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CEO Magazine


Focus on Employee Mental Health — Everything Else is Secondary


“An emphasis on mental health, especially in the wake of a global pandemic, is likely to be the driving force of success for companies this decade. This starts with empathy at the executive level. CEOs, CTOs, and other executives need to accept that optimizing wellbeing is part of an employers’ responsibility.”

In this article, Malika dives into the changing expectations of the new generation of workers, the responsibilities of employers in the mental health space, and what it takes to create a caring company culture.


Learn the following, based on Malika’s experience both as the CEO/Founder of Kingmakers and years of our work with leaders across industries:

How did the pandemic impact how we think about mental health at work?


How can a leader be proactive in culture development?


When should you not ask for the opinions of your employees?


What is wrong with a “work is family” mentality?


What is the value of play in the workplace?


Read the article below!


CEO World Magazine


formatted Zoom images of Malika and Nikki

Women Thriving in Business, Hosted by Nikki Rogers


Episode 502: Culture of Success – Focus on Your Team | Malika Jacobs


  • “Different companies have different cultures and that is fine. And hopefully, you attract the people that best resonate with your company culture.” – Malika Jacobs

From Women Thriving in Business:


“A company’s success is often in the hands of its leader. And to be a successful and effective one, you must first learn to value your team, their skills, and opinions.

There are different types of leaders and employees but for sure, each one of them has the same goal: To succeed. Despite the fact that leaders must learn how to lead, leading from behind can also be a great strategy to gain the trust of your employees and allow them to bloom on their own as individuals. By learning to embrace change, you can welcome growth.

Having teamwork allows the company to build trust, enhance relationships, improve morale, foster creativity in the workplace – yes even virtually!

In this episode, we are joined by Malika Jacobs, founder, and CEO of Kingmakers, a company that offers virtual, board game-centered experiences through their Team and Enterprise Solutions. Malika shares with us the story of how Kingmakers started, the vision of the company, the challenges they faced, and how they were able to adapt and evolve during the pandemic.

Malika discusses the importance of building a team that supports a vibrant and supportive company culture, her W.A.T.E.R. framework for employee engagement, and so much more.”




Your people are your biggest cost but they’re also your biggest investment. – Malika Jacobs


You can’t build that company culture overnight. Like that’s not going to be there when the whole world shifts and you have to figure it out. – Malika Jacobs


As leaders, every moment counts, and it’s not the big grand gestures, it’s really how do you act day by day, moment by moment and that builds trust. – Nikki Rogers


You might not have a megaphone, but you do have a platform. – Nikki Rogers


Often businesses don’t give themselves the advantage of hiring the best. – Nikki Rogers



About the Podcast: Women Thriving in Business, hosted by Nikki Rogers


Women Thriving in Business features candid unscripted conversations with entrepreneurs, business experts, authors, and academics aimed at contributing to business success. This weekly show provides interviews with business leaders who have built, grown, and are thriving in business. Nikki A. Rogers, host of the show, also discusses achievements, lessons learned, and advice for aspiring business owners to develop the mindset, strategies, and connections necessary to thrive in business. Whether you are just starting or you have been in business for decades, WTiB offers inspiration, strategies, and resources to help you THRIVE in business.

Connect with Nikki Rogers:

Have you ever been told “we’re really a family here” in a work environment? While your company may have been trying to communicate a culture of care, that phrase could also be a red flag.


At Kingmakers, we are conscious to not refer to ourselves as family.


A culture of “work is family” adds a level of emotional responsibility for employees that contributes to the power imbalance of the workplace.


Whether healthy or not, language regarding family often elicits an emotional response, the expectation to be present, caring and support no matter the circumstances, and a promise of commitment forever. This language creates an emotional responsibility for employees well beyond the transactional role they’ve accepted.


“If I am being asked to show up at work like I would for my family or if I ask my work to take the place of my family, I would disappoint or be disappointed by either scenario.” – Jessica Strauss, Kingmakers Director of Innovation and Experience


Does this mean that we don’t care about Kingmakers and our coworkers? Absolutely not! What it does mean is that we understand that day to day, we shouldn’t expect individuals to sacrifice their personal wellbeing to solve structural problems.


When we drop the ball as a business and see holes, the response we strive for is to see where our policies, culture, and job roles need to adjust to better handle situations in the future. If we took a “it’s all in the family approach,” we might expect one another to just “pick up the slack,” missing a valuable opportunity to innovate, and risk burning out one of our own.

We also note that emotional fulfillment cannot (and should not) exclusively come from a job.


The complexity of relationships an individual needs cannot be fulfilled by only one environment. We exist in a multitude of communities that need our time, expertise, care, and whatever special skills each of us have to bring to the table for that particular place. 


Investing all of our energy into caring about a work community would take away personal resources for connecting and finding meaning within other spheres: family, friends, local and, global community. 


“Of course, there’s still room for meaningful connection with my teammates and for them to know me on a personal level. However, my work doesn’t need to solve for the nurturing that I need from family nor would it be healthy for me to provide nurture in a work setting.” – Jessica Strauss, Kingmakers Director of Innovation and Experience


We value the relationships that each of us have outside of Kingmakers. Approaching work with a macro context influenced by all of the aspects that make us whole allows us to professionally develop new and different perspectives that directs the ways in which we innovate. Grounding our identities in a multitude of sources and not solely the success of the business equips us to weather storms of all seasons of life. 


“While I love the work we do, if I don’t have this job tomorrow, I will not lose all sense of myself. Because of this, I get to make clear decisions, take risks and innovate, and create without fear.” – Ash Gerlach, Kingmakers Director of Marketing and Operations

We’ve witnessed that our solid foundation of trust at Kingmakers is built on the reality that our relationships are clear and have boundaries.


We trust that everyone on the team has Kingmakers best interest at heart and is caring for their own wellness.


These professional guardrails permit us to have healthy conflict without fear! We don’t have to worry about additional subtext when brainsailing¹; our baseline is that we want to see Kingmakers succeed and that our encouraged conflict isn’t a reflection of personal disdain but of an exciting opportunity to embrace and approach work challenges.


If we don’t consider work to be family at Kingmakers, what do we mean by radical employee care?


Read about Kingmakers Team Culture here!

¹Brainsailing is brainstorming, but with whimsy. Does it mean anything different? No. Does it make us smile? Yes.

Kingmakers Solutions

Intro Event

Looking for a quick and easy way to take a break with your team?


Experience with your team what business leaders around the country are saying is the perfect team bonding for our times.


Your team will leave this event excited, energized, and laughing about it tomorrow!


Kingmakers Intro Event is an interactive, online board game experience designed to bring your team together with laughter and play.



  • The unique power of board games to spark joy, connection, and inclusion;
  • How expert external facilitation makes a difference in the virtual environment; and,
  • How virtual work can be even better through the magic of play!


Book a Discovery Call

“It was great to be able to participate instead of plan!” – Adult and Child Health



  • 60-minute virtual event, hosted on Kingmakers virtual platform
  • Fully facilitated and structured start to finish by a Kingmakers Game Guide
  • Easy booking process with electronic payment
  • Communication plan for participants with tips for maximum engagement

“Great way to de-stress during work from home!” – CoverMyMeds

The Intro Event is developed for new clients only and for teams between 6 and 24 people with an established and consistent working relationship who are looking for a fun break in the workday. 


Think you need a more customized Kingmakers Solution for your team or organization? Talk to a Kingmakers Client Success Manager about your engagement needs!


Book a Discovery Call

“Your team is amazing! Would love to work with you again!” – Nike

Kingmakers offers three unique solutions based on the needs of your team or organization. Expert, external facilitation and board gameplay are the core of each solution.

Intro Event


A quick and easy way to take a break with your team!


Experience with what business leaders around the country are saying is the perfect team bonding for our times.


Kingmakers Intro Event is a 60-minute virtual event, fully facilitated and structured from start to finish by a Kingmakers Game Guide.


Designed for 6 – 24 participants.


Download PDF

“We’re a new team working together, so the time gave us a good opportunity to relax, joke around, be a little competitive, and get to know each other.” – Edify

Team Solution


A series of Team Bonding Events developed for your unique team.


Join the ranks of excellent team leaders who are utilizing Kingmakers Team Bonding as a tool to develop and maintain strong working relationships.


Kingmakers Team Solution includes three or six virtual events, an Engagement Plan, and an Engagement Results Package including testimonials, event success data, and team photo.


Designed for 6 – 24 participants.


Download PDF

What was your favorite moment from the event?


“Knowing how much we are appreciated by [our Director].”
– Covering Kids and Families

Enterprise Solution


A strategic relationship aligned with your organization’s virtual engagement goals.


From consultation to implementation, Kingmakers offers a variety of expertly managed and facilitated events to spark joy, connection, and inclusion.


Work with a dedicated Client Success Team throughout the quarter to develop and execute your Engagement Plan. Your unique company culture, organizational structure, and priorities matter.


Download PDF

Beam Dental Summer Social


“It was so fun and engaging.”


“Flawless execution.”


“I thought that the showcase event was a really unique way to get people interested! It was a really fun way to end the day!”

“Our Game [Guides] were so skilled at balancing the structure of game rules with the fun of a casual experience!”


Favorite Moments:


“Playing with people in my company I didn’t know. Let me get to know them better.”


“The final round, so fun watching everyone and cheering them on!”

Kingmakers Solutions

Enterprise Solution

Your company is FULL of talented individuals who are motivated by your mission and values.


You need a way to connect your awesome people to each other so they can continue to collaborate and innovate, no matter what part of the organization they support or where they are located.


Take a proactive and holistic approach to virtual company-wide engagement with Kingmakers Enterprise Solution.


Kingmakers Enterprise Solution is a strategic relationship aligned with your organization’s virtual engagement goals.


From consultation to implementation, Kingmakers offers a variety of expertly managed and facilitated events to spark joy, connection, and inclusion.



Book a Discovery Call

“The Kingmakers experience helped us lay more of a positive foundation moving into an upcoming project. I got feedback afterwards that the team loved it and was looking forward to working together which is great feedback to receive.” – Cheryl, IGS Energy

Two Steps


1. Consultation and Engagement Plan


Let’s create a plan! 

A customized Engagement Plan with strategic recommendations to proactively address your organization-wide goals in the virtual workplace.

Included: starter consultation, Engagement Plan, review and revisions


2. Team Bonding Events


Put your Engagement Plan in action! 

A variety of expertly managed and facilitated events aligned with your company calendar. 

Included: event management, event implementation, evaluation, and ongoing consultation

“Someone told me today they “have so many stories about their co-workers from the games.” THAT absolutely makes the experience valuable. Nearly half of our team is new and that half hasn’t been in the office to really engage with coworkers to build a relationship” – Scott’s Miracle-Gro

Connect Anywhere


Holiday parties, All company gatherings, Leadership development initiatives, Internship cohorts, Recurring game hours, Onboarding classes of new hires, Summer social events, Board appreciation, Client relationship management, etc.

Interested in experiencing a Kingmakers event for your 6 – 24 person team? Check out our Intro Event.

Talk to a Kingmakers Client Success Manager about your engagement needs!


Book a Discovery Call

I can only say positive things about everyone at Kingmakers. Flawless execution, entertaining from beginning to end, and always wearing a bright smile to cheer everyone on.” – Deutsche Bank

Kingmakers Solutions

Team Solution

Looking for a meaningful way to spark joy and foster belonging within your team?


You know better than anyone that team culture takes time and intention to build, especially in the virtual world.


Join the ranks of excellent team leaders who are utilizing Kingmakers Team Bonding as a tool to develop and maintain strong working relationships.


Kingmakers Team Solution is a series of Team Bonding Events developed for your unique team. 


Each board game-centered experience is developed based on your team’s dynamics and engagement goals.



  • The unique power of board games to spark joy, connection, and inclusion;
  • Why intentional events over time make an impact on daily work;
  • How expert external facilitation builds and strengthens relationships; and
  • How the virtual space can be an effective tool for creating an equitable environment.


Book a Discovery Call

“Tailored to the personality and size of the team with a lot of thought put into it by the Kingmakers crew.”

– Root Insurance



  • Series of three or six virtual events, 75 – 90 minutes each
  • Fully facilitated and structured start to finish by a Kingmakers Game Guide
  • Supported by a Kingmakers Tech Guide, hosted on Kingmakers virtual platform
  • Designed for 6-24 participants


Engagement Plan


  • Initial Consultation with Client Success Team and periodic engagement reviews
  • Participant Communication Plan with schedule and copy 
  • Engagement Results Package including testimonials, event success data, and team photo

“…we are very intentional about the type of culture we build during our programs. This activity helped us strengthen that culture with our participants.” – Rela Leadership

Looking to create an Engagement Plan for more individuals?


Our Enterprise Solution is tailored to the needs of your organization and can accommodate a variety of engagement goals, use cases, and event logistics.


Talk to a Kingmakers Client Success Manager about your engagement needs!


Book a Discovery Call

With [our Game Guides] it turned the afternoon into the best team-building event I’ve ever experienced with our department. – Abbott

A peek into another aspect of what it means to work from home: PETS.


Species: cat

Loving Owner: Adilson


Adilson is the loving father of the most beautiful creature Calipso (Cali) the cat and an avid sitter of many local dogs. We love seeing him bounce from house to house via Zoom, keeping all sorts of animals (and plants) healthy and happy.


Species: squirrel

Loving Owner: Mother Nature herself


Jessica has a complicated relationship with her neighbor, Woody the squirrel. Are they reluctant friends? Are they true enemies? Regardless, we all respect Woody’s ability to keep eye contact for far too long for the average squirrel’s attention span.

Jolene, Jazzy, and Gray

Species: dog and cats

Loving Owner: Malika


Malika has had many pets over the years. Her dog Jolene is featured in close to 60% of our internal meetings, warning all of us that the mail carrier has arrived or a leaf has fallen.


Fun fact: our LLC is named after Malika’s beloved cat, Lil Ze, who is missed dearly. Honestly, if anyone is interested, Malika’s current cats Jazzy and Gray are up for grabs. No cat holds a candle to Lil Ze (just kidding, you can’t have them).


Species: dog

Loving Owner: Ash


Ash’s pet is Moose, a human-sized hound dog. Moose is often heard in the background of internal calls barking at neighbors who dare roll by on a scooter. Moose loves saying hi at the ding of Zoom Call, middle of the day walks, playing with the world’s smallest tennis ball for about 2 minutes, and the fact that Ash is home all day for pets.


Species: dog

Loving Owner: Adele really owns herself


Val’s sweet little chihuahua mix is the most independent and elusive pet in the bunch, so seeing her on-screen is quite the treat. Adele loves basking in the sunlight and being pet about once a month.

Being able to be home with our furry friends is an important part of life here at Kingmakers.


What do you love about working remote?

“Oh, I didn’t know you could do that”

– a quote from nearly every Kingmakers Team Bonding.


We believe in the magic of play as a tool for radical employee care to transform the virtual workplace. 


Employees are the epicenter of a company’s success and health. Nurturing and valuing the connections of employees to one another and the business is essential to a thriving and desirable work culture.

Why play at work?


Play is a safe place to make decisions and create strategy


When we gather in fun and surprising ways (like over a virtual board game), we have the opportunity to learn new skill sets in our colleagues that don’t come up naturally in their work routine. 


Creativity, artistry, word-smithing skills and niche knowledge are often met with delight!


Game play is also a safe place to make decisions and create strategy, which can highlight how someone functions in a work setting. 



Play shows commonalities and differences


In learning new things about our coworkers, we have a chance to see what we have in common and how we differ. 


Virtual work has the potential to siloe and distance people if we don’t intentionally connect; from our individual homes, it can be easy to forget there are other ways of living, styles of communicating, and expectations for working.


Game play is an opportunity to see how these individual differences benefit a team working together to reach a common goal.



Play creates positive shared experiences


Shared memories, inside jokes, and opportunities to laugh connect people in a different way than working together. As we navigate all that arises in working relationships, a reminder that we have shared in positive and playful moments together is important.


A natural part of work is conflict and to remember a time that you enjoyed with your coworker can make it easier to work through the conflict.


This chance to see each other’s humanity is a step in building a culture of trust and creating a more inclusive environment where people find a sense of belonging.


“Someone told me today that they ‘have so many stories about their coworkers from the games.’ THAT absolutely makes the experience valuable.” – Ravneet, Scott’s Miracle-Gro

Like many virtual companies, we created a Slack channel for the fun chats that didn’t serve a work function beyond liking one another as people. While the cute dog photos and Adilson’s Joke of the Week are AMAZING, there was a problem.


Remember when Facebook added reactions beyond “liking” because it didn’t exactly feel great to “like” when your great aunt shared that her beloved cat passed away? *cringe*

Calling our channel the #fun_chat assumed that our interpersonal energy had to be bubbly and light. We know it’s just as important to share heavier life and world conversations that don’t exactly fit the description of “fun.”


So, we made a shift, too. Enter the:



We still share the cute kid dancing videos and topical memes. But, we also use the space to share personal challenges, support each other during world tragedies, and extend gratitude towards one another.


It’s a small shift, but a reminder that each of us is allowed (and encouraged) to show up with our emotions and ask for what we need from the team.