Revelstoke native Tana Heminsley recently published her first book, Awaken your authentic leadership. The book presents a step-by-step process to cultivate ones unique style leadership based your own values and purpose.
Heminsley was born and raised in Revelstoke. She worked for CP Rail and then BC Hydro and is the founder of Authentic Leadership Global, a company that aims to help people develop their leadership skills.
The Times Review spoke to Heminsley about her book, which is available for sale at Grizzly Books. The interview has been edited for length. For the full transcript, visit www.revelstoketimesreview.com.
You’ve been working on this book for eight years – what has the process been like for you?
It took me eight years. I developed the materials and started testing it. I was working at BC Hydro at the time so I was testing it with the women’s network there. I started doing retreats up the Sunshine Coast and sharing it with coaching clients. I was testing the materials for it.
I wrote a draft and finished it three years ago. I gave it to some friends and I’m kind of embarassed I actually gave it to them, becuase it apparently wasn’t a very complete draft. I got an editor and worked with her for two years. I wrote most mornings from 4–6 a.m. and re-wrote it and re-wrote it and re-wrote it until it got to its final form. I finished last September.
What made you want to write this book?
I wanted to do my part in the world. I want to help others. I wanted to put down all the things that helped me in my life. I was a pretty restless kid in Revelstoke and I made a lot of destructive choices as a teen. I did a lot of personal work. I’ve done about 25 years or more now of personal work with coaches and therapists and counsellors to figure out me and what makes me tick.
I learned so many things over the years that were helpful for me to change my life around so I put it down.
The first book is for organizational audience. For anyone who wants to step back and connect their values, what’s important to them and their passions.
For this book, it’s about being better inside of a company or an organization, and being kinder and seeing that it’s actually helpful to the bottom line to support others to be the best they can be too.
We’re finding its helpful for many different kinds of people. There’s a broader vsiion beyond the book which is to help anyone anywhere in the world who wants to start their own personal work, wants to reconnect with who they are.
For me I didn’t like myself a lot of my life. This was the process I went through to learn to like myself. I can say that now. I actually like myself and I’m a pretty good person.
There’s a lot of people who I’ve met both inside of organizations and outside of organizations who don’t like themselves and who are not happy in what they’re doing. I thought if I could help people get on their path sooner than it took me, they’ll have a better quality of life for the rest of their life. That would be a way I could do my part.
What do you mean by authentic leadership?
I take a really broad view of what a leader is and some people could be daunted by that. A leader for me is anybody who steps up and influences others and wants to do their part to make the world a better place, in whatever small way that looks or big way that looks.
An authentic leader, they do that with an internal clarity about their values and what is the right thing to do at each moment. They have an ethical intent when they do it.They’re able to override the unhealthy aspects of their ego or personality to do the right thing in the moment.
If you’ve been in a meeting at times and you see the conversations deteroriating where you don’t remember what it was about. Egos are getting in the way and people are getting angry, and the original intent of the meeting is not even clear anymore, what we do is we help people imagine what that same meeting would be like if you and I were both aware of what our healthy patterns are and our unhealthy patterns are. If in that moment I’m able to override my unhealthy judgements and assumptions and to choose the right thing in that moment. To do the right thing for me, the right thing for that group of people and my community. You can imagine how different the experience of that interaction and conversation would be for the people.
What are some of the steps to develop as an authentic leader?
The first step is to know that we have this whole external experience that’s going on as we’re living each day. We have emotions, we have thoughts, we have sensations or intuitions. We talk three centres of intelligence – not just our heads for thinking, it’s also our hearts, or emotions; and then our guts, or intuition.
If we can start to realize that we have all of this happening and if I learn to learn about it and learn to manage it in the moment, then I can have a different choice in how I experience the world and how I behave in the world.
For example, if you’re driving and it was back to back traffic and you’re stuck in your car in a snow storm. You can be frustrated, you can be angry. You can be in a really bad mood or in that same moment, if I know I’ve been triggered, if in that moment I can choose to practice patience, I can choose to practice empathy for the people around me who are also stuck in the snow storm, and I can choose to take a moment and just relax and enjoy it and step outside the car and enjoy the beautiful snow as it falls. I can completely change the way I experience that situation. A big part is that we have a choice in every moment in how we experience the world and how we behave. The first thing is to know is that all of that is going on and if I learn about it I can have more choice.
How do you take that and apply it to leadership?
I’ve tried to make the book really practical and applicable. There are action worksheets in it and there’s a process that I’ve outlined – I call it a personal planning process. It’s a process you can use once in your life or you can use it every few months or you can use it if you have a change in life – if you have a new child, or you get a promotion, or get fired, or need to change your behaviour. You can step back and complete this personal planning system. There are nine steps to it. It’s things like discovering your values, what your higher purpose is, what you’re meant to be doing in the world to contribute.
It’s the same process anyone can use anywhere in the world. It doesn’t have to be an organizational leader. It can be helpful for a teen or a women entrepreneur or a guy who’s just gone through a divorce or someone who’s getting close to retirement. Or a caregiver who’s taken care of their husband or wife for 10 years when someone dies. they lose a bit of themselves and they have to reclaim who they are.
We have these nine steps that people go through. There are two things that differentiate this system from other goal-setting systems. The first is that we have people start by remembering who they are when they are at their best, or what we call their authentic self. With fewer of those unhelpful aspects of personality.
One of the most unhelpful is the inner critic, where there’s a negative voice that plays over and over in our heads. There’s a critical voice that keeps us from being our true selves, from being effective as a leader. The more critical we are of ourselves, the more critical we can be of others as well.
We start by having people remember who they are when they’re at their best. They remember they are a good person and there are things they do like about themselves. When they go into the next steps – values and purpose and what their vision is for their life, then they have a different perspective than if they go into it with limitations of what they know about themselves, or their ego or personality.
The second difference is that we talk about this inner development plan and that by learning about thoughts and emotions and temptations or intuitions we can have more choices. We put a plan in place to have people identify what are the unhelpful aspects in who I am, that I can learn to let go and shift, and how that will help me be a better person or better leader.
Who do you share your message with?
With companies, with organizations. I train facilitators. There are 15 of us now around the world and we’re working with different groups of people – women, co-ed groups, people getting close to retirement that want to have more meaning in their life, caregivers. We have one person working with expats in different countries. So you move to Germany, for example, and you want to integrate into the culture and you still want to be true to who you are. A facilitator in Germany works with intercultural and expats. Everything from organizations to individuals.
We’re trying to create a global community that supports anyone anywhere that wants to do this work and wants to have a community of people they can talk to about it. We find its really helpful to talk to someone about it rather than try to do it all on your own.
The description of your book makes it sound like a book about developing leadership abilities, but interviewing you, it sounds like its more about personal discovery. Are you saying that if you learn you’re authentic self, you’ll become a better leader?
That’s exactly it. We have a much broader vision than just an organization or a corporate audience. The first book is written for an organizational leader, but I have a bunch of people that are not in companies and they’re reading it and it’s still applicable. It’s about starting your personal journey.
Find out more at Heminsley’s website, leadauthentic.com.