Sitting on one of the office couches with the garage door open—the light and breeze freely flowing in—Adam Landrum, President & CEO at Up&Up took a moment to take in his surroundings.

Adam was sitting in the Up&Up office, located in Greenville, South Carolina. He had designed the space to feel more like a coffee shop and bar rather than a sterile, tiring office environment.

As a higher education marketing agency, Adam wanted to create an inspired workspace; he wanted to design a vibrant place that would harness team members’ creative talent and help them create great work with one another.

“In trying to build a great company, I really wanted happy employees and I wanted to create a workplace where people wanted to come,” adds Adam.

He had done just that: no matter where you are in the Up&Up office, employees have coffee, tea, or even beer nearby. On any given day, team members can be caught eating trail mix, fresh fruit, or another snack provided by the company. “They also can float around and change their scenery throughout the space. That’s their environment,” says Adam.

It might have been, in part, because he was reading Triggers: Creating Behavior That Lasts, by Mark Reiter and Marshall Goldsmith, but as Adam looked around him he had an insight that day.

Up&Up had been using surveys to give team members a chance to provide ongoing feedback about their levels of engagement. Specifically, these “pulse” surveys collected anonymous data to gauge employees’ happiness. They were used (and still are) to provide real-time feedback to help leadership continue to create a healthy culture.

Thinking about one of the recent survey’s results, Adam realized just how much of employee engagement is in the hands of employees.

“As pointed out in the book Triggers, it could be argued it’s the wrong question to ask, ‘Are you happy at work?’ The right question to ask is: ‘How are youcontributing to your happiness at work?’” explains Adam.

It was an aha moment. “Engagement is also employees’ responsibility. They need to have the desire to learn and assume the responsibility to empower themselves,” he adds.

“I used to think my employees’ happiness was my number one priority. After awhile of failing miserably, I learned I can’t make them happy. Happiness is their responsibility.”

With that thought shift behind him, Adam re-examined and began to evolve how he equipped team members to make better decisions and deal with challenging situations. Here’s how leaders across the company are empowering each other to live in their zone of genius.

Making time to grow in self-awareness.

Up&Up team members have read The 15 Commitments of Conscious Leadership: A New Paradigm for Sustainable Success written by Jim Dethmer, Diana Chapman, and Kaley Klemp. The company has adopted the commitments of conscious leadership that are described in the book as a part of their behavioral values.

These approaches and tools help Up&Up team members to become more self-aware, emotionally intelligent leaders who can:

  • Take 100 percent responsibility for their life and their entire well-being;
  • Shift from a defensive posture to an open-minded, curious state;
  • “Let go” of the need to be right;
  • Strive to see every interaction as an opportunity for learning.

“This really helps facilitate much better teamwork. Conscious leadership and encouraging employees to own their happiness can be a total paradigm shift for a lot of people, including me a few years ago,” explains Adam.

Each month, Up&Up has a conscious leadership forum, a time block where they are able to discuss and practice the 15 commitments of conscious leadership. Typically a session will run for two to three hours. Individuals often suggest topics to discuss, and then the forum votes on one or two topics that the group will then focus on.

“For example, we might look at commitment number two, which is curiosity. So, what does it mean to get curious? Then, we might look at: what does it mean to not feel entitled to be right, but just be aware of yourself?”

It’s a safe and productive environment that helps leaders get to know themselves and continue to practice shifting their consciousness. The result so far: empowered employees who are able to grow their ability to own their emotions, behaviors—and ultimately—their happiness.

Providing opportunities for rapid learning.

The average age across Up&Up’s leadership team is 36. “That means we have given some relatively young employees the opportunity to step into a leadership role, when quite frankly, they needed to grow into their role,” shares Adam.

Giving employees opportunities to spread their wings helps them learn quickly and helps grow their confidence. “We haven’t executed perfectly, but last year this leadership team led our 16-year old firm to record growth and record profit with this philosophy,” says Adam. 

“Doing this has required a tremendous amount of vulnerability and trust,” Adam says. “I think it’s been a game-changer for us.” Learn more about becoming a more conscious leader at Aileron today.