CEOs / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Joseph Michelli, CEO of The Michelli Experience

Joseph Michelli is an international organisational consultant and psychologist, and CEO of The Michelli Experience.

Looking for your dream start-up role? Sign up for global career opportunities with The Nudge Group!

1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?

I am the CEO of The Michelli Experience, a customer experience consulting firm that works with business leaders across the globe. I have a Ph.D. in System’s Psychology and began my career by working with the owner of a small fish market in Seattle, Washington, called Pike Place Fish.

That owner, Johnny Yokoyama, sold the same product as four other fish markets within blocks of his fish stand, so Johnny looked for ways to create sales experiences that stood out from the competition.

If you visit the Pike Place Fish Market today, you’ll see an incredibly unique and engaging service experience (e.g., fish throwing and interactions that surprise and delight). That wow-filled experience has led to Pike Place Fish Market’s meteoric profitability and a series of business books about Johnny’s 1,400-foot retail business – including one book titled Fish and one Johnny and I wrote titled When Fish Fly.

From that early experience, I’ve been blessed to work with and write about leaders and businesses who have created customer experiences that satisfy, delight, and “wow” customers. For example, my bestselling leadership and customer experience books include deep-dives into The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Mercedes-Benz, and MindChamps.

In my current role, I help leaders create service cultures and design experiences that differentiate them from their competition, drive customer loyalty, and activate referrals. I am blessed to work with leaders from your part of the world including, David Chiem (Founder, CEO, and Executive Chairman) of MindChamps, a transformative early education company.

2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

My work is rich with variety but usually involves three common themes. I am either:

  • on-site or in virtual meetings helping clients elevate the experiences they provide to their team members and customers
  • in my office or studio producing written or video content to help leaders drive engagement and loyalty, or
  • providing practical tools through on-stage and virtual presentations that help leaders garner the attention and delight of those they serve

As an example of presentations, last week, I keynoted on “proactive service” for a large US audience at the Wynn Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. On the 12th of November, I will be providing an exclusive masterclass with business leaders in Singapore and Australia.

That special event will provide tactics for creating “wow” experiences that produce loyalty, social media buzz, profitability, and growth. 

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?

Before the pandemic, I was on the road 70% of the time and worked from my office/studio the remaining 30%. In the past year, those percentages have flipped.

As a business owner, I enjoy the benefit of choosing with whom, when, and how I want to work. Conversely, as a global consultant, I can’t work a 9 am-5 pm Monday through Friday schedule since clients’ needs surface at all hours and at unexpected times.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

I’ve stopped using the term “work/life balance” and simply strive for a “purposeful life.” For me, “work/life balance” implies that work and life are discreet entities and that I would have to do less work to have more life.

I am now looking at everything I do through the lens of purposefulness. Some of the work I used to do was not particularly purposeful – to use your word, it was a “grind) (e.g., I would do something because of a fear of missing out), and some of my non-work activities were also not purposeful (e.g., surfing social media).

Since my goal is to make every hour of every day – meaningful, I’m now evaluating every action (work or non-work) and making wiser choices.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?

In 2020, I was scheduled to write a book about Godiva Chocolatier.  With lockdowns at the company’s manufacturing plants and retail stores (as well as travel restrictions), the Godiva book had to be scrapped.

In the meantime, I served on COVID-19 crisis task forces for my clients, which prompted many discussions about how to effectively lead during a crisis. By the end of 2020, I had completed more than 140 conversations with presidents and CEOs of companies like Google, Microsoft,  Panasonic, Logitech, and Marriott, which led to a McGraw-Hill book titled Stronger Through Adversity. Writing that book prompted me to listen more, be more transparent in my leadership communication, and take more time for self-care.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

Personal favourites are the Harvard Business Review podcast (HBR IdeaCast), the TED Business podcast, and Wondery’s Business Wars podcast. I can’t begin to list all the blogs, podcasts, newsletters, and books that feed my mind and soul.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

I suspect I am like most other people in that I couldn’t live without my smartphone. I also rely heavily on effort-reducing travel, navigation, and retail shopping apps.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be? 

Everyone I meet has something to teach me, and I am particularly interested in how people effectively create and re-create!

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life, or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

Since we journey this planet for a short time, I believe we must use our talents wisely and in the service of others. 

If we dream big and serve well, we live fulfilling lives that will have a lasting impact. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” 

Before you go…

If you’d like to sponsor or advertise with Balance the Grind, let’s talk here.

Join our community and never miss a conversation about work, life & balance – subscribe to our newsletter.

Start-up Founders, Venture Capital, Private Equity, Accelerators – hear them all talk about their stories where they went wrong, what went right and what they learned!
About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.