November 24, 2022 | By Joyce DiMascio

CEO Geoff Donaghy has been the steady hand getting ICC Sydney back up to full throttle since pandemic lockdowns became a thing of the past.

With the centre now back to pre-COVID scale for May and September 2022, he’s shared some of the leadership strategies that have guided his team’s approach.

And through it all, his leadership mantra has been crystal clear.

A former schoolteacher, Donaghy jokes that he has a saying for everything. His staff joke about this too. But their simplicity help to provide direction and clarity.

“The fundamentals of leadership are: Do what’s needed. Do what’s right. And most importantly, do it together. This means you have to work collaboratively and take people with you,” he says.

“I’m proud of the team. It was the team that carried us through. Our leadership roles and structures go deep into the organisation. It’s not just at executive director level. We have 2ICs and 3ICs. This is where leadership ultimately is delivered.

“What I conveyed to the team during that difficult period over recent years was that we had to have one foot in the present – which was to keep people everywhere safe, and secondly, we had to keep as many people employed as we possibly could. We had to have one foot in the future.

“There were a relatively small number of redundancies that we unfortunately had to go through in the early stages.

“But we kept that to a minimal number,” says Donaghy.

“So we had one foot in the present, and one foot in the future. We kept pointing out to people that this [pandemic] will finish – we needed the team ready to respond the moment circumstances change.

“That proved to be absolutely the right strategy.

“You know, the fact that we were able to rebound and then deliver all those events – albeit with a great deal of difficulty but with the incredible contribution by the team.”

He talks about the way ICC Sydney got around the staffing challenges – with everyone pitching in: it was pure teamwork.

“We had people from the business development department working behind counters, we had people from finance working in operations – it was all designed to get those first big events up and running.

“That didn’t [just] help deliver the events and our clients, it helped create incredible camaraderie.”

He says the approach was so successful that there are plans to try to continue it as part of the centre’s future event staffing strategies.

“People really, really enjoyed it. They really enjoyed seeing how the other half worked.”

He says there were so many benefits that came out of it.

“We made sure that there was a clear destination that we were aiming for. It wasn’t just about managing the present – but also about the future.”

Building a strong team culture is at the core of how ICC Sydney is approaching its future – it has always been big on teamwork, but it’s now even stronger.

Donaghy says they are setting out to create a workplace that people really enjoy coming to. A place that offers respect and recognition.

“With a very, very strong philosophy of inclusion and diversity. Very, very extensive training programmes, both internal training and external. That we set out to create careers, not just jobs,” he says.