Dennis Miller – Executive Search and Non Profit Leadership

Breakdown of the Interview - Executive Search and Non Profit Leadership

   

Introduction

Michael Akbar:

Well, welcome to a very special opportunity in our series of conversations with CEOs, executives, and HR leaders. Dennis Miller, our guest today, is the founder and chairman of DCM Associates. He's a nationally recognized expert in nonprofit leadership, executive search, strategic planning, and board and leadership performance coaching with more than 35 years of experience working with nonprofit board leadership and chief executives across the country.

Dennis is also an expert in board governance, leadership development, philanthropy and succession planning. In addition, he's a sought-after motivational speaker, retreat facilitator, and leadership performance coach. Dennis's experience working with hundreds of nonprofit organizations has provided him with the knowledge and insights to understand the competencies required of today's nonprofit leadership.

Personal Journey [1:06]

Dennis, thank you for being here with us today. And with that, if you wouldn't mind starting with sharing just a little bit about your personal story, personal journey?

Dennis Miller:

Well, Michael, thank you very much for that wonderful introduction, written by my, I guess, my wife or my mother. Thank you. I hate to even tell you, it's probably getting on 40 years, but I'm not ready to admit 40 years of experience yet. Michael, that's kind of what I do today, but I think what a lot of people didn't know, I didn't tell anybody until about five years ago, I wrote a book about my journey and the book is called Moppin', M-O-P-P-I-N', Moppin' Floors to CEO: From Hopelessness and Failure to Happiness and Success.

So yes, I was a 38-year-old hospital CEO and corporate executive at the age of 42, and president of a medical center at 49, et cetera. And if Mrs. Fritz, my seventh-grade English teacher, knew I wrote two sentences together she'd have a heart attack. If she knew I authored five books, she'd have a really big heart attack.

But I overcame a lot of, unfortunately, a lot of emotional abuse and trauma as a child, and from a tough, difficult situation, and family situation, and it was very traumatic. And to make a long story short, I was able to get a lot of help and overcome a lot of adversity, and I went from graduating high school at the bottom of my class, and 10 years later at the top of my class at my undergrad university of Rutgers, and then on to Columbia, so I count my blessings every day, Michael, that I live a good life.

Current Goals [2:58]

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful. Thank you for sharing that. Now, I did make a little introduction at the beginning, but if you don't mind, if you could please tell us a little bit more about what you're focusing on these days, that would be great.

Dennis Miller:

Yeah. Well, Michael, thank you. We have a team of 10 of us. We work nationally, and we do a tremendous amount of executive search in the nonprofit space of professional trade associations and chambers and foundations, so we do mostly CEO, COO, occasionally a CFO or chief development officer search for organizations with wide service vectors, and we've been at it for a long time, and I think we've developed a good reputation.

So, that's a big thing. Also, I'll share with you that in our Center for Nonprofit Leadership and Board Performance, we have a lot of work we do with boards, but I'm about to launch a new Center for Emerging Leaders, a leadership training program for those that may be future leaders. So, we're working on that for the springtime, and pretty excited about that. I had a program I created about 10 years ago at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, the largest private university in the state at the time. And I think that we're going to take, not to the university but on our own, take a program and create it nationally with our partners, and so excited about just focusing in on training future leaders, and where is the new Michael coming from? And where's the new everybody coming from? And that's pretty exciting stuff, so we always got something cooking.

Michael Akbar:

That's really exciting. I wanted to ask you, you mentioned earlier that you have done a number of career transitions. And especially in our time, with all the social changes and economic changes that happens, could you share with me a little bit about that journey and the relevance of it to our audience.

Dennis Miller:

Yeah, and it's interesting. It was interesting, Michael. I started my company 17 years ... Well, into our 17th year, so 16 years ago, in January of 2005. And circumstances at the medical center just required a change for everybody, and two or three people that knew me well said, "Dennis, you should have your own business."

Now, I was a corporate executive. I was in charge of business development. I always saw myself as sort of an entrepreneur with a social heart. And I wasn't sure what business to have. All the people that wanted to sell services to hospitals and medical centers, like architects and engineers and accountants, do I market for them and all that stuff?

And then I said, "Nah, I'll just become a vendor to all my CO friends." So, I had a ... And I remember this, I knew her. Woman's name was Robin Alber, she was with the American Cancer Society. And during my medical center days, we had built, with a lot of community input, a fabulous cancer center. One stop shop all, it was everything. Beautiful waterfalls, symmetry, meditation, yoga. One stop shopping.

And so, I met her one day and she says to me, "So how did you build your board? And how'd you raise all that money? And how'd you build your brand in the community?" And how'd you do this, and how'd you do that? And Mike, I swear to God, this thunderbolt hit me like the Mario Puzo in Godfather, but it was just this ... And I said, "You know what? I was in [inaudible 00:06:40]," I said ... It, just remarkable, it was a godsend. I said, "Here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to help these nonprofit organizations."

And in the beginning it was like, "Oh, you just know," we were a quarter billion dollar medical, "You just know big places," and I was trying to help with $2.5 million places, I said, "[inaudible 00:07:00]." Same issues with my board chair or foundation, and I started just, basically I just did workshops for testimonial, not even charging anybody. And today, I don't know, 400 clients later, and 16 years, and five books, and 10 wonderful colleagues that make me look good, and we're living out our passion, living out our dreams. What can I tell you?

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful. So things have really changed since you first started.

Dennis Miller:

Ah, yeah. I mean, I was 34 when I realized, I was with a public accounting company in their consulting group, and I realized I didn't want to be a partner, and I wanted to be running a medical center. And just, things happen, and you ... I've learned in life, you close one door, you open up another, you fall down, you get back up, and nothing's easy, and I'm not saying my journey was easy by any stretch of the imagination, it was not, but perseverance won out at the end, perseverance won.

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful, that's wonderful. And looking forward, what are some of the important things ahead of you in continuing this [crosstalk 00:08:17]-

Dennis Miller:

Well, Michael, one thing that I just said, I think the idea of continuing to grow our services nationally, we're now working ... clients in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, California, working all over the place, so continue to grow. Continue to help out. It is our business, but it's our passion that leads us there. I mentioned earlier about the emerging leader’s program, I think I'm excited about that. I want to have a, probably in 2022, maybe something early in the fall of 2020, when I want to have a national board chair CO institute conference, where board chairs and COs can have a conversation amongst themselves and get to meet colleagues. It may be a virtual conference in 2021. But I think ahead of us is just collaborating and being a conduit for others to have a chance to hear what other people think, and so we can create a learning environment for everybody is kind of what my goal is.

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful, that's a brilliant idea, yeah. 

Leadership and Values [9:30]

Michael Akbar:

Yeah. Looking at your own leadership style, how would you, having led those organizations, how would you characterize your leadership style, and how do you think, what kind of impact has it had on organization, employees, client, and customers?

Dennis Miller:

It's interesting, I mean, I learned, pre- [inaudible 00:09:54], obviously in the time we're into right now, everything is on Zoom and remote. But I learned, I had a professor in graduate school, and his name was Bruce [Vladick 00:10:09], and he was a fabulous guy. He eventually ended up heading up what was then called the Healthcare Finance Administration in Washington under President Clinton, and he said, "All you guys and gals want to work in hospitals, every once in a while, put your contracts, your budgets, and all your financial statements, put them down, walk around the hospital, and say hello to people, and don't forget to go to ER."

So I always wanted to kind of manage by walking around. I think I would describe my style as, I think I can safely say, sort of authentic. I like that you get to know people on a first-name basis. I would say I was an employee CEO. Took an interest in everybody, would sit down in the cafeteria next to people I didn't know to say hello. I didn't walk in with my posse and all that kind of stuff, and I think that things kind of [inaudible 00:11:01] is that a good communicator, decent sense of humor, a lot of self-deprecation. I think people can relate to that. I have a commitment to serve, and I would say I'm honestly very comparing, very compassionate, very ... I think I'm a very loving man.

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful. How can I apply to work for you? That all sounds exciting.

Dennis Miller:

[crosstalk 00:11:30] [inaudible 00:11:30]-associates.com, come on over, we'll [inaudible 00:11:33] ... We'll get your business cards out tomorrow, Michael.

Michael Akbar:

So, Dennis, would you consider those also like the values that are guiding light of your business today, and are there other values that you want to share with us?

Dennis Miller:

Yeah, well, I think, it's interesting. I do think there's some values that drive us. One is integrity. I mean, everything we do, everything anybody does has to have integrity. And I don't think about these, Michael, they're sort of second nature, but I do believe that service is the big question. I mean, its, service is a value to us, it's serving others and helping them, put them first. I think that's important. So integrity is a big, big factor here.

Golden rule, I really believe in, maybe, probably because of the way that I grew up, I wanted to be different then the way I was brought up, or interacted with my parents or my dad or mom, whatever. But treat people the way you want to be treated, and also try not to be critical or judgmental, try to understand where someone else is in their shoes, and you want to try to never make them feel bad about themselves, but you want to try to elevate their game. And so even if you're going to give somebody advice or coaching or an assessment, you want to start with their strengths, and then kind of give them some options of how we could do this, that, or that better, or make them feel that it's about them, it's not about us, and it's not about making them feel inferior in any way.

So those are some things we live by, and I think, overcommunication. We overcommunicate, we keep people apprised of what's going on. And it might sound silly, Michael, but it's just, we really bust our chops. We work really hard, go out of our way to never stop until the job is done, and that's just who we are. That's who I am, that's how we play the game.

Utilizing Skills for Resume Building [13:48]

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful. Looking back at organizations that you have led and organizations that you're helping these days, what kind of candidates would find themselves really at home in the leadership positions in your [crosstalk 00:14:06]-

Dennis Miller:

That's a good question. Well, certainly we're a retained search firm, so we're not a job placement firm, so we get retained by clients to help them recruit a candidate. And as the first stage of our five stages, we help identify what the organization really needs or what it wants. Sometimes they know what they want, sometimes what they want is not what they need, and we give them advice there.

I think that certainly competencies is a big factor. So you have to have a certain skillset. I mean, hypothetically, if someone is looking for a fisherman, just finding a baker isn't going to help them, you got to be a fisherman. But I think the things that differentiate people really is, competency is one thing. You either have it or you don't. But obviously a sense of culture, being able to fit in. See, being able to, Michael, like you and I are talking, and to your listeners, feeling a sense of will they fit into the culture, will they fit in? Do they have a sense of that they are a giving individual, they like being part of a team, or are they all about themselves? And I think that's a big factor.

But anybody in today's environment that sees themselves as a contemporary leader with competencies such as being a visionary thinker, relationship builder, a collaborator, you know this, Michael, as well as everybody else. You don't have to do it all alone these days. So collaborator, entrepreneurship, succession planner, strategic thinker. So people that have those kind of outlooks on life, and skills, and competencies, and attitude, personal attributes, are the ones that will work real well with us.

Michael Akbar:

Wonderful, thank you for sharing that, yeah. When resumes come across your desk, or you look at LinkedIn profiles, are there some general indicators that, as you look at them, you may decide to further explore them or [inaudible 00:16:16] them or ...

Dennis Miller:

I was helping a colleague today with her resume, and over the past day or so, but one of the things is don't send a resume in with dear sir, dear madam. Start with, find out someone's first name. Find somebody, okay?

I think two things. I think that, first of all, a nice chronological resume is very helpful to show your track record. And I was never a big believer, Michael, in a functional resume, that talks about the things you've done. But I've changed my mind lately. I'm beginning to think that if someone can articulate real quickly kind of under leadership or strategic thinking or program development or collaboration, if they can articulate who they are as a leader up front, I think that's striking. I think a nice short cover letter, one page, to how, what the position they're seeking, how they heard about it, what are some things that maybe there's not on their resume, whatever, make sure that we know how to get ahold of them.

And I think that, I got a resume the other day from a woman up in, believe it or not, in South Dakota, and I was blown away. So impressive. Her bio, her resume just was unbelievably well done, caught my eye. And I also advise people this: on average, most people are going to spend maybe 10 seconds looking at your resume. Maybe 10 seconds. It's like a quick look. I hate to say, but it's just ... And if you have had a job for the past 10 years, you have a new job every year, it's a negative. People are going to question that. And highlight the things, not just say what you've been responsible for, but use active verbs about what you've done, what your results, what you achieve, what you've led, what you engage, what you initiated, what are you involved in? Use active verbs about what you did, quantify it or ... Either provide some quality information or quantity information or qualitative, quantitative. That would be helpful here. But I think that those are things that are important.

Michael Akbar:

That's great advice, yeah, I really appreciate that, yeah. Some people tell me that, "Oh, I have difficulty creating quantitative accomplishments," but as you said, they can look at that in a more broader way of ... There are so many different ways you can communicate your accomplishment, yeah.

Dennis Miller:

Yeah. If you can just think about it, if you can convey that you've been a director, or executive director, or vice-president, or assistant director, whatever it is, if you can just convey that you took initiative. And a big thing for everybody, and this, maybe you might ask me later on, but the big thing that I always think about in today's world of employment, there's very little job security, [inaudible 00:19:27] 50 years ago when ... All that stuff, is think about, every day, you're trying to create value for your employer.

Michael Akbar:

Exactly, yeah.

Dennis Miller:

And if you can demonstrate how you created value, and particularly if you can demonstrate that you were part of a group, or think tank, or a task force or something, things like that that differentiate you, shows that you're a team player, those are the things that are very helpful.

Interviewing [19:55]

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful. Similarly, when you're sitting in interviews with your clients, and you're listening to candidates, what are the things that you're listening for, irrespective of their specific specialties and all that, that will make a difference in your job [crosstalk 00:20:11]-

Dennis Miller:

Yeah, it's a great question. Believe it or not, eye contact. And people not fidgeting around, and looking at the newspaper, looking at their phone. I mean, today's world, if we're interviewing on Zoom, shut your phone off. Don't be talking to me and my colleagues and text messaging. I mean, it just ... Don't do that, don't be distracted. And I think what I would advise people too is just, though I understand interviewing is generally an anxiety-producing event for most people, but think about it as this, Michael. Think about it as an opportunity for you, the person that's being interviewed, to participate, to perform, to engage in the interviewing questions. Think about that kind of stuff, I think it'll be helpful. Use it as an opportunity for you, you want to engage them in a conversation. You want to see if it's a good fit for you, the interviewer, interviewer and interviewee.

So don't think of it as a passive experience, think about it as an active experience, to be an equal participant in the process, and ask, like you're asking questions of me, ask questions. A question that I used to ask, in my days in my career when I was interviewing positions, long time ago, I always, it was a question I would ask, which was, I'd be like this, "So Michael, in your opinion, what would be the ideal qualification experience that you'd be seeking for this position?" And then if you told me that, then I knew exactly how to answer the question. Says, "Well, Michael, glad you pointed out, because one of my experience is blank, blank, blank, blank, blank."

And so I said before, don't tell people, spend an hour telling what a great baker you are when they're looking for a fisherman. Listen to what they're looking for, and try to find a way to respond to that. But I think, we've interviewed lots and lots of people, and I won't say what client or what situation, but my colleague and I about a year ago interviewed somebody, and on paper this person was fabulous. Had all the ingredients for the soup, as they say. And came across so cocky, self-[inaudible 00:22:42], why didn't he have the job already kind of thing, it just turned us off. So just be humble, but just, you can tell. And so just, you want to engage someone in conversation. Even if we're strangers to them, just engage in conversation. If you were in the line to get on an airplane, just have a conversation with someone, make it natural, and just feel that you're participating in the process. That's my advice. You can tell when people are authentic and when they're listening.

Michael Akbar:

Yeah. No, that's such a valuable advice from the other side of the table, for [crosstalk 00:23:26]-

Dennis Miller:

Yeah, just have a smile, put a smile on. Even if you're, had a tough week or a tough day, whatever, just put on a smile if you can.

Emotional Intelligence [23:35]

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful, thank you. And for new executives that just are starting with a new organization, what are some of your advice to not only help themselves grow faster, helping the organization, and how these two can grow together? What should they look out for, and to be more proactive about their own career growth?

Dennis Miller:

Yeah, I think the one thing that sometimes people forget that's vitally important to be successful in anything, but in terms of a leader, is to be a relationship-builder. Trust and respect is earned, it's not demanded. You don't demand trust and respect because of your title. You earn trust and respect because of your informal title, how you treat people, how you talk to people. How you make decisions, how you listen. [inaudible 00:24:42] famous philosopher, and she said, "People may not always remember what you said, not always remember what you did, but they'll always remember how you made them feel," and I wish that was my own. That's Maya Angelou, and I just, fabulous statement.

So I think people remember how you make them feel, and I think that the mistake a lot of people make is just think they can do things by themselves, and so if anybody, whether you're young, starting out in your career, or you're near the end of your career, I don't know anybody that achieves anything on their own. And so I think that you're only going to get ahead by making sure that people are on the same page with you. So I'd be relationship-builder.

I think also, don't be afraid to demonstrate your passion for your mission. I think that's really important. Today, too, Michael, for years, most of us that have gone into, so, whether we call it the charitable space, the nonprofit space, the social human service space versus the business space, whatever, we generally went into this not necessarily to make money or a name for ourselves, to serve others. But don't also be afraid to tout your horn. Don't be afraid to tout the horn of your organization, your own successes here. Be a thought leader. I mean, be someone that people think about when the topic comes up. So if you are involved, say, in youth counseling, and the issue is at-risk kids, I mean, in the community, be the person that the local, maybe police officer or the sheriff or the superintendent of schools may want to be part of a committee, be viewed as a thought leader. And I think those are good advice.

So thought leader, passion/mission, and a relationship-builder, those are things to focus on building your career with.

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful. By the way, you mentioned one of my favorite quotes by Maya Angelou. I love that quote.

Dennis Miller:

Ah man, I wish I had met her. I wish [inaudible 00:27:08] that was my saying, but it wasn't, and I just, it was in my first book, and she's so, she's [inaudible 00:27:19] so brilliant, and she's at such a high level of emotional intelligence, and we should touch upon that too, Michael. Today, it's not your IQ, it's your EQ. And emotional intelligence, you know well, is the ability to be self-aware of how your emotions impact others, and how others' emotions impact you, and sometimes you and myself included can certainly overreact to people's emotions. But I think that emotional intelligence is a major factor in both living not only a happy life, but being a successful leader. And you can learn to become more emotionally intelligent, too. There's a lot of work in that area, but I think that's [inaudible 00:28:10]. But yeah, she's just a lovely, lovely, lovely woman. She was a fabulous person. Just lovely.

Michael Akbar:

That's wonderful. And I glad to hear that emotional intelligence is something we can all work on, and it's not just in the DNA, so that's good.

Dennis Miller:

No, listen, you know this as well as anybody else, I used to get asked, well, "Are you a born leader or can you learn to be a leader?" Well, there are certain people that are born leaders, they have certain DNA. They may come from a long line of family or something like that. That wasn't my case. I didn't [inaudible 00:28:46] long line of anything. But somehow, somehow, the thing that I'm grateful for the most, Michael, in life, and I hope people will read my book, it's online, all bookstores, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, everything, Moppin' Floors to CEO, just things I look back upon that I'm so glad that I sought out help that I did, here I am, 24 years old, living in a YMCA homeless, cleaning bathrooms at the local hotel, getting room and boarding house, no four year college degree, and then realizing that Dennis, you got to get an education.

And then, thank God I just said, "Well, how am I going to get into school?" Because I rejected by every college coming out of high school, and thank God I just listened to myself and wrote a letter to every college in my state, and got into one and went to Rutgers and graduated. So I'm lucky that I've had some internal God advising me to go get help, and I am beyond grateful that something in me, maybe it's God, maybe it's something that I just, some inner thing just made some really ... I made a lot of stupid decisions in my life, but somewhere along the line, when I had to, I did the right thing, and I am so fortunate that I did, and it turned out well, and thank God it's turned out well.

Michael Akbar:

Yeah, that's wonderful, I appreciate that. And that kind of reminds me a little bit about the journey that I've gone through. I wish I could claim that it was all planned and accomplished according to those plans, but life takes many turns that are not under our control, and sometimes, being prepared to maybe roll with those punches and be grateful for whatever is presented to us is by itself a great blessing, so that's-

Dennis Miller:

Well, you know what's interesting, Michael, if I can just ... When I wrote my book, one of the things it did was ... Basically, my book was about how I kept a secret for 60 some years of not telling everybody that I was emotionally abused, not sexually, emotionally abused, and I grew up with depression and trauma. And then I had so many people come up to me, so many people, and tell me their story, their story about their dad, or I had a gentleman that I worked with for years, seven years, from California, his name was Paul [inaudible 00:31:44], said to me, he called me up, because he saw my article, actually, in Forbes Magazine, they did an article about me, and he said, "Dennis, you're the Dennis we worked together with?" I goes, "Yeah," I said, "Paul, how" ... Then he said, "You know my dad committed suicide?"

So everybody and every family has a story to tell. Oftentimes we're kind of, keep it in the closet. Everybody in life who's anybody goes through a tough time. Nothing is easy.

Michael Akbar:

Exactly.

Dennis Miller:

Nothing is easy. No matter how it looks, it ain't easy.

Michael Akbar:

Yeah.

Dennis Miller:

It may look easy, Tom Brady throwing touchdowns in football, but I'm sure at some point in time, he was only a six or seven round pick, it wasn't that easy. So nothing is easy in life, and maybe my next book should be Give Yourself a Break, don't be so hard on yourself.

Michael Akbar:

Yeah, I'm sure Tom Brady, between those two games, he does a lot of things that contributes to how he performs, right?

Dennis Miller:

Oh man, yes, amazing. Just fabulous, yeah.

New Executives [32:49]

Michael Akbar:

That's incredible. I wanted to go back to this question about, again, the young executives or people who are just starting within your organization. To what degree would you advise them to be more proactive in terms of seeking feedback and guidance, not to wait a year or two to be surprised that ...

Dennis Miller:

A couple things, so first of all, let me just offer this: anyone in, people, your listeners and your audience that would like to have a free discussion with me, they just email me, I'll set it up for them. So Dennis with two Ns, D-E-N-N-I-S, dennis@dcm, as in Dennis Charles Miller, dcm-associates.com, send me an email, I'm happy to schedule them for a call. I think a couple things. I think that every organization, every business, every sector has some form of trade association. I think I would seek out becoming a, I would be a joiner. I wouldn't be a solo mentality, I would be a joiner. I would reach out and become a joining of a group of brothers here. Maybe you're a nonprofit trade associate, it could be, if you went to college, it could be your alumni association. If you lived in the community, it could be your local chamber of commerce. It could be peer groups. I'd be a group joiner.

Today, I don't know about you, Michael, but not me, when I grew up, there wasn't anything like LinkedIn. And all that stuff we have now, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, glitter, ditter, we didn't have any of this. We didn't have the internet. People forget. We won't go back into what it was like for us. People don't believe, my mother gave me a nickel, a quarter to put in my pocketbook in case I had to make a phone call from a phone booth. Right, think about it, it was crazy, right?

Michael Akbar:

That's incredible.

Dennis Miller:

It's amazing. We didn't have internet. I think, two things for a young person. I think build up their LinkedIn page and profile's important, and at the same time, be very careful what you put on social media. Because in the world that we work in, in the search world we work in, we do look at search profiles. And you don't want to be drinking beer on the beach in a crazy scene with a bunch of friends, and someone shows up on your Facebook page and someone sees it 10 years later and it prevents you from getting a job, so just be careful with that. But I think LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, I think those are important. I think that's important, having friends and connections is important today, more than ever.

But you asked this, and I think is important, is get feedback, ask for feedback. I got this advice, I'll never forget. I got this advice in, I can say, 41 years ago I got this advice. Put it this way. I was at graduate school, I went to the Columbia University School of Public Heath, now it's Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and my professor and mentor was a doctor named [inaudible 00:36:17]. And he was a former commissioner of health in New York City, and back then it was a very prestigious position.

And I was one of literally a handful of people that Columbia took in to their program that came right out of undergraduate school. I had no real work experience. My work experience was working in a mall selling tennis rackets in the springtime and ski equipment in the wintertime. I really had no experience.

And so Dr. [inaudible 00:36:46] said to me, "Dennis, you need to get some experience. I want you to go up," I'll never forget this, swear to God. He says, "I want you to go, my friend, his name is [Irwin Birnbaum 00:36:57]. He's the CFO up at Montefiore Medical Center in New York. I want you to reach out to Mr. Birnbaum, tell him I called you, and ask him for advice." I said, "But I need a job." He goes, "Don't ask him for a job, ask him for advice." And I said, "Really?" I didn't get it. Why would I need advice? I needed a job.

And I felt like, "Really?" He goes, "Ask for advice." I'll never forget. So what did I do, I called up Mr. Birnbaum, introduced myself. I'm sure there wasn't, I don't think there was email at the time, I don't think so. And I got to meet him, and I was like, "Mr. Birnbaum, I'm just graduating school and I'm starting my career, I'm going to bug you for any advice you can give me." A phone call here, a phone call there, I got hired.

Michael Akbar:

Isn't that wonderful?

Dennis Miller:

The moral of the story is, when you ask for advice, most people's ego will be, "Hi," it'll be enlarged, and they're going to want to feel like they can give you some of their advice. And it gives them an out, because you're not asking for anything, just advice. But it helps create the relationship, versus, "Hi, Michael, I'm looking for a job," and all you can do is think about, "How do I tell this guy no? Because I don't have a job for him."

So I would tell a lot of young people, that ask for advice, ask for feedback. And ask for feedback, if you're working and you have your job, and you're fortunate if you have a job, for feedback, say, "How am I doing? How am I doing?" And I can tell you that, I mean, besides my wife, whose name is Gladys, we call her G-Lo, it's a whole story, G-Lo, J-Lo, who's always giving me good feedback over the 40 years, good wife gives you lots of feedback.

But I remember having, early in my career, I think at my second job, I remember someone said to me, "Dennis, you could be a better team player. You could be a better team player." And I realized that I probably wasn't a good team player, because I was so anxious, and because I had such a late start in life, I was so anxious to get ahead. But I could see why that came across that way, and I learned to be a team player, and it was hard. And I had to learn to become a good listener.

But I've grown with feedback, I've grown with people sort of showing me stuff, and in the work we do today, now we have 360 tools, we give people feedback on all levels of performance. But getting feedback I think is a very smart idea, Michael, very smart idea.

Michael Akbar:

That's great. Thank you for sharing that. And by the way, I think you just shared $100,000 advice with our client, the idea of asking for advice and not the job is such a huge advice, so I-

Dennis Miller:

I mean, I get, not occasionally, but I talked to a client the other day, a gentleman we recruited, a chief development officer for an organization, and he was hoping some organization or foundation would fund him, would give him grants or some money, and I said, "The best way is get ahold of whoever you can and just ask them for advice." Before you know it, the gentleman had a conversation, he talked about, I think, "Maybe next year we can do something." Asking for advice is a great, just asking advice.

Final Thoughts [40:30]

Michael Akbar:

That's great, that's great. I'm so saddened that we are coming close to the end of our conversation here. I was wondering, are there any other thoughts or ideas that you would like to share with our audience?

Dennis Miller:

Well, I've tried to share my heart and soul, Mike, with everybody, and I think that I have, as I said, written five books. So they're on my website, dcm-associates.com. It used to be denniscmiller.com, but we changed to dcm-associates.com. Anybody wants to spend some time with me, I'd be happy to arrange a courtesy conference call with someone for 30 minutes [inaudible 00:41:17] whatever they need.

Don't be afraid to take risk. Learn, contribute, help out, and I think really a couple things here is passion and perseverance go a long way. And I'll [inaudible 00:41:38] if I can, Michael, a couple things that I've written about in my own biography, like lessons that I've learned, let me share, if I can, some of those lessons. Not all of them, but some of them I did here, is that ... One is that seek happiness. Meaning that I've seen a lot of successful people who are not happy. But I've rarely seen a happy person who's not considered successful. I have learned that one needs to love one's self, and it's not selfishness, it's self-love, in order to be able to love anybody else. So you can't love your neighbor until you can love yourself.

Michael Akbar:

So true, so true.

Dennis Miller:

I think that when you asked about feedback, I think it's vitally important to be able to develop self-awareness. I think it's very important to have a vision for your life. Don't just let things happen to you. But I think it's really important to have a vision for your life, and by a vision, I mean visualize, think of yourself, think of the life you'd like to have in all [inaudible 00:43:07], whether that's in your personal relationships and career, all the things you wanted, but visualize a life, and then build a plan to kind of get there, and don't be afraid of being knocked down in life, overcome it.

And so some of those things I think are vitally ... Be the helping hand. Some of those things I think would be probably [inaudible 00:43:35] advice today, but vision for your life, be a loving person, treat others the way you want to be treated, and realize that nothing comes easy, but hard work does pay off, is my advice.

Michael Akbar:

That's for sure. Thank you so much. We are all so grateful for the time and advice that you shared with us. And if you don't mind, if you could please just repeat the website address where they can go and get [crosstalk 00:44:03]-

Dennis Miller:

Yeah, I'm happy to. Yeah, our website is, yeah, www.dcm, as in Dennis Charles Miller, dcm-associates, A-S-S-O-C-I-A-T-E-S, .com, dcm-associates.com. There's plenty of free, there's plenty of webinars that were done, dozens of them. Articles I've written, free. My books are not free, but they're very inexpensive, you can buy them on any online bookstore. Email me for a free consultation, with yourself or your boss or anything, at any time. Dennis@dcm-associations.com, dcm-associates.com. Or Michael, get ahold of you and you'll get ahold of me and make the introduction for us, and then I'd be happy to, people send me their email, I'll put them in our email system, and we'll keep them informed and together and build a future together. I'm happy to help out and give anything I can to you, Michael, and your friends and colleagues.

Michael Akbar:

Dennis, thank you so much. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Have a great day.

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