“You need to take care of yourself and keep healthy in order to be in a position to lead.”

Employee and team chemistry is just like relationship chemistry. Sometimes it’s not about finding the perfect person that makes a relationship work, but more so about developing the right chemistry with the person. In the same token, it’s not about having a perfect employee — the concept of the “model employee” just doesn’t exist. Rather, it’s about having the right chemistry and developing the best synergy with your team so that sometimes 1+1 really can equal 3.

Recently I had the opportunity to interview Yoni Koenig from Exit Reality for the ongoing series: CEOs Share Leadership Strategies To Improve Your Company’s Culture.

Yoni Koenig is the co-founder and co-CEO of San Francisco upstart, Exit Reality, a premier integrator and operator of virtual reality solutions dedicated to bringing VR to the masses. In its first year in operation, the company went from a single mobile VR truck in the Bay Area to a national fulfillment network with multiple VR form factors designed to meet the needs of a variety of consumer, enterprise, healthcare and entertainment industries. Under Yoni’s leadership, Exit Reality achieved a throughput of 32,000 consumers in that same timeframe, brokered successful partnerships with major brands such as Nissan, IMAX and IMLxLABS, and put together some of the first truly accessible applications of VR for behavior health therapy.

Krish Chopra: What are the 3 most important values that your company’s culture is based on?

Yoni Koenig: Be kind. Be bold. Show radical adaptability.

KC: Managing millennials can often be a polarizing topic. Can you elaborate on your advice for managing the “millennial mindset?”

YK: Millennials want to be a part of something greater than themselves, and know that they are being heard. My best advice is to be as transparent as you can, when you can. Revealing your motives, expectations and goals will foster sense of community, and enable them to follow their instinct to act for the good of the organization. Good ideas and performance should transcend hierarchical power. If millennials have a great idea, they shouldn’t be prevented from going to the right person up the ladder to share and be recognized. And on a practical level, I am constantly reminding my millennial employees that emails and texts are no substitutes for real relationships.

Respect is earned, not freely given, regardless of who signs the paychecks.

KC: What is one mistake you see a young start-up founders make in their culture or leadership practices?

YK: There’s not one, but three that immediately come to mind.

1) Confusing honor and self-sacrifice — they are not the same thing. You need to take care of yourself and keep healthy in order to be in a position to lead.

2) Forgetting that respect is earned, not freely given, regardless of who signs the paychecks.

3) Thinking that leading is the same thing as bossing people around.

KC: To add to the previous question, young CEOs often have a lot of pressure to perform and often wear many hats. What’s a simple time efficient strategy they can start doing today to improve their company’s culture?

YK: Ask your employees what they would like to see, and then empower them to implement.

KC: Success leaves clues. What has been your biggest influence in your leadership strategy and company culture?

YK: Unequivocally, my father. He taught me to find humor in any and every situation, remain enthusiastic and objective under adverse conditions, always adapt, understand the value of personal relationships, how to be kind and firm at the same time, and to never let a “no” stop you from moving forward.

Emails and texts are no substitutes for real relationships.

KC: What advice do you have for employees that have bad bosses? How can they take control and improve a bad situation?

YK: Address the situation head-on with a frank, yet respectful conversation with your boss. Ask how you can work better together. Knowing that you always have other options (a.k.a. lots of other jobs out there) will give you more power to change the situation. If all else fails, leave. Hate to say it, but in all candor, many bad boss situations just aren’t fixable.

KC: Okay, we made it! Last question — what’s one unique hack you or your company does that has enhanced your work culture?

YK: We have a distributed workforce, so getting everyone together in the same space is really the key. That, and Johnnie Walker Black.

Note to the readers: If you learned one thing in this interview, please share! Improving company culture happens at any level in an organization.

Originally published at medium.com


  • Krish Chopra

    2x entrepreneur and founder of NP Hub. Let’s discuss leadership, scaling, and relationships to serve communities that need more support! In ATL

    Krish Chopra is the founder of NPHub. He believes in two truths: everything is a learnable skill and real leadership involves caring for others. Krish’s mission is to better support underserved communities and he and his team are currently serving the nursing industry so students have more resources to graduate on-time. He’s also contributes to major publications such as Forbes, Fast Company, and Inc., and has been featured in a dozen more.