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A CONVERSATION WITH: Rod Miller MBA CHRP
This is the latest post from my blog:
Rod Miller is a senior sales leader with a background of business development, sales leadership with human capital strategy experience & expertise. Rod is a multiple award winner whose core strengths are leadership/management development & building teams to achieve corporate.
Rod’s career has included sales, marketing, sales leadership & Executive Management in the Life Sciences, Professional Services & Management Consulting industries. His education includes a B.Sc. in Zoology/Psychology, a BA in Economics and an MBA. Holder of the Certified Human Resource Professionals (CHRP) designation and is a member of the Human Resources Institute of Alberta.
In addition to his diverse career and education Rod is also an adjunct Lecturer at the University Of Calgary Haskayne School Of Business and the University of Lethbridge Faculty of Management onsite at the Bow Valley College in Calgary and an active community volunteer.
L&M: Early on you spent four years working as an actor and spokesperson; that is quite a change from what you do now, what prompted the change in direction.
I have to say this is the absolute first time I have had this question.
The actor spokesperson came out of a need to fund my university studies. I knew someone in the business and they told me how much they made an hour, which essentially was the drive as it sounded like easy money. In addition I had always been somewhat of an introverted person so this was an opportunity to challenge myself put myself out there.
I remember filming a television commercial and there must have been 30 people on the set with me as the primary and only talent in front of the camera the experience was exhilarating but also very unnerving. One of the benefits of this experience is that it taught me the essence of selling because I represented a brand in doing the commercial and knew the ultimate goals was to sell the product.
This was my first intro into marketing and helped me build on a natural skill set. Naturally this is where my career has gone - an introverted guy who loves to sell and build strong client relationships.
L&M: Most people think of leaders as extroverts but I actually think some of the best and most dynamic leaders are really introverts miss characterized as extroverts. What do you think?
This is such a great question. I have done Myers Briggs numerous times and can safely say I am an introvert and quite proud of it.
Introversion or extroversion isn’t about whether or not you are quiet or gregarious. It is really about how you source your energy. As an introvert I produce energy by winding down, the opposite is true for an extraverted person, they require energy to feed their batteries.
Over the years in sales and leadership I have come to understand how to manage my energy. I used to travel extensively and energy management was key at sales meetings and conferences. I developed a routine that included both mental and physical rest to recharge; this allowed me to continue spending energy through what were very long days.
L&M: Did you ever think about how those thirty people were dependent upon the work you did? It is certainly similar to being a leader wouldn't you agree?
At the time I never would have thought of that perspective but you are absolutely correct. Whether you were a stage hand, makeup artist or lighting guy we were all there to do one thing – make a great TV commercial.
There are innumerable books on leadership vs. management and on reflection that was the case here. I had no direct influence on the work of each individual, but my role was important and needed to lead by example to get the work done. So, yes I would agree it is very similar to being a leader.
L&M: Your educational background is quite impressive with a B. Sc, Zoology & Psychology, a BA in Economics and a Masters of Business Administration, Leadership & Strategy. Why the Zoology?
Thank you for the compliment.
I guess my initial response would be that simply completing this degree was based on my passion for science & the scientific method. I had always been attracted to the complexities of animal physiology; in particular mammalian physiology and so this major fit very well with my need at the time.
I didn't enter university with a plan of completing a degree to get a job, my plan was much simpler, I just wanted to learn something I was very interested in. My first degree focused on the link between human physiology as my major then complemented with the psychology minor. I use both today in my work because we are a combination of both physical and psychological attributes that makes us human.
L&M: Today you are the Managing Director of Resource Global Professionals; how many people do you have reporting directly to you?
Currently I have 10 people in my organization that work internally and externally providing services to our client base. Our model at Resources Global is a combination of employee and consultants that work on behalf of our clients and the best way to describe our model is a boutique approach within each city we serve while maintaining seamless ties with our global operation.
L&M: You have also held high level leadership positions with some other prominent companies such as Robert Half; what drew you away from that to Global Professionals?
My background and experiences are quite varied. I essentially grew up in the pharmaceutical/biotech world and in 2007 reached the pinnacle due to relocation back to Western Canada. It was time for something new and that is when I joined Robert Half. The experience there was outstanding but I had a deep desire to move from strictly staffing to more consulting for the intellectual challenge. Resources Global is a project based consulting firm and there was an opportunity to help them regain ground in the Calgary market. The opportunity to leverage my strategic skills along with the business development & operational skills was perfect timing.
L&M: Even with such advanced degrees have you had any challenges in your career progression and personal leadership development that your education did not prepare you for?
Absolutely! I remember clearly when I took on my first leadership role managing a team. Previous to this I was in marketing, building marketing plans and launching products. I had an amazing mentor at the time and she said something to me that continues with me to this day. I recall exactly where I was when we had the conversation. Her words were simple, yet profound. She said – Rod one thing to remember is that people have personalities, products don’t. You can tell products what to do but you can’t tell people what to do.
At the time this was clearly the difference between a leader and a manager even though I didn't know it. Obviously there are times when leaders need to manage but it’s knowing when to do what that makes a difference. Also, school doesn't prepare you to have some of the more difficult conversations and I remember the first time I had to terminate an employee, probably the most difficult thing a leader will have to do in their career, no school or degree can prepare you for the conversation and emotion that you and the employee will experience in this situation.
I have a personal philosophy that I learned from a friend who passed away many years ago. He lived life to the fullest and was a huge member of the community. Through his life experience he taught me to learn something new every day. In fact I will take time at the end of my day to reflect on what I learned and most importantly who taught me that day. I have no preconceived notions that it must be someone senior to me or someone inside my industry; there are teachers all around us we just have to stop and listen.
L&M: It is always great to hear someone talk about having a mentor; do you still have one today?
I don’t and it is a big piece that is missing. I have many advisors who can provide me advice but not a clear mentor. In fact it is driving me to set up a mentorship program!
L&M: Do you mentor anyone?
Yes, this is a very important area of my life and one, which is very fulfilling. I tend to work with only a few people at a time due to time restrictions and I would say it is a mix of coaching & mentoring
L&M: What advice would you give to someone considering either getting a mentor or being one?
Outstanding mentors don’t do the work for you, they are there is guide you based on their experiences and knowledge, most importantly they are there to challenge you and help you see beyond what you see. The work is the mentees to do that is growth part.
Great mentors freely share objectively, when things are great, they are great, when they aren't then they aren't and mentors will always be objective, willing to share openly with compassion and most importantly challenge you to think.
L&M: You are an active volunteer can you tell us more about that and what it means to you as a leader?
Absolutely, for the past couple of years I have been reflecting on where I wanted to give my time and really understand what I am passionate about.
My mother was Native American and unfortunately I never knew her, but the blood runs through my system. I have always felt a connection to this community so when the opportunity arose to give my time to programs designed to help our native youth achieve excellence in school and life I knew it was time to begin giving back.
Leadership to me is really leading by example in all things that you do whether you are a parent, manager, teacher or whatever. I remember meeting a fantastic teacher of leadership years ago; his name was Peter Urs Bender, the author of Leadership from Within. This book had a huge impact early in my career and it gave me the direction I continue on today as a leader. I recall having a one on one conversation with him when I hired him to speak at one of our sales meetings. His impact on me and my team was profound. Unfortunately Peter is no longer with us but his legacy was teaching us that true leadership comes from within and as leaders we have a responsibility to give back.
L&M: You mention the impact Peter Urs Bender had on you; is there anyone else that influenced you and helped shape the leader you are today?
Absolutely, there are many. I have had some excellent leaders whom I have worked for and whom have given mentorship freely during my career. I have had excellent coaches and teachers in high school who taught me to believe in myself and nurtured my abilities. There are others who showed me the impact of not leading well and me realizing that is not the example for effective leadership.
I have come to understand there is no easy formula for leadership; each leader has their own unique style that is based on their knowledge and experiences, there are fundamentals but the most important is finding a way to connect your business and people together. I do quite a bit of reading and a couple of the best books I've read recently are Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness and of course the biography of Steve Jobs.
L&M: What do you find to be the biggest leadership challenge being responsible for any organization?
Regardless of the size of any organization the biggest challenge facing leaders today is attracting and retaining top talent in a dynamic and changing work environment. There is such a generational difference to how work is completed and valued that organizations are struggling with what is the right structure and workplace environment.
I have done extensive work in understanding the generational differences in the workforce today and if organizations can master how to leverage each generation they can improve human capital productivity; this is easier said than done however. I work extensively with Gen-Ys both in the workforce and the classroom setting and this experience has taught me the essence as to why each generation is the way they are. Not that it is right or wrong, it just is. Our challenge in organizations is to build a workplace community that encourages the best from each and every employee. We need to do this in the context of the generational differences without judgment. This is the biggest challenge facing any leader today.
L&M: In your opinion what is the one biggest opportunity that businesses and organizations miss or overlook when it comes to attracting and/or retaining top talent?
Although this is simply my opinion and not supported with research, organizations that invest in growing and developing their people will continue to be the most attractive and retentive. Money doesn't buy loyalty, caring and developing your staff does. Programs for personal growth, a manager who has the tools & knows how to develop their staff and leaders who live this by example will always have an edge. This starts at the top of an organization and is embedded in the culture of the company.
L&M: What do you think is the single biggest challenge for today’s future leader?
We live in a very fast society driven by technology. Leaders need to remember that we are human and require social interaction. Don’t make quick decisions; take the time to reflect and don’t think a relationship over a social networking site is adequate to connect with the people in the organization. Make it personal and genuinely connect with others, don’t just “add a friend” or “accept a connection request.”
L&M: What has been your biggest challenge as a leader?
Very simply, others not seeing the true talent they have to offer. Great people getting stuck because they have some belief system that is preventing them from succeeding at something they truly want. Helping them get through that is the biggest challenge but when they do it is often a great reward.
L&M: What has been your greatest reward as a leader?
I have been very fortunate to work with some amazing people and to see them grow in their roles and in their careers is the most fulfilling for me.
I recall in one particular situation one of my managers was “written off” by the company and they personally had all but given up. I spoke to manager and we developed a plan to get back on track and within 2 years this individual was promoted numerous times and is now in a senior leadership role leading a very large team.
L&M: If you could only give one piece of advice to those entering the workforce about leadership what would it be?
Although this is not directly related to leadership, it is very important to becoming a great leader. Never give up on learning. I have a strong innate desire to learn and try to do so every day. It has served me well and contributed to my leadership ability.
L&M: I believe the written word can bring inspiration and motivation to people and so I pick and post a quote everyday on my blog and other social media outlets. Do you have a personal favorite quote?
Sure, I actually have two and both are on my Facebook page.
“Never give in to the status quo
Never give up on your dreams
Always give unconditionally with no expectation of anything in return
And when you feel like it wear a tie dyed t-shirt”
- Rod Miller
“When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.”
~ Cree Prophecy
L&M: Rod I would like to thank you for taking the time to have this conversation with me and all the people who will read this.
Thu, Feb 21, 2013 03:54 PM
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