Mentoring Through Challenging Times: Growing a Team and Its Culture Virtually

December 28, 2020

Mentoring Through Challenging Times: Growing a Team and Its Culture Virtually

Featured in BizWomen, December 2020

By: Brooke LeVasseur, AristaMD CEO

Working from home is the norm this year but doing so while your company is growing exponentially is especially challenging. That’s what Brooke LeVasseur faced as telemedicine took off during the pandemic. Her experience transfers to many who face virtual cultural challenges.

With the pandemic keeping so many patients at home, either afraid to risk exposure or unable to see a physician because the staff is diverted, telehealth has become an invaluable solution to ensure patients can continue to get the care they need. eConsults (also known as virtual consults) has been an important piece of that – connecting virtual specialists to primary care providers to get advice and guidance on how to treat patients, without the need to see them face-to-face.

Facing even more hurdles than normal to deliver healthcare, I knew that AristaMD must not just weather the COVID-19 storm but grow as fast as possible to ensure more patients have access to care. In July, we closed our Series B financing and had an exciting task ahead of us – to significantly grow the team, in an environment when we couldn’t even meet most candidates in person. In addition, we had to figure out how to effectively integrate new hires into our culture, get them trained and start building relationships with the team…all virtually.

Some things we have learned in this process:

Rely on tools that allow you to get beneath the surface. We use DISC (Dominance, Influence (I), Steadiness, and Conscientiousness) assessments for each employee, but there are a lot of other great tools out there. Sessions are held by departments where everyone shares their results, helping everyone get to know how each team member works best, what kind of information they like and how to effectively coordinate and mesh your own style with your team’s.

Introduce opportunities for social sharing early and often. We have numerous venues and tools that we employ to maintain a positive culture and to create higher employee engagement and collaboration. These include SLACK (with numerous channels such as #weekendadventure, #random, #aristababies for personal sharing), 15five for sending public recognition to teammates, small virtual happy hours every week and a practice of starting most meetings with personal check-ins.

Create opportunities for everyone across the organization to learn from groups they don’t work directly with. We have regular meetings in which various departments share their recent progress and initiatives and allow people to ask questions.

Start at the top. The way in which we kick-off and run company-wide meetings is with strong intention to set the tone for connectedness, involvement, and mutual respect.

Make culture as important as revenue and operational goals. We have strong cultural value tenants that every employee learns during on-boarding. Our group presentations on new initiatives always start by recapping the mission, vision, and values of the organization. Our managers go through monthly leadership training which includes a section on how to reinforce values, which we do regularly through the way we give feedback and recognition to the structure of our quarterly goals, and there is always one goal for cultural values.

We listen to each employee and learn what is important to them and what gets them excited every day, from work to non-work topics. We have found that employees who feel really understood and listened to will become more connected to our mission and ultimately deliver their best, innately. This new virtual work environment has its challenges, but a strong culture can prevail if you continue to nurture it with strong intention.