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Commit to Using Filters So You Can Focus, Align, and Thrive

Over four decades of leading and coaching, I’ve noticed a common theme about Visionaries — we have too many ideas. On the one hand, this is one of our greatest strengths. But without filters to help us make the best decisions, we can get distracted and spread our resources too thin.

We love Visionaries; their ability to generate unique and compelling ideas is truly remarkable, but there’s no way for their companies to pursue each one simultaneously. Taking an idea and turning it into a profitable venture takes vast resources — people, time, and money, to name a few.

The Power of Focus Filters

Part of having a compelling Vision for your organization is balancing some of the broad strokes of the future you want to build with the finer details you’ll need to establish to make it happen. How we run Ninety is similar to how the Entrepreneurial Operating System® outlines its model. We use a series of Focus Filters that serve as guiding principles to align us on what matters.

Ninety's Focus Filters: Industry & Niche, Goals, Core Values, Purpose/Passion/Just Cause, Ideal Customer, and Unique Value Proposition

Download a free copy of our workbook for a step-by-step process to build your Vision.

These six Focus Filters help define your organization and simplify your decision-making processes:

  1. Industry and Niche — Essential elements describing what you do. At Ninety, we’re a learning, support, and technology platform that simplifies the hard work of creating focused, aligned, and thriving teams.
  2. Ideal Customer — The clients who align with the other aspects of your Vision and have a crucial mix of geographic, demographic, and psychographic characteristics.
  3. Unique Value Proposition — How you appeal to your Ideal Customers. We’ve identified four of the most used as being cost leaders, industry innovators, customer service specialists, or status providers.
  4. Core Values — The behaviors you want to see consistently embodied by your team members. Read about ours here.
  5. Purpose/Passion/Just Cause — The reason your organization exists (Purpose), the powerful emotions that influence you (Passion), and a future state so appealing that you're willing to go the extra mile to work toward it (Just Cause).
  6. Goals — Everything from your most ambitious, long-term goals to your quarterly Rocks, your goals describe what you prioritize and affect how you distribute resources.

When you have an idea for your business, pass it through these six filters. If it aligns with them, either add it to your Short-Term Issues list to discuss it with your team during your next weekly meeting or your Long-Term Issues list if it’s a big idea you don’t have the capacity for this quarter. 

When you have an idea that doesn’t fully align with your Focus Filters, either let it go (my strongly held advice) or put it on your team’s Long-Term Issues list to discuss it down the road (typically during a Quarterly Planning Meeting). 

Leaders who learn when to take action now or set something on the back burner have the best chance of building a great company — what we call an extraordinarily productive, humane, and resilient organization.

Your Teams Gain Traction When They’re Going in the Same Direction

There are almost too many analogies to use here. Drift on a race track. The flying V of migrating geese. A scrum line in rugby. My favorite is the power a rowing team generates when they’re all rowing in the same direction, pulling with the same force, working as one. The often-cited history of the 2000 British Olympic rowing team can teach us more about the power of Focus Filters.

A team rowing a boat in a coordinated effortAfter surviving Y2K with the rest of us, these British rowers set out to perform a truly fantastic feat: win the Olympic gold medal for the first time in 88 years.

They trained to set themselves up for success with their goal in mind. They established a simple question to use as a filter to apply to every decision each rower would make — “Will it make the boat go faster?” From after-dinner treats to recreational activities, if an opportunity wasn’t going to push them toward their goal, they skipped it.

These incremental decisions added up to significant results. They won their gold medal and taught us a powerful lesson about achieving goals.

What You Really Want

As a coach, the best I can do is help people focus on what they sincerely want. As described in the Vision Builders Workbook, there is a string of questions I ask visionaries and Senior Leadership Teams when they’re determining their Focus Filters.

  • What do you really want?
  • Do you know what it will cost (resources and other opportunities) to get from here to there?
  • Are you willing to pay that price?
  • Are you willing to embrace a set of Focus Filters to guide every company decision?

The British rowing team was willing to pay the price and won the gold medal. They said no to a lot of things that they may have wanted to say yes to, but they were willing to pay the price.

Document Your Focus Filters with Ninety

Use our Vision tool to record and easily share your Focus Filters and more with your team members. Stay informed on the time-tested ways to simplify running a great company by subscribing to our blog below and exploring our 90u Library.

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