Chelsea Hartshorn is an active member of the National Association of Landscape Professionals Women in Landscape Network (powered by Bayer) which provides a forum for industry professionals to support each other’s professional growth. The Network is free to all industry professionals.
Photo courtesy of Chelsea Hartshorn

When I started in the green industry, I was most excited to design, build and maintain incredible landscapes. However, after mowing lawns, pushing snow, creating and selling designs and eventually working as a director of design, sales and marketing at a multi-million-dollar landscape company, I would discover that my ultimate passion would be that of building teams.

First Things First: Build Your Foundation

To build a team, a good foundation is imperative. An industry leader, Karen Wilkinson, once said, “I used to think it was just me, but while working with other women in our industry, I found I wasn’t alone…Surround yourself with strong women and mentors.” With this thought in mind, I have strived to surround myself with like-minded mentors, such as Karen, who have helped me to better myself while creating a foundation to lift others. I have found that by attending conferences and workshops, as well as networking with other women and leaders in the industry, you can not only help build synergy within the industry but also elevate the profession as a whole.

Additionally, it is very important to consider the vital impact of a strong, rich personal life. It is impossible to lift others when you have no personal foundation. While this looks different for every person, I have found my husband and two-year-old son keep me grounded and focused on what matters most in this life. Thus, when small decisions arise every day, I am more able to return to that foundation and make decisions that relate to my core values, helping bring clarity to my team.

Create a “Team Building” Environment

It is very hard to understand your coworkers/employees if you don’t understand what drives them emotionally. I have found that some of the greatest tools to help discover underlying personal drivers are personality tests administered to both you and those with whom you work. There are many great personality tests on the market and are only a Google search away. Once you understand what makes your team members tick, each of you will be able to open up and begin introducing more vulnerability and honesty in the workplace.

Patrick Lencioni once wrote, “Trust is about vulnerability. Team members who trust one another learn to be comfortable being open, even exposed, to one another around their failures, weaknesses, even fears.” As a woman in a predominantly male-led industry, I have sometimes felt the need to maintain a hard exterior. However, when looking back on times I felt most empowered, I have found that they happened when I was being vulnerable, honest and trusting of those around me. By opening up — thus making myself vulnerable — those feelings were often reciprocated, and we were able to come to an understanding that would have been otherwise impossible.

It is important to note that creating any environment takes time, consistency and trust. Ultimately, you are the only person you can truly change, so begin by building a strong personal foundation (including learning from leaders around you). Once you know from where your source of strength comes, begin to create synergy within your team by discovering each of your team members’ strengths so you can build on them. Finally, be open to creating vulnerability within your team setting. This may seem daunting, but with the contagious mindset of team-building, targets are hit, culture soars and companies grow.

Women in landscaping is a column brought to you in partnership with the National Association of Landscape Professionals.