NBC Universal Studio Exec. Shares How To Build Professional Relationships
Release Date: 08/10/2023
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Michael Swanson Sr. VP Production NBC Universal Studio Group, was just featured in the Forbes Magazine article called, ‘How To Build Your Network” by Maya Richard-Craven.
Michael who’s a giver by nature, was called on for his expert advice. He shared that ‘helping other people is a great way to form long- term relationships”.
When it comes to creating professional relationships, Michael says, “Go out of your way to be of service with a genuine motive and an earnest heart”. “Then over time, someone may ask if there is anything you need."
Since 85% of jobs are filled through networking rather than traditional hiring, (yes, it’s true), then Michael’s advice should help lead you in the right direction to build your career.
Michael’s own professional journey has been one of working his way up through hard work, and is filled with many accomplishments. Being of service to many along his jounrey has surely led to the many professional relationships he has come to enjoy.
Besides being an Emmy Award winner, and a Hollywood TV studio executive, film producer and theatre producer, Michael is also a visionary entrepreneur and President and CEO of the entertainment company, Faith Filmworks.
At NBC Universal, he’s the studio executive responsible for the production of Universal Television's Parks and Recreation, Hacks, The Good Place, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Good Girls, Never Have I Ever, Community and Master of None.
And throughout his distinguished career in entertainment, Michael has produced movies to critical and audience acclaim including All About You, All About Us, For the Love of Ruth, To Hell and Back, Andraé Crouch: Making The Journey, Two Seasons, Notre Dame First Time Fans: Legacy, The Wayman Tisdale Story and Fannie.
Michael said, " I find that a little off-putting. I think it's more important to really engage a person and get to know him or her, ask questions, but in a very genuine and authentic way as opposed to kind of bouncing around collecting information and calculating in your head what's the best way he or she can help boost my career or advance my career so I can climb the ladder. Frankly in my opinion it's just the opposite. How can we be of service to others? I find that when you are in service to others in a genuine way, with an authentic heart and no ulterior motives, but really just want to help and learn, then I think there comes an opportunity where that executive or that person can eventually reach back out to you and say, you know what, you're doing such a great job. Is there anything I can do for you? How can I help? And then it becomes a more authentic relationship and it can even perhaps turn into a long-term mentoring relationship. And I think that's the best way to navigate a career because it's a little bit more personal. It's not about just taking from someone but learning how to be of service to others."
I’m personally aware that networking is challenging for people who don’t have ‘connections or ‘experience’ in their fields yet, but I always champion the idea of finding ways to meet the people you want to meet, especially in your desired industry, ‘in person’. I think ‘in person’ matters for connecting genuinely with people. For getting them to ‘see’ who you really are.
How do you think I got Michael Swanson on my show today right after Forbes got him?
I had the good fortune to meet Michael ‘in person’ when he was in NY from LA when The Temptations and The Four Tops performed at the Westbury Music Fair in Long Island NY. Michael, is involved with the Tony Award Winning Broadway smash hit musical ‘Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations’ and is also co-producing the upcoming Four Tops Musical, ‘I’ll Be There’ with my buddy Paul Lambert and Duke Fakir. Duke is the only surviving member of the group.
Michael is a beautiful human with a beautiful family. He serves on the board of directors for Wedgwood Circle, Notre Dame’s Performing Arts Advisory Council, Success Through Education Program, FEAST and is a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. A South Side of Chicago native, Michael resides in Los Angeles with his wife of 29 years, filmmaker and screenwriter Christine Swanson, and their four children.
Michael Swanson joined me live from LA on The Debbie Nigro Show to share much more of his warm advice about how to build your professional ‘relationships’.
Enjoy the podcast of our conversation.
If you prefer to read, the Audio Transcript is below.
And now, back to the Debbie Nigro Show!
Okay, life is all about relationships. Let me explain, okay? Actually, I'll let somebody else explain. Hi everybody, I'm Debbie Nigro. I am so excited to introduce you to my next guest. You know, I always say meeting people in person matters, right? I really do think it totally matters, especially in this virtual world we live in. I met Michael the night I went to see The Four Tops and also the Temptations at Westbury Music Fair in Long Island back when. It was a wildly fabulous night. I met Michael and met his lovely son. What a gentleman. There was something very special about him and there's something very special about him that you guys are going to sense and find out about right now. Michael is a giver by nature. He's not only some big wig Hollywood TV studio executive and film producer and theater producer, which he is all those things, but he is a guy who's created relationships over time that have been really heartfelt and he's spending some time right now educating others on how to do it. Forbes just did a story on how to build a network of professional relationships. He was their first person. They went to interview him as an expert. What Michael said that really just needs to be shared because he's a giver by nature, I mentioned that, is that helping other people is a great way to form long-term relationships. So more about that, but first, welcome Michael and thanks for helping me out by coming on my show today.
Good morning, Debbie. It's so wonderful to be with you. Thanks for having me.
You're welcome. So you, being the first guy that Forbes called about relationships, probably took a moment, sat back and thought, wow, all my life's work has mattered because I know this matters to you. You have incredibly important advice to people about giving before taking.
Yes, yes. I think we are all called to be of service. One thing about networking and mentoring which Forbes wanted to focus on is how do you do it? What's the best way for someone who has had a long career and they wanted me to give advice and some tips. My whole thing is not about going to networking events and some of the less savvy networkers may their first question may become, �Do you have a card?
Does anybody have a card anymore?
Yeah, I know, right? QR codes. Can I scan your QR codes? I found that a little off-putting. I think it's more important to really engage a person and get to know him or her, ask questions, but in a very genuine and authentic way as opposed to kind of bouncing around collecting information and calculating in your head what's the best way he or she can help boost my career or advance my career so I can climb the ladder. Frankly in my opinion it's just the opposite. How can we be of service to others? I find that when you are in service to others in a genuine way, with an authentic heart and no ulterior motives, but really just want to help and learn, then I think there comes an opportunity where that executive or that person can eventually reach back out to you and say, you know what, you're doing such a great job. Is there anything I can do for you? How can I help? And then it becomes a more authentic relationship and it can even perhaps turn into a long-term mentoring relationship. And I think that's the best way to navigate a career because it's a little bit more personal. It's not about just taking from someone but learning how to be of service to others.
If somebody didn't know you and know that you are this heartfelt guy that you are and just saw your title, Hollywood TV studio executive, film producer, theater producer, and they were a young person trying to get into the business. They might be very intimidated by approaching a gentleman like yourself. You're giving some good advice, but how would you like someone to approach you if they were trying to get to know you?
My advice would be to simply be yourself. When I meet with a lot of especially recent college graduates or young professionals, that's my advice. There is only one you in this entire world who God has created. So be yourself because no one can be better at you being yourself than you. And then I find that you will relax, you will get centered, you can be yourself and communicate without trying to morph into someone else who you think you're supposed to be to move ahead.
Has anybody ever tried to impress you by doing something really out of the box to get your
Probably Debbie. But I don't know.
I can't think of anything right now.
I guess I'm thinking of something funny and I'll share it with you because you did you know one of the key points that was Made in the article and that you know I made Promoting your being on the show today It says that 85% of jobs are filled through networking rather than traditional hiring which is very loud It's a big number and what came to mind is you know a father Always tries to help a daughter or a son and my father God rest his soul He's dead 40 years now once went and repaved some guy's driveway and put in all new shrubs for a guy who wasn't in the TV business because he wanted to make sure he knew who I was by the time I called him. The guy woke up like, what? He didn't even know who I was. So I'm just saying that's funny but people do crazy things to try and get attention to create a relationship and that's the only reason I brought it up. But if in fact 85% right of all the jobs are filled through networking rather than traditional hiring. Like why do people even bother with these, you know, sending resumes into a virtual, you know, hole, a black hole?
Yeah, it can become very, rejection is hard for any of us, right? And so when you apply for a job, and even repeatedly sometimes, and you get that rejection or that disappointment, it can be deflating, it can be discouraging, it can even sometimes become depressing because it's like, I've done everything, what can I do? But I have hope in that 15%. You didn't say 100%, you said 85%. So stay positive, is my advice. Stay encouraged and keep submitting. Also, this is one thing that I like to say, which has been true in my life, God will take you to where He needs you to be when He needs you to be there. Sometimes we get rejections or we don't get that job or we don't get that meeting or we don't get that promotion. Sometimes perhaps it's for our own protection. We just may not know that. I'm a big believer, believe it or not, in failure. I think failure is your friend. The key is to learn from your failures, learn from your mistakes, learn from the setbacks, because all of those things are equipping you and preparing you for where you ultimately will end up. So it's not always a bad thing. You know, it's like adding tools to your toolbox that informs how you proceed. So life is hard, right? There are challenges, there are ups and downs, but stay encouraged is the advice that I always get. And importantly, you have to know that things take time. Things take time. Hang in there. Don't get discouraged. Most overnight successes are about ten years. It takes about ten years.
At least. Right?
I think I'm just peaking, Michael.
I love that.
That's okay because you know what, Debbie?
All of the experience and all of the knowledge and all of the things that you've learned
and now you've continued to hone your craft all of these years, it just makes you even
more prepared for where you are now.
And have an even bigger platform. So I'm okay with that. I think we live in a microwave society now. Yep. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now.
And I think we live in a microwave society now.
And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. And I think we live in a microwave society now. It's okay to put things in the crockpot. Let things simmer. I like that. Let things simmer.
Let things simmer.
I like that. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. Let things simmer. works, your celebrated entertainment production company. But you're also the production executive on so many shows that we all love and know, Parks and Recreation, The Good Plays, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Master of None, Good Girls, Never Have I Ever, you've been out there in the movie world, Oh My Gosh, All About You, All About Us, For the Love of Ruth, it goes on, Broadway, Ain't Too Proud, The Life and Times of the Temptations, and then of course the upcoming Four Tops musical with Duke Fakir, the only living member producer and your co-producer. I'm excited to know you. I have to think that as you look back at your life and you are having this conversation with me about how important relationships are to going forward in a career, who is loud in your head right now that helped you along the way? Somebody that did something nice for you in your business?
Oh yeah, well you know so many people, Jerry D'Acanio, Clay Mattel, Adrian Backus, there are so many people who have impacted my life, my career. Mentors who I've had, Erwin McManus, pastors along the way like Charles Stanley. You don't always have to know. I know all those folks or know of them, but most of them I've had personal relationships with. But I also want to share, you don't have to know them personally. You can have a mentor or someone who can be very influential in your life or your career by reading his or her book, by listening to their podcast, their interviews, by kind of studying their business decisions, if they are entrepreneurs, kind of seeing what pivots they made when the landscape was changing. So you can learn from everyone, even if you've never met him or her along the way. Excellent. That has really impacted my career and my life as a husband, father, friend, executive and entrepreneur.
Excellent advice. And we do live in a world where there is an exorbitant amount of information for everybody to tap into free of charge if they have the energy and the desire, right? Absolutely. Let's talk about your family real quick. I know you have a beautiful wife you married to a long time who's also a great talent, Christine Swanson, and then you have four kids. This is a beautiful life you're living. And I've met one of your sons who was adorable. Which one was that?
That was Cole. That was our oldest son, Cole Swanson, who recently graduated from college and now he is doing his thing. He is also in the entertainment industry. He graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Art and focused on directing. So we have another filmmaker in the family.
Awesome. And the other kids, are they in the business? Are they coming up behind you?
I think they are, Debbie. You know, I have a rising sophomore at Stanford University who will probably major in filmmaking and business. I think he has a great producer's mind. My third son, Luke, that was Kenji who is at Stanford, my third son Luke recently completed the acting and theater workshop this summer at USC. Although he is a rising senior in high school, he wants to study acting and he would say be an on-screen actor to make it clear. I said, well you have to start in theater, that's where you really get your training. And then my daughter Julia is entering high school and she is just as smart as anyone. I think it would be great to have an entertainment attorney in the family, so who knows what her career path would be. But Christine, my wife, and I are blessed to have wonderful children. We've been married 29 years, about a week ago. I'm really grateful and just trying to raise some grounded children in Hollywood.
Wow, that is a huge accomplishment. So Michael Swanson, you're doing great. Thank you so much for being my guest today. I remembered your good energy when I met you in person. I knew that you would be accommodating and love to share your information about what you said in Forbes, which is how to build a network of professional relationships. Remember, helping other people is a great way to form long-term relationships. Go out of your way to be of service with a genuine motive and an earnest heart. Michael Swanson, NBCUniversal Senior VP of Production, you have a terrific day. Thank you, Debbie.
You too. Thanks for having me.
See you again soon, I hope.
Okay, real soon.