About Rod Miller
Rodrick Miller has emerged as one of the nation’s foremost economic development leaders respected globally for his ability to maneuver in complex political and business environments, and craft strategies and structure deals to provide long-term value to communities and investors. Over the course of his career, he has brought more than $6B in private investment and 50,000 new jobs to communities where he has worked.
As President and Chief Executive Officer of Miami-Dade County’s official economic development organization, Miller is focused on attracting and retaining companies that create high-value jobs and actively invest in the community. Miller champions Miami’s unique advantages as a diverse, global business destination, collaborating with key stakeholders in both the private and public sectors to leverage the strengths of the market’s target industries, deliver workforce solutions, and create opportunities that drive long-term economic prosperity and inclusive growth for both residents and businesses.
Experienced in leading economic recovery efforts in challenged markets across the country, Miller has launched or turned public-private development agencies around in New Orleans, Detroit and, most recently, Puerto Rico, where he served as Chief Executive Officer of Invest Puerto Rico.
Prior to those positions, Miller served as the Executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, Vice President of International Economic Development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) and held several other positions in the public and private sectors. He began his career in the private sector in management consulting and infrastructure finance, is fluent in Spanish and proficient in Portuguese.
Miller is also Founder and CEO of Ascendant Global, a boutique economic development firm focused on providing bold growth solutions to help economies sustain themselves, gaining jobs and private investment. Ascendant Global has led diverse economic initiatives for a range of clients including Living Cities, the Kellogg Foundation, The Fund for our Economic Future, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Miller holds a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and a Bachelor of Science in International Business from St. Augustine’s College. He also gained a Graduate Diploma in Finance from the Monterrey Institute of Technology (ITESM) in Mexico as a Fulbright Fellow. A scholar practitioner, he has been a featured speaker to organizations such as Google, AIG, and the World Bank, and has lectured at Harvard University, Arizona State University, The University of Michigan and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He has written extensively in scholarly and trade publications on the future of work, inclusive economic development, and market competitiveness. Miller is currently a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government where he is building a community of practice to rethink how economic development should be more inclusive and sustainable, training the next generation of economic development leaders, and researching diverse economic development topics including inclusive economic growth, incentives, and the Build Back Better program.
Miller is a board member of the New Growth Innovation Network, the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Board, New Corp (CDFI), and St. Augustine’s University. He is a former board member of the International Economic Development Council and completed a term membership with the Council on Foreign Relations. He has advised various federal agencies on economic policy including the Federal Reserve Board, the Economic Development Administration, and the White House. Miller has received numerous accolades including Young Economic Developer of the Year (2013), Michigan Man of Excellence (2016), the Distinguished Alumni Award from the Harvard Kennedy School Black Student Union (2018), and various others. He enjoys playing the piano, reading, and spending time with his family.
Lesson 1: Put people first. 06:25
Lesson 2: Remember, the arc of time is long. 10:04
Lesson 3: You don’t know how much capacity one has until you put it to the test. 11:11
Lesson 4: Everyone is the CEO of their job. Take initiative and lead. Results matter. Everything else is noise. 17:35
Lesson 5: Be interesting. Try something new. 21:14
Lesson 6: Suck it up and drive on. 23:49
Lesson 7: One’s character is demonstrated when one’s faced with adversity. 26:46
Lesson 8: No one is completely self-made. Everyone has had some help. 28:41
Lesson 9: The world is a large place. Follow the news and travel. 33:53
Lesson 10: We’ll all have to die one day; make time for the people you love. 36:39
Rod Miller – Be interesting. Try something new.
[00:00:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello and welcome to our program, 10 Lessons Learned, where we talk to businesspeople, journalists, authors, professors, ambassadors, leaders, and luminaries from all over the world. My name is Siebe Van Der Zee and I’m your host. I’m originally from the Netherlands, residing happily in the Grand Canyon state of Arizona in the United States.
[00:00:32] Siebe Van Der Zee: I’m also known as the Dutchman in the desert.
[00:00:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: Our guest today is my good friend, rod Miller from Miami, Florida. Roderick Miller is one of America’s foremost economic development leaders, respected for his ability to manoeuvre in complex political and business environments. He has brought more than $6 billion in private investment and more than 50,000 new jobs to communities where he has worked.
[00:00:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: Rod recently joined the Miami-Dade Beacon Council in Florida as President and C E O. In this role, he is focused on attracting and retaining companies that create high value jobs and actively invest in the Miami community. Experienced in leading economic recovery efforts in challenged markets across the US.
[00:01:19] Siebe Van Der Zee: Rod Miller has launched or turned around public and private development agencies in New Orleans, Detroit, and most recently in Puerto Rico, one of my favorite places. He led many of these efforts during and after some of the most challenging times that these communities were facing, like bankruptcy, natural disasters, and entrenched economic decline.
[00:01:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: Prior to that, rod Miller served as the executive Vice President of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber and Vice President of International Economic Development for the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, also known as GPEC, and he held several other positions in the public and private sectors. To learn more about Rod Miller, please visit our website, 10 lessons learned.com.
[00:02:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: Hello, rod, we are so happy to have you.
[00:02:06] Rod Miller: Great to see you, it’s great to be here.
[00:02:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: And, I have so many questions for you, and of course we’ll talk about your 10 lessons, but I’m curious about economic development. What makes a successful economic developer? Is it the location or is it the pitch?
[00:02:24] Rod Miller: You know, it, that’s a great question.
[00:02:26] Rod Miller: is a successful economic developer based on the location of the pitch? you know, it’s a combination of all of that. when we think about, how do you build economies, we tend to measure that in terms of jobs and capital investment. Ideally, you want to bring more jobs to an economy, and you want to bring more capital investment to an economy and private capital investment.
[00:02:46] Rod Miller: From a job’s perspective, you want the jobs to be, quality jobs that will allow people to be able to live a good quality of life. you want the types of companies to represent a mix of sectors that allow you to manage risk, because when you’re trying to build an economy, you want it to be sustainable, right?
[00:03:02] Rod Miller: So ideally you want the growth to be sustained over time and things to continue to be good. You want the quality of the growth to be, To, to represent diverse sectors because those diverse sectors really help you manage risk and you want that growth to be inclusive so that there are opportunities from people from throughout the region to have work, no matter whether they’re young or poor, or what race, young or old or poor or wealthy.
[00:03:25] Rod Miller: You want them to have opportunities. And so, we think about that pitch, and we say we want to drive the economy in two ways. We want to drive it transactionally. So, we want to bring more jobs and investment. And that’s really about the pitch and the location and the story of why a company that invests a dollar there will get a higher return than somewhere else.
[00:03:42] Rod Miller: And then the other side is you want to drive the economy strategically, which is about how you do business, what kind of community you want to be. What are your values and how does that play out in terms of the things that you prioritize? And so, a good economic developer is able to, on one hand say, this is the type of community we want to be.
[00:04:00] Rod Miller: And, and work in a transactions fashion, to make that a reality. So, for example, here in Miami, and then I’ll stop with this, for example, here in Miami. We’re focused on climate action. We recognize that it’s an existential challenge for our community that if we don’t address, if we don’t address it, our community will cease to.
[00:04:19] Rod Miller: We also recognize. We’re not the only community facing those challenges. So, if we can be thoughtful about driving companies that are climate conscious and that are actually solving these solutions, we can be a more successful economy and those are quality jobs and good growth. or they can be, but we have to, carry out our work in a fashion that leads us to that end.
[00:04:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s a very important point that you’re mentioning, dealing with climate issues, sustainability. I also noticed, of course, from your background, you have global expertise. I think you speak multiple languages. I can imagine in especially in Miami, which is a global city, that those skills are very much appreciated as well.
[00:05:01] Rod Miller: Absolutely. I mean, I think, you know, I speak, fluent Spanish and nearly fluent Portuguese and, and, you know, the world is smaller than it’s ever been before. And of course, Miami is a global city. I often say, you know, that Miami is diversity. That doesn’t mean we get it all right.
[00:05:17] Rod Miller: But you know, whereas in many parts of the. Country, racist thought about in terms of black and white in Miami, it’s, there’s 40 different types of white, 50 different types of black and everything in between, and, and it has a Caribbean and Latin flair going throughout. I mean, I think that’s part of what makes this such a unique community.
[00:05:34] Rod Miller: And so, so being a polyglot. It’s, it’s nice because you can communicate people in their, native language. I think one of the biggest ways you can show respect to someone is by communicating with them in a, in their native language. So, I always try to, you know, make a good effort to, to share with people, in their lingua franca because it shows that, you know, I know the world is bigger than just me and where I’m coming from.
[00:05:58] Siebe Van Der Zee: I fully agree. and you know, for me, as you know, coming from the Netherlands, I would never expect anyone to speak Dutch. But Dutch people do speak multiple language because the Dutch language, it’s a tough one for many people. So, but it does create that immediate bridge. it’s like a smile on your face, right?
[00:06:17] Rod Miller: Yeah.
[00:06:18] Siebe Van Der Zee: No doubt about it. Well, let’s take a look at your 10 lists. yeah, I have, already had a quick, look at it. It’s intriguing.
[00:06:25] Lesson 1: Put people first.
[00:06:25] Siebe Van Der Zee: lesson number one. I’m curious about your story, but lesson number one put people first. What are your thoughts about that?
[00:06:34] Rod Miller: Yeah, it’s funny. So, so I was, you know, I was talking one time with my wife and, we love Haagen Doss ice cream. and I go, yeah, it’s got to be Dutch. And then I read the story of it and the fact that it isn’t, it’s just like this made up, made up, word and how that, you know, kind of influences people’s ideas.
[00:06:53] Rod Miller: Just goes to show that how interesting and exciting language can be. Yeah, it’s, you know, putting people first. I learned a long time ago that, when you treat people the way that you want to be treated, you show them respect, it comes back to you in all kinds of ways. And that’s whether it’s, you know, the person that’s homeless on the street or whether it’s a colleague in work.
[00:07:15] Rod Miller: and especially for colleagues in work, putting people first always, provides the quality return to the organization. What I’ve found over the years is that people as they kind of go through life and have their challenges, when you know that your boss or the people that work with you are committed to your success and are giving you the space that you need to handle those life’s challenges, when you’re beyond that, when people move beyond that, they remember that.
[00:07:40] Rod Miller: And I think, that you get more loyal, staff, as a byproduct of it, that people are more thoughtful about, you know, bending and supporting things that they may not naturally agree to because they recognize that this is an environment where people are given an opportunity to, you know, to grow.
[00:07:57] Rod Miller: And that they’re given an opportunity, a certain, modicum of respect to participate in a certain way. And so, I’ve always tried to have a people-centered approach to decision making. and, and recognizing that, you know, even as you think about putting people first, that people will make mistakes, but you have to give them opportunities.
[00:08:15] Rod Miller: To grow and learn from those. And so, I’ve tried to manage in a way where people know that they’re at the front of, they’re at the front of that story. A great, little, story I’ll share is, when I got my first C E O job, I think I was 31, I was about to turn 32 years old, and it was to run the New Orleans Business Alliance and I started with one employee.
[00:08:34] Rod Miller: This one employee was a young man who had worked with me as a, as an intern in my previous role when I was executive Vice President of Baton Rouge Chamber. He was, a very talented young man, and oftentimes, you know, I. When he was on, he was great. And when he wasn’t working so diligently, he was awful.
[00:08:54] Rod Miller: It was kind of one or the other and it would just, but you know, he was 21 years old, so that’s kind of what you get at 21 years old. And I remember when I was taking the job, someone said, don’t hire him. And I hired him anyway. and I hired him initially as my assistant to this day. He is the worst assistant that I have ever had.
[00:09:14] Rod Miller: And I remembered my, board, vice chair spoke to me, and she said, Rod, you got to fire him. He’s going to either mess you up and get you fired, or you need to fire him. And I remember thinking, this young man needs an opportunity, and I changed the role. He ended up becoming my head of communications.
[00:09:30] Rod Miller: Today he’s a very high, communications official for one of the national parties. because he’s probably one of the best communications people that I ever worked with. And I remember just thinking this could’ve been my little brother, you know? And just because he didn’t have the skillset, I didn’t fire him because I saw that there was something there and I put him first.
[00:09:49] Rod Miller: And I look at his career today and I feel like I had a small part in that. That makes me feel amazing.
[00:09:54] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, it, it says a lot about that person that you described, but it says an awful lot more about you as a manager, as a leader, indeed. Put people first.
[00:10:04] Lesson 2: Remember, the arc of time is long.
[00:10:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: Let’s take a look at lesson number two.
[00:10:07] Siebe Van Der Zee: Number two, remember, the arc of time is long.
[00:10:10] Rod Miller: Yes. it’s interesting, you know, you’re a few years older than I am. And you’re a few years older than I am and I’m a few years older than others. Right. and one of the things that I’ve learned is that time, while it goes fast, you have many different phases of life and, and that nothing that you’re experiencing at the moment is going to be permanent.
[00:10:31] Rod Miller: And that’s both good and bad. but I think it really gives one a chance to really savor the highs. When things are really, when things are going really well. And it also reminds you when things are going rough that you know what, this won’t last always. You can, you know, you can confront it and there will be another day.
[00:10:47] Rod Miller: and, and I think remembering that allows one to really navigate, you know, day to day much better.
[00:10:54] Siebe Van Der Zee: A lot of wisdom in that. I would agree, sometimes when times are tough, you remember perhaps that you were in a somewhat similar situation in the past or someone that, you know, was in that situation and how to overcome.
[00:11:07] Siebe Van Der Zee: So, I definitely agree with that and it’s definitely wisdom.
[00:11:11] Lesson 3: You don’t know how much capacity one has until you put it to the test.
[00:11:11] Siebe Van Der Zee: lesson number three. You don’t know how much capacity one has until you put it to the test.
[00:11:18] Rod Miller: Yes, so, so my father was a, he was a command sergeant major when he retired from the military. I went to 17 different schools between kindergarten and graduating from high school.
[00:11:31] Rod Miller: and he was loving, but he was also very much that the, not just that the expectation, the amount of work and stuff that we were expected to do. That’s how you, that’s how you advance. one of the things that I’ve learned with my staff is I don’t know how talented someone is until I, or how much capacity they have until I put a lot of work on them.
[00:11:54] Rod Miller: And what you’ll find is people will find they can do more than they thought they could. people are, they get better. They develop the skills to navigate and manage a body of work that’s more complex. But part of getting there is actually pushing oneself to figure out. Where those limits are.
[00:12:10] Rod Miller: I think one has to be aware and say, I can manage this. I can’t manage that, or I can work, and leverage these resources to get that done or get the other done. But part of it is actually expecting folks to be able to carry a volume of work so that they become not only irreplaceable in the organization, but also, not just irreplaceable in terms of the function, but also irreplaceable in terms of how they address the function. and that is the thing of, you know, figuring out. Okay. and I think about that work in two ways. One of them is volume, right? What’s the volume of work that one can handle? And how do you put that volume in term there?
[00:12:50] Rod Miller: And not just wait for wait’s sake but wait around stuff that really matters. You want, you, I’d rather someone spend a lot of time on something that’s really important. And get a whole bunch of things done that don’t matter. Right? And so being able to develop that skill on one side in terms of volume.
[00:13:06] Rod Miller: The other side though is complexity of the work. Complexity and the kind of the strategic thrust of the work. So being able to think about the work in a way that ideally, it means more to the bottom line of the organization, whether that’s in terms of how the organizational culture is. In terms of, of the outcomes or metrics that the organization uses to monitor their success, you want people to be able to take on volume and you want them to be able to handle complexity and think about their work in a multi-dimensional function.
[00:13:38] Rod Miller: Finance has five or six different functions. Marketing has probably 10. Right? In terms of, and when I say functions, its supposed impact. So, when you’re marketing, you’re trying to tell a story, you’re marketing, you’re also trying to, you know, maybe position the organization a certain way.
[00:13:54] Rod Miller: When you’re marketing, you’re also trying to figure out how do you raise funds If you’re dealing with a nonprofit organization, marketing has all of those layers with finance, you’re trying to figure out, okay, how do you actually achieve the objectives of the organization, but how do you also invest in things that are going to make the organization strong over time?
[00:14:11] Rod Miller: And so that idea of putting, of testing your staff and developing your management team so that they don’t just perform the functions in a perfunctory manner. That they’re thinking about, hey, how do we make this a world class organization is a real, exercise.
[00:14:26] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now, as you indicate, you don’t know un until you put it to the test, but when you, for example, recruit staff, at Miami-Dade Beacon Council or in other, situations, How do you find out before you actually bring them on board and you put them through the test and perhaps they don’t meet your expectations?
[00:14:48] Siebe Van Der Zee: Is there a way for you to at least get a, an impression and hopefully a strong impression of what that individual has to offer? How do you go about that?
[00:14:58] Rod Miller: Yeah, I think one of the things is going through that interview process and that process, you look for people who have certain experiences, of course.
[00:15:07] Rod Miller: That’s one of the things that’s really important. You want people that, you know, it might be education and maybe working in similar types of organizations and maybe working for people whose work style you understand and know that if they work for this person, they could perform, at a certain level.
[00:15:22] Rod Miller: Those are kind of just directional things that you look for. But beyond that, in the interview process, I really try to, you know, have an interview process thorough. if someone wants to join our team and they’re going to be running a major function, there will be work along the way, whether that’s in terms of making a presentation, I like to give, real life case scenarios and say, you know what?
[00:15:44] Rod Miller: You know what? You’re going to be the head of strategy for our organization, and if you’re going to be the head of strategy, we’ve got a scenario where we’ve got, $250,000 in surplus funding that can be used for one strategic initiative. I want you to tell me, if you were the head of strategy today, what would that strategic initiative do and how would it feed into the bottom line of our organization. Those are the kinds of things you get to test people. You, you give them real life case scenarios of the type of people they’ll be managing the system that they do. you try to find out, you know, how they deal with the conflict. There’s so much of it. There’s one side of it that’s, you know, that’s. How smart a person is or how they think about the work. But I think the more important side of it is the human element. How do they manage, how do they manage frustration? you know, how do they manage a difficult colleague?
[00:16:32] Rod Miller: Because you’re trying to build an organization where you not only have people that can manage a volume of work, but also people that that make the environment that you work in a better one. We all, most of us spend more hours at work than we do at home with our families. And at a certain point in life, you kind of say, I want to work with people I like, I want to work with people I respect.
[00:16:51] Rod Miller: Are these people that I can actually work with? Do I think, they would be additive to the type of culture we’re trying to create? So that’s the process.
[00:16:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. I think it’s so important, for key positions in particular to really, pay Attention in detail to that interview process to really get to know that person and to ask specific questions.
[00:17:12] Siebe Van Der Zee: What would you do if, what about a situation like that? How would you handle that? And let’s face it, nobody is perfect, right? and so we all have. Either weaknesses or certain personality traits that, hopefully you can learn about before you actually hire the person and, prevent any, unfortunate situations later.
[00:17:32] Siebe Van Der Zee: But I think it’s, it makes sense. I. You know, to look for those things.
[00:17:35] Lesson 4: Everyone is the CEO of their job. Take initiative and lead. Results matter. Everything else is noise.
[00:17:35] Siebe Van Der Zee: And, looking at lesson number four, it fits well with the, what you just mentioned, rod lesson number four. Everyone is the C E O of their job. Take initiative and lead results matter. Everything else. Noise. I like it. I like it.
[00:17:52] Rod Miller: Yeah. You know, this is something my dad, I don’t think he said directly, but I’m sure he conveyed this to me in many of my, lessons growing up, as I said, with his military background, everyone is the C E O of their job. and I, what I say is that what that means is don’t just do things the way they’ve always been done because it’s your job description.
[00:18:12] Rod Miller: There’s a certain level of a good leader paints a picture of the type of organization they’re trying to create and gives the space for their staff to actually color in the lines. And so, and part of that coloring in the lines is, you know, you can hire a bunch of people and tell them exactly what to do, and they can execute it flawlessly.
[00:18:32] Rod Miller: And what you get then is productivity. But, when you try to, point folks towards that North Star and say, you know what, how do we get there? That’s where you get innovation. And so, if you want an innovative organization, you’ve really got to give people that space to be the C E O of their job, which means, process improvements.
[00:18:50] Rod Miller: How can I do this job better? How can I break down silos in the organizations? How do I manage up and how do I manage down? That’s what a C E O has to do. I tell my executive assistant all the time, I’m like, yeah, you know what? I’m managing you and you’re also managing me. So, there’s that level of ownership, when people stop thinking about themselves as their role, but start thinking about themselves as a C E O of their job.
[00:19:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: Now when you say that. That could mean that people that work for you, that they express perhaps some criticism that they don’t agree with your decision or your thought process. Is that something that for you as a C E O, that you have an open mind or you say, look, ultimately, I am the C E O, I got to do what I think is right, and you have to sort of accept that.
[00:19:41] Rod Miller: At a certain point. I think at a certain point I think you have to say that, but that’s not where you start the conversation starts with, I tend to try to like, to give people the space to mess up. There’s a difference between stuff that, that messes up and kills us and stuff that messes up and just hurts really badly.
[00:20:00] Rod Miller: And the only way that people have an opportunity. And then sometimes you can actually learn that you, the way you were thinking about it might be okay, but they’ve got a better way to do it. And so, I try to create the space even when I disagree sometimes for my staff to, to do things the way that they want to do it.
[00:20:15] Rod Miller: And then other times we’ll have a conversation, and we’ll meet somewhere in the middle. Because I’ll say, you know what? I hadn’t thought about it this way. And we end up with a much better solution, putting our heads together. good leaders are not afraid of hiring people that are smarter than them.
[00:20:29] Rod Miller: Nobody’s going to outwork me, but people that work just as hard as they do. and because you know that you end up with ultimately a better product. but good teams, they also understand how to, how to work in a context that makes the C E O want to work with them. People bring me problems all the time.
[00:20:45] Rod Miller: I’m like, all right, you only get so much of my time. I need solutions.
[00:20:51] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. No, but I do like lesson number four. Everyone is the C E O of their job. And that’s what you’re saying. People take responsibility. They may disagree. you will evaluate that, you will listen, and ultimately, it’s your job to make that ultimate decision so you have an open mind.
[00:21:08] Siebe Van Der Zee: I like that. I feel very comfortable when you say that, and I think it makes you a strong leader.
[00:21:14] Lesson 5: Be interesting. Try something new.
[00:21:14] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number five, be interesting. Try something new.
[00:21:19] Rod Miller: Yeah, it’s just like, it sounds, I mean, I, I think about it when we go back to lesson number two of the arc of time being long, that would, that it would be a long time to, life is too long to be dull to, for you to be boring person.
[00:21:34] Rod Miller: I’m like, there’s so much out there and, you know, trying new things. makes life more interesting, whether it’s learning how to cook a new dish or learning how to cook, right, For example, we moved to Puerto Rico a few years ago and, my six year old daughter at the time, five or six, she discovered that meat was, animals and she decided she didn’t want to eat meat anymore.
[00:21:59] Rod Miller: And we respected that decision. And you know, I still eat meat, but my wife doesn’t really eat much meat. And what we decided, you know, well if we’re going to have this vegetarian chow and we’re trying to live more healthy as well, how about we learn how to, you know, plant different fruits and vegetables.
[00:22:15] Rod Miller: So, at our place we had, papaya, we had mango, we had coconut, we had pineapple. And our little, daughter is kind of the gardener of the house. Is that something that I would’ve naturally wanted to do? No, not necessarily. But I, my life has been better as a result of it. And I think the more that, we do different things can get outside of our comfort zone, the more we discover, you know, all of the things that we might not have known that are fun or exciting or that actually could be helpful to us.
[00:22:42] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well, you said it very well, and I like the reference to your daughter, try something new. you have to keep an open mind and, that’s very important I think, for all of us. And we have a tendency to say, well, been doing it for this long so I know what I’m doing. I always believe in keeping an open mind and, again, accept, other people who have perhaps different ideas.
[00:23:03] Siebe Van Der Zee: In this case, your young daughter. I like it. it opens up the perspective.
[00:23:07] Affiliate Break
[00:23:07] Siebe Van Der Zee: We’re talking today with Rod Miller, a highly successful global economic development leader, current president, C E O of the Miami-Dade Beacon Council, sharing his. 10 lessons learned. I also want to thank our affiliate partner Audible.
[00:23:22] Siebe Van Der Zee: Audible is an amazing way to experience our program. 10 Lessons Learned, but also books and other podcasts, allowing you to build a library of knowledge all in one place. You can start your free 30-day trial by going to audible trial.com/ten. Lessons Learned. Again, that is audible trial.com one zero Lessons Learned all lowercase to get your free 30-day subscription.
[00:23:49] Lesson 6: Suck it up and drive on.
[00:23:49] Siebe Van Der Zee: Moving on lesson number six, boy that hits close to home. suck it up and drive on my friend. Go for it. Your thoughts?
[00:23:59] Rod Miller: You know what, it’s one of those things where you know the idea that there are bad things that happen to good people. there are days when things just don’t go right.
[00:24:09] Rod Miller: and it’s easy I think, for some people to actually begin to pity themselves or to whine about it. And, but the reality is that everybody has a sob story. And most of the time, unfortunately, people don’t really care about yours. And you have to learn how to self-soothe when things get tough and recognize that’s part of the journey.
[00:24:31] Rod Miller: and move forward towards whatever it is that you’ve got to get done. You’ve got to move forward in life, move forward in relationships, move forward with jobs, move forward with, you know, you just got to move forward. And so, this idea of, ouch, I got hurt, but at the end of the day, I’ve got to suck it up and drive on.
[00:24:48] Rod Miller: You know, that’s also part of the story.
[00:24:50] Siebe Van Der Zee: I like it a lot. And actually, I have a lesson somewhat similar to that. The one thing that I do typically mention, and I think you are probably the same, especially if we think about, let’s say a business environment, suck it up and drive on.
[00:25:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: You know, I used the line, get over it. And, at the same time, and again, I’m curious about your thoughts, Rod, when you’re dealing with. maybe not a business situation, a family situation, or that could be a health issue, a medical issue with someone and you know, they’re dealing with those issues, I assume that you approach that differently.
[00:25:28] Rod Miller: That’s where a lesson, putting people first comes in.
[00:25:31] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah.
[00:25:32] Rod Miller: Right. Because when you’re putting people first and one’s dealing with those kinds of things, you know, you recognize that at the end of the day that it could be you in that same situation. And that’s the time when this is not about sucking it up and drive on.
[00:25:46] Rod Miller: This is bigger than that. It’s bigger than you. It’s bigger than this moment. And that’s where judgment comes in, right? so, that’s, those are the times when you say, you know what, let me give you as much space as you need, deal with X, Y, or Z because this is one of those scenarios. And I think, I think part of being.
[00:26:01] Rod Miller: A thoughtful leader and a thoughtful member of a team as knowing when it’s those time to say, you know what? Right now, I need a little help. I need a little space. Let me have that, this conversation with my leader. So that, you know, they can understand what I’m dealing with versus those times where it’s like, oh, this happens every week for any reason.
[00:26:20] Rod Miller: and when that’s the scenario, then you’ve got a challenge.
[00:26:23] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Well, empathy, that’s what you’re talking about. And that’s of course a critical, element in good management. but if you think about yourself, and dealing with adversities, then. yes, I can see that, you know, suck it up and drive on.
[00:26:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: makes a lot of sense. And is very helpful as well to keep your focus on, you know, what’s coming next.
[00:26:46] Lesson 7: One’s character is demonstrated when one’s faced with adversity.
[00:26:46] Siebe Van Der Zee: lesson number seven, one’s character is demonstrated when one is faced with adversity. real curious about your thoughts.
[00:26:53] Rod Miller: That’s right. Yeah, that’s right. I mean, it’s easy to have good character when your character isn’t being tested.
[00:26:58] Rod Miller: when things are easy, whether it’s whether it’s you dealing in business dealings and there’s an opportunity to do something unscrupulous or you’re watching as something unscrupulous is being done, or, or you’re faced with a challenge in a relationship just because one person acts in kind.
[00:27:18] Rod Miller: That doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate. And so, I think the core of who you are is not how you do when things are going well, but when you actually have to have a battle or fight. Do you fight these spikes in ways that demonstrate that you’re a person of integrity?
[00:27:33] Siebe Van Der Zee: Is there,
[00:27:34] Siebe Van Der Zee: an adversity that you’ve dealt with in your career. I don’t ask about your personal life, but in your career that you were confronted with and dealt with, and you overcame that adversity. Do you have an example of that?
[00:27:48] Rod Miller: Absolutely. I mean, I think there were times when I was, working on transactions and I saw that there were elements of the transactions that weren’t ethical, or maybe weren’t legal.
[00:27:58] Rod Miller: And I had to figure out, okay, how do I navigate the situation in a such a way that I, that I protect the organization that I’m a part of, that I protect the, you know, the folks that deserve to be protected, but also in a way that shows that I’m not going to participate in something of a certain character, because that’s not who I am.
[00:28:17] Rod Miller: Yeah. And I think, and I think it’s difficult to do that when there may be political pressure or there were maybe financial pressure or other pressures on, on acting ethical. and I don’t think, unfortunately, I don’t think that’s uncommon. And so, I think that the ability to be in those situations and say, okay, how do I do this in a way that shows that I’m a person of class?
[00:28:38] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Yeah, that’s a good point. Thank you for that.
[00:28:41] Lesson 8: No one is completely self-made. Everyone has had some help.
[00:28:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number eight. No one is completely self-made. Everyone has had some help.
[00:28:48] Rod Miller: Yeah, I mean, I think people like to feel good about themselves and we should, but people love to take credit for their successes in a way that’s, that, you know, that oftentimes doesn’t make sense.
[00:29:02] Rod Miller: And, likewise, when they failed, there’s a million reasons why, you know, they didn’t get the opportunity that they should have had. And I think the reality is somewhere in the middle, which is, it doesn’t matter whether one has received help because they come from a certain family or from a certain background, or whether they’ve got help because they’ve had mentors along the way.
[00:29:23] Rod Miller: It’s okay. However, you’ve been able to, you know, leverage your resources and your network to get to where you are. It’s okay. and I think that’s the benefit of, living in a society and that works the way ours does. You’re supposed to have those opportunities to lean on others for help, and that’s okay.
[00:29:42] Rod Miller: And I think, and I think the ability to find good mentors, the abilities to lean into a network, to try and advance yourself professionally. is important. people want to do business with people they like. People want to do business with people that they trust. people want to do business or want to help those where they see little elements of themselves in that person.
[00:30:05] Rod Miller: That’s okay. That’s the way the world works. And I think people oftentimes like to run away from that reality that they’ve got help or that they had a mentor, or they were. That’s okay. That’s the way things work in the world. And I remember when I was a younger professional, I was, I was going for a C E O job.
[00:30:22] Rod Miller: This is, you know, I was in my twenties at the time and, I went for the job, and I didn’t get the job, but I was a finalist. And I remember talking to my boss after I’d gone through the process, maybe a year or two later, and he goes, why didn’t you ask me to help you in the process? I said, because I didn’t want any help.
[00:30:38] Rod Miller: And he started laughing and his laugh was, why would you think that these processes are fair? Why would you think that there’s not, that, you know, me putting in a good word wouldn’t be helpful, or that, or wouldn’t be appropriate. That’s the way the world works. And so, I think people have to learn to use the networks that they have and figure out how do they leverage them so that they can optimize their success, both in terms of climbing the professional ladder, but also in terms of learning and gaining new skills.
[00:31:06] Siebe Van Der Zee: You, you referred earlier a few times to the influence your father had on you and perhaps still has today. Do you, would you describe your father as your biggest mentor, or is there perhaps someone else in the business environment that you would qualify as your biggest mentor?
[00:31:25] Rod Miller: You know what I do? I, you know, I do think my father definitely has had the lot, most significant influence and I, and one of the reasons why, you know, my father, he is a very common sensical person, you know, and, and so his ability to really, he taught me to how to understand people.
[00:31:43] Rod Miller: And I think the real secret to success is understanding people. So, the lessons that his favorite things growing up were suck it up and drive on lesson six. Right? The other thing that he used to always say was, make it happen. Which kind of translates into, be your own C E O I think, you know, and so I remember when I was talking about, I was all, I was this way when I was 12, just a very precocious child and wanted to kind of, in Spanish, there’s a saying, I wanted to eat the world. Yeah. Right. I wanted to do everything, and I would remember asking my dad about stuff that he had no idea about, whether it was some college admissions process, or you name it. And he would ask me a series of questions and those series of questions would start kind of like this.
[00:32:26] Rod Miller: Well, what does it take to do that? Well, you need to figure out what it takes to do that. He would ask these questions. I thought he had the answers. He really didn’t. He would ask me enough questions till I would answer the questions for myself, and then I would be like, but to do that, you have to do this.
[00:32:41] Rod Miller: And his answer to that would be, make it happen. Make it happen. Make it happen. And I, and so I really credit him with that because I think along the way, what it showed me was that, you know, there’s a certain, amount of this journey that’s just forced. There’s a certain amount of it that’s luck, but you’ve got to position yourself and leverage your relationships and leverage your knowledge base. and learn to try and figure out how to climb that ladder. And so yeah, he would definitely be my biggest, mentor, I would say.
[00:33:09] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah, very consistent. I’ve had mentors, but since I moved around so many times, I lived in four countries on three continents.
[00:33:16] Siebe Van Der Zee: it’s not necessarily one person that I think of, but multiple people. Also, people in very different situations, in different countries. And it comes down to the same, right? You learn those lessons and even many years later, I think back about what this person told me or suggested. And I still value those lessons because they made sense. And like with your father, of course, he had your best interest in mind, even if he didn’t really answer the question, but he pushed you to say, hey, come up with the answer. You do that. And so, it’s very helpful to have mentors and people that, are there to support you.
[00:33:53] Lesson 9: The world is a large place. Follow the news and travel.
[00:33:53] Siebe Van Der Zee: lesson number nine, the world is a large place.
[00:33:56] Siebe Van Der Zee: Follow the news and travel. Yes, sir. Your thoughts.
[00:34:00] Rod Miller: Yeah, it’s, sometimes I think we can get so caught up in kind of our day-to-day. it seems like what we’re living is the reality of the world, and it’s not. There’s so much happening, and I think the ability to extrapolate or extract yourself from the scenario and just take a snapshot of what’s going on around you is pretty powerful.
[00:34:23] Rod Miller: And you know, when you follow the news, it can be very daunting on one hand, and which allows you to really appreciate the blessings that you have in life. but also, when you’re following the news and you’re traveling and you’re seeing the things play on the world stage, it also gives you a lot of optimism.
[00:34:38] Rod Miller: From the advances in AI or the advances in climate change or the advances in healthcare, you know, on one hand to, the wars that are active, you know, in the Middle East and Africa and in Europe right now, you know both sides of that pendulum and, and so the ability to be able to understand that and contextualize your life.
[00:35:01] Rod Miller: In this greater global world, is just pretty.
[00:35:04] Siebe Van Der Zee: amazing. Is it fair to say, Rod, that because of your international exposure, travel experiences, that you are the person that you are and that perhaps if you would not have had those opportunities, that perhaps you would have a slightly different approach to life, a different personality perhaps.
[00:35:25] Rod Miller: I think I’d probably be a very different person if I had those experiences. I often talk about, you know how I ended up in economic development when I was 13 years old, the wall was coming down in Germany and I was living in West Germany during that time. And I got to meet kids my age who had been through a much more difficult life than I had.
[00:35:47] Rod Miller: And then later I lived in El Paso, Texas on the border of Juarez, Mexico, and saw poverty in that context. And, you know, and a variety of other experiences that allowed me, ultimately led me to this work of economic development. I suspect if I hadn’t had those experiences, I wouldn’t have the same, Worldview as it relates to economic opportunity.
[00:36:06] Rod Miller: I definitely wouldn’t have the same, views as it relates to culture and people. Because what I learned in all of those places was that, you know, people are the same no matter where they’re from. You know, they want their kids to do better than they are doing. they want to live a life with dignity and respect, and they come together around food and music.
[00:36:26] Rod Miller: that’s the story of humanity everywhere. And I think, and I think, you know, having that global experience really taught me that the things that pull us together are much more important than the things that divide us.
[00:36:35] Siebe Van Der Zee: Yeah. Well, well said. thank you for that.
[00:36:39] Lesson 10: We’ll all have to die one day; make time for the people you love.
[00:36:39] Siebe Van Der Zee: Lesson number 10. Can you believe we’re already at lesson number 10,
[00:36:43] Siebe Van Der Zee: It’s kind of sad, but I know you have a good story behind it. We all have to die one day. Make time for the people you love. Aw,
[00:36:51] Rod Miller: yeah. Yes. You know, it’s kind of sad, but it’s also very, you know, it’s very much a happy thing, I think. I’m a cancer survivor. I had cancer, the liver, when I was 28 years old, and it was one of the most challenging moments in my life because at 28 years old, you don’t think that you’re, that you understand death as something theoretical.
[00:37:13] Rod Miller: You know, it’s not something that’s actually realistic in your world. and after going through that experience, you know, I’ve always been a workaholic. I enjoy working. but after going through that experience, it really made me think differently about how I spent time with, the ones that I cared about.
[00:37:30] Rod Miller: Because the reality is that they wouldn’t be here. they may not, they won’t be here for always, nor will I. And so, I, learning to make that space, just say, you know what, whether it’s calling an old friend, I think there have been times we haven’t been in touch for a few years at a time, and I’ll say, you know what?
[00:37:44] Rod Miller: I need to call my good old friend Siebe and see, just see how he is doing. That’s what I think, that’s what life is about. not just, being able to work, but also recognizing that there, that people are the ones that color our lives and, and they matter. So, we have to make time for those that we care about.
[00:37:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: Well said. rod, I mean, I, all kinds of memories come into my mind when you say about that, and I’m sure for our listeners, that’s the same, right? We all think about people that were part of our life and perhaps no longer, lessons that we have learned. but indeed, as you say in your lesson, make time for the people you love.
[00:38:20] Siebe Van Der Zee: because it can change, it can end. And that’s the sad part. But, I think, and that’s what you’re saying as well. you keep those memories and, I think it’s very valuable. I’m going to throw another question, in your life, in your career, have there been any lessons that you have unlearned you decided no longer to do what you were doing?
[00:38:41] Siebe Van Der Zee: Anything that comes to mind on that? Yeah,
[00:38:44] Rod Miller: there is. I mean, it’s when I was younger, I think, you know, you’re there, there’s a certain level of optimism that comes with youth and, not that I’ve lost it, but I’ve tempered it a little bit, which is, sometimes you think that every, everything that comes up that’s, a major issue or aligns with your worldview is something that you’ve got to tackle.
[00:39:04] Rod Miller: You know whether it’s in a professional job or whether it’s just in life. And I’ve kind of learned, you know, every fight isn’t yours. And so sometimes there’s, it’s okay to let things be as they are and figure out how do you actually focus on the things that you can actually should influence or the things that are actually where you’re getting an, a return on investment for your investment in trying to solve a challenge.
[00:39:28] Rod Miller: and when I was younger, if there was a big issue, and I thought it would had a view on it, and it was part of my responsibilities as it related to work or as it related to life, I just kind of had to take it on heads on. And then at a certain point, I realized, you know what? It’s going to be okay.
[00:39:44] Rod Miller: It’s, you know, it may not be the way that I think it should be, but I got to let it go. And so, I’ve had to learn, when to hold them, when to fold them, when to, know when to walk away.
[00:39:52] Siebe Van Der Zee: There’s wisdom. There’s wisdom. I really appreciate it and I want to thank you, Rod, for joining us today.
[00:39:59] Siebe Van Der Zee: And I want to thank you for sharing your wisdoms with our global audience. I want to make a few closing remarks. you have been listening to our international program. 10 lessons learned. This episode is produced by Robert Hossary, and as always, we are supported by the Professional Development Forum.
[00:40:17] Siebe Van Der Zee: Our guest today, Rod Miller, a highly successful global economic development leader and current president, C E O of the Miami Dade Beacon Council, sharing his 10 lessons learned.
[00:40:30] Siebe Van Der Zee: To our audience, don’t forget to leave us a review or a comment. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you will subscribe so you don’t miss any future episodes. And remember, this is a podcast that makes the world wiser and wiser, lessened by lesson. Thank you and stay safe.
This episode is produced by Robert Hossary. Sponsored as always by Professional Development Forum. You can find the www.professionaldevelopmentforum.org you’ve heard from us we’d like to hear from you. Email us it’s email@example.com. Remember, this is the podcast the only podcast. That’s makes the world wiser lesson by lesson.