Embracing Empathetic Leadership with Samantha Barnes with Raddish Kids

Leadership is not an easy endeavor. Because it involves other people makes it one of the hardest aspects of growing your company. I often get asked for the most crucial skill for a leader. After years of building my own companies and helping others to grow, I feel like empathetic leadership is the most crucial skill. The art of empathetic leadership provides the connection that your people crave as they are working the day-to-day. My guest today is Samantha Barnes, Founder and CEO of Raddish Kids. His company was ranked #362 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Samantha shares her background as a middle school teacher that required massive amounts of empathetic leadership. We look at how that skill has benefited growing her company fast and through some significant strategic pivots. Discover how to embrace empathetic leadership in today’s interview.

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Samantha Barnes: The Transcript

Target Audience: Samantha Barnes is passionate about food and family. As the Founder/CEO of Raddish Kids, a monthly cooking club and curriculum, she works every day to empower kids in the kitchen. In 2019, Raddish received the Best Customer Experience Cube award from industry leader Subcom and was ranked #362 on the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest Growing Companies in America.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Samantha Barnes
Work is not the end-all for anyone, it shouldn’t be. So you know, people have lives outside of work and I think showing interest in that is how human beings over time have become become who we are as humans. And that’s what separates us from other animals that don’t have that social behavior. So I think the workplace would be a natural place to continue to cultivate that.

Intro [0:25]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?

Gene Hammett [0:43]
As leaders, we’re responsible for creating a connection amongst all the people that work in our company to create meaningful work for them and creating an opportunity for growth. Now, in order to do that, we must really be in touch with being an empathetic leader. What that means is really being an Understand of what an individual is going through, and being able to connect with them, making sure they feel appreciated. You probably heard this before as a leader. But if you want to grow your company, if you want to be a great leader, you want to have a high level of empathy. And it’s probably one of the number one skills that you can develop as a leader that allows you to create that connection between your employees. Well, today we have a special guest. We have the founder and CEO of Raddish Kids, they were number 362. On the Inc list, they grew it over like 1200 percent in three years to almost 9 million in revenue. That founder is Samantha Barnes. Samantha shares, a lot of her insight of being a first time leader growing a company fast. Yes, I said that right-first-time leader, and she’s grown this business incredibly fast. She’s made a huge pivot in the middle of it, and all of that to be where she is right now creating a place where people love to come to work where people are really engaged and they’re really helping think through what the next version of this company looks like. So This interview today we’re going to be looking at the role of empathy. We’re also gonna be looking for the parallels between being a parent and being a leader.

Commercial [2:08]
Thanks for tuning in here to Growth Think Tank. Really excited about sharing this with you. And before you run, I have done so many interviews in the last few weeks, I have such an exciting time to share with you those interviews have been organized into the 12 core principles of fast growth companies. So all you have to do to get that is go to genehammett.com/worksheet. So you can get the 12 principles and I’ve been able to go in there and find which episodes will align to each individual episode. When you subscribe to Growth Think Tank, you will find exactly what you need so that you can move forward and many of them haven’t been published yet, depending on when you’re hearing this. But you can tune in to the date that means the most to you. So here’s the interview with Samantha Barnes.

Gene Hammett [2:53]
I Samantha How are you?

Samantha Barnes [2:55]
I’m great Gene. How are you?

Gene Hammett [2:56]
I’m fantastic. I’m excited to talk to you about leadership and about the growth of your company and some of the lessons you’ve learned in this journey. Tell us a little bit about Raddish Kids.

Samantha Barnes [3:07]
Yeah, well, thanks for having me on Gene, and Raddish is a cooking subscription kit for kids and families. Our mission is giving kids confidence in the kitchen and beyond. And so we packed up a thematic kit every month that has illustrated recipes, activities, a culinary tool, a patch for a child, a child’s apron, and it gets everyone excited about being in the kitchen and cooking and eating together.

Gene Hammett [3:36]
I love the idea. I know you guys sent me a sample box and during the holidays, we looked at it and really excited about some of the things that were going in there. Where did you get this idea?

Samantha Barnes [3:47]
So my background is in education. I was teaching middle school social studies for many years and started teaching cooking on the side to my students. They were kids who are watching the Food Network at night and super Excited about food but never had the opportunity to actually cook themselves. So started teaching them after school and within a year I was doing birthday parties driving all across Los Angeles teaching classes and decided to really make the leap for this full time and started a business that was a mobile cooking school. We offered camps in about six different locations throughout the city. We ran after school programs and lots of different schools and it was a really thriving business. But it was a logistical challenge.

Samantha Barnes [4:33]
I had instructors that lived all across a very vast city. I had classes and clients all across a very vast city. And I knew that I wanted to scale the business and I knew I couldn’t scale it sending people in their own cars, you know, out everywhere. So I had the idea to basically package all of our great content. Our recipes are, you know, tips and Skill tricks for teaching kids to cook and package it up and send it out to kids and families across the country. And what that did is it brought people together in their own kitchens. It brought the cost down. Certainly, it was cheaper than signing your child up for a private cooking class. And it allowed parents to come together and cook and eat together.

Gene Hammett [5:22]
Well, I appreciate that. I’m sure all of us have been through pivots in our business, but we originally set out to do and how it evolves, you realize maybe you’ve got to change it. So that’s exactly what you and your team have done. We’re going to talk about leadership today. And when we were talking a few weeks ago, we were really looking at your style of leadership and you had mentioned how empathetic it was and the role of empathy inside of the business, and leadership. What’s your perspective on empathy?

Samantha Barnes [5:54]
I think empathy is the core of everything we do and have as people. And so thinking about another person’s perspective and experience their emotions, you know, where they’re coming from sort of holistically on a macro level, you know, how they were raised and who they present to be. And then on a sort of micro-level, what happened to them that morning when they woke up and what was their sort of trials getting to work that day, and kind of taking all of those characteristics of a of an individual and sort of seen that through your lens and sort of understanding somebody through all of those pieces. Think this is sort of how people should approach leadership, but just sort of anything they’re doing really.

Commercial [6:42]
Hold on for a second. Samantha just talked about empathy. Now, you probably know what it is because you’ve heard this many times before. But let me just share with you some of the research around what I’ve seen with fast growth leaders. They truly do embrace this whole aspect of empathetic leadership that Understands that each person is an individual, they understand the personalities of those people, how they work differently, how they learn, and where they’re going, and what’s meaningful to them. This ability to be empathetic, allows you to create the connection and understanding that employees need and want to feel understood and feel valued. As a leader, you develop that skill with intention, not just because it happens to happen or you do it because all of a sudden get good with people. You do it out of intention, just like anything else that you want to master. So make sure you’re an intentional empathetic leader. Now back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [7:39]
I know a lot of leaders take the approach that you know, I’m paying you to get this work done. I really just want you to just do the work, man. What’s your take on that?

Samantha Barnes [7:52]
I don’t think I’ve ever thought that. I mean, yes, I’m paying people to get a task done. And I do believe that when you say it like that, that makes sense. But from a big picture standpoint, they’re to contribute to the overall mission of the company. And so that is how I expect somebody to sort of have that mindset. And it’s more broadly speaking, I think.

Gene Hammett [8:24]
Well, I don’t know if it’s your teacher’s background, or maybe it’s your mothering capabilities that you bring into the professional world. But you had mentioned something and I’ve had been having this thought for a long time that being a great leader is a lot like being a great parent. What are some of the parallels that you’ve seen in your own journey?

Samantha Barnes [8:46]
Yeah, I think about this often and sort of, there’s so many so much overlap between parenting or motherhood and leadership. And it’s small things like you Being a quick thinker and, and being good at scheduling lots of different things and knowing you know, all the different things that are cooking in the kitchen at the same time they use that sort of metaphorically, but knowing where everything is and whatever everything is happening all the big puzzle pieces at once and how they fit together. I think that’s very much what a parent does in a child’s life and then also what a leader does, but I think it’s also when it comes it comes down to values.

Samantha Barnes [9:31]
You know, we talked about empathy, but also reflection, you know, I think a lot about who I am as a parent, and you know, am I parenting the way I want to how it’s affecting me how it’s affecting my children, my world and my family. And I reflect a lot at work. What is my role at work, and I constantly sort of evaluating that, you know, I think, leaders and CEOs, they don’t have a task list? You know, as you talked about paying somebody to come in and do a task. I don’t have that task list, right?

Samantha Barnes [10:02]
I have to kind of invent that every day or sort of quarterly or annually. And that’s, you know, there is no roadmap with parenting either. Just like there’s no roadmap, as a leader, you’re figuring things out as you go. So you’re exploring, you’re taking risks, you’re trying new things. And these are things sort of I expect from my, my, my children and my parent, my family. I think flexibility is a big thing. It’s something we talk about a lot in our family, I talk a lot about it with my daughter, in particular, you know, being willing to change my attitude or my thinking based on different situations and that’s a hard one. I think, for adults, you know, I have these expectations that my daughter is going to become more flexible. But that’s, that’s hard for adults and leaders as well. things don’t always go as they seem at home or at work.

Gene Hammett [10:54]
And you need to be the aspect of I don’t know how many children do you have how many children you have?

Samantha Barnes [10:59]
I have two children, my daughter is almost 10. And my son is seven.

Gene Hammett [11:03]
So I only have one son, but I know that in your life, everyone is individual, right? The children are going to have different personalities, they’re going to have a different kind of expectations around this experience of childhood and parenting. But it worked to we have to learn to treat each person as an individual, not as a group of people on a team. When you think about that leadership, how important is that, for the growth of the company?

Samantha Barnes [11:31]
I just first want to say that the most powerful parenting advice that I ever heard was parent, the child that you have, and not the child that you thought you would have. And I think about that a lot because I think we all think we know how we’re going to be as parents before we’re parents, and then we become parents and we’re like, oh, this is a little bit different. Or my kid is a little bit different or this isn’t going as well. So I think you’re original your question, right? There was a… Go back for just a moment?

Gene Hammett [12:03]
You know, treating you to each individual inside leadership.

Samantha Barnes [12:08]
Yes, exactly why I stated that, because you do have to recognize every person on your team, what their, what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are, who they are getting to know who they are just like you would get to know your own kids, you know, you don’t treat. I always say, you know, I don’t treat my kids the exact same way. And that is a really hard thing for them. Sometimes, Oh, she got that he got that. And that’s not fair. And she got to do this. And I’m like, you’re not the same people. And I think that really applies to the workplace, too, because everybody does have different needs on a team and you have to sort of learning who they are. Figure out what makes them tick, what makes them think how they how they grow, sort of draw that out of them, and definitely respect and treat them for who they are as individuals and like you said, not as a cohesive, collaborative team. All of that’s important how people work together, knowing how they are as individuals are key.

Commercial [13:08]
Hold on for a second. Samantha just talked about getting to know your employees. If you’ve ever thought about, you know why you need to get to know them at a personal level, let me share with you one big example. When you want your employees to stay, you want your retention numbers to be higher. You want them to feel connected to you as a leader. The research shows that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. And so you want to make sure they feel that connection. And what you want to do is have what I call the stay conversation. I’ve shared this before on the show, I’ll give you the framework behind it. But this what it means is you want to take time to talk about what’s going on in their personal lives. You want to take time to talk about, you know, their kids what sports they’re doing or where they are in their education level, or even some of the challenges they may have. You want to take notes about that. The reason you take notes is so that you can be reminded the next time you see that them specifically by name. And you can show that you really do care.

Commercial [14:04]
Now, this is not something you’re doing for show you’re doing it because you actually do care, I hope. But actually having the skills behind it will actually give you a chance to build that connection. And really take this personal conversations in a place where the employees feel more connected. If you want the full state conversation framework, just go to genehammett.com/stay, and it’ll give you the pieces to have an estate conversation that will allow you to connect at a deeper level with your employees and increase your retention. Just go to genehammett.com/stay, and you can sign up and get it absolutely free. Back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [14:40]
When you think about the growth of the company, and you’ve got about 15 employees, what have been some of the most critical factors of you personally as a leader that you’ve had to, you know, really learn.

Samantha Barnes [14:55]
Well, first of all, I want to say that I haven’t really worked in a company other than my own and I think that brings a pretty unusual perspective to running a company. And I had a job, my first job out of college. You know, a long time ago was very brief before I became a full-time teacher. And that job, I was setting up an office, I was actually the only person in my office, so that really doesn’t apply. And as a teacher, it’s a very different kind of Corporation. You know, I spent my time with kids, I didn’t really have a lot of adult interactions.

Samantha Barnes [15:28]
So when I was developing sort of the culture and the style of, you know, how I would lead and what our company would sort of look like, I did it based on what seemed to make sense to me, you know, the type of organization I would want to work in was the type of organization I created. And I didn’t have that strong corporate background of Oh, this is how leaders lead or this is how you have meetings or this is how you have evaluations. I didn’t know anybody So when I think about the way our company has grown, I think what I garnered from everyone is a great deal of respect. And people really believe that they are, they’re contributing to the overall mission of our organization. And so I think no matter what role they have, that person knows that they are a strong contributor. And that has really brought our organization close together.

Samantha Barnes [16:28]
We are a very tight-knit company. And I think that everyone feels like their contributions, support the overall growth and that has really allowed us to grow we have a really strong retention rate. So I often, you know, get to know somebody hires them for somebody for one role. And then I’m like, No, just kidding. You know, moving you here, or in many situations, I’ve hired somebody before I knew the role, because I knew that they were going to be a great contributor and in fact my very first hire, I had not really started the company yet, and definitely didn’t know what she was doing. And I was giving a job reference for her. On the phone, I hung up a 60-minute call, hung up the phone and thought, well, that’s silly. I just talked about how great she was for an hour, I’m going to hire her. And I really didn’t know what she’d be doing at that time. And she’s now our head of operations and still, you know, five feet away from me on a desk. So I think all that has really contributed to our growth and success.

Samantha Barnes [17:30]
Well, this, this whole aspect of empathy, I know we talked about this, but leaders kind of think they’ve got it but we really weren’t taught this in school. We’re taught you know, of course, reading and writing and a lot of the things that we get tested on, but we’re there’s a lot of things that are missing that I think you bring into your leadership that has impacted the growth. So when you think about empathy, how do you ensure that you stay tuned into those employees?

Samantha Barnes [18:01]
Hmm. Sometimes it’s just small conversations, getting to know somebody and how how they feel comfortable. So some people are really public people, and they come in and on a Monday and they’re like, you know, over the weekend, these are the things I did and you kind of know who they are just sort of by default, and then some other people, you have to talk to them more. And you have to kind of understand, well, tell me what was it like, at your high school, you know, or whatever it might be, maybe you have to go back 30 years to try to understand who they are and what their experience has been and how that might contribute to the work that they’re producing. And when you’re working with somebody try to understand that so there’s been situations where I’ve learned just by observe observation, that a particular colleague might have a different working style than is necessarily compatible with me and I realized, Oh, you know, we’re having all these meetings and these meetings are all verbal, and they are not a verbal learner, they need to see things written down.

Samantha Barnes [19:19]
And I’m going to take some notes during our meeting, and I’m going to give it to them at the end. And this is going to allow them to process that and read it because they need to see things visually, as opposed to just hearing them in a conversation. And then, sure enough, you know, the output started to change because they were now able to process it their own way. And so I think just those little kinds of things I mean, that’s I don’t know that just I don’t know if that’s a perfect example of empathy but to me, it’s getting to know somebody and their perspective and how they feel. I think everybody gets a bad rap of being this like fluffy word of You know, feelings, and maybe then it becomes a feminine word, but I don’t think it needs to be. And I think as you said, part of the problem is empathy is something that we need to learn it is not an innate skill. And so you need to learn it at some point in your life in order to be able to practice it.

Gene Hammett [20:20]
Now, I want to kind of put a spotlight on something before we wrap up here. You’ve talked a lot about personal getting the understand the personal side of employees, and I’ve said this too because I feel like as leaders, it connects them to the work. You have to think about this and other leaders may go You know what, I don’t really need to know their personal lives. I don’t need to know what their high school was like. Why have you felt that that has been important to building the team that you want that is growing as fast as you are?

Samantha Barnes [20:54]
I think it’s important because people were humans are social. People and we make connections like you just said, you feel connected to your work, we feel connected to your colleagues and it becomes a place that you’re excited to come to work every day because you have that connection. And I don’t think of it as a personal kind of thing. Like, you don’t have to be best buddies with everyone you’re working with. That’s not what I’m advocating for is making the best friendships. I think that’s great when people and colleagues are close and have those relationships. I don’t think that’s required. I think people are social human beings. And so understanding, you know, who they are outside of work, you know, work is not the end-all for, for anyone it shouldn’t be. So, you know, people have lives outside of work. And, and I think showing interest in that is how human beings over time have, you know, become who we are as humans, and that’s what separates us from other animals that don’t have that social behavior. So I think the workplace would be a natural place to continue to cultivate that.

Gene Hammett [22:03]
Samantha, thank you for sharing your insights, really impressed with what Raddish Kids have done the impact the pivot you made without previous work experience. Businesses, probably much more than it was last year when it made the Inc list, you are almost 9 million in revenue. So thanks for being here on the Growth Think Tank show and sharing your wisdom.

Samantha Barnes [22:25]
Thank you so much for having me.

Gene Hammett [22:27]
What a great interview. I love being able to talk to these new leaders that are really driving something big, making a big impact in the world. And Samantha is a perfect example of that. She didn’t have much experience coming out of being a middle school teacher, but she’s created demand and she’s created a place where people love to come to work. So what could you learn from this episode, I think you’re going to learn about the power of connecting personally with those individuals, seeing people as individuals and learning to use their empathy skills and develop them to become I’m a great leader. I love sharing these interviews with you. If you are facing a specific challenge or defining moment in your own leadership, make sure you reach out to me [email protected]. And I’d love to connect with you about what you’re doing and where you’re going next, as always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.


Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


GTT Featuring Samantha Barnes



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