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A Blog by Art Dykstra


From My Pad to Yours is about leadership and other topics, and is written by Art Dykstra, Director of the Trinity Consulting Group.

Thinking Ahead and Following Through

by Art Dykstra | Aug 30, 2017

A while back, there was a story in the newspaper that caught our attention. A group seeking to stop kids from doing drugs decided to order pencils with the slogan “Too Cool to Do Drugs” and send them all over their state. Can you guess what happened? A clue: These were pencils that needed sharpening and after a while what they said was exactly the opposite of the group’s intent. If a child sharpened it a little more, the opposite message became even stronger. Clearly, someone didn’t think the plan through.

What thinking ahead requires is stepping back, looking at all the moving parts in whatever is going on and asking questions such as, “If everything keeps going the way it is now, what is likely to happen later today, next week, next month or even next year?” Or, “If we change this or that, what will probably occur?” In its most obvious form, thinking ahead means that we think before we speak; we are aware of the potential ramifications of our comments. In other areas of our lives it causes us to be aware of the weather, road conditions, medical practices, diets and personal habits.

Sometimes thinking ahead results in making lists of “things to do,” but even more important, it requires us to exercise judgment about priorities. Major issues need to be treated as such. It is good to complete tasks before they become urgent. Thinking ahead allows us to bring needed organization into our lives, to manage dynamics as well as details. Organizing involves looking at ourselves and figuring out what keeps us from being more effective. It also means mastering strategies to speed up and simplify our work efforts.

A distinguishing characteristic of a great leader is the ability to think ahead and follow through. He or she organizes, delegates, understands timelines and prioritizes, and looks back–ahead of time. Such leaders have developed foresight. Without foresight, today’s solutions are tomorrow’s problems. As John Maxwell has observed, “It’s better to prepare than to repair.”

Following through—doing the things that we set out to do or those tasks that are required—is to be credible and allows others to depend on us. It must involve judgment and maturity. Ready-made rules and cookie cutter solutions are not easily available in the field of human services, so the work of the organization needs staff to think ahead and follow through because the most beautifully designed plan is useless unless someone implements it.

Thinking ahead and following through is certainly a daily activity for everyone at Trinity. We use the skill many times when making plans for the weeks, months and years ahead—as, for instance, when developing an Individual Service Plan with its strategies and commitments. On an organizational level, a clear priority in terms of years, is to understand the implications of healthcare reform, and, on another front, to understand pending changes in public policy with respect to the manner in which persons with disabilities are supported.

NOTE: This is Part 5 of a 10-part series on Trinity's Core Values.
To read Part 1 on Servant Leadership, click here.
To read Part 2 on Serving and Supporting, click here.
​To read Part 3 on Honest and Open Communication, click here.
To read Part 4 on Discretionary Effort, click here.

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