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“What’s in it for me?” … and other bad attitudes

by Doug Griffiths
in Communication, Community Development, Governance, Leadership

In the quest for success, attitude is everything. The right attitude can help us overcome great obstacles and hard times, and the wrong attitude can ensure we fail – even when a glorious opportunity falls directly into our lap. There are six attitudes that all have the result of ensuring municipalities don’t cooperate with each other, which is a dangerous game to play in this day and age.

1. Isolationism, Protectionism, and Egoism

Isolationism occurs when a municipality’s leaders feel that cooperation will mean they will lose something. From my experience, those types of leaders are so busy trying to beat the municipality next door, or building a wall around their boundaries, they fail to realize that competition is no longer local, but global. So, they only think local, plan local, and act local; and any regional discussions are pure heresy.

Protectionism occurs when a community’s leaders, namely their political and administrative leaders, fear that cooperation and partnership will make their roles irrelevant and cost them a job. The first instinct for most people is to protect their own jobs – which means that cooperation and partnership are unlikely to happen in areas that need it.

Transformative Incrementalism: A journey to sustainability

Egoism is the notion that your municipality is doing just fine and needs no neighbouring partners. They don’t realize that if their neighbouring municipalities fail, they too shall fall, eventually; it is just a matter of time.

Other Attitudes that Impede Community Success

The other three attitudes are very difficult to summarize in one word, but each have a phrase we have all heard associated with them. “How will this benefit me?” That is the phrase that says, “I guess we could improve our lot with a some coordination, but it could take a while, and there is nothing to ensure it will split evenly between us, so I am not going to put in effort unless I get assurances of how much it will benefit me.” Those folks literally choose a guaranteed “nothing” over a chance for a piece of something.

“I can’t/won’t work with them.” That is the phrase that is a derivative of the past. Someone did something to someone many years – or even generations – ago and, even with their very future at stake, they would rather perish than see that other person, group, or municipality prosper. Success comes to those who find a reason, and a way, to make it work for everyone who is willing to work on building stronger communities.

The last phrase represents a powerful attitude that is very common in circles where leaders have held positions for far too long. “We can’t do that. We have never tried that before. It’s just not what we do.” Strangely enough, it is often considered a valid argument against the new idea. It is actually hard for people to not do what they have always done, even if what they have always done has failed. We fall into ruts, ultimately failing at what we do, but too afraid to try something new because we may fail at that, too. We do it in our personal lives. We do it in our communities as well.

Standing Stronger, Together

Every region of our nation has a uniqueness that can be capitalized on if the region (including neighbouring municipalities and provinces) comes together to make itself stronger. Local municipalities need to support local businesses to ensure they have the tools, the taxes, the infrastructure, and the people they need to compete with the globe, not just the businesses in the next municipality over. Local municipalities need to quit competing, and must realize that they need to partner if they want to be successful. Those municipalities and provinces that don’t see beyond their own borders and realize the need to work together to find success in a global market are doomed to failure.

In the quest for success, attitude is everything.  MW

Municipal World Insider and Executive Members: You might also be interested in the full version of this article or in George B. Cuff’s article: Change begins with you (Part 1). Note that you can now access the complete collection of past articles (and more) from your membership dashboard.


Doug Griffiths, MBA, is the Founder and CEO of 13 Ways Inc. and author of the book 13 Ways to Kill your Community.

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