The power of human alignment


Did you ever try to stack magnets?

It makes a difference how you stack them. Stack the wrong way, with the magnetic poles misaligned, and they fight you, pushing back, insisting on a different direction. Working against their inner force, you will not succeed. But if you align the poles in the same direction, the magnets will stack themselves. Once aligned, the resulting magnetic pull forms a super-magnet stronger than any of the individual magnets.

So it is with people. Alignment matters.  

I was asked once to describe the greatest lesson I have learned in my career, and it has to be this: that people in any organization can achieve incredible goals if they are aligned behind a common purpose. If, however, that purpose is unclear, or hasn’t been agreed upon, people will align on their own in all different directions, with the result being poor organizational performance, missed deadlines and poor service.

When you find yourself serving in a leadership role, whether in a formal or informal organization, one of your key responsibilities is to identify and define the common purpose. Once you have identified and defined it, you must continually communicate that purpose. Post it on the walls, make videos and put it on social media. The resulting alignment will become embedded throughout the organization, creating a permanent magnetic pull that will greatly improve your likelihood of success.  That’s why it is so gratifying to be part of this electric cooperative movement. Since the 1930s, co-op employees have aligned to serve their communities with a common purpose to improve the quality of life in those areas we serve. We do the first by providing reliable and affordable electric energy, but also by living out our core cooperative business principles. These principles include “concern for community” as a stated goal. Being owned and governed locally, cooperatives aren’t in this business to post a profit for out-of-state shareholders, and we don’t measure our success by increasing sales or revenues. We exist solely to make your life better. That’s the cooperative difference.

Duane Highley is president and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., (AECI) and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation (AECC). AECI, a statewide service co-op, and AECC, a wholesale power supply co-op, are owned by Arkansas’ 17 local distribution co-ops, which provide retail electric service to more than 1 million members.