Learning the true value of leadership (Part 1)

The mind-money connection

Success as a leader often equates to more money. And while being great at your job is worth a lot, inspiring others to be great in their roles can be even more valuable. 

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Brian (00:12):

Welcome to Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian, a podcast that blends personal finance with positive psychology to help you feel more confident about your money. I'm Brian Ford. I'm the head of financial wellness at Truist, and I've made a career out of helping people hit their money goals. I'm here with my friend and fellow Truist teammate, Bright Dickson, who's an expert in all things positive psychology. How's it going, Bright?

Bright (00:35):

Hey, Brian. I am super excited about today's show. It's all about leadership, and we're going to talk with a couple of my friends and former colleagues from the Truist Leadership Institute, Jenni Marsh and Jeremy Spidell.


You and I both know, Brian, that good leadership qualities can help you in many aspects of your life, including your personal finances, and we're going to start exploring why that is on this episode.


And just a heads-up for our listeners, this is such an important topic that we're going to have Jenni and Jeremy back on the next episode too. So, believe us when we say that even if you're not gunning to be the next CEO of your company, there's a lot you can gain from spending a few minutes listening to these experts in leadership.

Brian (01:16):

Yes, I am pumped to have them both on our show and can't wait to dig in.

Bright (01:28):

So, I used to work with Jenni and Jeremy over at the Truist Leadership Institute and was so lucky to become really good friends with both of them, and we wanted to have them on the show, not only because they're awesome to hang out with, but because they know so much. So, here's a little bit about Jenni and Jeremy. Jenni Marsh is a senior vice president and the director of consulting at the Truist Leadership Institute, and she leads the consulting team's efforts to deliver transformational growth experiences for executives and their teams. Jeremy Spidell is also a senior vice president and the director of client engagement at the institute, where he oversees client development, marketing, and the branding efforts for the organization. And he also previously served as an executive coach. Fun fact, Jeremy and Jenni are both also licensed counselors, so they could theoretically be your, aka my, personal therapist on top of all of their other skills and achievements.


Hey, guys. Welcome, welcome, welcome.

Jeremy (02:26):

Thank you so much for having us. We're excited to be here.

Jenni (02:29):

Yeah, can't wait to get started, Bright. Thank you.

Brian (02:32):

Welcome to the show. We're so glad to have you both.

Bright (02:44):

And for our listeners who may not be familiar with it, can one of you tell us a little bit more about what the Leadership Institute does? What is the Truist Leadership Institute?

Jeremy (02:53):

The Leadership Institute is something that is actually really cool and really special. No other organization that we know of has this entity that is for really three constituents. One, of course, we're going to serve our Truist teammates. We want to make sure that Truist has the best access to the best leadership development in the business. And if we do that, when we do that, we believe that Truist creates a better culture and they create better teams and have better performance and are able to better serve our clients. So, we're going to make sure we take care of our own Truist teammates.


And then, the second bucket, and this is the one that really makes us unique, is that we also offer this to our clients and our prospects. So, some of the amazing work that we're doing internally we also take externally and make that available in meaningful ways.


And then, the third bucket is our philanthropic component. And we've got a lot of elements that we do there for educators, for students, and for some of our foundation recipients and other community partners. And so, it's a really special thing that we have at the Leadership Institute, and we're grateful to have a chance to be a part of it.

Jenni (03:51):

I would just add that I think it's awesome that we're able to serve leaders at every area, at every level of their career. And traditionally, sometimes those top executives get the focus, and we have the ability to focus on leaders at every level, meet them where they are, and really support their growth.

Brian (04:08):

Yeah, that's awesome. I love hearing about the work that you're all doing over there. We have so many good things to chat about, but I want to start with kind of a simple question. What is leadership?

Jeremy (04:18):

Yeah, that's a super simple question, Brian. It's not loaded at all. There's no difference of opinion around the world about that. For us, we define it as the art and science of creating an environment that inspires people to implement critical strategies, consistent with an organization's beliefs and values. So, that was a mouthful, I know, but there's a lot of elements to that. If you think about just creating an environment that inspires, well, inspires people to do what? Inspires mediocrity? I mean, that would be one form of leadership that maybe is not the best. But if it inspires people to really execute and execute in a way that's aligned with beliefs and values, that's when you've got something special.

Jenni (04:53):

Yeah. Sometimes people think that leaders are born. So, "I'm born into this or I'm not." And we would suggest that everybody's on a journey. While some may be more inspired and have core values that align with influence and leading people and teams, it's a journey. And anybody that wants to step into that journey and reflect and grow personally, can develop. And everybody should be, it's not a destination. It's not like you get this job of leadership and you've arrived. That leaders always should be growing and they should always be on that journey.


And so, as they grow and reflect on themselves and their journey, where they are, where they want to be, they then can impact their teams. And as their teams become more united, they then can impact their organizations. And that's how the organizations achieve these unstoppable results, we would say. So, everybody's on a journey, everybody should be taking the next step, and we are there to support that growth.

Bright (05:50):

That's awesome. There's this cumulative effect that happens when everybody's undergoing their own leadership journey, and it all rolls up to sort of make the magic of organizations happen. And listening to both of you just talk, I'm kind of struck by how much of leadership starts internally. We think about leadership as maybe kind of an extroverted thing, but it starts internally. And this is something that I've really been thinking about and experiencing a lot myself as I've started taking on some more responsibility at work. And sometimes I think about it as a lot of what makes a good leader is invisible to an outside observer. You might not see me doing all of the leadership work, it's happening inside, but it still has a huge impact.


And with that in mind, Jenni and Jeremy, why is it worth investing in your own growth as a leader, especially when that growth isn't always obvious? And what should you do and what should you be looking for as you develop these kinds of invisible skills that can help you be a better leader?

Jenni (06:59):

I traditionally have understood and been a part of leadership development that was more about building skills, doing behaviors. And as you just alluded to, what I've been more focused on in the last five years as a part of the team here at the Leadership Institute is how to be as a leader, as opposed to what to do as a leader. Both are important, but this capacity-building that we talk about is the capacity to think differently, to influence deeply, to connect with other humans in a way that amplifies influence. And all of that begins with reflecting on one's self.


As you talk about that invisible growth, it's happening on the inside. I think, I believe that's why it's invisible. It's about, "Am I reflecting? Am I being aware of what's happening inside of me and how that is driving thoughts that I'm having and behaviors in my leadership? And what impact is that having on other people?" Because leadership is all about human connection.

Jenni (08:03):

How am I being connected to the people on my team? We've talked about that a lot as we're coming back into the office more and more, and the importance of human connection in the office that drives innovation and creativity and collaboration. And so leadership and self-awareness can't be separated. It's not a skill. It's not a thing I'm doing. It's a way I'm being as a leader. And the more I am present and aware, conscious, actually, of the thoughts, the behaviors, the emotions inside of me, then the greater capacity I have to grow those, connect with others, and then together produce results.

Jeremy (08:48):

I think it's not just the greater capacity to grow together and deliver those things, but it's a greater capacity to make a choice, to be intentional. When you have that understanding and deep insight of who you are, what you're about, what your values are, what your purpose is, all those elements are in the moment, you're able to choose and flex on, flex off a little bit. We can go "Karate Kid" here. We can wax on, wax off. But … you like that, Brian?

Brian (09:16):

I'm a fan.

Jeremy (09:16):

I thought we might get into some Ralph Macchio here today.

Brian (09:19):

No, that's good stuff.

Jeremy (09:20):

But you're able to do that. And if you're not aware, if you haven't built any of that awareness muscle, then you're just cruising through on autopilot. And that's often... sometimes we have good instincts, but often there's some things that get in the way. And if you think about trying to build a culture, trying to build team efficiency, trying to build healthy dynamics with the people around you, if you're not paying attention to yourself and how you're showing up, how you're coming across and the other people around you, you're not being aware of them and their needs, then there's going to be a ton of gaps in your ability to perform well, to be aligned, to be connected. And so it really comes full circle, not just in yourself, but in how it manifests to everything in the organization.

Brian (10:02):

I really like what both of you were just saying. And it brings to mind an idea that I'm a real believer in. I've talked before on the show about this idea, but it's called the VQ or one's value quotient. How much value do we bring to the marketplace? And growing your value quotient is basically the answer to the question, how do you grow your income? And there's certainly quite a few ways you can grow your VQ, but I think one of the most important is leadership training. And if you look at the people who make the most money in just about any field, whether you're in corporate America, you're a teacher, you're in the military or doing anything else, leaders just get paid more. And if you come to work and you're kicking butt and you're doing a great job, you're showing up on time, you're creating value, that's fantastic. But when you can do that for yourself and inspire and lead a bunch of other folks to do the same thing, that's worth a lot of money, and people are willing to pay for that.

Bright (10:58):

Brian, I'm glad you brought this up because it's definitely one of the reasons that we wanted to talk about leadership on a podcast that generally covers personal finances. If anyone can become a leader, which is true, and if good leaders make more money, which is also generally true, then learning how to grow your leadership can clearly help improve your personal finances. But it's also true that leadership can change lives in many other ways too. Jenni and Jeremy, how have you seen the impact that leadership development can have on an individual?

Jeremy (11:31):

Some of the impacts that I think we've witnessed have been monumental. It sounds maybe a little trivial, but we have feedback all the time from people saying, "That changed my life." I was just having a conversation earlier with somebody that said, "I look at my life as before I did executive coaching and after I did executive coaching." And that's just one aspect of some of the development that we do and other organizations do as well. But if you think about any skill, it can be cultivated. Any talent, you can invest in, you can practice. Would you just think you would automatically be an amazing golfer if you had never picked up golf clubs, and just could walk out there and be Tiger Woods? Probably not. You're going to have to practice. And leadership is the same way, and I think a lot of people unfairly put pressure on themselves or expectations on themselves or maybe other people as well to say, just step into this. You should be able to be a great leader automatically.


And it's not that easy. In fact, I think leadership is extraordinarily hard. It's very difficult. You're going to disappoint people. You're going to disappoint yourself. If you're in this for ego or you're in this because you think it's just going to be easy, you're going to be in for a rude awakening. And so investing in, what are the things I need to know as a leader? What are some of the basic tenets? What are things about myself, about how I communicate, about how I could be thinking differently? What are some things that I could be aware of that would help me be better? That can move the needle in really profound ways in people's personal and professional lives.

Jenni (12:58):

Teams that come together with a common set of beliefs or views about a problem tend to move quickly through it, and yet the solution isn't as innovative, it isn't as creative, it isn't as complete. The results aren't as great as it could be if the team could think more broadly. And a lot of the work I do with teams is about building trust and safety in the team to be able to disagree, to be able to bring a variety of ideas together, let each shape the other one, and the team and the view and the next steps are something no individual person came in the door with. And teams that are producing the highest results—and as we talk about money today, we're talking about results that teams produce—people who do that the best, have done their personal work.


They're comfortable with discomfort, they're comfortable with people that have views that are different than theirs, they're open-handed with their view and allow whatever the way they saw it to be, to be shaped by another person and then another person. And they just let this idea go in the room and evolve and come out on the other end as something more powerful and more effective than they first saw it to be. There's strength in this coming together of difference, and that only happens with effective leadership. Because the opposite is also true, a leader who is not comfortable with that shuts it down. The ideas don't grow. They stay small and safe and little, and the results are the same.

Brian (14:37):

I love that. I semi-jokingly tell people that when I grow up, I want to be like Jenni and Jeremy, pretty much. I want to do this, but I've got a lot to learn and that's why I'm taking notes. But I think it's because I know that leadership training has had such a big impact on my life when I reflect back. It's another reason I'm just so excited to have both of you on the show today. But right now, let's take a quick break. We'll be back in our next segment to talk more about how leadership can connect with your money and your mindset.

Bright (15:17):

We talk on this show all the time about our relationship with money and about the way our emotions are intrinsically tied up with our beliefs and habits around our finances. And I think this relationship probably has an effect on how we grow as leaders too, and how we lead at all. Jenni, what do you think? How might a leader's relationship with money impact the way that they lead?

Jenni (15:40):

I think there's a big connection there. In fact, the way that we think, we have a model that we talk about that says the way that we think then drives behaviors. Actually, the way that we believe, our beliefs, they drive behaviors, and those behaviors then produce our results. The results then reinforce the way we see or think about the world.

Jenni (16:03):

And this can be really helpful. It can be positive in our leadership and it can help us to collaborate, connect more, think bigger, or the opposite can be true as well. If we are afraid, if we are not open to stepping out to a place that looks not as secure, not as safe, if we don't trust our partners, then we're not able to do that. And for me, I've learned a lot here at the institute and the work of building my leadership purpose because when I came here to the team about five years ago, I had a 15-year-old daughter. Well, not the ideal time for mothers and daughters when they are 15 years old. And so it wasn't until I'd been here a while and worked on my purpose that I realized the way I was interacting with my daughter was over-helpful.


I wanted to just help and help and help her. As I thought about and really chose a statement of how I wanted to be and lead, both professionally and personally, how I want to lead my daughter as a young person becoming a young woman, I realized that helping and even over-helping was not the best way. And so my purpose statement is to mindfully and continuously become my best self and offer empowerment to others toward theirs. And when I reflect on that purpose statement and I live into it, I kind of use it as a grounding phrase, especially "offer empowerment," it prompts me to not tell or help or go overboard as a leader or as a mom, but it allows me to be curious and to collaborate and to actually illuminate options, choices, and allow, whether it's my daughter, Lauren, or whether it's the team I lead, to learn and grow into their best self, whatever that happens to be.

Brian (17:59):

I really like that example you just shared, Jenni, with your daughter. I think that's a significant connection here. And I see it in my own life. I love personal finance, but I'm not on an island. I'm interacting with other folks. And most importantly, my family. I've got a wife, I've got four kids. I want to be a good influence on them. I want them to be happy, especially as my kids grow into more independent adults. I want to equip them to make good financial decisions. And I think if I get this leadership stuff right, that'll come naturally. I can create that environment, like we talked about earlier, that just inspires them to follow a positive path when it comes to their personal finance. It's not me telling them, like you mentioned, Jenni, with your daughter. It's not solving all the problems. Hopefully I'll get the art and the science right so we're all moving in the same direction. And I take my role as a father really seriously. I think it's my greatest leadership opportunity.

Bright (18:51):

It sounds like both of you, Brian and Jenni, you're really living out that sort of creating an environment part of leadership. And I feel like that ties into something we talk about often, Brian, which is the importance of setting up systems that help us. And I think this comes down in some ways to the difference between a style and a strategy. And my style is how I naturally go about doing something. It's sort of like my first impulse. I might not even think about it, I just kind of do. My strategy, however, is how I intentionally go about doing it. And I think there's a huge difference there. And that applies to our personal finances as much as our leadership, as much as anything. Our style can get us pretty far, usually, some further than others, but it always, always hits a wall, because life is more complicated.


It's going to present you with more complicated problems than any single style can really solve. And that's why we need other people in the mix. But it's also why we have to grow and develop strategies for our leadership. And that's where we get into leadership being an art as well as a science. You'll need to develop strategies for specific situations, for specific individuals. Sometimes you've got to get a little creative. And I think the same thing can be said for your money. You're developing strategies to get you the results that you want in the end. Jeremy, what do you think about that? What's your take?

Jeremy (20:26):

That's just some really good stuff, and it's loaded. Speaking from my experience, I consider myself to be a recovering perfectionist. And so you can make an argument that my style is perfectionism. I've got some DNA that's just calling me towards getting everything right and making it happen in the most perfect way possible. And I learned through some pain that that's not sustainable. It's really not achievable. It's a complete illusion and a quick road map for me to burn out and to not show up on purpose and not show up aligned with my values. And so my strategy to combat that is to really say, "All right, hey, perfection's an illusion. It's not really attainable. So what is?" And part of my purpose statement is to grow, create authentic connections, and inspire joy.


So if I get into that first part, just grow, like, "Hey, let's choose progress over perfection today. Let's get a little bit better and let's be accountable when we're not getting better and figure out how we move towards that." The whole growth mindset concept has unlocked me in some really powerful ways. And when I go through hard times, when I go through moments when I am feeling the doubts, sometimes it's just easy for me to say, "All right. This is hard, this is uncomfortable. And when things are hard and uncomfortable, you tend to grow. You tend to get better in ways that maybe you wouldn't if they were simply easy street. So where's your growth today? How can you get a little better? How can you use this adversity, these obstacles, this difficulty, whatever it may be, to improve?" And when I do that, it helps me unlock. That's a strategy, versus just the style that would be just to bear down and get through it and do it perfectly.


That's a strategy that helps me. And I would say that shows up in my financial life as well. For example, one of the things my family and I love to do, we love to travel. We just got back from a trip visiting our daughter who's studying abroad. And in some of our early family trips... And it can still happen today, but I'm doing a little better. I could remember I would divide the cost of the trip by the day, almost by the hour. And I could say, "OK, everybody, these next two hours are costing us X amount of money and we only have this amount of time, and so we must make the most perfection 20 minutes or 120 minutes, whatever it's going to be. This has to be amazing." And everybody loves that. That's a real winner for the fam. And so fortunately they've checked me on that and been like, "Dude, this is not fun. We're here to..."


There's the second part of my purpose statement, to create authentic connections and inspire joy. That's the part that can get missing sometimes when I get so hyper-focused. And some of it's about the money. This is this scarcity, finite resource, and, "We're only going to be here one time in our lives and so it must be epic." And with that pressure, if money was not an issue, I may not feel that. And so I have to have some intentional strategies in those moments to say, "The real goal here is to create this experience and this memory and be dialed in to each other together, right here, right now, and see where this flows." And we can have a little preparation and a little bit of a process to optimize the enjoyment of that moment, but too much of that and it ruins the whole thing. So I can see how all this sort of style over strategy and money psychology comes into play, even in trying to enjoy the stuff that we love to invest in.

Bright (23:53):

And enjoy the fruits of what our leadership at work has created for us. And Jeremy, I'm so glad that you brought up growth mindset because as everyone knows, it's sort of one of my favorite topics too.

Bright (24:03):

And I think this is really huge when it comes to leadership, because to be a leader is basically to be in this growth zone all the time.


And we know that when we're in the growth zone, it is uncomfortable. So part of being a leader is kind of signing on to being uncomfortable most of the time, if not all of the time. But improving your skills, being open to making mistakes, being aware of the mistakes you're making, and being forthright about mistakes, it helps you improve and it gives you credibility. So one of the things that I've learned over the time in my career and in my leadership is that some of the most positive feedback I ever get is about my willingness to look like an idiot in front of a group.


I do that pretty often, and I do it as a strategy. It's a learning strategy. And look, while I'm open to looking like an idiot, I'm not an idiot. I'm also not a genius, right? I'm like most people, I'm somewhere in between. But when I'm able to look like one temporarily, it helps other people be willing to feel like an idiot and maybe look like an idiot. And that helps them get on board with whatever it is we're trying to do at the moment.


And I think that vulnerability is a really important quality for leaders to have because it helps build that thing of psychological safety, the ability to take risks and to make mistakes and to look like an idiot in front of other people, which most of us usually don't want to do. But it's psychological safety that enables that vulnerability and enables thus that growth.


And just to keep the focus on psychology here for a minute, I wanted to talk a little bit and ask you guys about cognitive biases. Some of our listeners may know this already, and we've talked about it in a couple shows in the past, but cognitive biases are essentially mental shortcuts that happen when our brain tries to simplify complex information. They can save us time and energy, but often at the expense of accuracy and often at the expense of other people's feelings and experiences. So they can be trouble, in other words.


Jeremy and Jenni, what biases might factor in to how a leader thinks about money, and how might those show up for better or for worse in their decision making?

Jeremy (26:36):

So many of them. I love the way you phrase that, and it's always a great reminder when I hear about biases, that part about the errors, the flaws. It's a shortcut, yeah, but it's not just a shortcut. It's a shortcut that's got all kinds of errors embedded in it. And for my recovering perfectionism, it's like, "Wait a minute, we could make a mistake here? Let me pay attention to this whole bias thing."


But yeah, there's so many that can show up in the way we think about money. It could be a recency bias, like, "Well, the stock market tanked six months ago, so surely it's going to tank again," or, "It's doing great today, so it'll always do great." It could be confirmation bias. We could be anchoring to things.


It could be a negativity bias, like that we only see money as this scary thing, and we can create, again, flaws and errors in the way that we're evaluating and making decisions about money. And I don't want to make flaws and errors about anything, and I definitely don't want to do it about my money. And so yeah, I think it's important to really check those biases and make sure that we are thinking clearly about it, and have a good line of sight into some things that may be getting in our way.

Jenni (27:41):

I like to think about the bias as a water faucet. This image does it for me. And so when we take shortcuts and we make quick decisions, it's like we have all that we need, we turn that faucet off, we don't need the flow of information anymore, we've got it figured out.


And when we know that that involves errors, then we can develop the discipline to turn that faucet on and get the information flowing. We need more.


And sometimes for me, that looks like—and I have a sense of urgency, little problem, I just want to move fast—and so if everybody's agreeing, that feels good, let's just go.


And so sometimes I'll stop and say to the team, "If we were going to do something totally different, what would it be?" Or, "Who sees something that we're not talking about yet?" Or some other kind of disruptive question to stop the urgent flow forward on this path with limited information.


It could be any of those shortcuts Jeremy talked about and so many more, and it's important to develop the awareness that it's happening and then the skill to shift into the flow, more information, so that we can have a fuller perspective and make a better decision.

Brian (28:58):

Disruptive questions. I am going to have to go back when this episode comes out, I will go to that part and relisten Jenni, and write those questions down. That was fantastic information. Thank you.


I know I've got more questions for our guests. I'm sure you do too, Bright. Unfortunately, we're coming up against time for today's episode, but the good news is that we have Jenni and Jeremy back with us on our next episode to continue our discussion on leadership.


If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe so that you can hear more about the relationship between leadership and your money. We'll also talk more about specific tips that can help you grow as a leader and how you can build strategies that will help you take charge of your personal finances.


Until then, Jeremy, Jenni, thank you again for being on Money and Mindset. We appreciate you.

Jenni (29:44):

It's been a great conversation. Thanks Bright, and Brian.

Jeremy (29:48):

We appreciate you. Thanks so much for having us.

Bright (29:56):

That's going to do it for this month's episode of Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian. Thank you so much to our guests, Jeremy Spidell and Jenni Marsh of the Truist Leadership Institute.


For more information on Jeremy and Jenni and the work they do, you can visit TruistLeadershipInstitute.com. If you've got questions for Jeremy and Jenni, you can write to AskBrightAndBrian@truist.com.


They'll be back for part two of today's discussion in the next episode, and your question might get answered then. Thanks so much to everyone out there listening, and before I forget, thanks to you too, Brian.

Brian (30:29):

Hey, thanks Bright. And an extra, just big thanks to our guests. We appreciate your time. We can't wait to have them back on.


If you enjoyed today's episode, again, you'll definitely want to subscribe where you listen to podcasts to make sure that you don't miss the next one.


You can also support us by leaving a rating or a review, or sharing the podcast with someone else. Every rating makes a major difference and helps us with our purpose of inspiring people to take more control and feel better about their personal finances.

Bright (30:56):

As always, you can find past episodes and a ton of additional resources, from blogs to calculators to budgeting tools, at Truist.com/money-mindset, or just Google search, "Truist Money Mindset." We'll be back soon with more strategies and tips to help you grow in financial confidence and leadership. Until next time.

Brian (31:18):

This episode of Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian is brought to you by Truist.

Leaders aren’t born—they grow into the role with the right mindset and desire to direct others to success. Wherever you are in your career, you can (and should) be on a leadership development journey because the positive effects can help in your personal life, too.

In this episode of Money and Mindset With Bright and Brian, our hosts are joined by Jenni Marsh and Jeremy Spidell of the Truist Leadership Institute. They discuss what makes effective leadership and draw out the connection between how you lead and how you manage your personal finances. They also cover:

  • How leadership development and income growth go hand in hand
  • Why your beliefs drive the behaviors that produce results
  • How the leadership mindset and psychology concepts (such as checking your biases) can help inform your financial decisions
“Leadership is the art and science of creating an environment that inspires.” –Jeremy Spidell, Truist Leadership Institute


Check out the Truist Leadership Institute online to find more resources for leadership development. And get more tips on growing your financial confidence with Money and Mindset.

Send us your questions, stories, and ideas: AskBrightAndBrian@truist.com

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This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial, investment, or mental health advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial investment, or mental health professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.