At Uplight, we encourage employees to lead their own initiatives, and our Conscious leadership guild is a great example. This self-led group of employees has embraced the principles of Conscious Leadership as a framework for working at Uplight while also seeing benefit in their daily lives. I talked with Ray Boutotte (Principal Software Engineer), Emily Beliveau (Senior Business Operations Manager), Evan Hung (Director of Software Engineering), and Annie Wadman (Senior Technical Project Manager) about what Conscious Leadership is, how they formed the guild, the link to Uplight values, and how the practice has helped them in their professional and personal lives.
How would you define Conscious Leadership?
Ray: For me it is a language, framework, and set of tools to help guide tough conversations and locate myself and bring awareness to the present.
Emily: The definition is hard for me. Adding on to what Ray said, Conscious Leadership is a toolbox to promote curiosity, self-awareness, and ultimately personal alignment.
Evan: Conscious Leadership is a practice that encourages us to be the best versions of ourselves by better understanding how we show up in the world. It operates under the premise that when we’re conscious, we’re simply more aware and present. In that awareness and presence, we have greater agency to create the kind of environment and world that we want to be in. Through this work, we can better know ourselves and live in alignment (similar to the Okinawan concept of Ikigai) — and also be the catalysts for greater connection in the workplace and beyond.
What I love about Conscious Leadership is that it’s both incredibly mindful and pragmatic. Words like “connection” are often viewed from the lens of personal growth, rather than professional — but I believe that the more connected we are, the more effective we work as well. Conscious Leadership has shown me that it’s possible for us to care deeply about one another and tap into our greatest potential as colleagues. Whether an individual is interested in this due to a desire for better relationships at work, or because they want to be the highest performer they can be (in the traditional sense), there is something here that will likely resonate.
How was the Conscious Leadership guild formed at Uplight?
Evan: The seeds of the Conscious Leadership Guild were planted during my first week at Uplight. I was meeting with my People Business Partner for the first time and mentioned that I was very passionate about Conscious Leadership, and that I was curious whether there would be any appetite at the company to learn more. We started by running a small experiment, where the People Business Partner would mention it in their check-ins with other Uplight team members — and the guild began to grow from there! From that initial group, word has spread organically and we eventually found ourselves on Uplight’s Connectivity Calendar. Today there are over 50 people on the Slack channel.
Annie: Many of us at Uplight participate in a #meet-people Slack channel where Donut pairs us with other Uplighters to have informal conversations. It’s a great way to meet people beyond the sphere of our day-to-day work, and I happened to get paired with Evan one week. I felt especially at ease with him, and shared some of my sense of disconnection from my identity as a theatrical and improv practitioner from my membership in the tech world. Anyway, he invited me to consider coming to the Conscious Leadership circle that gathers every other Friday.
I found immediate intimacy and trust in this circle, stuck around, and have since been training to facilitate these circles myself. We’re seeing more and more people find Conscious Leadership this way – casually, through a friend at work – and decide to come more consistently and bring their full selves. We’re exploring branching off into some additional circles so that we can maintain the intimacy and trust that is built in a smaller group.
How does the work connect to Uplight values?
Emily: The work deeply connects to Upight’s values. Conscious leadership principle of curiosity shines in our “grow” value. This value states: We’re driven by curiosity and excitement, and we’re always ready to learn. Conscious leadership brings awareness to our curiosity, playfulness, and can be used to grow internally and as a larger community. A focus on awareness and curiosity inherently drives empathy which is foundational to our One Team value.
How has Conscious Leadership helped you manage and work within a team?
Ray: CL is not just for managers, but individual contributors like myself, and while I do not directly manage a team, it has allowed me to respond with more empathy when situations arise within the team, and I am able to further utilize this framework to also help resolve those.
Annie: CL has given me tools to think about what it means to be in alignment with my own values, and it just so happens that Uplight’s values are an excellent match with my own. When I find myself feeling anxious or torn up about some piece of my work at Uplight, I often think about the 15 commitments and where I am in relation to those when it comes to this piece of work. This helps me to find the place where I’m out of alignment.
How has Conscious Leadership helped you avoid burnout?
Ray: CL has helped me to recognize when I show up really below the line to the point that I’m not helping myself or my teammates. At this point I’m able to be more aware of the fact that I’m not showing up the way I want to on a consistent basis and am able to clearly communicate this such that I am able to take the time off that I need.
Emily: Conscious Leadership has helped me honor my feelings and be present to them. This has helped me identify burn out earlier. It asks us to find ways things are happening by me versus to me. This reframe has helped me find my internal locus of control and find ways to find abundance when time can feel scarce.
One of the commitments is “excelling in your zones of genius.” How has Conscious Leadership and Uplight helped you do that?
Emily: In Conscious Leadership, awareness is a key tenant. Being aware of my zone of genius helps me remember to use them. It also allows me to raise my hand and communicate when I see things that would be in my zone of genius. For example, when stepping into a new initiative where other people owned the outcomes but were drowning in the volume of work, I was able to say – project management is a zone of genius. How can I help?
How has Conscious Leadership helped you outside of work?
Emily: It has helped me with my marriage. The concepts and vocabulary have helped me infuse curiosity in places where there could be stubbornness. For example, identifying when I have stories or 100% responsibility has allowed me to broaden the partnership.
Ray: Life (especially in the past couple years) has presented numerous challenges both in and out of work, and I’ve found that I have been able to apply the same principles to life outside of work. This has helped me gain a greater understanding of my wife and kids, and navigate other tough conversations that I could not have otherwise. Overall I feel I am living a much more sustainable life both inside and outside of work.
Thank you to this group for sharing your experiences around Conscious Leadership. For more information on working at Uplight, go to our Careers page.