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The Journal Gazette

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Sunday, October 14, 2018 1:00 am

Startup mentor touts value of relationships

LISA GREEN | The Journal Gazette

Scott Weiss had a 30-year business career that included 22 as CEO. He has worked on three continents.

Despite the wealth of experience, Weiss at one time underestimated the power of connecting with people.

“Ineffective teams often end up beating each other up over tasks,” Weiss said, when the real problem is often underlying and underdeveloped relationships.

Weiss, CEO and chairman of Ocean Programs, will be in Fort Wayne for Techstars Startup Week. He will lead a session at 10 a.m. Monday at The Atrium on what it takes to build a great team.

“I've had so much experience doing it the wrong way, and I finally slowed down enough to learn how to do it the right way,” Weiss said in a telephone interview last week from Cincinnati, where his nonprofit is located and was participating in a Techstars week.

Ocean Programs focuses on training, mentoring and supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses. The organization, which has a local affiliate – Ocean NEI – incorporates biblical principles in its training, but Weiss said individuals are welcomed regardless of their religious beliefs.

Weiss said Monday's presentation will be interactive. Randomly grouped teams of four will be given an exercise to work through that will “reveal a lot of elements of both ineffective and effective team work,” he said.

Participants will have a greater understanding of when they need to form a team, hire an expert or assign a task to an individual. They'll learn about team roles and how to manage relationships.

“It's a lot of fun. It's a lot of energy,” Weiss said.

The attitudes people bring to a team can be a barrier to progress or help accelerate it. Attitudes, Weiss said, include internal values such as respect, trust and openness to feedback.

As a top executive, Weiss said he had to learn to show colleagues he valued their ability to contribute.

“I did not understand or invest sufficiently in the relationships. I relied on the inherit authority of the position,” Weiss said. “I had to walk the talk since I do respect people. I do value different points of view. ... I just wasn't telling them that or showing them.”

The vast majority of work is assigned to teams, Weiss said. When leaders are too task-focused, they tend to shut people down, appear to be uncaring or appear resistant to divergent views.

“I'm not saying you go into a team to become best friends or share your deepest secrets,” Weiss said. But leaders do need to be sensitive to how they interact with others and what values they exhibit in communication.

Once he learned to better connect with colleagues, Weiss said his effectiveness “grew exponentially.”

For more information on Startup Week, go to https://fortwayne.startupweek.co.

CEO departures

A total of 148 chief executive officers left their jobs in September, down 3.9 percent from 154 announced in August, the highest monthly total on record.

September departures are the second highest of the year, according to a report last week from Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., a consulting and executive coaching firm based in Chicago.

Last month's total is 46.5 percent higher than the 101 CEOs who left their posts in September 2017, the firm said in a news release. With the exception of August, September saw the highest monthly total since May 2006, when the same number left their posts.

Third-quarter departures reached 396, the highest quarterly total of CEO changes since the firm began tracking the turnover in 2002.

“The last time we saw CEO turnover like this was during the lead-up to and including the Recession. The difference in those years is that CEOs were leaving due to economic conditions during a period of high unemployment, which isn't the case in 2018,” said Andrew Challenger, a vice president at Challenger.

So far this year, 1,027 CEO changes have been recorded, 18.6 percent more than the 866 such departures recorded last year. The nine-month total is the highest since 2008.

To share a thought, a favorite quote or other wisdom about leadership, email Lisa Green at lisagreen@jg.net. Lead On also appears online as a blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog/lead-on/