Building resilience in the face of COVID-19

“Resilience is not a characteristic gifted to some individuals and not others. The key here is that resilience is not a passive quality, but an active process. How we approach life, and everything it can throw at us, has a massive impact on our experience.” Barry Winbolt

It is now July 2020, and most economies are beginning to open up after suffering lockdown due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the pandemic on national, regional and global economies have been and continue to be subject of analysis in many disciplines. In the Sub-Saharan Africa context, the World Bank estimates that the pandemic will spark the region’s first recession in 25 years, with economic growth projected to decline from 2 .4% in 2019 to between -2.1 to -5.1%.

Over the longer term, it is projected that the deep recessions triggered by the pandemic are expected to leave lasting scars through lower investment, erosion of human and social capital through lost work and schooling time and opportunities, and fragmentation of global trade, logistics, demand and supply linkages.

In Uganda, business survey by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) and Brookings indicates that unemployment will likely worsen if the risks associated with COVID-19 persist and containment measures are sustained or escalated. It is further indicated that risks associated with COVID-19 have exacerbated pre-existing credit and liquidity constraints among micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).

Therefore, succeeding in uncertainty and unfamiliar territory will require a deeper sense of resilience and robustness in terms of crisis management and response, strategy and brand positioning, finance and liquidity, and other related aspects such as health, safety and well-being of both individuals and businesses. While the risk is far from over, the World Economic Forum observes that;

“The COVID-19 crisis has affected societies and economies around the globe and will permanently reshape our world as it continues to unfold. While the fallout from the crisis is both amplifying familiar risks and creating new ones, change at this scale also creates new openings for managing systemic challenges, and ways to build back better.”

domains of resilience

Here are some tips to enable you and your team build the required resilience to identify and maximize opportunities arising from the pandemic.

Maintain a flexible strategy. A proper focus on the short-term and mid-term challenges and opportunities without losing picture of the long-term recovery measures and gains helps teams to remain aligned and anchored in pursuit of individual and organizational goals. As Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella observes, society’s deepest concerns are rooted right now in two connected questions: (a) how do we protect public health? And (b) how can we promote an economic recovery that is inclusive? As we move from the response stage to the recovery phase, value will be aligned to entities that are flexible and strategic enough to individually and collectively respond to the new challenges and opportunities.

Tap into emerging leadership. Crises are opportune moments for innate leaders to emerge and offer leadership beyond traditional titles and job descriptions. Changes instigated by the pandemic offer new growth, new experiences, new markets, new entry points and new attitudes at individual and organizational level.

Emerging leaders will bring a more flexible approach because they are now aware that global dynamics can change instantly, and thus requiring more prescriptive preparedness in a world that is more interconnected than we might have initially thought and believed. Furthermore, change management structures spearheaded by this fresh leadership are most likely to emphasize diversification in views, opinions, markets and business to ensure survival.

Keep building resilience because it will be a marathon, not a sprint. The uncertainty of the global economy will reflect both in our lives and our businesses for the unforeseeable future. Therefore, building resilience and tenacity to navigate the uncertainty will be a continuous activity even after the wave of the pandemic has passed.

Critical interventions such as performance measurement, changes in business models and delivery channels, building and strengthening relationships, testing existing policies and continuity plans, remote working will require discipline, empathy, consistency and maturity in practicing thought awareness and cognitive restructuring about the way we think about negative events arising from the pandemic.

Entities that demonstrate a clear sense of individual, organizational and societal purpose will find it easier to navigate the uncertainty arising from COVID-19 because they will be better attuned to creation of more positive and impactful products and services that are required as essential catalysts in the recovery process as we seek a better understanding and improvement of the world in a more mindful, intentional, sustainable and conscious manner. If you doubt, look at the lessons from the global backlash arising from the recent killing of George Floyd and internationalization of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

“Every person, organization, and even society reaches a point at which they owe it to themselves to hit refresh—to reenergize, renew, reframe, and rethink their purpose.”― Satya Nadella, Hit Refresh

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