Who is steering the ship in the Greek private language schools?

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Whenever I am thinking of the private English language schools, I always recall a significant story I had heard from Chris Croft, a successful manager, author and manager trainer.

Text by: Julie Bampasiotou ~ Bachelor in Business administration Master in T.E.S.O.L. Private school owner

Imagine that we are going on a cruise and on board there are 200 people. As the passengers boarding, the captain welcomes everyone. He knows the name of everybody and that is amazing. Obviously, he is a good captain. When passengers go down to their cabins they see a folded cardboard sign on their pillow which says that «the captain personally made your bed because he cares about quality». How can a captain make every bed on the ship? Shouldn’t he be on the steering wheel? Then you start wondering whether he is a good captain or not. Clearly, he cares about customers and quality but does that make him a good captain?


After a while, you change, and you go down to dinner, and a load of waiters serve your dinner in a very smart and black outfit, and then you start staring at one particular waiter. Of course, it is the captain serving the soup who likes to serve it every night and be in touch with the workers and the staff at the restaurant. It is great to have the captain among the workers serving the soup. But who is steering the ship while the captain is serving the dinner? So, after the delicious meal, you decide to find out who is steering the ship. Maybe, it is being steered by a waiter or by a bed maker who knows? As you are on your way in the dark, you hear a noise in the engine room, and you see a figure shoveling coal into the boiler. Once again, it is the captain who is looking at you and says “no worries I don’t mind getting my hands dirty”. You leave the boiling room, and you head for the bridge. What you realize is that nobody is there and the ship is just drifting at random. In fact, there are icebergs dotted around, and the ship is heading towards one of the icebergs. So, you start thinking about what to do. You take the wheel, and you are about to turn the boat in the wrong way. When the captain comes, it looks a bit sweaty, and he grabs the wheel and finally avoids an iceberg and adds “that is why I love this job. There is never a dull moment” what you are thinking that moment is that you don’t want a captain who only cares about quality, and gets his hands dirty all the time. I want a captain who is on the bridge making everything alright. So, a good boss is not somebody who is always running around doing things but it is somebody who is in charge.


The essence of management is not just to do everyone else’s job and become a person for every situation but to make sure that everything scheduled has been done. School owners should build a machine of people in their business and take the leads. Definitely, to have successful management, school owners should make sure that they have hired the right people in the right jobs. A system with the right people that everybody should stay motivated and be well -trained. Unfortunately, these systems need an ongoing effort from the school owners who are responsible for running their businesses effectively around -the- clock. In other words, they are actually responsible for everything on the ship.


Delegating responsibilities can save private school owners from wasted time and non- profitable investments. When they share duties with staff members, they are free to plan a long- term strategy which makes their business prosperous. Obviously, they need to monitor others, making sure that everything runs smoothly. Communication with the staff is critical since it gives the chance to check for everyday problems and provide immediate solutions. Sometimes by walking around the business you can feel what is going on.


Many of you could argue that money is the real motivator for the employees, but this is not always the case. Money can make staff happier for a short amount of time, but this does not mean that a pay rise will increase their productivity. If you pay somebody more, he will do the job to get the money, but it is not a pure driving force because sometimes it can distract somebody from the task. It replaces motivation, and the staff start to think that is all about money instead of putting their “heart and soul” in what they do. Private school owners will never have a successful school as long as they use only money as praise for their employees’ achievements.


What motivates people and gets the best out of them can be summarized as follows:

  1. Give everybody ownership of a task. Even frequent communication with parents should be somebody’s responsibility because only then s/he will get things done.
  2. Decision making is not always in the hands of school owners. Involve staff as much as possible. Who knows, they may surprise you and even come back with better ideas than yours.
  3. Let teachers set their own objectives. For instance, you say “I know your class is facing discipline problems, so how do you plan to fix it in the next semester?”
  4. It is essential for the staff to feel secure in their jobs, and that requires things like giving them information and feedback on their performance and spending a bit of time with them to share views, expertise and concerns.
  5. Give them a lot of encouragement and appraisal and thank them for their contribution to the success of the school. Good employees should always know that it is really important to thank people from the heart. After all, it is free and makes a big difference for people.


 Continuous education makes staff progress and become equipped with new skills. Please make sure you always challenge them enough. People like the feeling of progress towards results.


To avoid hitting the iceberg, building a strong team of colleagues in a private language school can be achieved only if school owners focus on staff’s strengths and not on their weaknesses. After all, good leaders do not take on all the work themselves neither do they take all the credit.    


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