ESP Project Leader Profile: Kristin Ekkens

Hello, ESPers worldwide!

Welcome to this first TESOL Blog post on the professional communication of ESP project leaders! In what follows, you will be able to read the profile of Kristin Ekkens. In addition, you will be able to interact with her directly.

These ESP project leader profiles are described (in an email sent to me) by Karen Schwelle at Washington University in St. Louis as “a nice way to communicate what we do and offer practical, experience-based advice for fellow ESPers around the world.” I agree, and I also think we can learn something about how ESP professionals use communication to achieve success.

Kristin’s responses to the two questions below reminded me of why I began to conduct research on the leadership conceptualization process 6 years ago. Specifically, I wanted to understand why leaders were so successful.

In this blog post, we are able to understand why Kristin, an ESP professional, has been successful. Further, we gain insights into how she achieved that success.

I view such success as a “creation” that was accomplished with professional communication. By reading Kristin’s responses, we begin to see how we, too, can “create” professional success.

In addition to the above, we can learn how an ESP professional such as Kristin constructs her professional image for the various stakeholders reading this blog post. It is my hope that our own professional performances will be enhanced by reading Kristin’s responses.

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Kristin Ekkens, MA | C3 Consulting LLC | CEO & President | 616.299.9690 | |

Define leadership in your own words.

  • Leaders are people who know how to achieve goals and inspire people along the way. Culturally intelligent leaders are self-aware and driven to learn about others; they continuously look for ways to build knowledge; they listen to others and check assumptions; and finally, they know when and how to take action, adapting their behaviors when necessary. Leadership is empowering others to do the same.

Tell me an ESP project success story. Focus on your communication as a leader in the project. How did you communicate with stakeholders to make that project successful?

  • Industry: Healthcare System in the United States
  • Project Request: Create a skills development program for both native and nonnative speakers of English that 1) is offered organization-wide, in various departments, and involving multiple geographic locations, 2) addresses both general and job-specific skills (such as foundational computer skills, English language skills, and health and safety issues), and 3) encourages participation by avoiding the negative stigma around low-literacy and essential workplace skills.
  • Deliverable: A 50-page report and executive summary. Sections included the following: Background, Purpose & Strategy, Data Collection, Results, Key Recommendations, Pilot Program Overview, The Business Case, Next Steps
  • Outcome: Within 6 months of presenting the report as an external consultant, I was hired as an internal learning and development consultant for the Inclusion & Diversity Center of Expertise to create and implement an overall inclusion & diversity learning strategy for the organization of 23,000 employees. We plan to implement this project in the near future as our team expands.
  • Stakeholders:
    • Inclusion & Diversity team (director, manager, workplace program specialist)
    • Human Resources staff (business consultant & organizational psychologist)
    • Business Unit leaders & employees (director, managers, supervisors, employees in Nutritional Services & Environmental Services)
  • Key to Project Success: Successful communication at all levels. I believe this project was successful largely because our project team worked closely together to achieve goals and inspire people along the way. My role was to listen to stakeholders at all levels (find the challenges and root causes), to inspire key stakeholders to take action (pilot new learning solutions), and to empower leaders with the tools and strategies they needed to courageously move forward, creating a more inclusive workplace.
    • How did I communicate with the stakeholders?
      • Listened to perspectives of all stakeholders using a variety of methods (focus groups, surveys, 1:1 meetings).
      • Clearly articulated the vision, process, and framework to key stakeholders using visuals as well as written and oral communication methods.
      • Provided efficient and effective follow-up to questions and concerns.
    • What was the result?
      • I believe the result of this strong communication at various levels and in various ways helped build trust, strengthen interdepartmental relationships, and contribute to higher levels of innovation and problem solving.


I am very grateful to Kristin for volunteering to be the first ESP project leader introduced through the TESOL Blog. In the months to follow, you can expect to read at least one ESP project leader profile per month.

Do you have questions or comments for Kristin? Please feel free to post those in the Comments section below. In this connection, I hope that some lively exchanges among ESPers occur as we share with and learn from each other worldwide!

All the best,


About Kevin Knight

Kevin Knight
Kevin Knight (PhD in Linguistics, MBA, MPIA) is an associate professor in the Department of International Communication (International Business Career major) and has also been working in the Career Education Center of Kanda University of International Studies in Chiba, Japan. In the TESOL ESP Interest Section (ESPIS), he has served as chair and English in occupational settings (EOS) representative, and he is currently the ESPIS community manager. He was also a member of the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF) appointed by the board of directors. In addition, he has been a TESOL blogger in the area of English for Specific Purposes (ESP). He has more than 30 years of professional experience working for private, public, and academic sector institutions including Sony and the Japan Patent Office. His doctoral research on leadership communication (i.e., discourse) as a basis for leadership development was under the supervision of Emeritus Professor Christopher Candlin and Dr. Alan Jones.
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6 Responses to ESP Project Leader Profile: Kristin Ekkens

  1. Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

    OK, I’ll jump in! As I was thinking about David’s question, I recalled that many years ago, I had been involved in “freshmen training” in companies. Such training was held onsite at large organizations. Many trainers were needed. I was involved more on the faculty administrative side of such training. Since I was working for relatively large language training providers (e.g., Sony) or organizations well-known for their language training expertise (e.g., Kanda Gaigo Group), we were “trusted” by the clients. I am wondering what communication strategies are used by ESPers (especially, small and relatively unknown organizations) to gain the trust of prospective clients. In this context, I think of trust as being discursively constructed. See Candlin, C. N. & Crichton, J. (Eds.) (2013). Discourses of trust. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  2. David Kertzner says:


    Thank you, as always, for sharing a summary of your multidimensional and complex report. The clarity of your description reflects your systematic approach to problem solving, which we all need to strive for in delivering ESP programs.

    I am curious to hear from ESP readers out there who have also proposed larger scale ESP program, especially onsite programs. What have you found to be challenges in doing so, and how have you addressed those challenges?

    Our hope in presenting these leadership profiles is to generate informative dialog. Anyone up for jumping in?

    David Kertzner

    • Susan Olmstead-Wang says:

      Hi, David, Kevin, Kristin, all–
      Great topic — so glad to see discussion
      I have just launched an ESP program on site in Taiwan. We did planning with the Taiwan team in Las Vegas last summer and in Taiwan in January with launch in Taiwan in March 2015.

      We are working with a large hospital system whose headquarters are in Taiwan but that has “sister hospitals” throughout Asia. We have a long term (4 year) plan to manage several aspects of English for Medical Purposes to serve the needs of patients, medical personnel, and administrative staff. We have started with on site workshops and on-going manuscript review to help researchers publish their work. We will move to helping administrators communicate with each other across borders and in helping two hospitals increase their language capacity to manage English for medical tourism.
      Susan Olmstead-Wang,

      • Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

        Hi Susan,

        Great to hear from you!

        Congratulations on your project success!

        If you have time to write an ESP project leader profile, please let me know.


  3. Kevin Knight Kevin Knight says:

    Hello, ESPers worldwide!

    There was recently a request to use the first ESP project leader communication profile ( above in a class.

    According to TESOL, the blog post can be used in a class if you credit the source and the authors.

    We are all thrilled that the ESP project leader communication profiles can and will be used by practitioners and researchers.

    All the best,


  4. Kristin, I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on leadership as well as learning about the skills development program. I am particularly interested in the program development and whether or not it was implemented.

    Thanks Kristin for sharing your keys to project success and for being a leader that we can all learn from.


    Esther Perez Apple

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