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Lisa Hendy

Welcome Lisa

[00:04:27] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: I am happy to have one of my dear friends, Lisa Hendy with us today. And you’ve already heard the introduction of all the amazing things she’s done but I’m so happy to have you because you’re like a real friend like that I actually have known for more than half your life and more than half my life.

[00:04:45] it’s crazy. We don’t get to say that very often.

[00:04:48] So, Lisa, if you would give us your actual title, cuz I didn’t wanna mess it up. Who are you right now? This day?

[00:04:55] Yeah. So I am the canyon district ranger at grand canyon national park.

[00:05:00] So some of the things that I was so impressed as I was looking over your bio are just all the different aspects and twists and turns that your life has taken.

[00:05:09] And I mean, the skill sets that you’ve taken from the prep school and from USU, from your coaching, from the various places you’ve been. So I wondered if you would start out by saying where you thought your life was gonna go when you were younger and then some of the twists and turns you didn’t expect.

[00:05:28] And we’re gonna take the conversation from there.

[00:05:31] Life is Unexpected

[00:05:31] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Okay. Yeah. Well, you know, I’m like, I was like any kid, like I had these dreams that were In hindsight, you kinda laugh. Like, you know, when you’re, when like a little boy is six and you say, what do you wanna be when you grow up? And like, what’s the point of asking a six year old that question’s completely ridiculous, but they’ll be like, I wanna be a fireman, you know, and they’ll, they’ll say those things.

[00:05:47] And my dad was he had a law degree. He was always into teaching us about, you know, not being afraid of law enforcement, which is interesting in this day and age, right. But then like, he was the one who would like walk me up to like the bank security guard and be like, say hello to the nice police man, you know?

[00:06:03] And they would, he would do that because he wanted me to always know that it was okay, if something was wrong or scary that I could go to these people and that would supposedly be a safe place to go. And that led me into, I was interested in criminal justice. So coming outta high school, I had two dreams.

[00:06:18] I wanted to play Olympic basketball in hindsight, ridiculous. And I wanted to I wanted to go into law enforcement.

[00:06:24] And so that was like, I hit Auburn university with that, those two things in mind. But you know, the other thing that I found, is that I’m just fascinated and love being outside. I love outdoor activities.


Being Outdoors

[00:06:37] I love outdoor sports. I love camping and I love the challenge of, of some of the outdoor adventure sports that I’ve always participated in.

[00:06:45] And so I went to a professor at Auburn at one point and was like, what do I do with this man? Like, I, I really want to go into law enforcement, but. I don’t wanna be stuck in a car in a city all day long.

[00:06:54] Looking into Land Management

[00:06:54] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: And he told me to look at the land management agencies and, you know, I mean, I grew up in Chattanooga, so I’m envisioning like national battlefields and I’m sort of snoring and he’s like, no, no, no, no. He’s like think like big national parks. And that was the first time that light bulb went off. Right. So.

[00:07:09] Ended up getting an internship in Yosemite. And I was just the little back country office person who gives you your permit, you know, and like that’s an incredibly important job because those people are the ones that educate the public to hopefully not die out in back country. You know, that’s their first point of contact, right.

[00:07:26] Plus they help protect the back country by, mitigating, how many people are out there at one time and like squished into one spot. So, so it was an important job, but it just felt I was just an intern. So I went out there, bright eye and bushy-tailed and got eyes on what all the national park service does.


[00:07:42] And Yosemite was a great place to do that because you know, it’s federal exclusive jurisdiction. There is no other law enforcement. There is no other search and rescue. No one else is coming you know, it is, that is it. We do all the structural fire, all of the emergency medical, all of it. And it’s the size of Rhode Island.

[00:07:58] It’s it’s, it’s like its own state. It’s got its own jails, got its own court, got its own schools, got its own zip code. So that was an amazing place to get that first impression. And because it’s federal law enforcement, it was like, oh, like I could combine these two things, you know so, so that light bulb went off right in time for the Clinton administration’s hiring freeze for the federal government.

[00:08:20] So I went back to school and was retooling at USU when I met you and was my other passion was basketball.

[00:08:27] And at this point it become very apparent. I wasn’t a good enough player to play Olympic basketball, but I was like, but I could coach it.

[00:08:34] I was in grad school in physiology and biomechanics, and I was coaching basketball and I loved doing that.

[00:08:40] And I, I really did, but I think, you know, moving forward from there I was paying for grad school and paying for all these things by working seasonally for the park service at Rocky mountain, as a climbing ranger there and law enforcement ranger.

Youth Ministry

[00:08:52] And and that passion was always in that background, you know, of like being outside and allowing to do all those things and then like going and playing basketball winter. And like, I mean, I was just having a great time. And then in the midst of all that, you know, I, I got involved with. With some youth ministry opportunities particularly at the community church in Moab, and then moving on from there.

[00:09:11] And so, so it was like, all these things were kind of mixed in a ball because there was, I was in my twenties and there wasn’t a real clear direction. Like it’s not, it wasn’t easy to get a job in any of those fields. And you know, I was very blessed in that while I was in Moab. You know, nobody can survive in a tourist town like Moab at that level with just one job.

[00:09:30] Right. So I was the youth minister at the community church. I was a seasonal or part-time employee at Arch’s national park. And I was coaching the high school basketball team. Like I was one of the assistant coaches. And so it was just, and then I was eventually the assistant city rec director ocean, all kinds of basketball.

[00:09:45] Right. So it was like, there was all of this mix and mingle and then September 11th happened.

[00:09:49] Becoming a Paramedic

[00:09:49] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: And it was like this clarity lightning bolt, just, you know, I was actually at a EMT refresher at Zion and I’d just gone over there for the refresher that morning. And on the way home, that was when I made the decision, I was like, I’m going to paramedic school.

[00:10:02] And I didn’t know what exactly I was gonna do with that. But right out of paramedic school, a friend who I had worked with previously while I was seasonal called me up and he says, I’m at grand canyon. I’m gonna hire you permanently.

[00:10:13] And I was. Okay. I don’t have like competitive status, but, and he’s like, send me resumes. I’ll figure it out. And he did.

[00:10:19] And so, yeah. I got my first permanent job at grand canyon and then the park service career took off from there, but there was this jumbo in my twenties of like all these different directions. And and that was kind of like the big mashup of, you know, where do you want to go?

[00:10:32] What do you wanna do? What do you like most? And. Like a direction became apparent out of all that.

[00:10:38] Break Down Your Future

[00:10:38] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: So, sure. The thing that I wanna comment on that era, because that era is, I, I remember all of those, those moves and those places and those opportunities. And I got to visit you in every single one of those parks and see your life at that point-

[00:10:52] and the thing that I was so impressed with then, and still I’m so impressed with is. Nothing in your future seemed too daunting. You just broke it down into small pieces and figured it out. I remember having a conversation when you were studying for your paramedics stuff. And I remember just all of these different trainings that you did.

[00:11:12] So can you talk us through the process of like maybe not knowing exactly what you wanna do, but you know, the next thing and that next thing requires X amount of training and then you pursue it, like, talk about that a little.

[00:11:27] Chase the Passion

[00:11:27] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah. You know, I might, I might go backwards on you here and start from like what I know about all of this looking in hindsight, and then I can, I can talk about the little chip away of, of one thing, another task- wise to get there.

[00:11:42] But in hindsight, looking back across all of this, you know I’ve asked to speak, I’ve been asked to speak in a lot of places and people always are like, you know, what’s your big drive or passion or whatever.

[00:11:51] And I, you know, the big lesson. My life is, you know chase the passion, not the dream. And, you know, everybody will say chase the dream, not the money.

[00:12:00] I’m like, well, duh. Right. So , you know, moving on from that. But, but you know, when I look back, I had all these dreams just like everybody does. Right. And especially when you’re young, some of ’em are completely like you look back and you’re like, okay, well that was cute, you know, but there’s no way that was gonna happen.

[00:12:15] But the passion that I have discovered that I have that if you look and you take a single thread, Through everything I’ve done. And it’s, I love, absolutely love leading small teams of super skilled people to do things that everyone else thinks is either insane or impossible. Like that is the passion

Working with Small Groups

[00:12:34] Right. And so when you look at, you know, I mean, Let me just tell you how much the grand county red devils women’s basketball team was, the world’s biggest underdog, right. Or, you know, when you look at like, you know, building a youth ministry from four kids at a church that has a hundred members, and they’re gonna support a full-time youth minister, like really?

[00:12:52] And we had 40 kids when I left there. I mean, you know, it was You know, it’s, it’s these, these little things. I just, I love that challenge. Right? So when you look at search and rescue, when you look at some of these outdoor activities and, you know, facing the challenges that nature throws at you, and, you know, you take these little teams of people, the.

[00:13:10] That’s what I love the most. That’s the passion is, is taking a team of folks and doing something everybody else thinks is either just crazy or impossible.

[00:13:18] So like, how did you, how do you get there? Like in all these little, I don’t know which way I want to go. You know, it was, I can’t tell you that at any point that I knew then that was the thread through everything.

[00:13:31] Like I didn’t. Right. I, I don’t think I fully came to that. About three years ago.

[00:13:35] And, and so when I was, when I was kind of working my way through all these things, I just like chased the things that brought me that, I mean, like, I couldn’t have put the finger on it. Right. Like it, but it brought me that that win that like, oh yeah.

Do the Impossible

[00:13:50] Like I’m passionate about that. Right. And.

[00:13:52] Emergency medicine is one of those things. Search and rescue is one of those things to be really good at search and rescue and to be good at emergency medicine. I mean, the big joke at the time was that I went to paramedic school so I could push narcotics because it was hanging on cliff walls at Rocky mountain with people who were like screaming in pain.

[00:14:07] And I couldn’t do anything with. You know, we were getting ’em out. Right. And I was like, I weighed 125 pounds. Like I weighed nothing. So when it was like, well, who’s gonna be the rescuer to send over that. We have to now haul back up. Well, let’s send the scrawny woman down there. like, she doesn’t weigh much, like let’s haul her back up.

[00:14:23] And then once you had a paramedic, you know, it was like, you were definitely the person they were gonna send because you could actually do something about the pain. So. You know, you got this broken person that you’re trying to haul up a cliff and, you know, I was like, I need to be able to do more for these people.

[00:14:36] Like then just tell them it’s gonna be okay.

[00:14:38] You know and keep them from bouncing against the wall as we , as we raise them.

[00:14:42] So, you know, it was, it was. Like that passion was there to be a part of that team and say, how do I be a more contributing member of that team? Right. The team was the small team trying to do the impossible.

[00:14:53] Right. And it wasn’t until, you know, years later that I became a leader of those teams. Right.

See the Success

But which is what I really love doing, cuz I love, I love seeing that success and I love being able to use that- you have to have all that experience as a member of those teams to be a decent leader of those teams.

[00:15:09] So. Certainly no, no qualms about that. But, but that was what it was. It was like, okay, I need this training now to be a really quality member of this team, the way the national parks work is, every one of ’em is different, which is what makes me so awesome. And we needed different skills in each one. You know, I had to learn to climb to be at Rocky.

[00:15:27] I had to learn how to boat and do a lot more canyoneering and survive in the desert to be at Grand Canyon. You know, and my, my skills in aviation went through the roof at Yosemite because that’s what I needed there. The helicopter rescue team, there was super advanced and I was in charge of that. So, you know, and then, Big Bend it, it was a lot more border security and it’s just, there was all these different things that, that.

[00:15:50] The trainings followed the need to be a contributing member to those teams. But the thread that ran through all of it was, you know, like here’s this really rocking team of really good people. And the park service is full of those people because they don’t get paid much. So, you know, they gotta be highly motivated cuz they love their job.

[00:16:07] Right. And so that thread of, you know, I wanna help lead these people to do these crazy things we’re being asked to do. That’s. I mean, that’s the common piece.

[00:16:17] Writing and Study Skills

[00:16:17] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: So that’s the common piece. I love it. What allowed you to know? A lot of times people think, oh, I need to learn how to do that. I, I don’t know that I can learn how to do that.

[00:16:28] What gave you the confidence – because a lot of people don’t know they can learn.

[00:16:32] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah. Well, I, I wanna start by saying I was wicked privileged, cuz I did go to a private school and the two things that school taught me to do was how to write and how to study, you know, I mean, you, you know, I can remember like crazy battle dates from like, you know, the battle of Hastings and all those little nuggets that you learn in high school.

[00:16:49] But what I really learned there was how to write and how to study. And so that was a really good foundation, but So, I, I don’t know how to, how to apply that to anybody else. But because I had that foundation, I had this confidence that it’s like, well, you know, I know how to study. And I can put the knowledge that I’ve gained from studying on paper effectively and communicate it.

[00:17:09] So I just had had a bunch of previous success in it. So I, I think that’s how I, I mean, I just had the confidence imbued in me from a pretty, pretty early age.

Confidence Definition

[00:17:17] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Pretty early age, you had people believing that you could learn. I, I really like the definition of confidence as not knowing everything, but knowing that you can learn whatever it is, you don’t know.

[00:17:28] Mm-hmm I have the confidence that I can learn it. And that is an acquired skill. So it was imbued in you at an earlier age, but I think people can learn that at any point in their life, is that as long as you don’t give up, you have another chance to continue to try and learn X, whatever it is.

[00:17:46] Leadership Under Pressure

[00:17:46] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Can you talk about maybe leadership under pressure?

[00:17:50] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: I’ve been a part of some of the best rescue teams in the country.

[00:17:53] And it I’m very proud of that, but you know, you can talk about the person rapelling outta the helicopter and the cool video is the helicopter hovering over the boat and like pulling the people off via long line. Right? Like there’s. That’s the cool video that everybody wants of a rescue, but what they tend to forget is there is a very broken person whose life just changed at the bottom of that line.

[00:18:12] Right. And the person we’re going after, and there’s often some intense tragedy in that.

[00:18:18] And I think so I’m, I’m cautious not to glorify the work that we do too much because that work is done because someone else has suffered this life- changing event or the loss of a loved one. Right. And so I try to be humble in, in recognizing that and not trying to self- aggrandize or glorify what we do too much.

[00:18:37] But to your question about, you know, high functioning teams you know, I think… there’s a lot of places where I have seen teams come together and have to figure out problems and like really complex problems, really fast.

[00:18:51] And I think that rescue is just one of those areas. We do it in incident management in the park service, which is something that most people don’t realize we do, but like we respond for hurricane response.

[00:19:00] We do large scale dignitary visits.

[00:19:03] We manage the security on the mall for the inauguration in 2021, which. Terrifying.

Big Bend National Park

[00:19:08] So there’s, , there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of stuff that we do that people don’t don’t know that we do. And some of those teams that were managing those really big incidents were some of the most interesting, I think you know, and that was once I got up to a pretty high leadership level you know, working with the border patrol along the border.

[00:19:25] After the 2016 election and we were in charge of 12% of the US Mexico border at Big Bend National Park with Big Bend and the Rio Grande wild and scenic. And, you know, that’s all either wild and scenic river or proposed wilderness. And the threat of infrastructure being built along that border was super scary to us, you know, cause we, we just thought the degradation of everything we stood for in that.

[00:19:44] So so any specific event I. One of the most, the one that leaves the biggest impression on me was the 20 21 inauguration.

[00:19:54] So I was the deputy ops chief for the national park service. Alongside the ops chief was the us park police captain who was in charge of that area. That was his operational area.

[00:20:04] And normally. From around the country, you would have people who would show up to help with security on the mall because it’s a big deal, you know, and I imagine that every governor wants to see their state troopers out there and like, you know, high boots and looking sharp for the new president.

[00:20:19] But because of COVID a lot of those partner agencies didn’t wanna send officers and just like every emergency service agency was super nervous about losing people to the pandemic and being short staffed.

Rangers in D.C.

[00:20:30] So the park service had to figure out how to, to manage the security on the mall. And this is even before January 6th, this is like starting in way before the election. We didn’t even know who was gonna win yet. We just had to provide security for the, the inauguration, like we do every year. Right. But we always had had these partners to do it with and they didn’t, they didn’t wanna send anybody.

[00:20:49] So for the first time, the parks was asked to round up 300 Rangers from around the country to provide that security on the mall. And. Those Rangers don’t have crowd control training. Like the, I mean, you don’t, you don’t expect the Rangers at grand canyon to have like large scale riot crowd control training, right?

[00:21:07] The park police who is a branch of the national park service in the metropolitan areas they do. But the rest of the Rangers don’t it’s not part of the normal curriculum. So we had to figure out how to get ’em all trained. 300 of ’em. We had to figure out how to get ’em safely to DC during a global pandemic.

[00:21:22] We had to figure out how to house ’em and do all of the things you gotta do when everybody else is descending on DC at the same time. Right. And then we had to get ’em all deputized by the us Marshall. So they would actually have jurisdiction because even though the mall itself is park service grounds.

[00:21:38] The, you step off a sidewalk in DC and you’re in a different jurisdiction, right?


[00:21:41] So, so to be able to be effective in that area, you know, you have to have blanket jurisdiction, and only the us Marshalls can accommodate that. So that’s a huge paper chase for 300 people.

[00:21:52] So I, I gathered up a team of people who I’ve met over the course of my career and there were five of ’em and.

[00:21:59] They, I, I found people who knew more than I did about a bunch of different things, which was really important. And and, and it was, you know, the questions they had when I asked them to join this effort were, do I have to come to DC? Because again, COVID was a big deal. Right. And I’m like, I’m not sure yet you might.

[00:22:15] And and the second question was, you know, Who’s really in charge here. Is it the park police? Is it the instant management team? Is it the park service? A lot of those questions that are very much rooted in the concerns for how this was gonna go, because everyone knew it was gonna be a really contentious election.

[00:22:31] And of course, this is all happening in like October of 2020, like the election hadn’t even happened. And as it got closer, like, so they all committed. God love ’em they all committed. And these are old friends that I’ve met from all over the park service. So I was counting on their friendship as much because of the trust as much as I was counting on their skills.

January 6th

[00:22:48] And after January 6th we had to bring ’em all in faster and and everybody was 10 times more scared and and we had the wives of people we have known our entire careers calling in tears. Like, how are you gonna protect my husband? We had superintendents calling us. How are you gonna keep my Rangers safe?

[00:23:08] And we had a plan for it all, but it was such a scary time. And, and the five of us, I just wanna be clear. We were just one piece of a giant machine, right? Like the national park service had a huge machine out there to manage all aspects of the mall. And then there.

[00:23:24] You know, the, the white house grounds are, are park service. And so there was the transition of the furniture and the white house. I mean, there was all these crazy things going on that this whole larger incident management team was figuring out how to provide housing for all these Rangers.

[00:23:36] The logistics folks were doing that. And I mean, so it wasn’t like the five of us, our job was to take care of these 300 folks, get them all jurisdiction within the DC area.

[00:23:46] Get them all there safely. Figure out how to account for them from door to door, from their hotel, because there were all kinds of threats to law enforcement going out all over the country and then how to get them in small pods. So if somebody got COVID, we didn’t infect all of them and how to transport them.

High-Level Decisions

[00:24:02] And as the city locked down and the security became more like more and more tight, like how do we get them through that every day to their posts?

[00:24:09] And, you know, at the end of the day, Like the decisions were made at a way higher level, like department of justice and department of defense levels to lock the city down to the degree that we ended up in the center of concentric circles of security.

[00:24:24] And we were like watching Katie Perry do sound checks by the Lincoln Memorial. And like, you know, it was totally chill, but we had no way of knowing that until two days before. And so so that little team of five people sat on the roof of the hotel after everybody else left to go home. And we were like, did that really just happen?

[00:24:40] That was heinous mm-hmm . And I think, you know, like, so that is one example of, you know,

[00:24:47] finding the right people who you really trust and then going to do something that like, we didn’t even really know how we were gonna do it. Mm-hmm and we had a lot of help. I don’t wanna make it sound like it was just the five of us.

[00:25:00] The park police was stellar to work with and the rest of the incident management team. That little tiny think tank had a lot of pressure on, and I was super grateful for ’em all.

[00:25:10] Communication Among Various Entities

[00:25:10] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Right. So, I mean, what I hear you, you didn’t say this specifically, but it sounds like there was a ton of communication going back and forth between many, many entities.

[00:25:20] I think a lot of times teams under pressure there are some spaces where that communication isn’t happening effectively, or people start disagreeing. And especially when you have people who are so skilled- how do you keep it from being a power struggle or how do you keep it from, I mean, obviously there’s one person in charge, but you don’t necessarily say we’re doing it my way, because I’m in charge.

[00:25:44] That’s not how you lead a team, you know? And when you have people who are, you know, more skilled or, you know, they always say, get your team who are smarter and better than you, you know, make sure you keep like, they’re, you’re playing up, basically. I wanna just hear how you navigate those things in concrete terms, because.

[00:26:02] you know, I’ve, I doubt very many of our listeners have your position, but they can utilize your skills. Mm-hmm mm.

[00:26:11] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: You know, the, the, a lot of people try to start from. The communication and, and I don’t know which comes first, but the foundation has to be a trust. So, you know, I picked those five people, like I said, not just cuz they were skilled, but because I really like, I had trusted my life to every one of them at some point, right.

Instant Management

[00:26:30] Because we had worked on search and rescue teams our whole life together. Right. And we had all just worked our way up through instant management skills to end up at the level where we were. And, and so, you know, Anybody who’s ever been in, whether it’s military, whether it’s emergency responders anybody who’s ever been in that position where you, you truly have to like trust your life to the other person, like on the level of, you know, I mean, one of the women that I was that was there you know, We worked on the helicopter rescue team together.

[00:27:00] And like from the buddy check of your gear right down to, you know, we’re gonna rapel outta this helicopter. And you’re like doing all kinds of hand signals and you’re looking at each other’s gear and I am counting on you to be looking at my gear to know I’m right. You know, and you know, and so for that person to come out and tell me that my spreadsheet’s wrong well, that doesn’t seem very threatening.

[00:27:17] I’m like, okay, what do we need to change? You know? Absolutely. What do you think? You know, so, yeah, so you know, it it’s It’s the rooted, the rooted foundation of trust was really a big piece of that. The communication between us at that point, we had established you know, because they were people I’d known a long time.

[00:27:34] We’d established communication. I think some of the, some of us I hadn’t seen some of those folks in several years and some of ’em didn’t know each other. And so that just became a, a product of we put the group in the room and we sort of delegated the tasks based on their skill sets. And it was interesting.

[00:27:50] Speak Their Language

[00:27:50] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: The, the skill sets I needed were I needed planners and I needed operations chiefs. Right. And so the two planners I brought in, they speak the same language. So they just went off to the races and I’m just like, okay, here’s all the tasks that involve planning. Good luck, you know? So, you know, and then the operations chiefs, you know, they, to, they totally spoke the same language.

[00:28:08] And so the tasks that involved operational Like, you know, moving of X asset to X location, put them all in the same space. So learning how to speak each other’s languages. And then that trust builds , that respect, like all the communication was in with, with respect.

[00:28:25] So and some of that was inherent in a incident management team, you know, that’s just what, the way they’re built.

[00:28:30] It’s kinda like the military, like you have a certain communication strategy for the bigger team. That, that keeps that kind of on par with the, the hierarchy and the respect and how things are supposed to work. But, you know, every single person in that room was coming from a place of vast experience.

[00:28:48] And I think that, so that history of trust, the knowledge that even if you’ve never met this person before that, to be where they were, they had to have insane experience. And and then just the structure of an incident management team and the ability to talk and the same language as a greater team.

[00:29:04] And then within the segments of that team, where, where all the things that contributed to the success of that.


[00:29:08] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: So, yeah, that makes sense. I definitely know certain people I’ve had situations where people have said, well, if Miriam trusts you, then I trust you. You know? And I think you had some of that going on for sure.

[00:29:20] Where if, if Lisa trusts you, I don’t know you from Adam, but I’m gonna trust you.


[00:30:03] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: So I do have a question about trust, like friendship and trust and what breaks that. So maybe go back like 20 years to where these relationships were being built. And there obviously all these people made the cut and the people you’re friends with now made the cut.

[00:30:20] But, you know, there are people, I was just working on a course on friendship and boundaries earlier today. And I was looking at the crappy way people treat each other and how they break trust with people and stuff like that.

[00:30:35] Beyond someone, having the ability to save your life and do gear check and stuff like that.

[00:30:40] Trusting Others

[00:30:40] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: What makes someone trustworthy to you?

[00:30:42] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah. You know, I think, I think part of it is the ability to see beyond themselves to what we’re trying to accomplish. and it’s interesting because when you’re, so when you’re in that like ground level, field level you know, it’s, it’s real easy, especially early on in your career to be threatened by your teammate’s success. Right. Because if they got to go do the cool thing that meant you didn’t get to go do the cool thing. Right. Because a lot of these things, there’s only one person who gets to rap down that line. Right. You know and building a culture. and Now I look at it as a leader, building a culture where the success of one is the success of all.

[00:31:14] That takes a lot of work. Like that’s really hard to do dealing with like super type a, like, I wanna be that guy every time kind of folks. Right. And that was me too. Right. So figuring out how to harness that energy is really important. And, and, and direct it as a, a team moving toward a goal, not just an individual trying to move themself toward the ability to perform in this level.

[00:31:39] Right. And I always, my thing I like to tease my guys about all the time is like, there’s no such thing as smarter points and life is a team sport. Right? so, so trying to get them to think of everything in that term and build that into the culture of the operation.

[00:31:53] So that if it’s we’re pushing wheel barrels around to try to move some gear to a location, which is not particularly glamorous. Versus we’re actually loading on the aircraft to go somewhere. Those, those, that mentality is the same.

[00:32:05] People Tend to Weed Themselves Out

[00:32:05] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: How, how long do you think it takes to create that sense of ” Our success is your success.” You know, one for all in all for one. And did you ever find people who couldn’t couldn’t get there?

[00:32:19] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Oh yeah. There’s definitely people who can’t get there, but it’s, they weed themselves out because if you can get the rest of the team, move in that direction, then, then they sort of end up out on the fringe.

[00:32:30] Right. Cause everybody recognizes that they’re not, they’re not the one. And, and so that lack, so what it creates is a lack of trust in that person. Because you don’t trust, they have your best interest in mind or the team’s best interest in mind. You just envision that they have their best interest in mind.

[00:32:45] So, you know, so they, they tend to, they tend to weed themselves. How long does it take to do that? I think it depends on the group you start with. It depends on what the goal is, right. If the goal is very, obviously greater than the individual Like the saving of a life, most people are gonna get outta the way.

[00:33:01] Right? Like they’re gonna say, okay. Yeah, I don’t need to be the guy, like, like, please just let’s get this person outta here. Right. But but if it’s a longer term goal like the success of a program, you know, as opposed to an incident you know, I think it does take a lot more time to get buy in.

Determine What You Want To Accomplish

[00:33:16] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: I think you have to start at the beginning, with, why are we here? What is it we’re trying to accomplish and agree on that? Right? One of the best books I ever read was Simon Sinek’s Start with why. why are we here? And I think you have to gather your team up and start. With why, why are we all here? And what is it we’re trying to accomplish?

[00:33:33] Let’s determine that as a team, all at once, if you start with that, and then everybody has that same mental picture and they’re all in agreement, then you can start building that culture of “remember, here’s our end state. This is where we’re trying to get, you know and you may not be the glory guy today, but your job today still contributes to all of us getting to this end state” and defining what that looks like for them.

[00:33:54] And holding that out in front of ’em repeatedly as this is what we all agreed we were trying to do. So I think if you start from there, you can get everybody to move forward and it’ll go way faster. If you, if you get somebody who gets added into the group in the middle of all of. You can get ’em on board, but you have to get them.

[00:34:11] They, they have to be imbued with that, that same vision. And they have to know what it is before they come in so that they are confident they can get on board. Cuz if they can’t again, I think teams self-select you know, if you’re really truly marketing in the same direction and somebody decides to deviate they’ll self-select out.

[00:34:26] Own It

[00:34:26] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Sure sure. As a leader, how, how many times do you have to say over and over and over, this is where we’re headed. Young leaders say, oh, I’ve already said that, you know, but older leaders know it’s the drum you beat.

[00:34:40] This is where we’re headed. This is why we’re heading there.

[00:34:44] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: And a little bit of this is who we. Right because you want them to own it on a level that is like really deep, you know the Jacko and his, you know, extreme ownership. Like, I love that principle of like, they, they have to own it or they’re not gonna, they’re not gonna go through the hard days cuz we have a lot of hard days, you know?

[00:35:03] A lot of what we do is be out in the worst possible weather covered in mud, like dealing with the worst possible thing. Right? Like I have intubated people while lying in mule pee right. Like, I mean, just this miserable, right conditions and get people to go out and do that in the middle of the night in the snow, you know, over and over and over again, like they gotta, they gotta own it.

[00:35:23] They gotta believe that we’re headed in the right place, deep down at the identity level.

Rein Them In

[00:35:29] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah. Like deep inside. And, and, and I. You know, you’ll, you’re gonna have the person who either waivers or who was never gonna be the hard charger to begin with. Right. And mm-hmm if you have a choice of your team, you know, I’d always rather rein in a stallion than flog a mule.

[00:35:45] Like I would much rather grab the guy who I’m gonna have to constantly rein him in and redirect him and remind him of the team. Then the guy who is like just the dead weight on the team. Right. Because eventually if you can get that guy harnessed, he will help drive the team forward.

[00:36:00] If you’ve got the mule in the background who you just having to, like, he’s just dead weight and the rest of the team’s dragging him. Right. So how do you motivate that guy? The, the weight on the team. I found a lot of times the reason they’re dragging is not anything to do with what you’re trying to accomplish.

[00:36:17] Like there could be something going on in their personal life. It could be that there’s some part of it- like you’ve got them in the wrong job on this team. Right. And you didn’t even know that. Right. And so I’ll give you an example. I had a guy here at grand canyon. We do everything. We are structure fire.

[00:36:32] We are wild land fire. We are law enforcement, EMS search and rescue river patrol. All of it.

Backcountry Patrol

[00:36:38] And I had a guy who I could not get to go on back- country patrol. Like he got paid to go backpack in the grand canyon to patrol. I could not get him to do it.

[00:36:47] I mean, like he just, and I’m like, is he lazy? Like, what’s his problem. Right.

[00:36:51] And it turns out his passion was structural fire. Well, he was a back country. Ranger, structural fire was not even in his position description, but that’s what he was passionate about. He wanted to be an engine operator for structural fire.

Work Together

[00:37:03] And I said, tell you what. I will support you to go to engine operator school and do these things that are not in your position description on work time. If you will, please , you know, commit to just much back country patrol. Right. And, you know, and that’s what it took, right? I had to give him some opportunities to participate in that because that’s where his that’s where his heart was. Right. And, and then he would go do the other parts of his job that weren’t as much fun for him. Right. And, and that’s, I think how you get that person as you figure out, do I have them in the right job on the team?

[00:37:34] And maybe I don’t, maybe their being a big slug is not a deficiency on their part. Maybe as a leader, I should go to them and say, what do I need to do to help you be more successful? And quite honestly, I’ve learned to just start from there. If I’ve got a slug at this point, I go to them. And the first question I give them is how can I help you?

[00:37:54] Because I’m seeing you not work at the level of your peers. What am I not giving you that would allow you to do that? And so now after, you know, 27 years of learning, I, I start from that place instead of blaming them for not being there.

[00:38:08] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah, I love that. That’s what a true leader does is take responsibility for what’s happening or not happening.

[00:38:16] First Woman Chief Ranger

[00:38:16] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: I wanna do a little bit of a tangent here. You were at the pinnacle of your career. Like that particular move moved. You. Higher and higher and higher to the first wo like, correct me if I’m wrong, but the first woman ranger over that park ever ?

[00:38:32] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah. I was the first female chief ranger at the Great Smokey Mountains, at the end of the day, it is not an anomaly for the national park service.

[00:38:38] It was just an anomaly for the smokey

[00:38:39] and so, but which is the busiest park in the country from a visitation standpoint. That, that job was there’s only 11 chiefs at that level.

[00:38:47] They call ’em the crown jewel parks around the country. Yeah. So grand canyon yellowstone, and all that. There’s, there’s 11 jobs at that level that are still in national parks. There’s only 11 of us that were out in the parks at that level.

[00:39:00] And it’s a very small group and they’re pretty tight knit. We all know each other. Right. And, and we drive the train from the field of like national policy and you know, and it’s why I ended up in DC so much during COVID, you know, trying to help you know, from a leadership standpoint. And it gave me opportunities.

[00:39:17] And, and I think a lot of people thought I was headed toward DC toward the end of my career. You know, that that would be where I would end up

[00:39:23] Success and Joy

[00:39:23] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: for sure you had the skill set and could have you just could have kept climbing and climbing climbing. Yeah. But the place I want you to talk about is this, this juxtaposition of success in the eyes of the world and success personally.

[00:39:37] Mm-hmm yeah. And what, what brings you joy?

[00:39:40] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, I mean, so it was, it was a wonderful park and it, I had the best superintendent I’ve ever seen. You know, my boss was fantastic, but, and I had an incredible management team to work with. Like I had the team of brilliant people that we were running this park and, and it was phenomenal.

[00:40:01] And yet my soul was dying it was because I was sitting in an office all day. Right. That’s right. And at that level, as a chief, your guys are afraid of you. Like I would be driving home and pull over on a traffic stop to back up somebody who asked for backup. And I’d pull off and they’d just look at me in horror.

[00:40:18] like, , chief, what I do wrong? And I’m like, you asked for back, if I was driving, I’m gonna drive by you. You know, so, so, you know, I you know, I, I just didn’t, I, I didn’t have the opportunity to go lead the small team anymore.

Back to Basics

[00:40:34] I had 75 employees and most of them were afraid to talk to me. We were moving the ship on a much bigger scale. Right. And,

[00:40:43] but that small team doing that one little impossible task, like that’s where my passion was. And the opportunity came to rebuild the river program at grand canyon and to help escort the canyon district, which is the Rangers who were down below the rim through the rebuild of the grand canyon pipeline, which is coming up here pretty quick.

[00:41:03] And those are both, career mic drop enormous tasks, both of them. And so to throw ’em both on one position, I was like, oh yeah, I’ll do that. Right.

[00:41:14] And it means that I get to be in the canyon again. It means I get to be on the river again, it gives, I get to be on the aircraft again. And so, so it was like this let’s go back to where your passion was, right?

[00:41:23] Yeah. The passion was not. This giant, like I’m gonna make giant executive decisions for the entire national park service. That was never the passion. The passion was I’m gonna take these little bitty teams and, and we’re gonna accomplish crazy impossible things. Right. And, and so I had to just go back to that and it was very apparent to me, like, I was definitely not happy.

[00:41:47] In spite of the fact that it’s the classic, you know, I had absolutely everything. I was getting paid more than I, everything I was gonna get made, but, but I wasn’t, the passion was gone. Like I’d lost it. And that’s where I had to like, pinpoint. Okay, well, what was it? And how do I get it back? And then the position came open here and it was, it was a no brainer for sure.

[00:42:04] Yeah. Even though it was a downgrade in the world’s eyes, but it was a big deal to me.

[00:42:08] Coming Home

[00:42:08] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: What did you experience when you drove back into the canyon? This, this time?

[00:42:15] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Oh, I like, well, okay. So there’s a Keith urban song called “coming home” and I purposely had it all queued up and I was like, there I came through the gate and And drove up to the rim … I went to one of my favorite spots to pull up and walked up to it and then I just sat down and wept.

[00:42:30] I could just feel. Okay. Like now I’m back where I’m supposed to be. You know, it was like a tectonic shift in my soul of like, okay, this is okay now we’re back. Right. Everything’s okay.

[00:42:41] The Canyon’s a part of that because it, it, it provides all of the challenge and the amazing, amazing place that it is to, to feed all of my interests and all of my things that I enjoy.

[00:42:52] It’s about my role in the place that, that makes it so special

A Good Fit

[00:42:57] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah. Yeah. What you’re doing now is a perfect fit for who you are. It’s everything you dreamed of and love and it’s you through and through.

[00:43:06] Yeah. Yeah. So I’m gonna take another little shift. You’re in midlife, I’m in midlife- as you observe people, what do you think they do that holds them back from their best self?

[00:43:18] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: They, they worry about other people’s expectations.

[00:43:21] You know, I think there’s been several turns in my life where. People expected me to go do something. I got offered a permanent job at arches long before I took a permanent job at grand canyon. And I turned it down because it wasn’t, I could tell it wasn’t it was what everybody expected me to do.

[00:43:40] They’re like you got offered a permanent job. Why would you not take that? But I could tell it wasn’t gonna be a good direction for me. And, you know, everybody expected me to go to Washington and I was like, Ooh, no,

[00:43:50] I think when we try to meet everyone else’s expectations is when is when we, we really lose sight of what we’re trying to go.

[00:43:58] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17:  Mm-hmm I’d agree with that. Yeah. I don’t know.

[00:44:00] Next Level of Development

[00:44:00] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: What do you think, what do you think is next in your, like in your near future? What, what concept or idea are you chewing on?

[00:44:10] And what do you think is your next level of development? Those might be two different questions. They might be the same question. I’m not sure. Hmm.

[00:44:19] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: You know, I, I think at some point I’m gonna have to figure out. How to scale down – I think anybody who’s ever had a role like mine, they have to figure out how do you scale down from it? Like, how do you, how do you step back down from it?

[00:44:32] I need to look deeply into now that I’ve kind of identified the passion, like where do I find that somewhere else?

[00:44:37] So I. I think it’s a blessing to have kind of figured out what that thread is that’s come through all of my, all of my decisions and gotten me to where I’m like super happy and, and figure out, okay, now how do I carry that into the next phase? Because it’s not getting to be the guy in the helicopter anymore.

[00:44:53] That makes it great. It’s getting to lead the team of people that are in the helicopter.

[00:44:57] How do I carry that forward into the next job? That’s not that doesn’t involve aircraft? How do I do that?

Good Mentors

[00:45:02] I’m very fortunate in that I have had several mentors who have retired before me who have had that same conundrum and they’ve figured it out and they have some great options and directions to lead me in that I think are gonna be worth listening to as I explore what that might be.

[00:45:16] But I think, I think figuring out what that passion is for you. And how to carry that, even if you can’t do the same task, how do you carry that forward?

[00:45:25] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: But hopefully not any time soon, cuz you just got there.

[00:45:28] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Yeah, no, it is gonna be a while because the river program is definitely not rebuilt and the pipeline build is pushed back a year by contracting.

[00:45:35] So , it’s gonna be a while.

[00:45:38] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Lisa, this has been so fun. I have loved, loved, loved. Just hearing visiting with you. It’s been an honor and a privilege.

[00:45:46] You know that on my podcast, we generally gift someone to say thank you for their time by making a donation and their honor, and you chose the charity, mercy ships.

[00:45:55] So we will be doing that in your name. Thank you for your time.

[00:45:59] Absolutely. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

[00:46:05] Half Dome Fire

[00:46:05] Miriam – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: Okay, that’s fine. Yeah. So, so you asked me about any one incident. You know, can you, can you imagine, like from a leadership standpoint, you know, like, did that really happen? Was that really me? You know, and yeah, there were, there were several times over my career where I sat in a room after something happened and with the buddies that were with me and we were like, did that just happened?

[00:46:28] And one of the most striking was the me fire in Yosemite national park. I can’t remember exactly which year I wanna say it was either 20, 20, 14 or 15.

[00:46:38] Lisa – LeaveBetter Podcast Ep. 17: And there was a, a fire that started. Behind little Yosemite valley behind half dome. And it, it blew up. It was a drought year, as many years in California are, and it just started raging up through the valley behind half dome and it chased 80 some people to the top of half Dome And you know, these are people who spend their lives in cubicles and get sometimes, and, and some of them are dentists and folks who, who don’t necessarily get the excitement of even. Hiking up half them. Right. So that was the most exciting thing they were gonna do all summer. And now they’re being chased up, half Dome by a fire and they’re gonna get evacuated by helicopter.

[00:47:16] Right. So their minds are blown and they’re, they’re all over the place. I mean, herding cats would be far easier, right? Like it was just nuts. It, it was more like, like, you know, like herding monkeys, they were out of control, like just screaming everywhere. And and meanwhile, you know, the Park’s trying to fight the fire.


[00:47:32] And so there are huge air tankers. Just dropping incredible loads of slurry and water on that corridor behind half dome. And we were trying to evacuate these people into the valley to bring them back down into the valley. And we had we had four small aircraft. We had two CHP and those are our Aerostar aircraft.

[00:47:54] They can ha they can hold like three passengers. And then there was the aircraft out of Sequoia. And then eventually we, we got a, I think it was a, it was either Cal fire force, service helicopter. And so we had four pads in Aweenee Meadow And so it’s just a big meadow. There’s not an actual pad there, but we called them pads.

[00:48:10] There was four locations to land in Awan meadow, and only one of them. We had a portable fuel tank. And so the aircraft, we couldn’t just say, come back to pad one every time, like they had to be able to shuffle and they couldn’t fly above a certain elevation because they would go straight at the face of half Dome and then let the thermals carry on and like get up to the top and then get the people because there’s all this other air traffic fighting the fire and they have to stay out from under.

[00:48:33] it They have to stay under it. And so and so then these people get off the aircraft and we’re offloading them hot with the rotor turning and, you know, it’s loud and loud noises make people amp anyway. And it they’re just like trying to keep them from like standing up too early and like walking into rotors and I, it was madness.


[00:48:51] Right. And they’re already. You know, all of the endorphin response that comes with being in a situation like that, especially if you’ve never ridden in a helicopter or been chased by a fire, you know, I mean, they like, they tunnel vision, auditory, exclusion. They’re not listening to you. They don’t even see you.

[00:49:07] Like you’re trying to help them. And, and then working with the Rangers to just get them off scene, like we got a. And we literally built a funnel out of caution tape. And we were like, go that way. And we just funneled ’em all into this van. And we would offload a couple of aircraft and pile ’em all in the van and then drive ’em away and then dump ’em at the closest bus stop in the valley.

[00:49:25] And they’re like, well, we wanna wait for mom. And I’m like, mom is gonna come to the same bus, stop into the van, you know, and then we gotta track them. We gotta track everybody’s name and email address and phone number because for the next week, everybody who had, you know, A third cousin’s nephew hiking in the Yosemite wants to know if their buddy’s okay, because they hear this story.

[00:49:42] And so they’re gonna call, so we better know who’s on that roster, who we just evacuated. So so yeah, that day was madness and, you know, trying to get those aircraft in coordinated making sure that they are deconflicted from each other, making sure that they’re deconflicted from the airspace above him with all these other aircraft that are fighting the fire

Protect Each Other

And then getting all these completely panicky people off of half them. And the ones who are there with your, their selfie sticks, that they’re about to stick up into the rotor. And I mean, all the crazy and we got done and we were like eating pizza in the rescue cash later. And we’re like, that just happened.

[00:50:12] Like, we’re just looking at each other, like, but you don’t have time to think. And I imagine that some of your listeners have business situations. They end up in a position where like they just have to react to what just hit ’em and they don’t have time to think. And what made us successful that day is everybody on that scene had a ton of training in how to manage aircraft, like how to safely manage aircraft and how to communicate safely with aircraft.

[00:50:42] And we had trained with all of the, he attack crews for those aircraft previously. And. While, none of us ever imagined that scenario, we had built relationships. We had trained with those people for the worst case scenarios that we had imagined at the time we were apparently not creative enough, but we had, we had definitely tried to imagine panicky situations.

[00:51:04] We had trained for mass casualty incidents and, and we had the right people on the ground to, to manage it. And then we just trusted each other and managed it, you know? . And there was, I mean, there was a moment when the hill attack foreman for Sequoia, like grabbed me by the collar. Cause the, the type of aircraft we were walking out from under you had to wait.

Move Forward

[00:51:25] For a certain period of time until they, they completely shut down because the rotors dip as they shut down and you know, it’s not even safe to, like, you could walk out from under that aircraft when it’s running. No problem. But if it’s on the process of shutting down, like you gotta stay right up against it, or you gotta be all the way out front of the Roers.

[00:51:42] And it was in the process of shutting down and it was just a different aircraft. That’s not the one I fly on all the time and you know, and she’s like, whoa, wait, you know, It’s like, you’re just looking out for everybody else on that scene and looking out for each other. And then you just move forward and you deal with it as it’s hitting you.

[00:51:57] And I’m sure people in, in different lines of work, deal with that in a, in a totally, it may not be as dramatic or make as, as good a story, but it’s the same principle for that team that has to deal with it. So, yeah, it’s the same principle. I love that. You told that story. Thank you.


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