Emily Mishler: How To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space
Interview With David Liu
Know Your People: The most important relationship and accountability you can have is with yourself. Surround yourself with reminders of why your deliberate decision to rewire your habits, patterns, and life is important. Create a plan for how you’ll get from where you currently are to where you want to be. Feeling distracted by shiny objects and short-cuts? Re-route to self-integrity, self-accountability, radical honesty, and don’t forget to use those mission, vision, and values lenses as you continue to learn and grow.
We are living in a new world in which offices are becoming obsolete. How can teams effectively communicate if they are never together? Zoom and Slack are excellent tools, but they don’t replicate all the advantages of being together. What strategies, tools and techniques work to be a highly effective communicator, even if you are not in the same space?
In this interview series, we are interviewing business leaders who share the strategies, tools and techniques they use to effectively and efficiently communicate with their team who may be spread out across the world. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Mishler of The Cultivated Group®.
Born and raised in the rural Midwest of the United States, Emily Mishler is an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in the start-up world, and heart for philanthropy. She is the driving force behind The Cultivated Group® and the world of Esmè the Curious Cat® — on a mission to ignite and empower individuals and organizations to: “be the change you wish to see in the world”.
Specializing in business development, creative strategic planning, and fundraising, Emily launched her first company at the age of 22 and has since raised and distributed over $20M of private investment for private clients, for-profit entities and NGO’s.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Absolutely! It’s a pleasure to be here — thanks for having us. I’ve always had a knack for adventure, an insatiable curiosity, a creative flair, and a heart for helping others — and my career has absolutely been an extension of that. I grew up on a farm in the middle of the rural United States. We lived very modestly and simply — serving others and giving of what we had was ingrained in our family’s “culture” from a very young age.
I had always been an incredibly independent, creative, and determined child — and those characteristics, as well as the agility that often results from a childhood of trauma and turbulence, have been carried with me to this day. This foundation and these qualities have been the cornerstone of “why” I’ve been able to imagine and create the life I’m now living.
I grew up in a very small town in the middle of the Midwest United States. I come from a family of farmers and values like hard work (sometimes to a fault), exploration, diligence, tenacity, and grit were instilled in me from a very young age. Those rural “roots” were a piece of the inspiration behind our companies’ name: The Cultivated Group®.
Hindsight tends to be 20/20 and all the dots tend to connect looking backward and that’s certainly a trend amidst my own eclectic career path. While I studied Communication and Design at University, helping others through different opportunities was always a focal point. A series of decisions that I perceived to be big risks (at the time) and chose to jump and lean into, whilst always keeping my eyes and ears open for possibility and opportunity were huge contributing factors as my career and life’s mission has continued to unfold. Doors and opportunities presented themselves, to which I bet on myself and said “yes” (albeit sometimes with a bit of fear!) and based on my passions, experiences, and drive to influence the world for the better — stumbled into corporate philanthropy as a career. In August of 2018, I completed a MBA with a concentration in Philanthropy and shortly thereafter, began a new chapter of life in traveling the world and running my own location-independent, impact-driven companies.
A few years ago, I founded a group of impact-driven companies called The Cultivated Group®. Proudly housing four separate companies under the “Cultivated” umbrella, we’re redefining business as usual for businesses all over the globe (and even in outer space!). Each subsidiary equips organizations and individuals with the tools, skills, resources, frameworks, and funding they need to function fully as profitable, healthy businesses. Our team connects the business brain to the servant-leaders’ heart that’s at the forefront of the business of doing good. The work The Cultivated Group® focuses on is all impact-based, which means at the end of the day our goal is to make the world a better place and use businesses and the influence we all have in our day-to-day lives to be the vessels for doing so.
I consider myself an intrepid optimist with a keen sense of adventure, eye for design, hand in fundraising, and heart for philanthropy. Since I can remember, I’ve been driven and inspired by the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world”, after finishing a MBA in 2018 and having a successful career in the non-profit sector, I realized that in order to “be the change”, I needed to better understand the world and people in it. I promptly pivoted, resigning from a successful role in the corporate nonprofit sector, bought a one-way ticket to Hong Kong, and began traveling all over the world full-time while consulting remotely for nonprofits and for-profit entities looking to make a difference in the world. The Cultivated Group® and the children’s book series, Esmè the Curious Cat®, emerged as a result of the continuous journey. Truly engaging in living my life and taking action in the direction(s) I’m led has inspired these leaps!
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Entrepreneur-life (or what I like to see it as… living life by design) is chalked full of interesting stories. It’s so funny to reflect upon and really think about what’s transpired since I began the journey. Looking back, it’s fascinating to think about how “perfect” I believed I needed to be in order to move forward on things. It was a belief system that was rooted in a lot of fear and feelings of inferiority, which really caused a lot of stalling and paralysis in my personal and professional life. Sometimes when we try things that we’re not ready for, we fall down and develop a little proverbial bruising and sometimes scar tissue. When it “hurts” to get up as a result of those bruises or scar tissue, we can be afraid of moving forward and trying again. Until we’re aware of it and decide to make different decisions, the things we fear (even if it’s success!) can hold us back from really accomplishing our goals and making our dreams happen. Looking back, the lesson is that our greatest obstacle is ourselves and that we can do anything we put our minds to!
I’ve made more mistakes than I can count and recently made a commitment to myself to never miss twice. The funniest mistakes I’ve made I actually wouldn’t call mistakes at all; they were a reminder of what’s important. In times that I felt like I needed to be “perfect” or felt a lot of pressure to be “professional”, hilarious things have happened to bring levity to the situation: i.e. gracefully tripping down the stairs of a lecture hall full of 350+ people. The biggest things I’ve learned? Despite how we may feel or perceive others, we’re all human. Do your best, be kind, and laugh at the funny stuff — life is short!
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mahatma Gandhi’s quote “be the change you wish to see in the world” is one that’s provided a lot of inspiration and a discerning lens as the journey of my life has unfolded. In fact, through our companies at The Cultivated Group®, we’re redefining the phrase “business as usual”. We believe doing the right thing is always the right move to make and through our clients and our work, we’re activating and empowering the change they wish to see in the world. Our companies and team are on a mission to bridge the gap between the great ideas, access to opportunity, and taking action to change and preserve this beautiful world in which we live — one challenge at a time. Our focus isn’t overnight success: our focus is the consistency of thought and expansion of dreams and resources. This, when applied over time through massive action, creates sustainable systems that influence positive and inclusive change: we empower and equip our clients to become forces for good in this world. We use a combined approach of both services and products to equip our clients with the tools and skills they need and an extra set of hands (in some cases) to be able to make thoughtful choices when building, stewarding, enhancing, and scaling their businesses.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s interesting — I used to think that everyone who comes into our lives was meant to stay forever. A dear friend once shared with me that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime and when she said that, something clicked. I’m so grateful for the individuals, organizations, and opportunities that have come into my life for each of these durations — they’ve had a profound and tremendous impact on the person I’ve become and the journey of becoming it’s been to get where we are.
My father was a huge inspiration and influence in my life. He was someone who taught me and in many ways showed me the profound example of living in the courage of our Truth. He was one of my most significant sources of encouragement and inspiration, and I am so grateful I had the time and relationship with him that I did. I am also very grateful to keep the company I do and to have such incredible people believe in me, often even before I did. Mentors, cheerleaders, and friends along the way have influenced me to take risks; grow; evolve; have challenged me in every way imaginable (sometimes I wish I were kidding); inspired me to live, dream and be bigger; and to create and live the life of my dreams.
Ok wonderful. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. The pandemic has changed so many things about the way we behave. One of them of course, is how we work and how we communicate in our work. Many teams have started working remotely. Working remotely can be very different than working with a team that is in front of you. This provides great opportunity but it can also create unique challenges. To begin, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main benefits of having a team physically together?
From our experience, there is nothing like connecting with our teams in-person. The nuisances, body languages, social cues, and joy that ensues when you’re physically in a space together can be unmatched.
On the flip side, can you articulate for our readers a few of the main challenges that arise when a team is not in the same space?
The upsides of being in the same physical space are the downsides to being remote, the way we see it!
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges? What are your “5 Things You Need To Know To Communicate With Your Team Effectively Even If You Are Rarely In The Same Physical Space ?
- Innovate: Push the envelope through implementing creative play. Employing creativity intentionally while drafting an annual framework allows for inspiration to draw conclusions and create solutions that may otherwise have been stifled. Injecting passion and play into our work helps us achieve long-term fulfilling success — and measure it. Planning doesn’t have to be boring and when creating goals, measure what matters. We work with impact-driven organizations and individuals using business to make a difference in the world. Measuring the impact and efficacy of programs, systems, structures and foundational business practices is important and allows us to:
- Marry the tangible and intangible to produce measurable long-term results for both.
- Track measurable progress toward a common goal/vision.
- Bring clarity and tangible to that which is abstract.
- Act with purpose, on purpose.
Set goals in areas that matter to your organization through the lens of the mission and vision. Align actions to goals, review, refine, repeat.
Look forward to 2022 and beyond: Write a letter to key stakeholders, dated one year from now. What are we celebrating? What milestones are we measuring? Which results mean something? How is this fueling greater, longer-term goals? Who do we need in our corner, team, to have access to? What did we achieve? Where can we improve?
2. Focus on solutions, not problems: Ever run into dead-end problems that produce more issues? What we focus on, expands. Ensure as you look ahead the focus is identifying, creating, and illuminating solutions rather than focusing exclusively on what hasn’t worked. Don’t suffocate solutions by focusing relentlessly on problems. This is the transformational difference between problem solving and solution creation. Positioning your business to succeed now provides a framework for navigating the adventures of 2021 and beyond with resilience, clarity, confidence, and focus; and a platform for personal and professional growth regardless of circumstance. This is the beginning of legacy planning in alignment with your values, mission and vision.
3. Play the long-term game: Stop. Pause. Breathe. Momentum Compounds & Progress is a Habit. Create space between the stimulus and response. Ideal outcomes exist, perfection doesn’t. Deliberate choice is more powerful than failure. Action begets action. Everything happens one right next step after the other. Particularly when we’re experiencing bouts of burnout, making a deliberate choice can feel like the absolute last thing we’re capable of — but it is in many instances one of the only things we are capable of influencing. If the obtaining of the final product seems to be too much, just begin with the next right step. Stop looking and waiting for motivation and do something. Take action–aligned, inspired action–and the motivation will follow. And although there often aren’t perfect times, there do tend to be opportunities that unfold at more opportune times than others. It may not make “the jump” less scary, but it has the potential to soften the landing a bit.
4. Know Your People: The most important relationship and accountability you can have is with yourself. Surround yourself with reminders of why your deliberate decision to rewire your habits, patterns, and life is important. Create a plan for how you’ll get from where you currently are to where you want to be. Feeling distracted by shiny objects and short-cuts? Re-route to self-integrity, self-accountability, radical honesty, and don’t forget to use those mission, vision, and values lenses as you continue to learn and grow.
5. Make Use of Meeting Time: Know what’s important to meet about and what can be more of an email, chat, or phone call. Make sure your team feels supported, included, inspired, and empowered rather than coddled, cradled, stifled, or suffocated. Remember that everything is also a lesson. Feeling burnt out after a marathon-of-a-sprint of work? Lesson. Feeling energized after a full days’ rest? Lesson. Didn’t get the job? Lesson. Got the second date? Lesson. Procrastinated on the report and were so stressed you didn’t produce your best work? Lesson. The quality of the life we choose, the places and environments in which we work, and what we tolerate as acceptable in our lives dictate the perspectives we obtain and the life experience we have. Once you begin to see everything as a lesson that leads you to a “more right” direction down the path that you are on, failure becomes obsolete. Failure instantly becomes a non-option. There is always a silver lining, it just may require a bit of creativity to identify and gather tidbits from. When failure becomes obsolete, it unlocks an entirely new dimension of living–what’s the worst that could happen?
Has your company experienced communication challenges with your workforce working from home during the pandemic? For example, does your company allow employees to use their own cell phones or do they use the company’s phone lines for work?
Our company is a little different than most when it comes to these policies, because we were fully remote and location-independent before the pandemic. Because the majority of our team is part-time and even some international, we have our team use their own hardware and we provide the software, tools, systems, and community.
Let’s zoom in a bit. Many tools have been developed to help teams coordinate and communicate with each other. In your personal experiences which tools have been most effective in helping to replicate the benefits of being together in the same space?
Before we got a bit overwhelmed with Zoom “happy hours”, that was a go-to for us. For us and our team, it isn’t about the quantity of connections we have, it’s about the quality of the interactions. That doesn’t mean we’re perfect by any means, but keeping in mind that the person we’re chatting with beyond the screen is, in fact, a person has been key for us. Becoming friends AND colleagues who are united around a common goal, purpose, and mission has been a game-changer for us!
If you could design the perfect communication feature or system to help your business, what would it be?
A teleportation system! :) Any location, instantaneously.
The technology is rapidly evolving and new tools like VR, AR, and Mixed Reality are being developed to help bring remote teams together in a shared virtual space. Is there any technology coming down the pipeline that excites you? Is there a part of this future vision that concerns you? Can you explain?
As technology continues to move forward, it becomes increasingly important for us to remember and focus on the value of relationships. At the end of the day, when it comes to small business especially but truly any business in commerce — people are who are purchasing the products and services we bring to market. With technology’s rapid advancement, it can be easy to get distracted by the next shiny object and lose sight of that one simple fact.
So far we have discussed communication within a team. How has the pandemic changed the way you interact and engage your customers? How much of your interactions have moved to digital such as chatbots, messaging apps, phone, or video calls?
For us, the pandemic gave us an incredible opportunity to deepen the relationships we have with our clients and customers. Because of our location-independent nature, we were using messaging apps, phone, and video calls regularly anyway — we don’t currently (and don’t expect to) use chatbots.
In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working with a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote team member?
We believe it’s possible to be ruthlessly honest AND loving and kind. These aren’t mutually exclusive at all and in fact, honesty is often the most loving direction. Living out your values as a company and individuals that make up the culture, and having those as a part of regular conversations and the way in which you do things, including giving feedback or constructive criticism, can be an absolute game changer.
Can you give any specific ideas about how to create a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion when you are not physically together?
Especially keeping in mind what I’ve mentioned before, the most important and significant thing we’ve done to instill a sense of camaraderie and cohesion is to have our mission and vision as a focal point of all of the actions we take and interactions we have; and to remind ourselves that we (and our team) are all human. We’re inherently relational beings that are imperfect; we aim to lead by example and with the elements of what we believe to be a good human (kindness, courage, curiosity, playfulness, transparency, authenticity, radical honesty, giving the benefit of the doubt) .
Ok wonderful. We are nearly done. Here is our last “meaty” question. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Thank you! That’s very kind — and a really tough question, especially considering the state of the world at the moment. If I could inspire a movement, as simple as it sounds, it would be one of leading our lives with kindness, consideration, and thoughtfulness. Each of us has different experiences, all of which have inherent value, and if we’re open to it there is much we can learn from one another! That is how we begin to change the world: first through extending that kindness, thoughtfulness, and consideration inward; and then outward.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
The Cultivated Group
The Elevated Method
Esmè the Curious Cat:
Thank you so much for the time you spent doing this interview. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success.