There was a time in my career when I found myself surrendering my focus to what others told me, to whatever seemed new and exciting, or to whatever I was doing most recently. The challenges of the early days of starting a business left me with a poverty mindset. Anytime someone asked if we could do something, the answer was, “Yes!”—as long they would pay for it, even if it was way outside of our core competencies. I was drawn to every new possibility until one day I woke up and had seven different business units with none of them properly staffed or funded. Eventually, my chief operating officer, Paul, sat me down and said something I'll never forget: “My fear for you isn't that you won't have success. It's that you will look up and realize that the organization you created isn't what you actually wanted.”
I knew Paul was right. I had misdirected my focus. Worse, I hadn't directed it all. “What should we do?” I asked Paul. He said, “We need a first filter.”
A first filter is a guiding question that we can put every idea, possibility, dream, and strategy through to determine whether it will move us in the right direction or misdirect our focus.
That year, our first filter became: Is it driving revenue in the business we want to grow? To arrive at that filter, we forced ourselves to answer four key questions.
In Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat asks, “Where do you want to go?”
“I don't know,” Alice replies.
The cat says, ...