ELT NEWS has taken the initiative to publish a series of interviews on women’s leadership. Whenever there are talks on gender and diversity, critics and sceptics often revolve around the big question: “Will we ever reach gender equality in the workplace?” or “is it just a theory that is morally right but can never be realized?”
What barriers have business women experienced prior to their success? What kind of sacrifices have they made? Can a balance between family and working life be achieved? What are the traits of a leader?
These are some of the questions we’ll attempt to answer. The third business woman we interview is Christina Tsatsaba, President of Globalcert, which represents and administers the NOCN ESOL exams.
Christine Tsatsaba is the President of GlobalCert, the renowned Greek Awarding organisation. She has more than 20 years of experience in the language learning and assessment sector. She graduated the University of Westminster with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Studies and a Master’s degree in Marketing Communications. Christine is passionate about her work and uses her positive attitude and tireless energy to inspire and motivate her team.
- What does being a leader mean to you?
Being a leader means being a role model and a source of inspiration for the team you work with. You need to set innovative but also realistic targets and, at the same time, collaborate with your team to realise those aims. You have to be a good listener, embrace change, and incorporate a shared vision. A true leader makes an effort to help develop their team’s skills so they can reach their full potential.
Administering the NOCN ESOL International Examinations is a sound example of a successful project which requires determination and excellent cooperation among the GlobalCert team members. The reason behind the success of this project is the incessant work of all the members who are involved in it -NOCN, GlobalCert, and PALSO.
Being a leader, therefore, means being a guide who supports and encourages employees every step of the way.
- Modern leadership is more difficult now than it was in the past. Is being a leader a journey of hard work and discipline?
I wouldn’t say it is more difficult than it was in the past. It is quite different, though. A modern leader cannot be authoritative or narrow minded. Leaders should be impartial, but at the same time respectful, understanding and flexible. A modern leader must give the floor to the team members in order to express their ideas and visions. People who feel that they can make a contribution to the company are more likely to work with enthusiasm.
Being a good leader does require hard work. Working as a leader in the education sector is often very challenging; policies and legislation are always changing, so it's important for us to be able to change and adapt to meet the demands of the market we operate in.
As far as discipline is concerned, it goes without saying that it is absolutely necessary.
- Have you ever been so discouraged you wanted to quit?
Everyone has bad days, but I am not a person who gives up. After all, winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit. Winners never quit and quitters never learn. I am an optimist by nature and my moto is “I never lose; either I win, or I learn.”
There have been times when things got really difficult, like during the lockdown due to Covid-19, when we had thousands of learners across the country who had registered for the traditional paper-based NOCN exam and could not be assessed.
GlobalCert at that time had already exclusively developed the online platform for the computer-based version of the NOCN ESOL International Examinations that was utilised abroad. It was then for me to decide if we were to turn the paper-based exam to a computer-based one. The risk was huge as there were so many difficulties and restrictions we would come across; from poor internet connections to power cuts, training dozens of proctors to supervise the exams, train learners on the online procedure and assist them with any difficulties they might encounter with their computers or internet access in very distant parts of the country.
Unanimously, all the people in GlobalCert decided not to give up. In less than a month, working under lockdown restrictions, the people at GlobalCert managed to administer online examinations throughout Greece for thousands of learners with huge success! We received congratulations from literally all over the country. People were grateful for our excellent organisation and continuous support of the candidates and their families.
At GlobalCert we never give up. No matter how high the goals are set, and despite the difficulties, we are all driven by determination and passion to succeed.
- How do you balance career and personal life? Is there such a thing as balance?
In fact, this is more difficult than being a leader, which takes up most of one’s time. Being a mother and leading my own business are two distinct but very demanding roles, and trying to combine personal life with business is an endless effort, as time is never enough. I am not sure whether there is such a thing as balance, but I certainly do my best to enjoy and manage both.
- What is it like to run a business which administers English language exams in Greece and elsewhere?
It is utterly exciting! Although it is demanding and requires hard work and discipline, it is deeply satisfying. As for me, being in the education sector is more of a noble endeavour than just business. I am really proud to administer the NOCN ESOL exams, which are high quality exams based on modern didactics. To prepare for the NOCN exams, learners do not focus only on specific types of information or particular kinds of exercises. They make an attempt to learn the language. Therefore, the certificate they receive proves that they have really acquired the English language.
It is very rewarding to be the exclusive representative of NOCN, one of the largest UK-Awarding Organisations working with a number of strategic partners in the UK and internationally. NOCN is the very first Awarding Organisation to be given the “Leader in Diversity” award by the National Centre for Diversity, a leader in promoting equality for all in the UK.
It is an honour to work with an organisation like NOCN that consists of people with ethos who respect their work, colleagues and partners. People whose core aims are to advance education and help learners reach their potential. GlobalCert and NOCN share the same values, and our common vision is to promote the value of English language learning, creating opportunities for our candidates worldwide.
I am also very proud that GlobalCert has developed the online examination platform that exclusively delivers all the NOCN ESOL International computer-based exams across the world, offering a credible and reliable solution aligned with the current demands for digitalisation. Administering online examinations in distant parts of the world is one of the most challenging and fulfilling ventures.
- What tip would you give someone who wants to inspire their employees?
Use “One-minute praisings”. Here is the idea: instead of walking around trying to spot mistakes your people make in order to correct them, you do the exact opposite: you try to “catch” your people doing something well, and you immediately praise! In this way you steer your people in the right direction in a positive way. (Interestingly enough, this is exactly the same rationale you find in the NOCN exams: in the Writing part for instance, the people who mark the papers do not focus on the candidate’s mistakes; instead, they look at the things that the learner can do well – and they rate them accordingly, rewarding the learner).
Going back to the issue of praise in the workplace, according to some experts this is the single most underused tool in the manager’s toolbox. Survey after survey shows that managers think they are giving enough praise to their staff, while most employees feel that their work is underappreciated and that they are simply undervalued.
- Do you experience resistance when you are leading men? How do you deal with it?
Fortunately, I never had such an experience. When you treat all of your team members equally, when you are impartial and respectful to all regardless of age or sex, there is no resistance by men. Relationships within our company are built on mutual understanding and not on gender discrimination. I have learned to lead by example and establish strong, trusting relationships to ensure success within my team and for the organisation as a whole.
- Have you drawn professional inspiration from other women? Tell us about someone who has inspired you.
The memorable women who have made a difference in the business world are countless. Nevertheless, I draw my inspiration from all women, famous or not, who follow their dreams and never give up. I admire everyday women that although they have multiple and demanding roles, they juggle successfully between them, determined to accomplish their goals despite of what is often dictated by our male-dominated society.
- Is there any last tip you would like to give to a would-be leader?
Yes! Give people second chances. In a business environment, mistakes are bound to happen. Some managers tend to have a knee-jerk reaction in such situations: “You made a mistake. You are fired”. I think this is neither fair, nor good for the company. Consider the opposite scenario, where someone makes a mess of things and then you smile at them and say “Well, [beep] happens. Just make sure you learn something from this.”
This reminds me of a story I once read. There was this big international corporation and one of their young high-flyers took a wild risk which had disastrous consequences - the company lost a huge amount as a result. So, the young employee was told to go and see the CEO. “I suppose you want to fire me” he said. “Fire you?”, replied the CEO in mock astonishment. “My young man, we’ve just spent 10 million dollars educating you!” Amazing! Similarly, the NOCN ESOL exams believe in second chances.
All learners succeeding in one, two or three skills can keep their passing skill and re-sit for free the skill they have not passed.
Second chances are a privilege that no one should be deprived of.