A unified team Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2008

Bob Dagostino says it’s important to let employees know you care. And while that may be hard to do in a growing company, he says it’s important to take the time to get to know people.

The founder and president of Dagostino Electronic Services Inc. also tries to instill the values of love, dignity and respect in his 85 employees. Many may be afraid to use those words in the workplace, but spreading those values creates a team that is proud of its work and of the company for which it works.

“If everyone treats everybody like that, the world gets a lot easier to work in,” Dagostino says.

These values have helped Dagostino grow his company — which designs, sells, installs and maintains communications systems for voice, data and video networks — to 2006 revenue of $20 million.

Smart Business spoke with Dagostino about how to align values and vision among employees and how to become a better listener.

Q. How do you make sure employees are living your company’s values?

If you don’t talk about it, it’s not going to happen. Talk about it and have an open discussion of what these values mean to you. When people step over boundaries, get them to accept that this is the way you wish to be treated. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

If anyone is not making decisions or interacting with anyone in a way that does not live up to these values, then they shouldn’t be part of the organization.

Q. How do you let employees know you care?

Know your people. If you’re trying to reward someone, something that you enjoy to do after hours might not be the same that the employee enjoys. If I give them a ticket to a baseball game, yet they don’t like baseball, what are they going to get out of it? You’ve got to know what they do and enjoy, and try to align with that.

Talk to and communicate with them. Work closely with them and care about the things that are on their mind, not only with work but their personal life. It’s not to be probing but to get a sense of wellness.

Q. How do you make sure you’re hearing what people are saying?

It starts off with patience. Have meetings with key personnel on a regular basis and have nothing disrupt those meetings. Plan an agenda so that key topics are addressed. Those meetings are your opportunity to communicate with management to make sure you look at the issues, plan and solve the problems together.

Q. What are the benefits of being a good listener?

You are able to learn when you listen. You learn the needs of customers and management. If you don’t know a problem, you can’t solve it.

To be a good listener, you’re able to hear the problems that others are challenged with and try to take the proper action to resolve those hurdles.

Q. How do you craft a strong vision for your company?

It’s a simple message that everyone can remember. Not something that’s hanging on a wall that you try to impress someone with, but just a simple statement, a vision that everybody knows and can remember. ...

It boils down to communication. Sit with the stakeholders who will be involved in that vision; try to paint the big picture and exchange ideas.

Every vision breaks down into tasks to accomplish it. Every task needs to be assigned to someone and measured, and then you need a maestro on top who’s orchestrating the whole thing.

When the vision comes together, every stakeholder has a strong sense of involvement and accomplishment.

Q. How do you determine the core values of your employees?

Core value alignment. Don’t tell them your core values, but ask probing questions that will get them to talk about things that they’ve experienced. Ask them about a situation in their business experience that challenged their integrity, and get them to talk about it.

You will be able to determine their core values based upon questions you ask them. If you told someone, ‘Here are the three core values of our company;does that align with you?’ they’d be crazy not to nod their head and say yes.

Q. How do you make sure employees are aligned with your vision and that you are living it each day?

By their actions. Just look at their actions and ask yourself, ‘Does this truly align with the vision that we have here, and is it going to be healthy for the company?’

Execute what you’re preaching. Get feedback from others, unsolicited feedback as to what others see as your core values and what you’re thought of as a leader. Separate the person from the issue, and don’t attack the individual giving you feedback.

HOW TO REACH: Dagostino Electronic Services Inc., (800) 864-4166, (412) 306-7307 or www.descomm.com