What are your unique gifts and strengths? What makes a good leader? The answer to these questions is exactly the same thing. No Ordinary People provides a funny, straightforward look at 23 ordinary people across three decades who got the job done right, each in their own way. Spanning careers and business, in military and law enforcement, these extraordinary leaders prove that you don’t need any special training to bring out the best in others and that you don’t need to do things in any way but your own.
Though one success story after another, each one vastly different from the next, you walk away from No Ordinary People with a new plan to make the most of your team’s unique gifts and with a new role model for the very best person to lead you. Here’s my conversation with Linda Haley.
Welcome to The Author Hour. I’m your host Benji Block and today, we are thrilled to have Linda Haley here with us, she’s authored a new book titled, No Ordinary People: How Gift-Spotting Sets People and Teams Up for Extraordinary Success. Linda, thank you for being here on Author Hour with us.
Linda Haley: Thank you for having me.
Benji Block: I love that title. I want to know right here off the top, why were you drawn to write this particular book at this time in your life, Linda?
Linda Haley: I never intended to write a book but when I semi-retired from the police department, a very dear employee told me I was the best supervisor she ever had and as much as an honor as it was, it got me thinking, “why?” What have I learned over the past 30 years and from home that put me in a position to be someone’s favorite supervisor?
I just started writing, I just wanted to highlight the reason I was successful, the people I worked with that were successful and then, in turn, I was able to make my millennials extremely successful that I’m very proud of.
Celebrating Those Who’ve Supported You and Have Left Lasting Influences
Benji Block: Yeah, tell us a little bit more about the context. For those that aren’t familiar with you and your professional career, just give us that arc if you will.
Linda Haley: Well, I have very strong parents that taught me a lot of good foundation[al] things but I wasn’t ready to go to college after high school. I decided to join the Navy and I’d always wanted to join the Navy ever since fourth grade, so I learned a lot from there. After that, I went back to Michigan State, finished up and I thought I was going to be a federal agent like my dad but I got caught in a hiring freeze, so I went into business and my very first supervisor in business taught me a lot. Then worked my way up the chain, started my own company and never had any turnover because it didn’t occur to me not to treat people well.
Then, when the industry — the finance industry fell in 2009, I completely reinvented and went into law enforcement, managed a couple of front desks, manned a 911 for a year, never again, God love those people. I did well but I said never again. Then I finished off as the record supervisor having people work for me and these millennials are incredible. They are just — boomers like me come with experience but millennials come with computer and Internet savvy that I was never raised with, so I cherished them, I supported them, I gave them credit for everything and I made sure they shined like pennies.
Benji Block: When you write a book like this — and because we’re going to get into some of the people you highlight and we’ll definitely come back to that conversation as well around honoring different age demographics and the differences in people but — when you think of your ideal reader for this book, someone you want to see pick it up and give it a read, who are you imagining in your head, Linda?
Linda Haley: Anybody in management who needs a little help, support, because I highlight 23 different people who all do it right but in their own way. It can be for any manager, it could be for any supervisor, it could be any particular person who wants to better themselves. It covers all kinds of things that I thought were important; who made you successful and why?
Many of these people that I highlight in my book had rough backgrounds. I mean, backstories that were very difficult, and yet, somehow, they managed to pull themselves up and not just do well but celebrate success. One’s a self-made millionaire and she came from a very tough background. When you read her story in chapter two, she’s incredible but we’ve all had challenges in our background but what do you do with it?
You got a crossroads, you pick it up, you move along or you don’t and I want to encourage anybody who reads this to no matter what has happened in your life, pick it up, here’s 23 examples of people that did and the differences between them and then pay it forward. It never occurred to me that I would ever be somebody’s favorite supervisor. That never even occurred to me, that’s not why I did it. I didn’t do it for praise or pats on the back. I just knew that if they were successful and happy, it made me look good. Yeah, so I made sure they were happy and successful and they had everything they needed.
Benji Block: Well, if you open the book, you go to chapter one, it’s a highlight, you call it a flashback to your earliest influencers and you give the early pages to your mom and dad, which is always a good place to start and I want to read brief descriptions of them and talk about them for a minute. Your mom first, you write, “The biggest influence in my childhood. She was a straight-up, no-nonsense, loving Irish Catholic, stay-at-home mom of three girls.” Tell me a little bit about your mom and the impact specifically that she had on you?
Linda Haley: She had three babies the first three years of their marriage because she was a good Catholic girl and finally Dad said, “I’m Protestant, stop it.”
Benji Block: That’s a good response.
Linda Haley: Then we had to do a bit of traveling because Dad worked for the government. She said she couldn’t afford to have whiny babies on her hand so she made sure that we didn’t ever cry about anything that was lost, broken, or stolen. We were never allowed to be materialistic in that regard and then I remember the first time I told her I was bored, she said, “Oh I’ve got something for you.”
She packed up my two sisters and we went over to our lady — the nun’s place — and we were scrubbing floors all day but my sisters weren’t happy with me because they weren’t bored.
Benji Block: That’s a good way to keep you occupied.
Linda Haley: You know what? I thought I’d learned my lesson but at 13, I said, “I don’t like the way you did my laundry.” She said, “Great, let me introduce you to the washing machine” and I should have seen that one coming. Then at 16, they put us in the best schools in the best neighborhood so we could have the best schools but truth be told, we were five people and one income.
We didn’t have a lot of money so at 16, all my friends were being given cars and I am like, “I’m going to try that. Mom, I want a car.” She said, “Honey, so do I. Have you seen what’s in the driveway? Get a job.” I didn’t see that one coming either. I was not the brightest knife in the door.
Benji Block: Yeah, you should have seen the repetitive nature of the answer she was giving you there.
Linda Haley: I was pretty in high school, enough said.
Benji Block: I love that. Well, then you highlight your dad as well, you’ve mentioned some of what he does but fill in that picture for us. I know you guys traveled and he managed to teach you several critical skills even though he was gone quite a bit and all that but, fill in the holes there.
Linda Haley: He wasn’t around a lot when we were growing up because he was at work when we went to bed and we were in school before he got up because drug dealers don’t work nine to five. He had to work when they were working, that’s what he said, and I remember one time saying to him, “Do you really think drugs should be illegal?” He said, “Just live within the laws of today and by the way, it pays the mortgage.”
Benji Block: Yup.
Linda Haley: He always had a sense of humor but he always taught me certain things like, “Have respect for your man. If you don’t have respect for your man, why should anybody else?” Well, I related that to business and if I don’t respect my boss and the company I work for, why should anybody else?
He was a very generous person and he said, “Take care of contractors, they take care of you.” When I had my roof done, they got breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I had one of their wives call me and say, “Stop feeding my husband, he’s going to fall off of the roof.” It’s like, I was taught from a young age, you know? It’s very important how you treat other people. I mean, back in the 60s, we didn’t have cellphones or pagers or that kind of thing.
Dad would give our home phone number to his informants. One of them was a madam, she had a number of prostitutes and she would call us up, “Is Bill Home?” “No, he’s not home yet.” They would proceed to say, “Well, how are you and your girls?” “Oh, they’re fine, one’s got a cold.” My mom would say, “How are your girls?” and she’d say, “Oh, they’re fine.” I mean, my parents had a very interesting compassion for a lot of people.
Benji Block: I like that. That sets the scene pretty well and then there are several other people that you end up highlighting as crucial individuals in those early formative years. Just give me maybe one other that comes to mind that played a pivotal role for you, Linda?
Linda Haley: Well, in high school, it was my high school coach, Carol Shone. High school years are already difficult for teenagers, let alone having issues at home and my parents in our high school years, they had developed a drinking problem. That was real tough but I had the foundation so it was just a matter of, “Okay, how busy can I stay? How much work can I do after school and on weekends and be home by curfew?”
In between then was Carol Shone, she was my high school coach for three years. She was incredible, supportive, just straight-up no-nonsense, she would never let you be discouraged in a loss and I adored her. I went all the way, I got all-conference, all state, all North Jersey, I had a partial scholarship to Yale University because of her. I credit her because my first year in college, I hadn’t established study habits and my college coach was really hard on me and I quit after the first year and joined the Navy.
She’s like, “I can’t believe you quit ahead, you still have it for the Olympics.” I said, “Not if I’m miserable.”
Benji Block: Right.
Linda Haley: Carol Shone, I didn’t even know how valuable her gift was to me until I got to college.
Benji Block: Wow.
Linda Haley: Yeah. I made it to all-conference in my first year in college but under a coach that’s more mean than tough, no thanks, I’m good. It’s just not the way you treat people. Carol Shone, my high school coach — I didn’t connect with her during the writing of this book, I would have loved to have interviewed her but I connected with her afterwards on Facebook so I’ve spoken with her. I can’t wait to send her a copy.
Benji Block: That’s so cool. I love when books reunite people after time and it’s great that you are able to find her in that way. When you were saying that story, I think of my fifth-grade teacher. Her name was Miss Nicholas and you said something there that, it just triggered a memory in me because fourth-grade was extremely hard for me and was a really pivotal time in my schooling. Coming out of a really rough year, bad teacher, all of that, Ms. Nicholas was very good at allowing me to be me and my little ADHD brain running around everywhere. And she was able to really hone that and you had mentioned how you didn’t realize the impact until later, and I think there are so many stories like that, right?
Where there is someone that has done real good in our lives that we don’t see all the good until after the fact. I’m glad, even all these years later, you’re getting to highlight the impact that she had in this book even more than just one coach. It’s again, it’s all of these stories collectively have had a big impact on you.
You mentioned something that I want to talk on because you took a section of this book, I believe, off of a friend’s request for you to include some of the harder parts of your life, right? You have some sections where you say, not good, good and one of those was the drinking problem that your parents developed while you were in high school.
Another one, a good thing that came out of that season where you didn’t want to be in the house very often, is that you started to develop this love for volunteering. I would love to hear a little bit about that, I believe you’re what? 13, 14 years old when you start volunteering. Tell me a little bit about that season for you, Linda?
Linda Haley: It was great. I would go after school every chance I could get, I would go on weekends when it wasn’t hockey season and if you’ve worked a double shift, they fed you so I got my love for grilled cheese, love fat and I got to work all over the hospital. I was at the emergency room on Saturdays after football season, that was fun. On the floors, as a nurse’s aide, in the cafeteria, dietary. I mean, I worked, I volunteered all over that place. One year, I even got a thousand hours within one year.
Benji Block: Wow.
Linda Haley: It was very productive. I heard something recently about, when you don’t feel like your world is in control, volunteering is the best thing to do because it puts you in control of your life and gives you purpose and I think Greg Gutfeld said that from The Five. It just rang true to me that I didn’t know how to articulate it but it did put me in control of my life and gave me purpose at that time.
What’s fabulous about that was that at 16, they just picked me up. They just picked me up and started paying me and gave me a physical every year whereas all my friends were at fast-food, I was making nine bucks an hour in the 70s. I mean, that’s huge.
Benji Block: That’s incredible, yup.
Linda Haley: I always adored my mother. It’s just — it was a rough patch but I had my friends, I had Shoney, I had my work volunteer, hockey. I just kept busy and that’s what worked for me.
Utilizing Your Gifts and Passions
Benji Block: What from that season ends up translating to future seasons of your life as maybe — is it work ethic? Is it just volunteering? You see the impact you’re having and maybe that translates into business and all that but what are the main takeaways from that season and volunteering there that impacted your life?
Linda Haley: Well, I’ve done a lot of traveling myself and been between jobs more than once in my life and in between jobs, I always plopped myself at the nearest shelter and you know, when you are working to help somebody else, it makes your own problems seem small.
My dad said that two years ago, when you can look in other people and see what they’re going through, your problems can seem very small. I have always maintained a strong volunteer history just because of that. Now, I didn’t volunteer when I was at the police department because I couldn’t do both emotionally.
Benji Block: For sure.
Linda Haley: You’re either working at one or you’re working at the other. In between jobs and for decades, I just always believed in giving back your time. Just give back your time. I love the training that they give you in Texas. I mean, you’re going to have 30 hours of sexual assault training before going anywhere near the shelter, which was wonderful because it taught you all about healthy boundaries and just really fine-tuned any support I would give those places. It really does put your own life into perspective when you’re helping others, that’s all.
Benji Block: Yeah, well chapter two is a breakdown of types of personal gifts and you highlight many of the stories that you had mentioned earlier. I picked two from the list, not necessarily stories. I’d love for you to share whatever stories you’d like but I wanted to talk about personal gifts of hospitality and devotion. We’ll start with hospitality, maybe an example from your life and how you grew or what you learned from that example. Would you give us how hospitality became this blinking light of a personal gift?
Linda Haley: Well, I’ve always liked to cook but running with my hair on fire in business, I didn’t really become a foodie until I hit 40 but I remember the first time I joined a church in Maryland when I was staying with my sister for some time and that was after the industry fell in 2009. I just took some time off, went out to Maryland to visit my sister and I loved her church, and to join the church, you had to see the pastor.
You have to tell the pastor your story and I thought, “Oh Lord, if this guy has to hear even half my story, he needs food.” So I brought a pizza and he told me nobody had ever done that before and that my gift was hospitality. It’s the first time that somebody ever said that to me, so I thought, “Hmm, there is something to this,” and then I kind of fell into it. When I got into law enforcement in Texas, I went from making six figures to like, my first job in Texas was $11.92 an hour running the front desk.
I thought, “I got my first check but who lives on this? Lord, have mercy.” And I thought, “Oh I do now.” But too often when people would come into the police department, they were stressed or dehydrated or whatever and just half the time, I found myself giving up my lunch and my water, so I decided to start keeping bottled water and Kashi bars in my locker. Then I took that to the next police department and I did that again, and it just really works. It’s not just because of hospitality but it’s because if a person is thirsty and you don’t want to give them soda from the soda machine.
Water is better for the body if somebody is stressed and a Koshi bar is to settle them, they make better witnesses for the office as well. So when I got to Leander Police Department, that command step caught wind of what I was doing and they let me put it in the budget. They totally understand service first and taking care of people first, you know, comfort first, crisis second. That’s one chief that chapter two I am highlighting, that’s like the cherry in my book. That is, the people that I worked with that really did it right.
Benji Block: When you say service first and you think of hospitality, one of the things that — for me, hospitality doesn’t come naturally so I learned from people like you. What are things that you would say like, how do you train your eye and your mind to see opportunities for hospitality and start to lean into that?
Linda Haley: Well, there are some practical examples like for example, once or twice a year, when I take a load at Salvation Army, which is my favorite charity, I take donuts so they can put it in the kitchen, little baby steps. Now, when I left the police department, the person that took my place, Chelsea, she’s amazing but she doesn’t have — I told her, I said, “You’re not like me and I don’t want you to be like me. Your strengths are going to come out. This office is going to change personality and it’s going to be amazing under your talents, so just develop your own talents.”
Hospitality isn’t for everyone and I am not as generous near as Paul who is generous and I never would have even made it in law enforcement if it hadn’t been for Sergeant Winkler, my first supervisor because it is not for the faint-hearted. It doesn’t matter how smart you are, if you can’t do the job, you’re not going to last. Everybody in chapter two, there’s a specific reason why they were successful and I am the only one that had the strength or everybody else did it right for different reasons that’s why I love chapter two.
Benji Block: Okay, so another one you highlight is devotion. Tell us about Edna and how you see devotion in her.
Linda Haley: Edna, no matter what she does, whether it’s raising her children or Boy Scout’s or supporting him in junior ROTC or her work at the police department or [when] she goes down to South Padre and does Spring Break as calm on the beach to keep people from bring glass on the beach and then enforcing that kind of thing, no matter what she does, she is completely devoted and I started her title as professional. But when I started writing, I realized no, she’s so totally devoted to everything she does and it is hard to juggle kids, marriage, work, and then community.
She does it all, she’s incredible. She is absolutely incredible and her story, she came from nothing. She came from an abusive relationship, she came from literally nothing and she remembers the first person that gave her a job. You don’t forget these people, you don’t forget them. My first coach, my high school coach, my first supervisor in business, my first supervisor in law enforcement, you don’t forget these people that gave you a chance.
I mean, my first mistake in law enforcement, he used all my mistakes as training issues, not disciplinary issues, that’s what makes Gera Winkler so special. I sent the police department to the wrong address and that is ten people that want to hang you, that want to just put your head on a platter. Well, they pulled the tape. I didn’t send them to the wrong place, the lady gave me the wrong address but the point is, he never ever judged me without verifying and he’s just been an incredible supervisor. Ernie Daniels is an incredible supervisor.
Benji Block: Wow.
Linda Haley: Yeah.
Benji Block: I love how you can call to mind these people because you said you never forget these people. But I will say like I do think there is a tendency maybe because of the pace of culture and just the way that life moves right now and the speed that we can forget to slow down and be thankful for people and say specific things. And that is one of the things I wanted to highlight here because being good at calling the gifts out of other people is a big deal.
We need to get better as a culture at seeing what someone is great at and telling them and that is why I think I so appreciate your tactic or your book here is because you are seeing good in someone and you are identifying very quickly, “Oh this is their gift” and you’re just calling that good out, right?
Linda Haley: Right and it can be completely different than mine, that’s the whole point and you know, I am 60. I turn 60 years old this year and it’s like I had the time to write this by saying, “Okay, thank you for saying I’m the best supervisor you’ve ever had but I don’t need the pat on the back. Why?” Why? What influenced me over the last 30 years that brought me here and how do I give it forward to my millennials?
They are an incredible group of people and you know, I hope that they can learn from this book and just realize you don’t have to be like me, you do you, boo. Just be yourself but what is your strength? I am not talking about people flattering you and looking for a parade. I am talking about evaluating. Evaluate what is the best of you and how do you recognize it in other people because I have been in business before where I have done something extraordinary and my supervisor took credit for it.
That stings, it does nothing but to come around and I would never do that. You know, I asked my millennials for help, and not only did they help me, I gave them full credit for it in writing to put a smile on their face. Yes, “Thank you for everything you’ve done.” It’s in writing.
Identifying Your Strengths
Benji Block: You say there, identify your strengths. Tell me about the development of that for you, when did you start to recognize some of those strengths that were in you and how would you tell someone to actually identify them?
Linda Haley: You have to have a certain amount of self-awareness. I always knew I had — I like to cook. I always knew that I could be generous. I always knew I had — I talk in direct speech. People love that and I hated it. Most people don’t sit on the fence with somebody like my personality, but over time, I just felt myself recognize like okay, I knew that I got along with the gals that worked for me.
I knew we get along really well but the truth be told, I didn’t know how much I meant to them until I got their cards. I put the cards on the book under their pictures but I honestly didn’t realize how much of an impact I had on them until after my retirement party and I got a text the other day from another friend of mine that said, “You know, the impact is still there” and it’s an honor, isn’t it? That you just did it right.
You truly set somebody else up for success and you did it right. Chelsea and I went up for supervisor position at the same time and I think that honestly, the only reason I got there over hers was because I had a strong volunteer background and they wanted a volunteer program but when I got an opening in my department and I heard she applied again, I couldn’t wait to get her in. I thought, “That’s my future.”
Every time I went to a supervisor’s retreat, I shared it with her. I shared with her everything I was doing, my job, what to do, open records, everything, I groomed her to take my place from the day she walked in the door and when I left, the only thing I couldn’t give her was experience but I gave her everything else. And you don’t see that a lot in business these days.
Benji Block: No, you don’t and I want to highlight that for a second here because you talk about embracing, and you’ve mentioned millennials several times here. But there is a tendency towards generations maybe not understanding each other and that it is not always clear as to how to kind of mind that gap and bring some unity there. I am 30 years old, I would fall in that millennial category, Linda.
What would you encourage me to lean into to maybe experience some of that generational perspective and wisdom and what do you think made the work that you’ve done successful now looking back?
Linda Haley: You know, it is so important that the person that you worked for appreciates your work. One of the first things with Chelsea and I was that I am not an IT person and we were at a conference call with an IT issue and I am taking notes because I am a boomer. I am taking notes pen and paper, I am old school and she is looking down at her phone the whole time.
Okay, well then I got lost. Once I got lost, I got annoyed and she’s looking down the whole time, so finally, I said, “Are you getting this?” and she said, “Yes.” I said, “Okay,” so I got off the phone with him. I said, “Okay, show me.” She walked me through everything like an expert. From that day on I said, “I don’t care if you’ve got that phone strapped to your head. You were paying attention.” So I really want to impress upon baby boomers to truly look at your millennials and appreciate you for your different strengths than us.
I remember one time she was five minutes late. I said, “I don’t care, just keep me posted. Don’t get me in trouble and keep the time card honest. If you owe me five minutes, pick it up at lunch” and she said, “Do you remember when I was late last week?” I said, “No because I am not going to micromanage you. You are a grown woman.” One woman really grew by me giving her all the flexibility I could.
A low functioning employee, I would have tell her to that five minutes for a minute so it depends that low functioning people, high functioning people, if you[‘re not] high function and your employee is a millennial, then you deserve to be cherished, absolutely cherished. But if you are a low functioning employee then you might struggle a little bit with, depending on if you have a boss that’s someone like me, because I always spoil people rotten but I’ve got very high expectations.
I don’t want the work to just get done. I want it to soar and the more flexibility I gave my millennials, the better they bloomed and I think that your generation needs a little of the flexibility, whether it’s working from home, whether it’s the cellphones, I don’t care, just keep yourself attached to your head. I don’t care but as long as you give me strong day’s work. You know if you can give somebody a strong day’s work, you deserve to be treated like gold.
Benji Block: Yep, I agree. When you look at millennials and you would say, “Hey, this is something you guys should pay attention to” from your generation, what’s something that we should be taking away learning from you, and what do you hope we take away from your generation?
Linda Haley: Well, I don’t know, I think you all are pretty — I’ve just had such a great experience working with all of you people. I just seriously I’ve never had a bad experience quite frankly. The bad experience I did have in business was a boomer like me. Oh, Lord have mercy but I’ve never had a bad experience working with a millennial. That’s why I said the — and you guys know Chelsea taught me and Jean.
Oh, Jean is incredible. Jean and Chelsea are the two people that worked for me at the PD and they’re both different but incredible women and no joke, you know, I’ve [had] more problems with boomers than I had with millennials. Let me tell you, we need to be more flexible, we need to be more compassionate and we need to truly recognize your talents. I think it’s more like us, our generation that needs to be — to do more. I think your generation is just fine.
Benji Block: Well, I will say as a millennial, I see all the things that we could do differently but I think that’s where healthy conversation happens, right? If you can see the weaknesses in your generation and can look to others and get some wisdom and we can all kind of come to the table with some humility, we’re going to move forward into a lot better days ahead, so I think that’s a good way to start to wrap this up.
You mentioned at the beginning some of what you hope for readers but I’d like to end there as well. When readers are done with this book, what do you hope their main takeaway is?
Linda Haley: That is a quick easy read, relatable, funny, you know. I hope you laugh, you cry, you find it relatable and it’s a quick easy read that I hope you really enjoy.
Benji Block: Besides checking out the book Linda, is there a way that people can stay connected to you or reach out?
Linda Haley: I think it’s going to go live on the first, it will be lindashaley.com.
Benji Block: Wonderful. Well, the book again is called, No Ordinary People: How Gift-Spotting Sets People and Teams Up for Extraordinary Success. It is on Amazon, go pick it up, it’s going to be a great resource for so many and Linda, thank you for being here on Author Hour with us today.
Linda Haley: Thank you so much.