Interview with Chief People Officer – Dara McCann

We chatted with Chief People Officer, Dara McCann about her take on the CPO role generally. Dara has a wealth of people and culture leadership experience gained within the satellite communication sector.

What is it that got you into the profession and what keeps you motivated about working as a Chief People Officer?

I don’t like to see people abdicating their responsibility and generally challenge people who do so, whether at work or outside work.  This means, throughout my career, I have sought to provide justice and fairness in the workplace even when I did not have the authority to do so.  I am from a big family and each of us had to pull our weight.  I expect both employers and employees to do the same.  I like the CPO role as it allows me to create great places for people to work within.


How do you build cohesion in offices of the same organisation across the world?

Communication, Communication, communication …


When you think about the more traditional leadership roles you have played in bigger companies, what are the two or three things that are different for success in a fast-growing company for a CPO?

Agility, flexibility and full knowledge that you don’t know the answer but your job is to find the person or people who do. I think bigger companies expect leaders to know all the answers which limit the possible solutions.


In terms of the CEO relationship, what do you think is required to ensure this is successful?

As with all direct reports to the CEO, everything will work out in the end if there is a HIGH TRUST.  Where this is lacking, the team will never reach its full potential and the members will always hold something back.


When hiring for a CPO, what should a CEO be looking for and vice versa?

The ability to have an open and trusting relationship.  Someone with the presence to fight the old ways of thinking about HR. HR needs to move into the position of leading the people strategy not just running procedures.


How have the CPO’s priorities changed pre- and post-covid?

I don’t think they have as they should always be to seek to create the best working environment for the business and its people.  Clearly post covid, the needs and wants of the people are shifting and any good HR team should be aware and proactively seek solutions to motivate the workforce. As should all the employees.


How do you stop values and purpose from being ‘words on a wall’ and ensure they make a real business impact?

Identify authentic values appropriate for that business and engage the workforce in their creation and rollout…  Start with the CEO and top team if this group don’t believe it’s important, neither will the workforce.


What are the most common things you see leaders getting wrong when it comes to their people strategy?

That is a difficult question to answer in a few sentences but I often see leaders holding too tight to the reins and not empowering their teams. You have to look at what is stopping this empowerment and work from there.