Like A Boss : Lewisa Anciano
We had the utter thrill of sitting down with HR innovator, entrepreneur, all around badass Lewisa Anciano. In meeting Lewisa, it’s clear: She’s a firecracker. Self-described provocateur, she’s on a mission to ignite people and organizations to take charge of their destiny.
So, who is Lewisa Anciano?
“I was born and raised in Singapore and came to Canada when I was 16. We weren’t the typical rich immigrants; we came to Canada with six suitcases and $8,000 in 1986. I’m half Chinese and half Eurasian - a mixture of Spanish, French, Portuguese and Filipino. I was lucky my first language is English (Singlish) so I assimilated easily to Canadian life. Being raised in multi-cultural situations has served me to embrace diversity well.
What’s your career story?
“[I started studying HR] at SFU but then switched to marketing because marketing seemed more exciting. HR seemed almost too practical. I ended up with a marketing undergrad degree and I worked in Banking while in school. I always had a strong sense of learning, growing, and absorbing things and I like to take the road less traveled. Like most HR people, I fell into HR and didn’t pursue marketing but I am definitely using marketing to think about employee experience. Something I knew about myself early on was that I always had unofficial power; powerful people wanted me around but I didn't always need the status, title, or money. I like to be behind the scenes to make something big happen. I was lucky in my career to be a Vice-President three times before I turned 40. I am honored to have led some of the larger HR departments in the city. After I left Coast Capital Savings, I knew I wanted to do something different like a publicly traded fin-tech start-up. I have learned more in the past year than I have ever. I’ve learned that I’m fearless -- in fact, I’m attracted to fear and chaos”
What qualities make a stand out HR person?
“HR people have to be confident, strong and stick their necks out. We have to be okay [with being] fired for doing the right thing. Yet at the same time, we have to be humble and accept feedback.”
What or who has been your greatest influence in business and why?
“I had a boss in business who passed away and she always taught me to treat people with kindness and compassion. [She also used to say,] ‘If it’s too tough for everyone else it’s just right for us.’ She hired me when I was 28 and she told me she was dying; she told me she wanted me to take over her cause at where we worked. She was a real truth teller, she held people accountable and [from a HR leadership perspective] she always knew who we had to be and the top three to five things in our people strategy to align with our business strategy”
What's one key leadership lesson you've learned in your career?
“To always serve the needs of others. Always be humble, have humility. Have compassion and empathy. Serve the cause. Put yourself last; the best leaders always eat last.”
Define a leader. What are some traits you think great leaders possess?
“A great leader has vision. They can see the big picture and articulate it clearly. Great leaders have a roadmap - year one, year two, and so on; they can connect and motivate every person to be part of the vision and the journey. They reinforce everyone's part as it relates to the big picture and plan. They also hold others accountable and course correct when needed.”
How do you achieve work-life balance?
“First and foremost I travel but [truth be told] I am either in sloth mode or cheetah mode. I’m very extreme that way. When I am in cheetah mode I move fast and do lots of things. When I’m a sloth I do nothing; I listen to my body, soul, and instincts. Before I go to bed, I reflect upon the day an I ask myself, what lessons have I learned? What am I grateful for?”
What will be the biggest challenge for the generation of women behind you?
“[A few things] come to mind… First, get off of social media. Then run your own race, run it the best that you know how and don’t worry about everyone else. We are overstimulated; we need to find inner peace.”
Rapid Fire Q’s.
What gets you up in the morning? Impossibility; I love when things are challenging, edgy, complex and it’s mission impossible. I just love when a business problem is so complicated. Others have tried to solve these problems, I can see the solutions creatively, create a clear execution road map and be able to nudge, guide, negotiate, and drive people to get it over the finish line.
What are you most grateful for in this moment? The interactions that I am having with you. Connection changes the conversation; [it creates] a sense of intimacy that can only happen when you’re one on one.
What’s the best way women can support one another? To be kind. Kindness is something that I value a lot. I am very driven but not ambitious. Driven for the cause and the success of others but I put myself last. I come across as hyper and assertive but It’s never about me. I will stick my neck out and take the bullet for the right cause.
What 3 things do you always pack when you travel? My iPhone, credit card & cash, a list of one thing I want to do for the day that’s going to speak to my soul. Whether it is seeing art at a museum or sitting at a cafe watching the world go by.
How do you practice self-care? I travel a lot, I surround myself with people I love, [adore and worship;] I don’t surround myself with people I don’t love. I have a great partner in life and I learn a lot from him. My husband is someone who is my total opposite; they say opposites attract.
What’s the last new thing you’ve learned? This year my intention is to surrender more and have smart objectives - I am playing with being goal-less again this year. I am working with contradictions; I am practicing to getting things done but also be open to what the universe has to give.
What does success mean to you? My personal mission statement: I am a loving provocateur, who ignites the power of people and organizations to take charge of destiny. For me, success is when people have achieved their destiny and continue to keep achieving their destiny.
Any last minute thoughts or words of wisdom for our readers? “Always keep an open mind; come from a place of curiosity and not judgment. Also, know that it’s all about a growth mindset and grit.”