Help! This shape is running my life.

Every day I wake up and I look at the shape. When I’m at work, it frames my every decision. The shape decides what I do and when. It makes the call on who I meet. I don’t go home until the shape says so.

That’s because this simple shape is what I’m using to compare and analyse my priorities in my new role.

It’ll start to make more sense if I name the points.

The board are ultimately who I answer to. They keep the EJC flame alight. Keeping them happy is vital.

Partners are the people that fund and collaborate with the EJC in some way. Keeping them happy is vital. Goes without saying, right?

Our audience is varied, but consists mostly stay of professional journalists who attend events and workshops, or who engage with our online courses or free handbooks. Keeping them happy is also, inevitably, vital.

Finally, there’s the team. They make everything we do possible. And, yup, you guessed it. Keeping them happy is vital.

The shape makes more sense now, right? These are the four areas of responsibility I have. Simples.

My job is to keep all these people equally happy. But what I’ve come to realize, is that this is basically impossible. The simple, unsaid truth at the heart of leadership is that you can’t win all the time. Balancing all your priorities looks great on paper, but organisations aren’t run on paper.

This shape allows me to decide who’s most important right now. I can’t neglect any of them entirely. But I can put more energy into one over another.

To visualize this, I draw another shape inside the diamond.

For the past three weeks, the dotted line is what the shape looked like. All about the team. Today, it looks like the solid line, with a much greater emphasis on partners and audience.

See the difference? Like it or not, the team aren’t my biggest priority in the next fortnight. They couldn’t be even if I wanted them to be — I’m in San Francisco, meeting partners.

So rather than fighting this, I embrace it and draw it out. When I’m doing something, I ask myself is this the most important thing I can be doing right now? I look at this hand-drawn shape and it reminds that I’m either off-track, or heading in the right direction.

Ultimately, my success in this job depends on me drawing and redrawing this shape correctly, emphasising the right priorities at the right time. It’s hard.

And that’s why a shape now runs my life.