The People Gardener

When I decided to start my podcast 2 years ago, I had no idea the caliber of leaders I would meet when I hung out my little “shingle” for a show entitled “Intentional Optimists, Unconventional Leaders.”  I knew they (we) were out there, and I knew I wanted to tell their stories, interwoven with my thoughts and opinions on leadership and personal growth - but I did not truly grasp how many truly amazing women I’d have the privilege to connect with and interview.

Each story is truly unique, each voice is easily identifiable, and each is a precious jewel I am privileged to share in order to inspire and empower other women to stand tall and tell their own.

Today, I’m going to introduce you to a powerhouse woman named Rhonda Delaney.

Like SO many of us, Rhonda is one of those “Type-A, Go-Getter, Never Stop Improving and Growing” kinds of women. Of course, this means she and I fully understand each other. I’m positive that you will find so many points of identification, as well!

Rhonda doesn’t have a pedigreed education. Entering the corporate world later in life she started at the bottom of a local, family-owned business in the accounting department (because that’s how she could get her foot in the door - sound familiar?), and was willing to learn anything and everything to help the organization grow. 

Spending the next 15 years learning, growing and developing an understanding about people and the correlation to gardening she worked her way to Operations Manager. This happened due to the time she took to understand each person well and encouraged open critical thinking resulting in better solutions.

In fact, she did such a good job that she became THE go-to person for the whole company, and ended up 2nd in command.  It was so profitable, that like any good business owner would do, they sold the company.  

I’d love to tell you that the new owners saw Rhonda’s amazing leadership skills and wisely put her in charge, but alas, they did not. (You saw that comin’, right?) 

This story is sadly familiar - they used her expertise, then showed her the door.

Too young, and too smart to give up, she took a deep breath, evaluated what skills she had on the table and started over. 

The People Gardener was born.  

Rhonda’s passion for creating a garden that is cohesive and inviting while still having pops of spectacular color has translated beautifully to creating and building a team in the workplace. (You can hear her entire story in Episode 90: The People Gardner)

One of the things I find so terrible encouraging about Rhonda and her story, is that she is open and honest about the fact that she’s a strong woman, with strong opinions, and even in the face of opposition, she stood up for her team, and “didn’t make it hard” for them to let her go.

I don’t think either Rhonda or I would ever advocate for poor behavior in the workplace, but there are times when it’s important to take a stand in the presence of poor leadership, even when it means you could suffer yourself. Her story is a brilliant example of how a life changing event can help you find your purpose and see all the joy it can bring you. 

Rhonda’s Leadership Principle: Leaders Grow First

From her earliest leadership memories of always being the line leader in kindergarten, to her willingness to step back, look at where she was and put together a whole new company dedicated to growing beautiful, diverse and effective teams for small businesses and entrepreneurs, Rhonda has been willing to “grow first.”

This fundamental principle of personal growth and leadership, you have to grow yourself and lead yourself first, is not a surprise coming from someone dedicated to her own growth. If you want to be the best employee, the best team leader, the best supervisor - you have to grow. There is no shortcut. 

However, there are great growth and leadership plans and programs available to you, right now. 

Rhonda uses the habit of constantly asking “what if,” to stay present and ensure that she remains in a growth mindset.  She’s even baked it into her People Gardener principle that says Leadership is  S. I. M. P. L. E.

Because EVERYONE deserves a Leader that EMBRACES their UNIQUENESS and is COMMITTED to CULTIVATING their POTENTIAL! How? By sharing The People Gardener Principle that cultivates a 

Safe | Intentional | Maximized | People | Loving | Environment

I began asking my guests for Green Flags on my very first interview. To me, it seemed logical - to want to look for things that could help us BE or BECOME rather than what to avoid. There’re plenty of people telling us what NOT to do, right?  So far, every single guest finds this concept interesting and fun, and I love sharing what they come up with.   

For Rhonda, putting leadership into action can be as small as caring enough about someone to be interested in what they care about. Just like each flower in your garden needs unique amounts of sun, rain and soil quality, so it is with people.  Remembering the things they like or are interested in, and connecting with them through your actions will build the relationship. If this kind of thing comes naturally to you, and you’re not yet leading others, you might want to consider it. 

Rhonda’s Advice on how to start thinking like a People Gardener, and cultivate your own leadership process, she suggested you start turning your focus outward. Talk to the people around you - your network - and ask them how you can grow into a leadership position. If you’re still in an individual contributor position, start sharing more of yourself. People want to know you, not necessarily what you know.  

So - leaders grow first, and they lead by example.

You can hear Rhonda’s full story in Episode 90: The People Gardner

Want to learn more about the S.I.M.P.L.E. Leadership theory? She’s going to be teaching that in a mini masterclass on my Guest Speaker Series on Thursday, June 23, 11:30 am EST, live on Facebook and Linkedin. If you miss it, no worries. It will be available on my YouTube Channel.



Where to find Rhonda: https://www.rhondadelaney.com/ 

Rhonda’s passion for creating a garden that is cohesive and inviting while still having pops of spectacular color, regal containers, bold foliage and delicate structures has translated beautifully to creating and building teams in the workplace. Utilizing the myriad of personalities, quirks, perspectives and abilities, people gardens can be stunning in their beauty, spontaneity and complexity!. Knowing your plant's needs is paramount to successfully creating a garden to be envied; knowing your employee’s needs is too.

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