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COVID-19 Crisis: Coaching Leaders and Teams about ‘Deciding How to Decide Priorities'

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

*Similar article featured on, COVID-19 Crisis: How to help leaders and teams ‘decide how to decide’ their priorities

When Luke Skywalker questions his ability to use the Force to lift his ship out of the swamp, Yoda tells him, ”Do or do not. There is no try,” advising the young Jedi to use the power of giving something his all, not just a try.

This is wise counsel during today’s novel coronavirus crisis where it may feel like you’ve been dropped into a swamp with no way out.

Now, more than ever, it's critical to quickly help leaders and their teams focus, assign resources and take action.

I continually hear concerns that some of the most visible and valuable casualties of this crisis are the cancellation of team development initiatives, strategic off-sites and team meetings.

They’re asking “Now, what?” How do we decide which team development interventions, including off-sites and leadership coaching courses, we should focus on now, later or not at all?

Jedi Triage - How To Decide How To Decide

Think triage, like medical professionals during a time of crisis. They use degrees of urgency to decide how to treat large numbers of casualties. Quick assessment is critical to get the patient to the right resources at the right time and place.

During the COVID-19 crisis, team leaders, coaches and business partners (learning and development, human resources, talent managers) need to become triage experts.

It’s a critical time for you to summon your Jedi superpowers to quickly assess and focus on your team’s work and development.

Developing a simple, effective way to define criteria will help you decide how to decide while bringing your Jedi skills of timeliness, compassion, calmness, wisdom and resources to bear.

“People want to focus on the right priorities, particularly during a time of crisis. They need compassion amid their personal circumstances and clarity about their work priorities.”

The Power of Urgency and Importance

Like medical first-responders, your job is to help leaders and their teams quickly assess and prioritize using two core elements: Urgency and Importance.

Urgent matters require immediate action

Think customer or technology firestorms that could severely affect the business, NOW.

They require us to stop what we are doing and attend to the current situation. Ask how critical it is to running the business? What is the level of impact on strategy, people, customers, etc.?

Important matters require time for thoughtful planning and delivery

These activities have the potential to profoundly affect the well-being and success of the business, but don’t need to be done now. They require thoughtful time, energy and resources.

Even though a team cannot meet f2f (face-to-face) during this COVID-19 crisis, it can use technology like videoconferencing to bring individuals together and address urgent and important matters.

Jedi Triage Matrix

To help you quickly decide how to decide priorities, I've developed a simple matrix. Adapt it in any way that works best for you. The elements of urgency and importance to prioritize decisions originally came from Dwight D. Eisenhower during World War II, and later were popularized by Stephen Covey and others.

1. Do Now = Emergencies

Important and urgent (top left)

Critical to do now; unexpected hard-to-plan-for emergencies, like consequences of the COVID-19 virus:

  • Employees need computers at home to do their work and stay connected

  • Customer complaints, unanticipated bottlenecks in customer supply chain and fulfillment processes

  • Team members contracting the virus and families need help


Too much time in this quadrant can lead to burnout when stress levels are already off the charts. Minimize time spent here by ensuring that the issue at hand truly belongs in Q1 — not just being reactive. Plan ahead — don’t wait until the last minute to address issues; this will help to ensure they don’t become a Q1 issue.

2. Do Soon = Essential