By: Mary Kate Pedigo, Sam Houston Electric Cooperative

Electric cooperative communicators lost one of the most enthusiastic advocates for our craft in early March. Justin LaBerge, senior leadership communications manager at NRECA, passed away leaving behind more than just fond memories of colorful bowties and socks.

Justin left an impact on our industry. He exuded a sense of purpose, leadership and drive that many of us only hope to mirror. But the truth is, we can. And what a way to honor his legacy by continuing to share his love of cooperatives and the importance of communications.

Those who knew Justin’s personal story also knew that every day he had a choice to make. A choice to push past obstacles and a choice to shine. But that’s just it. That’s the missing piece for so many of us each day. It’s the choices we make and the attitude we decide to carry with us in life.

If you spend any time in researching how to be impactful, you’ll quickly find that people who do this well all have similar behaviors.

  1. They dedicate themselves to what gives their life meaning and purpose. They don’t complain, they don’t simply endure—they love what they do.
  2. They commit to continually bettering themselves. Just like Justin, it’s a lifelong commitment of saying “yes” each morning.
  3. They engage with people in open, honest ways. Genuine conversation always strikes a stronger cord and these folks know the power behind meaningful dialogue.
  4. They encourage and uplift others. This is often done by simply sharing what they know or thoughtfully using their power and influence to see others succeed.
  5. They see the “bigger picture.” They don’t just invest time and energy in what is, but what a situation can be.

The biggest thing I take away from the points above is that none of these are special skills or rare talents. They’re not obtained only after years and years of experience. They are all, in fact, choices and behaviors.

What if we looked at not just completing a task or job, but leaving our mark? What if we sought out the empowerment of others rather than personal gain?

A common tongue-in-cheek motto of cooperative’s is admire and acquire. So, let’s put it in action. How can we let a legacy, like Justin’s and many others, inspire each of us to be better communicators, better employees, better mentors and better champions of the cooperative story?

Think about those who have made an impact on your career. What was it about them? Write down those qualities and make them your own. Make a choice each morning and say “yes” to making a difference and leaving your mark. And for those of us who were privileged to know Justin, that mark was far greater than colorful bowties and socks.