Empowering Your Team by Creating an Open, Positive and Transparent Work Culture
Transforming teams and building new processes efficiently requires creativity, buy-in, and honest feedback from all stakeholders. One way to cultivate such an open and supportive work culture is to create and support mentorship in your organization.
Kristin Ashcraft, COO at Genome Medical, talks about this with Dr. Jeremy Weisz on today’s episode of the Process Breakdown Podcast.
Ms. Ashcraft explains what takes place at Genome Medical, how she assesses teammates, and how to improve teammate relations.
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Key Resource List
- SweetProcess.com, 14-day free trial, no credit card required.
- Genome Medical
0:06 – Introduction
0:26 – Dr. Weisz shares the best solution that makes documenting standard operating procedures drop-dead easy, highlighting a 14-day free trial. No credit card required.
2:12 – Dr. Weisz introduces today’s guest, Kristin Ashcroft, COO at Genome Medical.
2:57 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about Genome Medical and what they do.
3:55 – Ms. Ashcraft explains how the reason for the company’s existence is related to the limited number of geneticists.
5:04 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about the typical reason patients come to Genome Medical.
6:41 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about one of her patients, a woman in her early 30s who decided to come to Genome Medical to get herself checked early.
7:28 – Ms. Ashcraft explains the work process of Genome Medical.
8:41 – Ms. Ashcraft explains how she herself had a gene test, what it was like, and what the result and feedback were like.
10:24 – Ms. Ashcraft explains how genetic testing and specialists in the field have been there before COVID-19.
11:19 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about things she had to fix when she became a part of the company.
14:42 – Ms. Ashcraft shares how she goes about assessing each member of the team, by talking to each and every one at every level.
15:51 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about the next step she takes after assessing the team.
17:23 – Ms. Ashcraft likens assessing the team and collaborating with team members to scientific processes in school.
18:04 – Ms. Ashcraft explains how she identifies who is going to carry the framework of the team.
20:00 – Ms. Ashcraft explains how the team is reassessed and the system rechecked to see the gap between now and pre-improvement.
21:19 – Ms. Ashcraft explains how it’s better to build and improve quality than to fix.
23:11 – Ms. Ashcraft gives examples of processes she built to improve operational efficiency.
24:55 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about the importance of creating an open and transparent culture, and the different aspects she feels are important for making a positive work culture.
27:33 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about things that have and haven’t worked with regards to the mentorship program.
30:25 – Ms. Ashcraft explains the program’s length and frequency of occurrence.
31:12 – Ms. Ashcraft explains how and why attending the programs isn’t mandatory.
31:39 – Ms. Ashcraft talks about how she prefers a very clear set agenda with one or two key questions when on a mentorship call.
34:19 – Outro
Kristin Ashcraft is COO at Genome Medical Inc, in San Francisco.
She is a motivated biotech, digital health strategy, and operations executive.
She studied environmental science and policy activities at Duke University, and entrepreneurship, strategy, and operations at UCLA Anderson School of Management.
She has various skills ranging from marketing, consulting, and cross-functional team leadership, to competitive analysis and analytics.
Transcript of this interview
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Process Breakdown Podcast where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your employees all the information they need to be successful at their jobs. Now, let’s get started with the show. (singing).
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, host of the Process Breakdown Podcast where we talk about streamlining and scaling operations of your company, getting rid of bottlenecks, and giving your staff everything they need to be successful at their job. I always tell people, Kristin, check out past episodes, and I have to come up with some new ones. I mean, Carl Cox was an amazing one, talked about operation and systemization; the go-to ones people like, the one with David Allen of Getting Things done and Michael Gerber of The E-Myth; and there’s many more. So check those out.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Before I introduce today’s guest, and this is a really cutting-edge company doing some amazing things, I’m excited to introduce it. This episode is brought to you by SweetProcess, And if you’ve had team members ask you the same questions over and over, there is a better way. There is a solution. SweetProcess is actually a software that makes it drop-dead easy to train and onboard new staff and save time with existing staff. When I was talking with Owen, universities use them, banks use them, hospital, software companies, but first responder government agencies use them in life or death situations.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Actually, we featured them on the podcast to talk about that, and you can use SweetProcess to document all the repetitive tasks that eat up your precious time, your team’s precious time, so you can just focus on growing and delivering a great service to your customer. So sign up for a free 14-day trial. No credit card is required. Go to sweetprocess.com. Sweet like candy, it’s S-W-E-E-T process dot com. It’s funny, because when I was looking I’m like, “Oh, your service is super reasonable,” as far as they give out… Some software companies, it’s like one user, one per user.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: He’s like, “No, you get 25 user accounts with one monthly fee.” It’s really reasonable. So check it out if you’ve thought about actually systemizing it in one place, and without further ado, I’m excited to introduce Kristin Ashcraft. She’s the COO at Genome Medical, which is a privately held, venture-backed telegenomics company. Kristin is skilled at many things, including corporate strategy execution, transforming underperforming teams, and much more.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: We’ll talk about that, how she went in the past and helped fix things up, but she feels there’s a better solution to just fixing things up. She also helps to create effective organizational culture and strives to build really strong relationships within that culture and organization. So Kristin, thanks for joining me.
Kristin Ashcraft: Thanks so much for having me, Jeremy. It’s great to be here with you.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: I want to start off with, I am fascinated by Genome Medical and what you do. Just tell people about the company and what you do.
Kristin Ashcraft: We’re a telegenomics company that provides services and technology that brings genomics to patients everywhere, and I think these days, people are probably fairly familiar with telehealth and the concept of doing virtual visits. They may not be as familiar with genomics, which is the study of the 20,000 genes that make us who we are. Understanding more about what your genetics entails can actually help drive forward precision medicines. So things that are going to help you have a better experience in life based on what’s actually in your DNA. So that’s what we’re doing every day. We have a nationwide telehealth practice of clinicians, and we bring that here to patients.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: One of the reasons, Kristin, is because you were saying there’s a limited number of geneticists. Right?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. Yeah. So definitely happy to jump in. My team has asked me to do a little bit of a disclaimer given that this is a natural flow in a podcast conversation. But these statements coming up are my views, and I’ll be expressing them today on my own behalf. They’re not intended to bind or be representative of Genome Medical in any way, but now that we’ve said that, yes. The genetic specialist field is very much growing but not at the same pace as the market for genomics. So having access to a genetic specialist who understands the specific needs of your condition or potential condition may be harder to do depending on where you are, where you live. So that’s the set of barriers that we’re working to break down.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. When I look at the website, it talks about understanding your health risks, gaining insights from your own DNA, which like you said, provides precision to whatever that person is experiencing and make informed decisions. What do people typically, why are they coming to genome medical? What are they experiencing in their health or their life?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. It can happen through a number of ways. Patients may come to us on their own because they’re curious about their own genetic background, and they’re maybe not getting the same kind of support that they think they need. We have patients who come to us, for example, they have a family history of cancer. Their mom maybe had cancer, an aunt maybe passed away from cancer, but their primary care physician is telling them that they don’t need a mammogram. They may not need genetic testing. That is when we do get some patients coming to us proactively to assess what their risk is.
Kristin Ashcraft: That’s not because primary care physicians don’t want to provide it. Sometimes they don’t know all the information that they need. So we’re also on a mission to help inform, educate, and support our providers in delivering genetics care and being that care team for them that they can refer to. We also work with other actors in the healthcare space, health systems, laboratories to help support patients that they may already have, that they’re working with, and they have done a genetic test with them, and they would like them to have those results reviewed by a genetic counselor or geneticist.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. So I could see that. Someone has a strong family history. They may be young, and they want to be proactive. There’s really no proactive tests. Usually with healthcare stuff, it’s like, well now you have a problem. We should test for it. So this is a proactive way of people can find out what’s going on inside their own DNA. There’s a woman in her early thirties that came you. Can you talk about that for a second?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. Yeah. So there was a woman who came to us in her early thirties. Her mother had passed away. Her aunt died at 41 of breast cancer. Her primary care physician indicated that she didn’t need to do any kind of testing until she was in her forties. The patient decided to come to us proactively and get the testing done so that she could have peace of mind about what was the future going to hold for her and her family. So those are the types of situations where we can support both sides of the spectrum, both physicians who refer patients to us as well as patients who come directly to us.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: How does it work? Do they have to send in a blood test? What’s the evaluation, and what’s that look like?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. So we do counseling ahead of time. If you’re curious of whether you don’t know what maybe what the right test might be and you want to find out if even testing is necessary, so we do have counselors on staff will review your family history, work with you, determine what maybe the right test might be. If a test is recommended, we can order that because we are a telehealth medical practice. Then that is done typically through a blood test or saliva. Then the results are reported back from a laboratory, and we can review those results with patients as well.
Kristin Ashcraft: So I myself have undergone genetic testing, and when I got my results back, I did have a conversation with a genetic counselor as well, just to make sure that I fully understood what the results were. I’m actually a bio major. So even with familiarity in the space, I found comfort in actually talking to a genetic specialist who’s been trained in the field does it day-in, day-out, and is passionate about making sure patients understand their results.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Yeah, totally. I mean, it’s a different language, and Kristin, you don’t have to share details. I’m just curious for yourself, were there any recommendations made off of that whether it’s further testing or lifestyle in general?
Kristin Ashcraft: Not for myself. For me, it was a negative result where it was like, okay, this is what I needed to know. I can feel good about this. I’m going [crosstalk 00:08:53].
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: The negative is positive.
Kristin Ashcraft: Correct. But that is exactly the kind of thing that can result is you can have follow on care that’s recommended based on what they know about the causes of the condition you might have.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I mean, this topic freaks me out in a sense of a lot of the stuff just is underlying. We’re not seeing it. It’s not showing any clinical signs or symptoms. If you think of heart disease, sometimes people’s first sign of it could be an actual heart attack, and obviously that stuff is going on without maybe any signs or symptoms. If you look on… And I encourage people to go to Genome Medical, and there’s a resources tab. You can see there’s genetic counseling, genetic testing. There’s precision medicine. There’s cancer genetics. There’s cardio genetics. There’s reproductive genetics. There’s all these things.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So pick your poison. I say that in a positive way. Pick whatever category you’re interested in and check out their website and go deeper in it. I appreciate you sharing, going a little granular. And if you’ve thought about or if you have family history, go to it, and maybe tell your primary care physician about it, because they may not know. I mean, there’s always cutting-edge research and tools, and the stuff that you’re doing may not even be known. You, as a company, were doing telehealth stuff before COVID, too. So it wasn’t like, “Oh, we just transition to this because COVID,” right.
Kristin Ashcraft: That’s right. Yeah.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You’ve been doing this previous to COVID.
Kristin Ashcraft: Correct. Again, in the conversations we’ve started having, it’s not unusual for primary care physicians to not have all of the information. There are now over 75,000 genetic tests. So to be an expert in that when you’re doing so many other things as a primary care physician, that’s kind of why specialists like us exist. So we’re here to provide additional support for primary care physicians and other healthcare providers in the space to make sure that this helpful information is received by patients.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Totally. So, Kristin, we’ll transition from fixing your body, fixing things in your body with Genome Medical, to fixing things in the company. Previously, when you worked for other companies, people would call you in and be like, “All right, Kristin. Go at it. Fix it.” Walk through some of the things that you had to go in and fix, and then I know you came in with better solutions. So it was more proactive.
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. That became a bit of a calling card for me to come in, assess teams that seem to be underperforming, and try to help them turn it around.The way that we would assess under performance is not meeting your key performance indicators, having poor quality, potentially having team members, having to hire more than you think seems right for what they’re doing and maybe we’re over budget in these areas.
Kristin Ashcraft: So I would come in, assess the team, try to look for areas where there were operational deficiencies, but also assess the team. That’s where my passion for really collaborating and pulling the ideas and just inspiration from the team was born, because if you come in and people see you as this new leader who’s there to “fix things,” that’s not always the most happy environment to walk into. However if [crosstalk 00:12:19].
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: They put their head down and look the other way and walk quickly away from you.
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. It could be perceived negatively, and what I learned to do is come in really get to know the team, not just to be there on a fact-finding mission, but really understand, what are the strengths of the team? Because even an under performing team has strengths that you can build upon, and maybe they’re not being tapped into in a certain way. So what I have done is gotten to know the team, identified who those leaders are, and collaborated with them. Hey, you see this issue, too. What are your ideas for fixing this? How do you see this as being something that we can tackle together? What do you need? What have you been asking for that you haven’t been getting?
Kristin Ashcraft: That usually brings about so many ideas, many of which end up being part of the strategy to fix it. What I have done a few times over is, when you have those open conversations and you ultimately move into action to address whatever the issue is, the team comes back to you with just, their faces are lit up because they were a part of the solution and they can actually see it working. That is the best gift, is coming in and fixing something, but doing it alongside your team members.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Yeah. I love that collaborative approach, because oftentimes, probably it’s almost natural to go in and just try and fix it yourself. Wen you have that collaborative nature, then people take ownership over it. Even if it doesn’t work, they probably take ownership over it now working and trying to fix it.
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. I’ve definitely found that to be the case. It’s especially important when a change requires a lot of effort. So in a lot of these cases in my past it required hours of training, cross-training, new roles, and responsibilities. A lot of that change can be very disruptive, but if you’re doing it alongside of your team and they can feel where you’re trying to go and they’re in it with you and they’ve even built some of the steps, when it comes to fruition, they are okay putting in the effort and the investment because they can understand why.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: The scenario is this underperforming team. Kristin, all right, work your magic, and you go in and you assess the team first. What are some of the things that you do to assess the team where the situation’s at?
Kristin Ashcraft: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I try to meet with people across all levels. So I want to hear what the leaders have to say, but then I also want to hear what every single member of the team, no matter what their role is, has to say. If it’s a large team, a representative from each function. If it’s a smaller team, I’ll talk to everybody. Even today and I consistently maintain this, no matter what my structure is, if I have a set of direct reports, I always do skip level meetings with their direct reports, because I want to understand what’s going on in the team.
Kristin Ashcraft: So in an assessment period, meeting with all of them, meeting with cross-functional partners, to really, understand what’s their perspective of the team? What do they see as opportunities, and try to bring that 360 view to how the team is operating and what needs might be there, the back gap analysis, essentially.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Then, so once you assess the team, do you come up with a level of, here’s where I see are the top two or three gaps? What’s the next stage on what you’re looking to probably presents since it’s collaborative to the team?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. So I like to pull the teams together. Learned over time to be transparent and upfront about this. I generally tell them, “Guys, I have three areas that I think are probably the pieces that are driving our issues most. I’m not going to tell you what they are right now. I want to have a-
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Then they hate you. You understand?
Kristin Ashcraft: … Then I open it up, and we start the dialogue. Generally, what that does is it helps them know that I’m not coming in with no answers. I have some, but I’m also not pressing my ideas on the team.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: You don’t want to influence them.
Kristin Ashcraft: Correct. And so I let them run for a while, and then if we don’t touch on the three that I maybe had in mind, I’ll throw it in there once we’ve had some time to discuss and say, “Hey, have you thought about this, and how do you react to it?” Then I’ll get their honest reactions. Sometimes it’s a fit, and sometimes they’re like, “Actually, no. That’s not really an issue. Here’s why.” So it again, creates that facilitation and collaboration.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Got it. So you’ll assess it so you can come up with a hypothesis on here’s the three things, but you really want to hear… Then you bring everyone together after you’ve assessed it. You don’t want to do that in the beginning because you want to see what they come up with and have it in your mind what may be a structured solution. Then you bring it up, and it will naturally come up within that. When people touch on it, then it will confirm your hypothesis almost?
Kristin Ashcraft: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, it’s funny that you say confirm my hypothesis, because I was actually a bio major in college, and when you’re doing research, you do put an hypothesis out there. You try to vet whether that is right or not over the course of time, and I think that is essentially what happens when I’m diagnosing these situations.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. Maybe it comes because I was also a biochemistry major. So then you collaborate. Everyone’s in the room, and you come to these three things or two things, whatever. Maybe two of them are what you thought it was, and maybe there was a separate one that became the real issue. Then what do you do next? You identified it. Then what comes next?
Kristin Ashcraft: So key there is identifying who is going to be the one who carries the strategy forward. Who creates the framework? Who’s essentially project managing it, even if that’s not their role day-to-day in the company? It’s actually one of my favorite things to do, to not only assess what someone’s role is in the company today, but what other areas of interest and strength they may have and using those things to help drive this kind of organizational change or operational improvement.
Kristin Ashcraft: So you would identify a project manager. You might identify someone who wants to dig into a specific system and assessing and vetting whether that’s the right fit for that need. Then you have the person who’s like, “Hey, once you guys are set on what we want to do, I want to train the team on how to do that.” Okay. Fantastic. I have found over time that that’s really effective in driving change because as leaders, we can’t do it all ourselves. We have to delegate.
Kristin Ashcraft: So if you’re going to delegate effectively, you want to delegate tasks and projects to people, ideally, who want to do them and who get joy out of doing that piece of the work, as opposed to adding something to somebody’s plate when it’s already pretty full and having them cringe. Right? So I try to match that up too along the way so that you have the people who are passionate about the different steps in the process doing them, because they’re going to be your best champions.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I love to hear about… So once you come to that and it’s trained, how do you reassess, whether it’s someone reporting on a KPI or something. I’m curious of how you go back and check the system. So I find you assess the team. You find the gaps, and then you collaborate about those things. Then you create accountability, so someone’s accountable for it. Then you have those people help train the team. Then what happens as far as how do you, okay, let’s check the system to see if this works?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. No, great question. One of the things that you want to do at that point where you’re about to kick off the change, is set your baseline. Right? So what is the existing set of metrics? What’s the performance today? Then you want to measure that over the course of time as you’ve rolled out your organizational change. You can really assess how your new process structure system is helping improve those baseline metrics. That’s the best way too, to gain momentum for maybe the next change. Right? Because your team can see, hey, the effort we went through, it actually made sense, and it worked out now.
Kristin Ashcraft: The other side is, maybe you don’t improve it. Maybe the results actually get worse, but setting expectations that we’ll come back to this. We’ll continue to revise. We’ll make sure that we can look at maybe option two. Maybe we started with the first thing. That didn’t work the way we thought it would. Now we can move on to option two. So it’s keeping the team along for the ride and speccing in along the way so that they can see those results too and get behind whatever the next step is.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. No, thanks for laying that out. So that’s with fixing things, and then we were talking before we hit record on, well, it’s actually better to do building than fixing. So what did you mean by that?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. I wouldn’t necessarily say better, but it’s another side of operations. Right? So are you, are you coming into an organization that is well established and maybe has room for improvement, efficiency improvement, continuous improvement on quality, whatever it might be, or are you coming into an organization where there’s some things established, but there’s an opportunity to build as well? I think that it’s something that operations leaders need to assess what their passion area is, and for me personally, what I was looking for in my career when I came to Genome Medical was that opportunity to build.
Kristin Ashcraft: I enjoy fixing. It’s really fulfilling to see that you can improve with the help of a team. It’s also really fun to say, “Oh, wow. We don’t have this established yet.” So we could maybe take that manual process and automate it. It’s exciting to start that off in a fresh, I guess, and see where it can go from there. A lot of times we go and we get ideas from conferences, from peers, and you really want to implement them. So having the chance to do that in a situation where it’s maybe the first time, as opposed to maybe a subsequent time fifth time, sixth time, is fun. It’s fun to see that side of the operational process.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I can see that, one thing is just creating efficiencies with what’s already there, and then the second is building other things that are going to improve the company. Can you give an example? It doesn’t have to be from Genome Medical or it could be from the past company of a process or system that you’re like you came in and you’re like, “Let’s build this.” Maybe like you said, it was something that was automated that wasn’t automated. What would be an example so people can wrap their heads around what building something could look like?
Kristin Ashcraft: Sure. I think something that we came about, this is more on building a community feeling in a company that can lead to this kind of operational efficiency and effectiveness. I’ve had the opportunity to build mentorship programs in the companies that I have worked with and build them from scratch. So what does it mean to offer up opportunities for people at various stages in their career to get guidance and mentorship from those who may be ahead of them on a career path? Obviously, mentors also get something out of those arrangements from learning from their mentees.
Kristin Ashcraft: But that opportunity to pull together cross-functional team members who care about this as a concept, but want to make it real is something that I have done before and have gotten a ton of fulfillment out of. It’s very exciting when you see something start from an idea, build up into a process, get launched, have participants working within that program, and then seek feedback along the way on how you can improve it. Then you see the next class and the next class, and you see what happens when people are motivated and feel supported in their careers, the types of ideas, the types of energy they bring to their roles and their functions in the company. It comes full circle.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I love that. I want to dig deeper into that mentorship program, and it kind of goes into the discussion which I had in my mind that we’re going to talk about, which is importance of creating an open, transparent, and positive culture. Is that the basis for the mentorship, or is there something else you had in mind when I say that?
Kristin Ashcraft: No. I mean, there’s so many aspects that I feel are important to creating a positive group culture and to ensuring that people feel like they understand their role in the company and the team and why they matter. Mentorship is one of those examples that shows them that they matter if a company is willing to invest in that. The other is to really create clear goals and show them how their role or function aligns back to those clear goals for the company and in showing them that they have a part in achieving the mission.
Kristin Ashcraft: I mean, at Genome Medical, we’re trying to bring genomics to patients everywhere. How does every person in the company contribute to that in their day-to-day? It’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes, and as leaders, I think that’s really important to bring that focus back. The other piece of it too, is to make sure that people know that they can be themselves, that they belong, that they can bring their whole experience to work, and that they’re not just work robots, as I like to say.
Kristin Ashcraft: And I try to do that by, I mentioned skip levels earlier, mentorship, but just being available. Team members today, they will send me a message on Slack, and they’ll apologize for interrupting me. I always write back and say, “I’m always here for you,” because if they don’t feel that I am, how will they give me honest feedback when something is broken or when a new thing we’ve put in place that I’m super excited about isn’t working well for them? I need them to be honest for us to operate effectively in the scale of [inaudible 00:26:35].
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. I love that, linking the what the job does to how it’s accomplishing the goals of the company. I remember I was talking to one person who had a large disaster restoration company, and he said as the trucks would come in, the custodial staff would have to clean the nails and the other stuff, the debris off. He said linked it back. He would say, “You have the most important job because if a nail gets in the tire, we can’t get the trucks out. We can’t service our…” all that. So everyone’s job links back to the goal and the importance of the end result.
Kristin Ashcraft: Absolutely.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: So I love to hear from the mentorship program. What have you found since you’ve set these up? What has not worked that people would be like, “Don’t try this. I have done this many times, and this did not work.” And what did you find worked really well as a general practice that people are like, “Yeah, that sounds great, Kristin. I should have a mentorship program.”
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah. I think one of the things that is interesting is assessing how formal the mentorship program needs to be for your particular business or team. Sometimes really formal structures of, they will be 30 minutes, they will be this way, is very helpful depending on who the mentors are as well. Others, it’s better to be a bit more casual. What I have found though, is some structure is good. So making sure that people have some guide rail, a guard rail so that they know what’s in bounds, what’s out of bounds. How do I utilize this person’s time effectively? What can I expect from this? I think that helps a lot.
Kristin Ashcraft: One thing that I think has been a fear that some people do embark on mentorship programs with is, what if it’s not a fit? What if I select this mentor-mentee relationship, I get into my first meeting, and I just don’t feel a connection? The advice they’re giving me, I don’t agree with. What do I do? This is maybe a senior person in my organization, if I’m the mentee; or I’m a senior person, and I’m like, “Hey, this doesn’t feel like a good use of my time. What do I do?” And I think it key there that I’ve always tried to implement in the programs that I’ve created is, you can let the program organizers know it’s not a fit. It’s okay.
Kristin Ashcraft: No one will be offended. We will ensure that we can exit. Everybody will be on good terms, and we’ll just find a better fit. That way you know that the relationship is going to be strong and is going to actually benefit, hopefully, both parties. I think the thing that also has worked very well, which I like relying on is, once you have the first class who knows that they’re the first class, knows that they’re going to probably have to give more feedback and input then maybe subsequent classes, if they can come back for that next class and talk about the experience, it’s amazing. Right?
Kristin Ashcraft: Because no one can replace the testimonial from someone who maybe was a little bit concerned going in, had all the same feelings that others do.,But once they’ve gone through a mentorship program, they see the benefits and they can speak to what it meant to them. For me personally, a previous program I set up now at Genome Medical, one of my direct reports is a prior mentee of mine. So those relationships, if they work well, they can be really helpful and productive in the future.
Kristin Ashcraft: I’ve had mentees that are outside of the organization reach out to me months, years after the program has ended after we’re in different organizations, to still connect and talk because we built a relationship that we both felt was meaningful and, and I’m happy to contribute to their continued growth in that way. So I think that helped.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Is there a recommended frequency and length like, “Oh, we should do once a week and 30 minutes.” What is a general rule?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah, that’s a great question. Generally, we go monthly, so 30 to 45 minutes a month. I’m generally looking at a program length of six months because schedules happen, things happen, but you want to have some regularity and you want to have some repetition of exposure so you get to know the people’s style. It also gives the opportunity for a mentee and mentor to tackle a specific thing and then talk about what happened after. “Hey, did you have that conversation? Did you make that suggestion? Did you create that presentation you were working on? How did it go?” If you don’t have longevity of the relationship built into the program, it’s hard to have those longer-term goals play themselves out.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Do you recommend it be an opt-in situation, or is it mandatory?
Kristin Ashcraft: Definitely opt-in. These things require commitment from both participants that they are ready to actually be there. If somebody is required to be there, you may not get their full honesty, their full input, and they’re not going to get the full value out of it. So I would definitely suggest opt-in.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: And then is there a for structuring the call? So you have 30 to 45 minutes. What do you do whether it’s in-person or on a call?
Kristin Ashcraft: Yeah, no, that’s a really good question. I’ve actually seen it in different ways, both when I was a mentee as well as when I’ve been a mentor. Personally, I prefer a very clear agenda, and I recommend that that agenda be sent ahead of time, typically with only maybe three key questions that a mentee might want to ask a mentor, and maybe a reminder, “Hey, last time we talked about X. I want to give you an update on that.” I think having [inaudible 00:32:09] sight is really good. I would say for me personally as a mentor, it’s super helpful because it gives me time to reflect.
Kristin Ashcraft: Hey, I’m really concerned about what my next step is and my career. I’m really not feeling like our team is operating as efficiently as we could. I have some ideas. Then I can actually think about it in advance too, and come to the meeting prepared, not just react real time to, “Oh, you’re asking me this question. I could probably have given you a better set of answers if I had five minutes to think about it ahead of time.” I think making sure that everybody’s aware that it’s happening, nobody’s surprised that you’re jumping on a mentorship call, that there’s that dedicated space, and nobody’s multitasking during it, I think is really useful.
Kristin Ashcraft: I think the other piece that I like to set up with people ahead of time, especially if it’s a mentorship program within the organization that both parties work in, establish what the expectation is between the mentor and the mentee if something comes up that the mentor really thinks that person’s manager or team should be involved in. Who’s going to tell that person. Is it going to be the mentor, or is it going to be the mentee? And so I always try to bring that up in the middle of conversations like, “This sounds like one that you should really talk to your manager about. Do you want to talk to them about it, or do you want me to, because one of us is going to?”
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Right. Yeah, totally. It’s almost if you think of a therapist treating a child. I mean, I’m not comparing the two, but you need authorization. It needs to happen. Maybe it’s something important the parent needs to know, so the teenager could tell the parent. But it’s important enough that someone needs to tell the parent what’s going on.
Kristin Ashcraft: Absolutely.
Dr. Jeremy Weisz: Yeah. So I like that. So a couple of key questions and then updates as an agenda and working through those. Kristin, I just want to thank you. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Thank you walking through your methodology of this creating more of a collaborative open environment. I basically encourage anyone to check out more episodes of the podcast. Checkout genomemedical.com. Thanks everyone. Thanks, Kristin.
Kristin Ashcraft: All right. Thanks, Jeremy. Appreciate it.
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