Working together Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Brian Cescolini says that it’s sometimes hard for leaders to listen to others because they’re passionate about their jobs and growing their companies.

“Sometimes CEOs or higher-ranking executives just have their eye on the ball, and that’s where they’re going to go,” says the chairman and co-CEO of Universal Services of America LLC.

Cescolini recalls a conversation with one of his employees, who told him in the organization that his 7,041 employees didn’t know how to handle. By listening to the employee, Cescolini was able to reach out to them and help solve the issues.

Listening to his employees and creating a trust with them has helped Cescolini grow the building services company to 2007 revenue of $167 million with four divisions: Universal Protection Service, Universal Building Maintenance, UPS Fire/Life Safety Services and UPS Security Systems.

Smart Business spoke with Cescolini about how to listen to your employees and get them involved in your company.

Listen. It’s something that is learned. The more that you listen to the feedback from your employees, the more understanding you have for the culture of your company.

If you don’t listen and don’t share the passion with each other, then I don’t think that you succeed in having a great company. You just have to make it a priority to communicate with your employees, listen to what they say and actually act on some of the suggestions that they may have, because there are good ones.

If you don’t listen to your employees, that there’s a tendency to have a different perspective of how the company is running versus what the employees think.

Part of listening is open discussion and getting action items on the list. If someone has a good idea, they discuss it in meetings, and if it is something the team thinks could contribute, it goes on the action list. The initiatives on the action list are scheduled with due dates, and someone is selected to drive the process and report back to the committee in the next meeting.

Sometimes an executive can listen to an employee, but if he is too busy to do anything about it, then it is perceived that no one listens. I try to push the idea back onto the team so they drive the process, things can get done, and the employee feels satisfied that he or she contributed to the company.

When a CEO or president listens to the employee, whatever level of the position they might have, that encourages the employee to want to stay and work for the company as long as they can.

Get employees involved in the development process. When you create a vision, you have to make sure that everyone is on board. In order to do that, it involves them taking part in the decision-making and creation of the vision.

If they’re part of it and involved in actually creating the policies and procedures and hiring the right people and so forth, then they own it.

Empower them, make sure that you identify the right accountabilities for the employee and that the employee understands what they’re accountable for and what they’re not, and also provide incentives for success. If the organization reaches its goals, then the employee should be rewarded handsomely for their efforts and leadership.

It’s like a big train. If everybody behind you is on the same track, then the momentum is going to flow. That creates energy, it creates synergy, and it creates good morale. With those three things, then it allows the company to maximize its ability to accomplish any goal that it sets forth, because everybody is on the same track.

Hold employees accountable. We have chosen the five most important things that the employee is supposed to be responsible for. And those five things are the most important things to the company.

There are always going to be, these things happen and those things happen, but they have to perform on five major facets of their job. It allows the employee to not concentrate on all the little issues but to keep their eyes focused on the five most important things the company wants them to do.

And it’s simplified — rather than make it 10 things or 20 things or whatever, (it’s) the five most important things, and to us, that drives the culture and the vision. These five things for this employee pushes into the five things for the next person in the level above them and five things for the person above that person, and pretty soon, we accomplish and reach our goal.

It’s a matter of taking their job description and mixing it with their actual [job], which is funny because job descriptions don’t always match up to the actual job an employee does. Then there’s an evaluation of what are the five most important things that this person has to accomplish in a quarter’s time.

Every job is different, but we pick the five most important things that that person is supposed to do in their job.

We all expect our employees to perform, but some of us have to nitpick to find fault in things. Employees have hundreds of things to do. But what is important is the five most important things they do that make this company prosper.

Forget about the other small stuff; it wastes too much time. Get them to perform on the important issues and make them feel important and part of the success.

HOW TO REACH: Universal Services of America LLC, (714) 619-9700 or