Cathy O’Connor on leadership in the age of coronavirus

Former Assistant Editor

Cathy O’Connor is the CEO of NOVA Entertainment, so she’s had to make some pretty huge decisions recently as coronavirus has impacted radio in Australia significantly.

Not only has it been bad for business, but there’s the very real threat of an employee coming down with the virus. That’s something that O’Connor lived through first-hand.

Speaking with Janelle McMaster for EY’s Change Happens podcast, O’Connor opened on up on what it’s been like managing one of Australia’s largest radio networks during the pandemic.

“What I’ve observed over the last six weeks or so is that everyone looks to the top when things change dramatically. Whether it’s pressure in the revenue lines, or people starting to feel anxious about what’s happening from an employment and job security point of view.

“As a leader, these are the great opportunities to lead,” says O’Connor. “My response to that is to get on the front foot and get communicative. That’s been the underlying theme.”

Shortly after the pandemic hit Australia, smoothfm presenter Richard Wilkins was forced to self-isolate after testing positive for COVID-19.

After the presenter was diagnosed, it became a safety-first situation. O’Connor had to quickly work out who he’d been in contact with around the business, which included Sydney Nova Breakfast show Fitzy & Wippa as well as many others.

“We felt we had a bit of time to get organised, but there it was. We knew we had to be fast because people would be reading about it the next day.”

It was about getting on the front foot. Midway through that Monday, O’Connor had sent out a video message to NOVA Entertainment staff. It’s message was simple:

“First and foremost, your safety is everything to us. The rest can wait. We’ll work out how the business can operate, but you must stay safe. You must stay at home.”

Listen to the full episode below:

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