Mike Civello is passionate about helping businesses create supportive workplaces, and it shows. At Rethink, he is the Vice President of Employee Benefits and works with companies around the world to better serve the needs of employees’ children with developmental disabilities. He previously built and ran the industry-leading employee benefit service Plum Benefits, and also serves as an advisor to the New York City Department of Health. Check out his advice on how he found his grey below:

How have you worked to become qualified enough to do what you love?

I stopped thinking I need to be the best and most skilled or most knowledgeable. Instead, I surrounded myself with brilliant, genuine, fun, sassy, great people. You are defined by your choices and if you choose great people, you will achieve greatness. Or should I say “Greyness”?

Work hard and roll up your sleeves to help others. You don’t “qualify” yourself – you are qualified when others seek you out for your services or expertise. You are highly qualified when those that seek you out then refer you to others they know and return to you time and again. It’s that simple and that difficult.

How have relationships played a role in your career and what advice do you have about building them?

Relationships are everything. Without them, you have nothing. Don’t burn bridges. Provide above and beyond service and actually mean it. Treat your employees like you would treat your top clients. You fiercely want to keep your clients happy – adhere to the same mission when managing your team. Know why you do what you do and believe in it 100%. If you do, relationships will come naturally. People are attracted to passion and compassion.

And LISTEN. When building relationships, stop talking and start engaging – it’s a two way street. Ask questions, get interested and allow the other person to talk a minimum 50% of the time in the conversation. Instead of getting something from an interaction, your goal should be, “what can I give?” If you give you get. Not the other way around.

I’ve done a lot of events and shaken many hands. I have honed my instincts and within the first few minutes if someone is probing, “what can I get out of you,” I politely excuse myself and head to the bar. I don’t have time for those interactions anymore, but my goodness, I always have time for a glass of wine!

Lastly, say thank you and always be grateful. If someone believes in you, embrace that energy and believe in them in return. I am grateful for those that have chosen to be in my life (friendship, work, love). Ask yourself, “why would someone choose me?”

What part of your morning ritual would you recommend to others?

I used to get up, get dressed, rush to the office, jam a cup of coffee down my throat and have breakfast while emailing away. No longer. I made a small change that has had HUGE impact in my Grey lifestyle.

I wake up 30 minutes earlier (it’s not that serious folks – you can do it!) and I make coffee and some toast and lay out my favorite home decor magazines. I sit for one full hour simply thumbing through my favorite magazines and sipping my coffee. No email. No work. Pajamas. I then get dressed for work and arrive at the office a little later than I used to, but I’m ready for the day, I’m relaxed and I’m more productive and approachable from the first minute I walk in the office doors.

What’s the best piece of advice you have for someone beginning their grey journey?

Don’t try to “figure it all out at once.” There is no magic answer to the age old question: “what do I want to be when I grow up?” When I was in college, I wanted to be a famous television host; now, I am an expert in Human Resources programming and design. I love it. I never expected this life, but I was open to new things. I was open to the idea that more than one thing could make me happy and fulfilled. I went for it, I took calculated risks, and most of all, I was honest with myself.

You’ll read a lot of biographies about amazing people and you’ll immediately want to emulate them, or follow their path to success. Remember – that was “their” path – not your’s. Know your limits and remind yourself that you know yourself. Sounds strange? Many successful people I know (successful financially maybe, but not happiness-wise) spend so much time convincing themselves they chose the right path, when in reality they followed a path they felt they should take – not a path that they were meant to walk.

Don’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes – walk in your own shoes. Don’t be afraid to say, “that worked for them, but I’m not really comfortable investing my life savings in a business idea.” I personally have had tremendous success by joining other people’s ideas and businesses and helping them grow and prosper. I had to check myself at one point because so many people asked me, “why aren’t you running your own business?” I finally found my voice to simply say, “because I don’t want to.”

What principle or goal is guiding you in your life right now?

I want to make business environments into human environments.

What do you want to accomplish as an LITG Ambassador?

I want to help others to realize that they need to enjoy the journey and not the destination. After all – where are we actually going anyway?

Learn more about Michael’s work with Rethink here, and connect with him on Twitter.

The Live Grey Ambassador Program is a collective of grey individuals dedicated to spreading the Live in the Grey message and helping others to blend their personal and professional lives. This series offers some of the wisdom they have to share as they progress on their journey.

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