, “Why government?” The rationale is because I served as a federal employee for a while and serving senior-level positions. What I saw was that there are many public sector employees who work hard and they’re super passionate about the mission of the organization which is serving the American people and people across the world, yet they don’t get into the whole politics and influence. They tend to get into that kind of stuff and learn those skills because they feel that if they do learn or utilizing those skills, they will be less focused on the mission. That will them sliding evil. What I want to do is teach them that these skills are used by anyone, in any position to help fulfill a mission. The better they can utilize these skills, the better they can help serve the American people.

You teach some important skills and one of them is to understand influence. What got you interested in that?

[bctt tweet=”The better our public servants can utilize leadership and influence skills, the better they can serve the American people.” via=”no”]

It came from a course I took in my Master’s program. The professor was Dr. Sally Farley and it was in our Stats class. We did this research study based on gossip. The question was, “Who builds relationships better? People with negative gossip or people with positive gossip?” What the research always carry out was that people who gossip negatively built stronger relationships. I’m like, “That’s pretty messed up. Why do we want to do it?” It’s because when people gossip about negative things to you, they believe that they can trust you. If they believe they can trust you, then the relationship starts to grow better. How do you utilize that information to build relationships intentionally?

I could say, “When I let people gossip to me negatively,” again, some people can’t because they are honest. Some people do take on the emotions of other people and if they’re hearing negative gossip, they’re like, “I’m dying inside,” so it doesn’t work for everyone. I’m someone who can take in gossip, taking information periods and allow someone to be that bouncing board. When people share that information with me, they know they can trust me. The relationship continues to grow and we do a lot of cool stuff to get to the future.

One of my favorite episodes of The Big Bang Theory is the gossip episode where they test it. It cracks me up. It’s the best one you could ever watch because they’d want to see it. They’re doing it as a test because they’re scientists and it’s what they study. There’s a lot of mean things that get said in the workplace. You get the mean girls table or the mean guys table and us versus them. How do you get out of that in the workplace?

Early in my career, the deputy assistant secretary for an agency was mentoring me. She and I would go to lunch every often. She told me something that I have never stopped saying and I’ve kept with me forever, “The person with the most information who wins.” At that point, I was like, “What does that mean?” That’s one of the strategies of influencing and building a relationship is being an information hub. If everyone knows that if they come to you, you know what’s going on, then they will come to you more often. You’ll build more influence. By being someone who everyone can come to talk to, you are getting influenced and you have more information to make better decisions off as you move forward. The question becomes, once you become that hub, what do you do with all that negative information?

I have done a good job of becoming very respected and trusted by both Republicans and Democrats, people who hate each other. They come and talk to me independently, telling me about the other person. Why did they do that? It’s because they know that regardless of what they say, one, I’m not going to open my mouth. I’m not going to tell the other person what I heard from another person. Two, I don’t negative gossip. I don’t believe in that. Though I’m here to listen to what’s going on, I don’t engage in negative gossip. I’m only a sounding board so I can collect information. To be completely honest, when there are situations that something is too negative or bad, then they also know my character, my morals. I will say, “You shouldn’t be saying that. That’s not true. Why don’t you look at it this way?” In reality, most times, people are looking at life from their own perspective and they don’t see from the other person’s perspective. They’re negatively gossiping is more out of ignorance.

My next book is on perception so I cover that in a lot of detail. That’s such a huge thing that everybody’s perception is their reality and they don’t recognize the other side. I’m wondering if you have done a TEDx Talk on this. They’re always looking for shocking against the norm things like the value of negative gossip. Has that been something you’ve thought of doing or have done?

I am making a note on my pad to do that, thank you.

They always want it to be, “Why cheating is good for your marriage?” They want the opposite ideas worth spreading. That would be a good TEDx Talk because even though you’re looking at it as a shocking title, you’re looking at the value of what you can do with potentially negative information, but how to take the positive spin on that. It sounds like you and I are similar in the fact that people come to me with all the things that might be negative that I wouldn’t share. It’s what you do with what you’ve learned and how you help that person with what you’ve learned because if that negative information is bringing them down and making their situation harder, now you’re in a position where you can help them. What do you do with that information?

I see almost everything as a learning opportunity. I ask a lot of questions. My mom didn’t like that when I was growing up.

TTL 777 | Modern Learning Strategy
Modern Learning Strategy: Many people believe that the government is a lot of policy and regulation and it is, but it is also a huge deal of influence.


I like that since that’s my focus on my research. To gain empathy for another person’s situation and we have to be curious. That tied into my work in perception as well, because I see perception as a combination of IQ, EQ, CQ for Curiosity and CQ for Cultural Quotient. The fact that you ask these questions and develop, find out more, it’s what you do with what you find out that’s critical. It’s different though in the government setting. Do things change based on what you know? Do you have a lot of influence?

The first point is it sounds bad some time to say you’ve listened to negative gossip, but if someone then can trust that they can speak to you, then they’re also more willing to trust when you say, “Maybe that’s not the best way to handle this.” Maybe to look at it from a different perspective. It’s all about building that trust. That’s one of the core reasons that if you can be a listening ear to gain the trust of someone, you can now influence to a greater degree than someone who’s always saying, “Don’t talk to me. That’s bad. You’re wrong. You’re a bad person.” No one wants to hear that. They’re going to close their ears and they’ll never come and talk to you again. They’ll keep those thoughts in their head and continue to act on those thoughts whether they know it or not.

The government is a huge deal of influence. That’s one of the misconceptions that many people externals to government, as well as many people internal to the government don’t understand. They believe that the government is a lot of policy and regulation and it is. To a large extent, there are a lot of policies and regulations that tell you how to move forward. However, what I always encourage everyone to do is learn the rules. There is always a loophole and a way to look at a policy, directive in a gray manner versus a black or white manner.

If you have the influence, now you have the ability to call someone and say, “I know you were initially going here and this is what the policy says, but the policy doesn’t say this. Let’s try it this way instead.” I have been blessed to receive 6 or 7 different promotions throughout my time in the government and I never applied for a job. Why? It is because I know the policy. I know what hiring mentors can do. I know what the policy says they can do. I can say, “You don’t need to do this. You can do X, Y, and Z. Here’s the paperwork for it. I’ve already sent the paperwork for you. All you had to do is sign your name. How about we try this instead?” This is about doing your homework at the end of the day.

You’ve written two best-selling books, Reaching Senior Leadership: 10 Growth Strategies Every Government Leader Should Know and The GPS Guide to Success. It is important for people to think about these strategies, to have this map for how to get to where they want to go. Do you find that a lot of people are trying to reinvent the wheel, but they don’t know where to go to get the content and information? You are a The Leadership Center for Excellence: 40 Under 40 honoree and you do all these different coaching. You have the Tremble Influence Academy. Is what you’re doing helping people to get over that, “We know this, you don’t have to create this from scratch,” thinking?

The reality is I’ve spent many years researching, coaching, training and all that good stuff, but I spent much more time learning all this stuff. Someone could go out and start reading every single book I’ve read and experienced all the experiences I’ve had and interviewing, but that’s time-consuming. It’s much better to go to a great resource, a great well to start drinking from it, as with all you and your work. People could try to meet all these great leaders you’ve met, but it’s probably a little easier to go to your website, watch your interview and read your book.

You’ve studied quite a bit. I know you have degrees in Sociology and Psychology. I had Albert Bandura and the impact he had on psychology is staggering. It’s fascinating to me to study sociology and psychology. Psychology and business are two such complimentary things to study. What was your favorite part of studying psychology?

I tell everyone who’s going through college to take at least one psychology or sociology class because the reality, is we all deal with people unless you are in a room punching zeroes and ones. Even then, what your punching zeros and ones for are going to interact with a person to get to understand how they’re going to react to it. I found it very interesting how little freedom we have over our own lives, and it’s going to sound bad. We don’t make too many decisions. In the span of what we do in a day, what we decided to do is very minimal because we operate so much off of habits and off of assumptions that we make.

You’re not deciding to breathe. You’re breathing because you always breathe without even thinking about it. If you breathe and you try to catch yourself, you’re not thinking, “Let me hurt myself.” Your body does it. It’s the same thing with most of the stuff in our lives. We built habits and we follow those habits. Understanding psychology, understand how people think within the individual or as a group in the sociology component, which is interesting because if you understand how you think and how your body reacts to what’s going on around you, then you can have more control of what you’re doing like meditation. It’s a huge reason why meditation is good for you because you try to see yourself stuff and understand, “What’s happening? What am I thinking about? What am I doing?” I love that concept.

[bctt tweet=”There is much less competition where things are harder.” via=”no”]

I’ve had a lot of mindfulness experts on. It’s such a hot topic. Even Daniel Goleman, who’s famous for emotional intelligence is working on mindfulness now. They all tie into behavioral benefits. There’s much to be learned that ties into the mind, the body, the whole thing. I like to have a lot of psychology-based experts on the show because I think that many people are hired for their knowledge and fired for their behaviors. If we don’t focus on some of these behavioral soft skill types of things, we’re going to continue to have these $500 billion a year loss due to engagement and things that you read about. I know you talk about some of the same things that I do because of The Alex Tremble Show and you have the perfect radio voice for that. Are those video and audio?

Yes, it’s going to be both video and audio. The first season will launch in January of 2021. I interviewed the former deputy director of intelligence for the CIA and the undersecretary for the EPA for California. I’m getting to meet and have a dialogue with some interesting and profound people who I’m looking forward to everyone being able to listen to that show.

When I started doing my show, I thought, “This will be fun. I’ll do a few shows.” I got myself into something. It’s addictive once you start meeting all these people. Do you ever see the movie Breach where they cut the biggest spy in FBI history? The real guy behind that story was on my show. His name’s Eric O’Neill. It was fun to watch the movie before having him on. That was one of my favorite shows. I got to ask him a lot of questions about the difference between what happened versus the show because you never know what Hollywood is going to do. Are you going to go people in government on your show or what’s your focus?

When we tried to decide what the name of the show would be, at first, it was too government-centric. I don’t want it to be just about government. I’m interviewing both people in the private, nonprofit sector and government sector. It’s going to be thoughts from across the span. I have ambassadors lined up to interview. It’ll be great leaders. My focus is on influence. We’ll be talking about influence, networking, as well as other career advancement strategy. It will be focused on anyone who wants to advance in their career or gain influence in their span. I listened to one of your interviews with Nichol Bradford. I love that interview.

She brought up something cool. I’m always thinking about it. I tend to ask the people in my courses, “How much influence do you believe you have over your own career? Just you by yourself.” Everyone’s raised their hand because it feels good to say, “It’s my destiny.” I said, “When was the last time you hired yourself? When is the last time you promoted yourself? Let’s say you have your own business, what if you are your only customer? Our success almost entirely depends on everyone else, their perceptions about it.” The question becomes whose perception are you focused on? It is depending on other people.

When you have your conversation with Nicole, I love that she had this technology that captures how much someone was speaking during a meeting. “There’s a guy who was speaking way too much and over talking everyone.” The thing is he probably didn’t realize that. The app allowed them to see how other people were perceiving him. He was able to say, “I spoke 80% of the time.” That’s not good and, “People see me this way. Now, they don’t want to interact with me. I’m starting to slow down my career. I need to change. I got to do something different.” I know that the in-depth conversation was interesting.

We talked about some of the things that Daniel Goleman had talked about. One thing he had said was, “You need to get a 360 evaluation of yourself.” Sometimes you don’t recognize things like that, of how you come across. Self-evaluations are good for some things, but then you have to get an outside perspective. One thing that Nichol had said that I thought was interesting, it tied into my work and curiosity about how our inner chatter to get happy and fearless. She said, “You have to get rid of that inner chatter.”

What I found with curiosity research of what held people back was that a lot of it was an assumption, things we tell ourselves that we get locked into. It’s important to focus on what kinds of things. It’s challenging because you don’t recognize that you’re saying many things, “I’m not going to be interested in this. It’s going to be too hard. It’s overwhelming.” When you help people with your academy, you deal with a lot of behavioral things I imagine with a psychology and sociology background. What are you seeing are the biggest things that hold people back?

There are two biggest things. The first, it’s fear. Not everyone is cognizant or consciously saying, “I’m afraid of this.” They are unconsciously afraid of whatever it may be, “What if I fail? What if I’m successful? What does that mean?” I can see how many years I held off on doing what I was doing, because I was like, “What if I’m super successful and I don’t have enough time for all my clients?” Things will go down that way.

TTL 777 | Modern Learning Strategy
Reaching Senior Leadership: 10 Growth Strategies Every Government Leader Should Know

That should be your worst problem.

Grant Cardone is always talking that he’s always looking for bigger problems because if you have bigger problems, that means you’re playing a bigger game. The other is after fear is an average mindset and it’s not intentional. It is what society has pushed into us. What class are we all trying to be shooting for? “We should all be middle-class.” That’s what everyone says, but why do I need to be in the middle?

You wanted to have a moonshot.

Be realistic. That’s too hard. I’m not a numbers guru, but I do live my life by probability. The reality is everyone is saying, “These things are too hard.” That means that there’s much less competition where things are harder. If you go up bigger, it’s less competition.

You bring in a lot of the things I found out of what holds people back from being curious. Fear was the first thing, assumptions or that voice in your head is the second, technology, over and under-utilization of it was third and the last one was the environment. You’re talking about a lot of environmental influences, what our parents tell us. You said your mom had made a joke that you asked many questions. I was that kid to the, “Why?” We need to start questioning and getting out of status quo thinking and you do a lot of that with what you do. A lot of people are going to want to follow you, learn more and read your books. Is there some way they can do that?

I always recommend everyone first to go to That’s my little hub. Follow me on YouTube and LinkedIn, my Alex Tremble Show and subscribe to my newsletter. Do you remember that book called Give and Take? I truly believe that if you help as many people as possible, it’ll end up good for you, whether karma or whatever it is. I do give out a lot of free content to help wherever you are getting closer to where you want to be.

The great Zig Ziglar quote, “You give people what they want and you’ll get what you want.” It’s a great place to end. Thank you for being on the show. It was fun.

I hope that I can have you on my show when you’re available.

That would be fun. We’ll have to do it.

I’d like to thank both Matt and Alex for being my guest. We get many great guests on this show. If you’ve missed any past episodes, you can catch them at We’re on all the different airwaves where we mentioned on the site. You can find us where most podcasts are played. You can find out more about Cracking the Curiosity Code, Curiosity Code Index, The Power of Perception and The Perception Power Index. Everything is there. If you have any questions, please contact me. I’d love to hear from you. I hope you enjoyed the episode and join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

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About Matt Donovan

TTL 777 | Modern Learning Strategy

As the Chief Learning and Innovation Officer for GP Strategies, my mission is to accelerate GP Strategies’ ability to identify, refine, and validate innovative products and services, while ensuring that the global workforce is ready to deliver that value for our customers.

I have more than 25 years experience leading teams in the crafting of training and development solutions with a focus on performance-driven learning. My teams have earned industry recognition, including multiple Brandon Hall and Horizon Interactive awards. Selections from these courses have been highlighted as exemplars in e-learning publications.

As a learning architect with, I designed and developed online courses with top business schools, including Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School of Business, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Columbia Business School, and the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business.

I have presented at several national/international conferences including ISPI, ATD, e-Learning Guild, and SPBT. I have been recognized as one of the Top Ten International Trainers under 40 by Training Magazine and I have also received a presidential citation from ISPI for his work in establishing the ISPI Annual HPT Case Competition.

Specialties: e-Learning, performance improvement, experiential learning events, instructional design, usability

About Alex D. Tremble

TTL 777 | Modern Learning StrategyMy first position within the Federal Government allowed me to design, implement, and manage the Executive Education Program for a cabinet level agency. After successfully managing the program for two years, I was also asked to manage three additional Federal Government-wide Leadership Development Forums. During this same time I created a mentoring program for senior level staff, helped design and implement the agency’s Senior Executive Service (SES) Candidate Development Program, was a key player launching the agency’s diversity initiative, and I served as the International Liaison for two Secretarial Energy Conferences. It was not until the fourth year in this role that people began to realize that I had been a 24-year old GS-4 employee when I assumed those influential responsibilities. But, by that time my career had already taken off, and the rest is history.

I share this personal story with you to highlight that it really does not matter how young or old we may be, or even our current grade level. What matters most is that we are able to influence how others perceive us and that we put in the hard work necessary to produce the intended results. If we successfully do those two things, we are bound to reach our goals!

My coaching programs focus on Government employees who are currently in senior level leadership positions. My programs help hardworking government employees reach the career success they desire and, ultimately, reach those leadership positions they seek. My programs are the right FIT for you if any of these are true:

• You feel “stuck,”
• Your career is at a standstill,
• You are looking for the next advancement in your career track,
• You are unclear about your professional goals,
• You know you want to progress in your career, but you do not know how, or
• You are interested in becoming an SES in the Federal Government.

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