The constant communicator

Mark Magalotti is big on
communication. He
likes to communicate a lot — with his managers at
weekly staff meetings, annual
management meetings and
quarterly meetings — as well as
establish open lines of communication with his 72 employees.

Communicating also allows
the founder and principal-in-charge of Trans Associates
Engineering Consultants Inc.
to gather input from employees and manage inclusively.

“I like to explain why I’m
doing something, what options
I looked at and ask for opinions as to how to address a
problem before we make a
decision,” Magalotti says.

That leadership style has
helped Magalotti grow the
civil engineering consulting
firm 31.5 percent over three
years to reach 2006 revenue
of $7.5 million.

Smart Business spoke with
Magalotti about how to make
sure your message is being

Q. What are the keys to
successful communication?

Face-to-face communication
is the most important. Nothing
replaces talking to people face
to face, whether as a group or
an individual.

I’m trying now to give people
the opportunity to give anonymous feedback. People may
be reluctant to come out at a
meeting and say what they
don’t like about something.
Sometimes people feel that if
they speak up, somehow it’s
going to be held against them
at raise time.

The type of communication
you use depends on what the message is that you’re sending.
If they’re fairly mundane
administration things, e-mail
or memo is adequate. If it’s
something like reorganization
of an office or to create a different department or promote
certain people, having face-to-face communication is the
most appropriate way.

Q. What is the benefit
of face-to-face communication with employees?

You get a lot of good
feedback. Managers are
not the only ones who
have great ideas on how
to improve. They appreciate that you’re asking
for their feedback, and
doing it in a face-to-face
way is one way to do it.

It’s all about the feedback. It can’t be one
way; it has to be two
ways. You can’t keep
employees in the dark
all the time as to what’s
going on. When things
happen — you’ve gone
in a different direction
or changed policy — it
shouldn’t be a big surprise if
you’re communicating with
people and telling them what’s
going on.

You’ll all be successful if that
works. Everyone will be happier in what they do, they feel
like they’re part of the team.

Q. How do you make sure
you get input from everyone
and that you are not shutting
people out?

I never dismiss any idea that
someone comes up with. If
someone is going to take the
time to contribute, listen to
what they have to say.

Encourage them to not just say why it’s not working but
come up with their own solution, potentially try to gain
consensus on that solution by
discussing it with other managers and say, ‘We think this
might be the best way to
approach the problem.’

I try to get employees to be
proactive rather than just identifying what the problem is.

Q. How do you let employees
know you are doing something
with their feedback?

If you’re making a major
decision that’s going to impact
the operation of the company and are going to ask for feedback or opinions, it’s important
that you solicit that information. But then it’s also important to communicate back the
decision you made and why
you made that decision.

If you’re going to ask for people’s opinions, you owe them
back a response as to why you
decided to do what you did.

Q. How do you get
employees to feel like
they’re part of a team?

Be inclusive in your decision-making and meet face to face.
Even people who manage small
groups, meet with them on a
regular basis.

Tell them what’s going on
with their group, how their
projects are going, how they’re
meeting their goals as a group,
and make them feel part of the
team, rather than just expecting them to do their job.

Sometimes, it’s just a matter
of putting them in the right
position. If they don’t feel like
they’re part of the right team,
maybe there’s just not the right
chemistry between them and
the managers or maybe they’re
in a position that they’re not
suited for.

It’s kind of like a baseball
team. Some people are the
cleanup hitters and some are
the pinch hitters and you have
to find out where is the right
position they should be in to
contribute to being a success.

You don’t always find that
right away when someone
joins. When you do an annual
evaluation, you identify
strengths and weaknesses and
try to set goals and make them
a little more rounded.

HOW TO REACH: Trans Associates Engineering Consultants Inc., or
(412) 490-0630