My friend attended a leadership event hosted by a Navy SEAL, and he told the class that elite teams are never led by leaders who are nice. I’ve also read that the quality of a leader can be measured by their willingness to have difficult conversations.
I believe all of this is true, which is particularly hard for women. We’re raised to please people and to earn approval, but that’s not necessarily what makes a great CEO. CEOs have to be direct and clear, but they don’t have to be snuggly and warm, and that’s a tough shift for most women who pride themselves on traits like caring and empathy. It’s been hard for me to realize that being nice isn’t always effective and being effective sometimes mean being a bit more direct than I would like to be.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janine Yorio. Janine is considered an expert on the unique connection between real estate investment, design, technology and brand. She is a serial entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Compound (www.getcompound.com), a real estate investment technology company that was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 50 world-changing startups to watch. She was previously head of real estate development at Standard Hotels and was a portfolio manager at NorthStar Capital, a real estate private equity firm based in New York City. Over her career, she has overseen real estate investments totaling more than $2 billion across all asset classes. She has been featured and quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, New York Times, Crain’s New York, and The Atlantic and has served as a judge for the Harvard Real Estate Venture conference. She graduated from Yale University. Follow her on Instagram at @janineyorio
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My entire career has been building to the crescendo that is where I am today. I began my career on Wall Street as an investment banker, then worked for 9 years in real estate private equity. Then I had the privilege of working with Andre Balazs, who I consider to be one of the most genius people I’ve ever met in that he had the Midas touch, the unique ability to combine real estate with great design and PR with celebrities to make spaces that transport people. When he opened the Standard Hotel on the High Line it changed the hotel game. I am trying to do something similar for the real estate investment world, an enormous industry without a beloved consumer brand.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of my investors invited me to the most magical party in the desert of Dubai. It was held at the Crown Prince’s desert house, in the middle of what seemed like nowhere. There were camels, falcons, tents, oriental rugs scattered on the ground, dune buggies to ride the sand dunes. The guest list was so secret that they confiscated phones at the entrance. It was one of the more magical nights of my life. I can’t even tell you who was there with me, that’s how special the guest list was. If it hadn’t been for Compound, I never would have found myself in an amazing situation like that.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
We were asked to give a demo of our technology before it was ready to be seen. It was a video conference call, and I knew walking into it that it was going to be a blazing inferno of embarrassment. Ten minutes into the video, we just kept digging ourselves into a bigger and bigger hole when it was clear that our technology was not even remotely ready to be tested or demonstrated. If I had been honest at the outset, it wouldn’t have been so bad. I learned an important lesson about overpromising about things that don’t yet quite exist. It’s fine to be a big dreamer and a big talker — that’s expected, but you don’t want to give people the Fyre Festival.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We have an insanely talented team, but more importantly, we all get along really well. We’re all very different people, yet we share a pretty small space and manage to create.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My main project is Compound. It consumes all my time.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Don’t use your gender as a crutch. Leading is hard for men and women in equal measures. I don’t think gender plays a role; it’s always hard.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
My friend attended a leadership event hosted by a Navy SEAL, and he told the class that elite teams are never led by leaders who are nice. I’ve also read that the quality of a leader can be measured by their willingness to have difficult conversations. I believe all of this is true, which is particularly hard for women. We’re raised to please people and to earn approval, but that’s not necessarily what makes a great CEO. CEOs have to be direct and clear, but they don’t have to be snuggly and warm, and that’s a tough shift for most women who pride themselves on traits like caring and empathy. It’s been hard for me to realize that being nice isn’t always effective and being effective sometimes mean being a bit more direct than I would like to be.
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?
My mother is my mentor and idol. She is a fairly well-known architect and has been practicing architecture for over 40 years. She has designed more than 500 hotels worldwide, and even though she could clearly retire, she loves her work and loves her team. She works as hard as any twenty — something and has earned a ton of respect in a very cutthroat industry for being super meticulous and attentive to detail. I tell my team all the time: God is in the details.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I don’t know that I’ve been that successful yet!
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Start from a place of yes. I love to try new things and believe there is no such thing as a crazy idea. The answer to most questions should be a cautious yes. Companies that don’t evolve die, so a willingness to try new things and to consider all ideas gives a company its best chance for success.
2. Pathological honesty. When in doubt, tell the whole gory truth.
3. Hyper-responsiveness. Speed matters in business.
4. “Everything is related to everything.”
5. Constant evolution. Nothing is ever set in stone. Brilliance is very rarely an explosion of perfection but rather more of a gradual ooze.
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. 🙂
Investing should not seem difficult. Everybody should feel empowered enough to understand investing.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I have become something of a Winston Churchill groupie in recent years (since I took my children to visit the War Rooms in London a few years ago). Churchill said: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’m kind of obsessed with Sara Blakely right now. I started following her on Instagram and admire the company she has built as well as the connection she maintains with her fans and supporters. She manages to seem very real and approachable despite her tremendous success. She’s also very candid that getting started was difficult for her.