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Does Your Region Have Turf Toe?

Updated: Aug 21

It’s football season and if you happen to be a fantasy football fanatic (as I am) you tend to find yourself checking team injury reports for fun (anybody who puts that on their list of “fun” things to do needs to have their head examined but that’s a subject for a different day!).  Torn ACL, sprained ulnar ligament, high ankle sprain, torn labrum, concussion …… just a few of the many reported injuries.  One of the most interesting to me is turf toe.  Why?  Because turf toe, also known as  a toe sprain, hyperextended toe and my favorite, metatarsophalangeal joint sprain,  represents that most insidious of injuries; the ones that constantly require work and rehab, rarely allow you to take time off and sometimes never get better. 

Turf toe also reminds me of something seen frequently in our business —turf-consciousness, also known as turf-ism, parochialism, provincialism or more generally, that lack of trust between and among communities that tend to limit the ability of regions to accomplish important goals.  Equally as insidious, this condition requires regions, sub-regions and the organizations that serve both to constantly work at “getting along” in spite of the fact that often-time they just can’t seem to. 

It always fascinates me to see how one region can seemingly overcome turf issues to address broader regional challenges while others can never seem to rise above them.   It begs the questions:  what are the ones doing that the others are not?  What characteristics do the ones have that the others do not? 

A few things immediately come to mind:

First, as the saying goes “there’s nothing like a good crisis”!  While it’s true a crisis can galvanize a community or region in ways that were previously unattainable, that answer is too easy in my opinion.  If it’s only a crisis, when the crisis passes, which it most certainly will at some point, the collateral damage of failed relationships still stands.  There must be something more. 

In our last blog, I wrote about the impact of leadership and its ability to “trump” other influences in the civic arena.  This is definitely an important factor and can be a “game-changer” in the struggle to work together.  It’s hard to beat that highly respected and credible business leader whose corporate “footprint” crosses jurisdictional and/or organizational boundaries, who is willing to say “enough is enough, figure out how to work together or we are taking our money and influence to an organization(s) that can.”  While rare, sometimes that does happen.

But for me, I think the most important factor is enlightened organizational leadership– executive leaders that understand and embrace the concepts of regionalism and intra-organizational alignment.  These leaders are willing to accept that sometimes they have to “give” or perhaps even “lose” something (program, event, revenue stream) in order to advance a “bigger idea” that enhances the overall common good.  Admittedly, that’s hard to do.  But isn’t the right thing to do often times the hard thing to do?  And isn’t that what makes someone a leader?

We often say in our business that usually the best answers are also the simplest.  They are right there in front of us but we tend to complicate and confuse things to the point that the simple becomes more difficult.  I think this one is simple — it’s basic human behavior.  It’s getting along in the sandbox — trust and transparency lie at the root and provide the building blocks that have allowed those communities and regions that seem to always overcome their turf issues to excel.  It’s hard, but it’s also basic.  If you are truly committed to work and the rehab, the toe will get better!  

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