Pagona Liggou loves challenges and she constantly competes with herself, breaking her limits, while running a marathon and while striving to reach her business goals.
She shares the three major milestones of her extensive career within the cement industry in multicultural and local environments. Pagona talks about the five fundamental values of Vassiliko Cement Works and how she develops leadership by connecting its characteristics with Vassiliko’s activities and culture.
Muriel: “Pagona, it is so nice to hear your powerful story! You have been working for more than 25 years in a man’s world, the cement industry. You spent 22 years in a multicultural environment and then moved to a local business. When you look back, what were the important milestones of your career?”
Pagona: “I would say that the first and most important milestone in my career was that, in my early days, when I was still a student at the University, I joined a heavy industry and worked with people from different countries and cultures due to the company's multinational character.
This enabled me to learn many and interesting things very early and to feel right from the outset the sense of responsibility and challenge. This is how I became responsible at work and open to communication and management of different characters, as I had to cooperate with many people who were very different to me and to others I had associated with.
The second important milestone was that due to frequent changes of the Managing Director every 4 years, as this is how multinationals tend to operate, I learned how to easily and quickly adapt to management changes and way of working; this is something I consider very important at the workplace if one is seeking to evolve.
And the last but most important milestone involves one of my supervisors who was also my mentor; I was fortunate to work closely with him and to learn many things that I still use in my work. I learned from him to act with my associates in the same way; to guide them and stand by them as advisor and not as superior.”
Muriel: “Your milestones have enabled you to develop among others, flexibility and openness. This is important to preserve a healthy workplace culture. What are the Values by which Vassiliko works and how do you align your people with those values? How do you manage the necessary organizational change accordingly?”
Pagona: “Vassiliko Cement Works embraces five fundamental values: Respect, Integrity, Health & Safety, Environment and Quality. Having as our vision to stand out as a successful company based on these principles centering around Respect and Contribution, we train and guide our people on this basis.
Our procedures and policies are aligned with all of the above and have become a way of our life or even better, they represent our working culture. We believe that the organizational changes are necessary because through these changes we teach ourselves what is best to do, who is the most appropriate and in what positions, and who stands out. In a nutshell, changes take us forward, give us an incentive to improve and support our principles more substantially.”
Muriel: “Indeed; we cannot progress without change. And how do you develop leadership in your Organization?”
Pagona: “We all know the key characteristics of a successul leader. We try to connect these characteristics with our activities and our culture.
Let me give you an example. A good leader should successfully manage failure. We convey to our Managers and Department Heads the message that failures occur and the only thing they need to know is how to manage them; thus, what they need are the tools, such as training and support to deal with it. This is the way to avoid negative morale and fear.”
Muriel: “What is the new approach you have adopted for your Performance Management System, in order to make it both interesting and effective?”
Pagona: “The Performance Management System we apply within our organization is a system put in place by many multinationals. It is the 9-framework system, or in other words Nine-Box Grid, which is an isolated evaluation tool that evaluates both the current employee contribution to the organization and the probable level of contribution to the company.
It is usually used as a tool for the company's succession programme and as an evaluation method of an organization's skills concentration and leaders’ determination. It helps us a lot in finding talents within the company and in placing the right person in the right position.”
Muriel: “Developing and retaining talent has become a test in all Organizations. How do you manage stress and stay positive, regardless of the various difficulties and obstacles you may face?”
Pagona: “In accordance with the European Organization for Health and Safety at Work (2013), the work stress affects almost one in four employees; according to relevant studies, approximately 50%-60% of all lost working days relate to work stress; this entails a huge burden both for human health and economic growth.
Having in mind all these statistics, I have totally changed the way I manage pressure at work and try to convey the same to my associates. The way I see facts may be either negative or positive. As this depends only on me, I seek to have contact with positive people and draw from their energy. I also try to stop any activity the moment my mind and body are lacking the strength to respond.
Most importantly, I do not allow negative thoughts to take hold of my mind longer than one hour per day. The concept of stress is often confused with challenges. Nevertheless, these two terms are not identical. A challenge gives mental and physical energy. It gives a momentum for the acquisition of new skills. When a challenge is satisfied, we feel relaxed and satisfied. Challenges are a significant element of a healthy and productive work.”
Muriel: “So true! What is your favorite motto?”
Pagona: “My favorite motto that I have been practising for several years is to work competing only with our own self. It is only if we stretch the limits of ourself and become better that we shall be successful.
Last but not least I use running as a stress relief since I am a Marathon runner for the last 12 years and extreme sports fan. Running gives me emotional freedom and helps me forget whatever is ‘toxic'.”
Pagona Liggou is the Chief Human Resources, Health & Safety and Communication Officer at Vassiliko Cements Works Ltd. She has an extensive career in Human Resources, Communication and Corporate Governance, having worked with an Italian building material Group in Greece, prior to joining Vassiliko.
Pagona gained a Masters in Human Resources Development & Administration and a Diploma of Public Relations & Marketing from London Chamber of Commerce & Industry. Among her certifications: Executive Coach (Association of Coaching), Mediator (Cyprus Chamber of Industry & Commerce), Professional in Human Resources (HR Certification Institute), GRI Certified on GRI Sustainability Reporting Process (Global Reporting Initiative).
She enjoys reading, going to the theater and extreme sports.
Muriel Matta (BSc, MSc, MPhil, Cert CTT Practitioner) is the Founder of Maravilhosa.
She is a multilingual Human Resources Management expert, with extensive cross-cultural experience, spanning 26 years in MENA, Europe and CIS.
Through her work with Organizations and Individuals, she helps solve the toughest HR challenges by customizing unique training and coaching solutions to inspire change, positive thinking and transformation.
Muriel can be contacted via email: Muriel@maravilhosa.net