Nine months into the global Covid-19 pandemic and the impacts of this crisis are becoming all too familiar to us. In just nine months, so many lives lost, the lives of so many individuals have changed, and the destinies and fortunes of companies survival are on the line. We will probably never see such rampant change on this scale in our lifetime again. The human impact has been devastating.
Below is just a snapshot of the negative impacts COVID has had:
Relationships and marriages have come under strain during the lockdowns.
Children cannot receive a proper education as classes have shifted to blended or online learning, and their mental health is being detrimentally impacted.
Adult mental health is deteriorating with people suffering from loneliness, stress, anxiety, depression.
People that have recovered from COVID will experience long term health issues.
Secure jobs have become unsecured, leaving millions in unemployment, and some jobs will disappear forever.
Companies have gone bankrupt overnight.
Gender pay equality has taken a hit.
Disadvantaged communities have fallen further behind in their socio-economic status.
People are ignoring their governments calls to socially distance and comply with anti-COVID measures.
While this pandemic rages on without any end in sight, there will continue to be devastating economic and societal repercussions felt across the world. This virus has created so many problems for countries and their governments and also revealed how intertwined the world we live in is.
At the moment, best estimates for a vaccine are towards the end of 2020, but that depends on how successful the third phase trials have been. After that, there is still a period of regulatory approval whereby all Governments must approve the vaccine and declare it safe. As we look beyond the crisis, a vaccine will not fix all the problems overnight. Sustainable recovery will only take place if we address, economic, livelihood, social and political issues together.
In the meantime, we must all do our best to follow the social distance and COVID protocols to protect each other. That will only happen if we do it together out of care and respect.
Covid-19 and the lockdown are causing many people to re-evaluate things in their life. People have been impacted in different ways to this crisis. There’s a lot of soul – searching going on as we all try to establish what our new normal might look like. I have been doing my introspection and have come up with my tips for a brighter and more sustainable future. I’m just sharing these to help others who are currently concerned what their future outlook might be.
Since the global lock-down began, my mind has become restless and has gone into overdrive with all sorts of compelling questions popping into my head. Noting the calamitous responses by Western countries such as the US, UK, Spain and Italy in handling the pandemic, the theme of leadership has taken centre stage. Observing the leadership competency and style of respective countries across the world, the following traits are evident in countries such as South Korea and New Zealand who have managed to be on the front foot in the fight against COVID-19.
· Humility and Respect — they demonstrated a total commitment to the people of their country and led from the front to ensure trust and integrity
· Compassion — they understood that their people were worried about their health, their jobs and took appropriate action to reassure them
· Clear strategic direction — they took early action against the pandemic and listened to the scientific advice taking a multi-agency approach by engaging all parts of their public health infrastructure
· Secure communication — they spoke to their people with honesty and kept them up to date regularly informing them of what they wanted them to do to ensure their health and safety during the pandemic
In the absence of a vaccine against the disease, we are journeying into uncharted water of uncertainty. As most Western leaders continue to fumble their way through the pandemic and erode their trust and integrity, we need to start focusing on cultivating the leaders for a post-COVID-19 world. For companies, this is critically important as we will require a new type of leadership that is future-focused, and committed to energizing their employees.
The following infographic summarizes the shift that needs to take place between the leadership of the past and the future.
We need to ensure we have the right people in leadership positions that will take companies and their employees forward in this new world that will be driven by a level of disruption we will probably never see again for a very long time.
Below are five questions that interviewers must ask to understand the essence of a future leader.
How would you go about fostering a sense of community in your company or team?
What to look for: If they say they’ll create a family atmosphere, they have the wrong mindset. Your employees are not your children but fully formed adults. They should focus on how they will go about bringing people together and creating a special bond between the company and employees. If your staff are happy, your customers will be satisfied as well.
Do you think authenticity matters at work?
What to look for: Authenticity requires an enormous amount of transparency, so their core principles need to be robust in the first place. Consistency matters so they must ensure that they are excellent in the good times and in times of a crisis.
If you were offered this job, what would your reaction be?
What to look for: Their answer should reflect their true self. They should say that they are honoured to be given the role and the responsibility that accompanies the position. If they say, they will look forward to the challenge that’s not enough. As above, they have to own it in the good and bad times putting their people first.
How do you approach change management?
What to look for: Change is coming, and change will happen fast in the wake of COVID-19. Change is scary to people because it’s not guaranteed to be a success. They shouldn’t say to employees that ‘you need to embrace change’. They need to be transparent and honest in their communication — don’t withhold the truth from employees. They need to deliver their message in a step by step, bite-sized, easy to digest manner backed by a solid communications plan. They need to acknowledge the things that aren’t working and spelling out exactly how they’ll be fixed.
How do you ensure your employees don’t suffer burnout?
What to look for: With mental health a vital issue amid the pandemic, mental health is going to gain more traction than ever before. Leaders must understand the impact that positive mental health has at work. For this to prevail, a deep dive is required to understand the following — do people enjoy their roles, how is the organizational culture, and how is the relationship with their line managers? You need to identify the root causes of burn out. Employees need to feel connected to the work they do. If you have a purpose-driven and engaging culture, you’re on the right path.
The brave new world requires a new type of leader that truly understands the spirit of the organization and the people in them. It is so important that we recover trust and integrity in our organizations that have been displaced during the chaos of the pandemic. We need to start that process by selecting future-focused leaders.
I was recently speaking to someone who said to me that we are living in a real-life disaster movie. I said yes, it is surreal, but we are in a situation we never anticipated. What makes the COVID-19 situation surreal is that back in February 2020 as coronavirus cases began escalating in Wuhan, China and other countries in the SE region, most of the Western world labelled it like the flu that would quickly pass. Only in March, Western governments began to take notice as cases started to arrive on their doorsteps, and by that time, people started getting sick. Suddenly, the situation was much more complicated and threatening to life. It was no longer a Chinese virus!
Fast forward to today, and we are witnessing a devastating and terrifying event that is shocking us all to our core. The loss of life has been colossal with no let-up in the global death toll. In an interview with the BBC, eminent medical researcher Sir Jeremy Farrar said that the UK was on course to have the highest numbers of deaths, exceeding Italy – that is quite a sobering thought. According to experts, our only way out of this is a viable vaccine, but even that is 12 to 18 months away. In the meantime, though, a mixed approach of testing, contact tracing, isolating the infected and sporadic periods of lockdown are recognized as interim solutions.
As the world economy grinds to a halt, there are some harsh lessons for us all to learn, and we need to learn them fast. It feels like the world has finally broken, and it’s collectively up to us to help fix it. What is happening to the world right now should be seen as its performance review. It should be the defining moment that a mirror was held up to the world, and the world saw how fragile and vulnerable it is. For us to thrive as humankind, we need to change our behaviours, and we can do that by changing the way we live. We would be foolish to think that we can go back to being as it was before the pandemic. Expect changes to come at the government level, company level and at an individual level. Here are some areas where I think we could get quick wins to live more sustainably and responsibly.
Companies will need to review their business models: Do companies require their employees to work from their office, or can their jobs be done just as productively by working from home (WFH)? Many companies in this pandemic that have usually resisted WFH before the crisis are inadvertently finding out that there are economic and employee engagement benefits of WFH for them.
Brand: We have seen the ugly side of companies during this pandemic. You only need to browse through the various online articles and news stories to understand the lack of compassion and poor judgement exercised by senior leaders in companies. Companies run the risk of negatively impacting their brand. Here’s a handy resource that names and shames employers in how they treat employees.
Cleanliness: People are realizing that they are not as clean as they once thought they were. People are going to be paranoid about their cleanliness and cleaning regimes from now on.
Climate: The lockdowns across the world saw a dramatic reduction in CO2 levels globally. In Venice, the water became cleaner, the smog in China’s polluting industrial hubs reduced, people’ drove their cars less. COVID-19 has given governments a lot to think about who all have ambitious targets to reduce their CO2 levels. Surprisingly, it has shown that with intervention, climate change can be curtailed. This will be a headache for policymakers as they review their plans.
Despite all that we have lost because of COVID-19, my feelings are turning to hope. Hope for a better future for ourselves and future generations. The biggest gift humankind can give itself is to learn from the mistakes, and to improve upon the weaknesses that have been shockingly exposed during the crisis. To find the right answers, we need to ask the right questions – profound questions! Who exactly are we, and what sort of people do we want to be? What kind of world do we want to live in? These fundamental questions will help us reveal the solutions to the success of our existence.
Western countries are lagging in their battle against COVID – 19. In almost all of the countries in the Western world, not enough testing is being done, healthcare professionals do not have the adequate equipment, lack of or no contact tracing of COVID – 19 cases, and failure of the general public to observe social distancing properly. There is a sense that Western countries are out of their depth.
This week we have seen the deaths of two teenagers from COVID–19 in the UK – one fatality was 13 and did not have an underlying health condition. As a Brit, I am struggling to understand why the UK response has been so lacking given our relatively good record of dealing with major crises and incidents.
With global confirmed cases approaching 900,000, I’ve been reflecting on some of the responses governments across the world have put in place to deal with COVID–19. While most countries in the East, especially in the Far East have responded impressively and mobilized resources at short notice, what is still lacking in the West is a coordinated and more aggressive response overall. The battle against COVID-19 must be fought on several fronts. What we need to see all governments do is:
Ensure medical specialists treating COVID-19 patients have adequate equipment and appropriate facilities for treatment
Expand the level of testing of frontline healthcare staff, and increase testing of the general public through dedicated testing centres or home testing kits
COVID–19 testing of employees in companies that have more than 250 employees. More contact tracing through enhanced surveillance of COVID–19 cases. South Korean have been quite successful at this through their dedicated app. There are critics to this approach as it raises privacy concerns, but this is like wartime, and desperate times call for drastic measures
Better and consistent enforcement of the lockdown protocol to guarantee the success of social distancing
Government stimulus packages for the aviation sector and airlines. Potential job losses at Swissport, Dnata, Menzies Aviation, Virgin would be devastating for the world economy. We will need them once COVID -19 recedes to help us get back to reality and reuniting people that are currently stuck overseas and are living apart from their relatives
Rigorous monitoring of passengers at seaport, airports and transit points to serve as the first line of defence. Because we are about a year away from a COVID-19 vaccine, this monitoring should be indefinite as we are expecting a second wave of COVID–19 in the winter months, albeit with lesser ferocity
Schools should remain closed until the infection rate drops significantly
There is still much that we do not know about COVID-19, but Western governments need to be on the front foot, and they will only be able to do that if they adopt the best practices of other countries that have been successful in their COVID – 19 response.