The Power of Empathy to Create Company Growth with Jeanne David at Outer Aisle Gourmet

One profound superpower is how you leverage the power of empathy. Leaders that have a deeper relationship with their team members must use their hearts. Today we look at the power of empathy to increase connection with your people. Our guest is Jeanne David, CEO at Outer Aisle Gourmet. Inc Magazine ranked Outer Aisle Gourmet #63 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Jeanne gives us some stories that you will learn simple uses of empathy. Discover how you can create more connections with your people using the power of empathy.

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Target Audience: Jeanne David is the Founder and CEO of the award-winning company, Outer Aisle Gourmet, LLC, which creates and manufactures two game-changing food products – gluten-free, nutrient-dense, low-carb Cauliflower Pizza Crusts and Sandwich Thins/Wraps. Jeanne oversees product development, production, sales, marketing, distribution, and more.

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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.

Jeanne David
It’s not easy being in a hyper growth environment, it’s not for everybody, you know, so we kind of have those candid conversations to say. “Look,we’re gonna give you this job description. But very clearly in three months, it’s probably not going to look a whole lot like it did three months ago.” and we just need you to know that to be honest about that. But as we grow it’s an exciting environment to be in, but it’s not for those employees that want to be in a box and always want to do the same thing.

Intro [0:36]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, 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 [0:53]
The power of empathy is something that you have must understand if you want to be a great leader. Empathy is the little things that you do and say and when they when you pay attention to others so that they actually feel understood, they feel respected, they feel heard by you. Empathy is such an important aspect of leadership that many people focus on the to do list, the email list, the projects, the deadlines, the metrics of their business, don’t measure empathy in a traditional way. But the power of empathy, as a leader, is something that will drive your business forward if you know how to use it. This isn’t something that you use, like a can opener, or something used to pump up your tires. But you use this as a way to connect with people. Empathy is a powerful way to connect with your people. Today, our special guest is Jeanne David, She is the founder, CEO of Outer Aisle Gourmet they make amazing cauliflower pizza crust, among other things. But when you think about growing a company to 63rd, on the Inc list, over 10 million having over 100 employees, you may think that you can’t be empathetic at scale, maybe that works for companies that have 10 employees and maybe 20. But then you start to lose something.

Gene Hammett [2:11]
Well, if you make up that story in your mind, then you definitely will lose something. But if you have the kind of ability and drive to be empathetic, and to use the power of empathy as a leader, then you actually find that you can actually connect with people in a way that they really will be more loyal, more creative, they’ll show up with more ownership than ever before. What we talked about today will help you understand empathy, how to use it as a leader. Let me pause here for a second, before we jump into the interview, want to remind you if you are a leader that’s wanting to push the boundaries of who you are to go from founder to CEO, or to be a stronger leader, more visionary strategic leader, then you probably have to let go of some things, maybe you have to identify the blind spots in front of you. Well, if you want to do that with me, just go to And you can actually see a button in the top menu that says “Try Coaching” what is that a chance for you to connect with me one on one, just you and may talk about your work, what you’re trying to create, and I can help you through it. I’m not there to enroll you as a client, but just get to know you and really connect with you about what’s going on right now. So that we can actually see if there’s a chance we could work together down the road. So if you use that, just go to and find a button to try coaching. Now here’s the interview with Jeanne.

Gene Hammett [3:27]
Jeanne, how are you?

Jeanne David [3:29]
Great, thanks. Thanks for having me on.

Gene Hammett [3:32]
Excited to have you on it’s it’s really exciting to talk to someone that has health first and foremost is a part of their life. But you created business around this. So tell us a little bit about Outer Aisle.

Jeanne David [3:43]
Yeah, so we’re cauliflower, fresh cauliflower-based products. So low glycemic, 63% fresh vegetables, a little bit of parmesan cheese and eggs. Give you some protein in there as well. And yeah, it came out of our own lifestyle shift 10 years ago, so yeah.

Gene Hammett [4:06]
I’ve tried…

Jeanne David [4:07]
for our pizza crust.

Gene Hammett [4:10]
I’ve tried some of these cauliflower pizza crusts, you can’t tell the difference unless you really think about it.

Jeanne David [4:16]
Mm-hmm. Yeah, they’re delicious, really delicious. And the best part is you don’t have the carb crush.

Gene Hammett [4:23]
Exactly. So john, you have been fortunate enough to align a team around some fast growth. You were number 63 on the Inc list this year. How did it feel to be ranked so high in that growth list?

Jeanne David [4:36]
It’s so great, really fun to be recognized for our crazy, our crazy hard work. And yeah.

Gene Hammett [4:45]
So when you think about this, I’ve always kind of joked that, you know, leaders can be a dominant force on their own, but they couldn’t get to this level of growth without a team. So when you look and think about your team, one of the things that that we have found out about your company That empathy is something that you pride yourself in it is a way to connect with people tell us a little bit about how empathy is used in your company.

Jeanne David [5:09]
I would say it’s, it’s really huge, it’s, it’s really big, I’ll use a, an example, it’s, when we first started, one of my goals was to create a company that, that, that would allow young people give young people a platform to launch their lives, you know, and, and just how rewarding that would be in serving others and serving them. I really believe in servant leadership. And if you in leading that way, it’s always about empathy, because you’re always looking for ways to find out what, what what’s important to your employees.

Jeanne David [5:50]
And I tell a story about our son who’s a CEO went to Kapolei every day, you know, getting his chicken bowl and, and he would talk to the manager there and, and just knew what an incredible work ethic this guy had, and just talk to him about his life a little bit. And we ended up hiring that guy, you know, and he was so excited about going in and offering him a job just because we knew we could give him we saw in him a lot of things that were really high quality and so we he’s one of our best employees today and loves the atmosphere loves just the gratitude and the empathy that we incorporate in our company. And he’s been able to just say, this is where I’d like to be, he just most recently is now heading all of our purchasing. And he’s just our guy, whenever we need something, which is a growing company, that’s a lot all the time you poles present themselves, you know, and so he’s just our projects guy, what, whatever presents itself, like, you need to be on this, can we get you to do this? And it’s just amazing. So, yeah.

Gene Hammett [7:00]
So, Jeanne, you talked about empathy there, I’d love for us to kind of go behind the scenes, what would it look like, for empathy to be president in a company like yours?

Jeanne David [7:11]
so one of the things I do is gratitudes, you know, gratitude is a big part, of empathy. Because what, what it does is, well, gratitudes is an amazing practice in itself, we know and science knows that it has the, it has the power to transform your brain, and change neurologically, the way your brain is by doing like if you do a 21-day practice of gratitudes. They say it shifts things. So we love that it’s something I’ve always practice something we really like to practice. So. So what it looks like is I’ll do a walk around our office, and I always do it on a random day of the week, because different days of the week have different things going on, right?

Jeanne David [7:58]
Like Monday, it’s all about the weekend on Friday, it’s all about, yeah, I’m looking forward to this. So I try to mix it up. But I’ll just pop in their office and say, so what are you grateful for today, and that, that I hear what they’re grateful for, but more of what it does is it gives me a window for empathy. know, like, I’ll use this guy as an example. He came in, and I came by his office and said, so what are you grateful for today? And he goes, I’m so grateful that my dad’s doing better. You know, it was a rough weekend, and but today, he’s doing better. And it allowed me to say, oh, wow, I’m so sorry to hear that your dad’s not doing well, do you want to talk more about that, you know, and so it just allows you that time to connect on a personal level. And, and then also give that gives you an opportunity to then thank them and, you know, whatever we’re grateful for. And whenever that little conversation holds, it also then holds an opportunity for me to say, hey, thanks to work in Ferrara, we really appreciate all you do for us.

Commercial [9:04]
Jeanne just said something really important. She talked about walking around and connecting with our employees kind of on random days. Well, this is called management by walking around. You may have heard this before. But Tom Peters actually made this famous in one of his books, management by walking around is something that you can actually do, and leverage more of a connection with your people to see what’s going on for them to to be able to share with you not just inside the meetings, but in real everyday life, you stopping by their desk, you may think that’s a distraction, and it could be but if you don’t do it, you’ll miss the opportunity to bond with them beyond just the time you have with them in meetings, the time you have with them. When they’re giving reports and things like that. You want to make sure that you’re tuning in to not just the work stuff, but also the personal stuff to the examples that john gave there is absolutely perfect if you want to be more empathetic, walking around and connecting with them in that way. But you can do it for other reasons as well and have great benefits management by walking around. That’s my take on it. So back to the interview with Jeanne.

Gene Hammett [10:00]
That’s a great example. A lot of people know what empathy is, from a definition standpoint, do you have a definition that you could share with us?

Jeanne David [10:08]
I actually don’t have a definition, handy.

Gene Hammett [10:13]
How would you describe it?

Jeanne David [10:15]
I would just to me empathy is about being willing to go where other people are feeling and being willing to go there with them. And, and being vulnerable yourself. So being willing to share their feelings and where they are, and, and having compassion.

Gene Hammett [10:34]
So we got to dive into this too because a lot of leaders are so focused on the work that has to be get done, the projects, the deadlines, the issues, challenges, the metrics, sharing feelings is a lot of people think that that’s not a part of leadership. And I think you see that differently.

Jeanne David [10:52]
Right? Oh, I definitely do because what it does is it creates a connection, it creates a connection, you know, we’re all humans and, and, you know, we all are, and seek connection, we all want to be known, we all want to be loved, we all want to be seen and at our deepest need. And so I think, as a leader, it’s an amazing way to connect your employee, to your mission and who you are, as opposed to just working for a company. It helps them get into the DNA of, you know, the work that we’re doing.

Gene Hammett [11:31]
Now, I know you’ve probably worked in other places before you had this adventure. Did you have leaders that were empathetic? Or did you have more hard driving? Kind of just get the work done and get on?

Jeanne David [11:43]
Yeah, no, I did not have it. I just knew, from reading leadership books that I liked that that’s the kind of leadership I wanted to that’s the kind of leader I want it to be. So, my leaders, I’ve never, I’ve never really had one, you know, as far as in the work in the work environment know, my most recent job was more, you know, hard driving.

Gene Hammett [12:13]
Well, let’s look at that, that leader that you want it to be. And I know that a lot of things are still aspirational because we’re all still learning and evolving. But when you set out to create a brand, create a business and create people, and have a team did you have that clearly define what kind of leader you wanted to be?

Jeanne David [12:33]
Yeah, I really did know that servant leadership was the way I wanted to lead. I, I knew that that was what I wanted to do, definitely.

Commercial [12:43]
Let’s look at what this servant leadership is, you’ve heard it before. But a very simple way to think about it takes the traditional organizational chart where it’s a triangle, where the CEO sits at the top, and everyone else kind of comes in below that. And you have your frontline employees at the very bottom of this the widest part of the triangle. Well, servant leadership is a way for you to think about how you serve your others by flipping that triangle upside down so that you actually are serving the level above you, you’re serving the executive team. And then they’re serving their directors and middle-level management, and they’re serving the frontline employees. So if you have a very simple company, you may not have that many levels. But the idea of servant leadership is a very powerful one, you are serving others. Now, a lot of people kind of get this wrong, because, in my early days of leadership, I thought it was serving others by solving their problems. One of the things I want to remind you, solving their problems for them is not really serving them, would allow them to solve those problems themselves. That’s what really is serving them looks like. So back to the interview with Jeanne.

Gene Hammett [13:48]
What did you feel like that it would give you that you probably weren’t getting in your other previous employment opportunities?

Jeanne David [13:57]
I think it’s incredibly fulfilling, um, that it’s, it’s fulfilling in one of those paradoxical ways. You know, as I said, upside-down kind of things. It’s in giving that we receive, it’s in, you know, giving the love that we receive love. It’s all of those things. So I know it’s in serving others that were actually filled, and, and feeling more fulfilled. And yeah, so…

Gene Hammett [14:26]
When you think about, you know, what you’re going to do from here, because when you have 100 employees, I think you get a little bit more than that. But how do you scale out empathy over a company that’s growing fast?

Jeanne David [14:38]
I’d say it really the way I lead is obviously I have our executive team. And so I lead by example, at that level, and then each of those leaders has their own way of doing this, which is very amazing to see, but it’s, I think, as the leader of the company, you know, If you lead the work, you set the example for how everything else goes in the company. So, for instance, every Monday morning, we have our executive call, and we always start with gratitude. And that always gives me a window into what’s going on with my executive. So, um, you know, one of them’s a wife and had cancer and, and was going through some serious stuff. And he actually, I think he would be fine with me sharing this said, I’m grateful for alcohol, and we were all like, Whoa, what’s up with that? We’re gonna you know it, but we all knew his wife was, you know, that, that they had had a lot going on. So it was it just, it makes life real. I mean, we’re not robots, we, you know, we’re employees, yes. But we’re humans. And I just think now more than ever, people are longing for that connection.

Gene Hammett [15:54]
Well, I appreciate what you’ve shared with us around that I want to kind of switch gears here a little bit. You’ve been leading this team for a while now you’ve hired some of the family members as well, you have probably made some mistakes, and your journey is something come out that you could share with us that you felt like others could learn from.

Jeanne David [16:13]
And one thing we’re dealing with right now, it’s kind of a specifics thing, when we first came out, and it really has to do with CPG, we did not get just one compliant skew. And I don’t know that everybody will understand that on this call. But anyway, there’s now GS one compliant, when we first came out, it wasn’t. So now there’s a bank that holds all the skews worldwide. And so because our first two skews were not compliant, we had to go through a schema change. And that was very, very painful. So you know, the big lesson learned, I would have done it earlier, as opposed to, you know, kicking the can down the road when we’re distributed more widely. So that was a big thing we’re learning now. I think clear expectations, I always say dysfunction lives in the gray areas. And I work hard with our executive team. You know, whenever you see a gray area, area, go at it hard. And, and define, you know, because we just want to go after that make sure that there are clear expectations, it keeps everybody out of the dysfunction.

Gene Hammett [17:35]
I love that that comes in the section me back up for a second, the dysfunction is in the gray areas when you are putting a light on that dysfunction. What’s your style around that? Is it more of a direct style? Is it more of a coaching style? Or do you have to kind of, depending on the person?

Jeanne David [17:54]
I’d say it’s more direct, you know, because if there’s a gray area, and there’s not the clear expectation that’s there, that’s pretty, pretty direct, you know, there’s, there’s no way to kind of, you know, you can coach through helping them get the right expectations in place, but very direct about that there’s gray area here, this is not clearly defined. Let’s make sure that happens.

Commercial [18:21]
Let’s take one more break here. If you are listening to this on your phone, you know that we have a YouTube channel, that YouTube channel has some content that you won’t find here on the podcast. But if you go to that YouTube, or you go to, you will actually be able to subscribe to all the content about being a great visionary leader. If you want to get Growth Think Tank interviews there as well. You can do that too. Just go to

Gene Hammett [18:48]
I want to ask you a little bit about the day to day of leadership because fast-growth company founders, just like yourself are pulled in many directions. How do you kind of set up your day to win? Are there certain techniques that you use that you could share with us?

Jeanne David [19:01]
And yeah, I think it’s very, it’s very interesting. I think it’s more and more I’m not a big person who would talk about my time, right? You know, but I do think it’s, it’s super important, my morning routine, you know, and that I stick with it and that I guard it, because I am the best me when I do this routine, then when I get my run in when I get my quiet time in the morning for an hour, when I hold off the day, to do those things that are important in my life to take care of that and during COVID I was able to really kind of see like, hey, it’s okay. Don’t schedule any calls or meetings before 10 o’clock. Like it’s really okay to do that. You know, regardless of what other people want, how they want to get on, you know, when they want to schedule meetings, like just put all those points parameters there and don’t dive into the day until you’re fully set. I think I think I think we become harried and, and get caught up in the hamster wheel that that gets us into this burnout. So really guarding that time that continues to feed you and feed your soul and those things and an exercise to me is part of my morning as well.

Gene Hammett [20:26]
Is there anything else inside that morning routine that you can share with us?

Jeanne David [20:30]
I mean, my thing is, I get up early 536, I take a drive to the coffee shop because it helps me I’m kind of a kinetic person, I like to get up and move instead of getting up and sit down. And so during that time, it allows me to just think and, and kind of, you know, listen to fun music gets me waking up, I come back I, I read, I pray for an hour, I have that, that, that time for an hour, I do some journaling, I do my three gratitudes every morning, and then I go for a run. And so I have an hour of runtime and then that that puts me back in and ready to hit the day. So that’s, that’s the routine I love to garden keep and, you know if somebody if I need to break it, I can’t I mean, it’s not like the end of the world, I just know that everybody gets the better me when I do that.

Gene Hammett [21:25]
Well, I can appreciate that. I have morning routines as well, when you think about leadership and growing fast-growth companies or anything I didn’t ask you about today that you feel like is kind of important to mention. And growing a team that’s aligned together.

Jeanne David [21:40]
I think it’s really key, I have this conversation with our employees all the time to say, you know, it’s not easy, being in a hyper-growth environment, it’s not for everybody, you know, so, so we kind of have those candid conversations to say, look, you know, we’re going to give you this job description, but very clearly, in three months, it’s probably not going to look a whole lot like it did three months ago, you know, and we just need you to know that, to be honest about that. But as we grow, um, it’s an exciting environment to be in, but it’s not for those employees that want to be in a box and, and always want to do the same thing. So I like to talk about that openly. And let people know, not everybody makes it in that environment. And that’s okay. You know, it is a unique environment. It’s always high paced, always thinking out of the box, always pivoting, always trying to make sure we’re communicating. And it’s a lot. I mean, we’re definitely a different company every six months, but every three months things look pretty dramatically different. Yeah.

Gene Hammett [22:54]
Well, I can appreciate that. Because I’ve talked to so many people on this podcast, my clients as well. So I wanted to wrap this up, john, to really thank you for being here, sharing your wisdom.

Jeanne David [23:03]
Absolutely. Thanks for having me. It was really great.

Gene Hammett [23:06]
What a great interview. I love talking to john about all the things that she has been doing as a leader, hopefully, you’ve learned some of the things that you could be doing so that you can have a more empathetic approach to leadership. Now, when you think about your own journey, as a leader, you have to reinvent yourself over time, you can’t just continue with the same style, the same things you’ve always done. Jeanne even mentioned how important was to keep evolving as a company, we have to keep evolving as a leader.

Gene Hammett [23:32]
If you want to make sure that you stay on top of it. Make sure you subscribe to this podcast, Growth Think Tank. stay connected with us check out what I do at Gene Hammett. There’s a lot of free resources there for you. But also, when you think of leadership and you think of GrowthThink Tank, 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.


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