I’m not quite sure where I first heard this, but it certainly rings true when I reflect on my life, those around me and the decisions I’ve made. What do you do when something catches you off guard? Do you move or do you freeze? Do you react or do you reflect? And as a leader, what is the most prudent reaction when facing the unexpected – either an obstacle or an opportunity?

I’m sure many of my peers in snow and ice management will have varying opinions. But for me, when the unexpected strikes, I want to be surrounded by people who don’t hesitate. I want to face the unknown with those who rely on wisdom, faith and expertise to make their move. I want to be surrounded by those who are comfortable with calculated risks and accept that failures and missed targets are all part of the process. I want a team of individuals who make one decision after another till they are out of harm’s way or they have reached the original goal.

That said, there are plenty of us who plan, think, and rethink before making a move. I’m not saying we should just randomly and carelessly take action just for the sake of making moves. Likewise, I’m not a fan of maintaining a singular plan or vision for attaining either personal and/or professional goals.

What is a necessary requirement is developing an action plan that allows us to take calculated steps in the pursuit of a goal.

As long as an action plan is in place, we’ll have the ability to respond quickly and decisively when faced with either obstacles or opportunities in business and in life.

Here’s a simple way to launch an action plan:

  • Determine a goal to achieve or the obstacle in business, within your family, or with your personal life.
  • Craft at least a 3-year-plan (or longer) for the pursuit or resolution of that goal.
  • After each step toward that goal, ask yourself “And then what?” Continue to record that as your next goal and repeat the question, “And then what?” Record and repeat.

For example, let’s say I want to reach the million-dollar milestone for snow and ice revenue by 2025. And then what? I want to expand my footprint into the next county by 2027. And then what? I’ll need to establish a satellite office. And then what? I’ll need to groom (or hire) someone to lead that office. And then what?

See what this exercise hopes to achieve?

When I have one-to-one meetings with my team, I challenge them with “And then what?” when they talk about their professional goals or personal accomplishments. I reinforce with them the importance of creating and developing an action plan, even if they find themselves altering or redeploying it at some point along the way. The key to personal or professional growth is having a plan and knowing what comes next after the goal is achieved.

So, I’m challenging you to implement this philosophy. And then, teach and share this way of thinking with others so they have this guidance and support to achieve their goals. And then what?

ASCA member Troy Clogg is the founder and president of Troy Clogg Landscape Associates in Wixom, Mich. He is a frequent Snow Magazine contributor and a 2010 Leadership Award recipient.