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Mike Abrashoff

Former Navy Commander and Author
Country: USA

Keynote speaker Mike Abrashoff took command of the worst-performing Navy ship in the Pacific Fleet and made it #1 in twelve months – using the very same crew. This ship was actually, in many ways, an extreme example of some of the same problems which many organizations are facing today. What drove the success was Abrashoff’s realization that if things were to improve, the first thing that needed to change was his leadership style.

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Why select keynote speaker Mike Abrashoff?

  • Audiences relate to Abrashoff’s dilemma: being held accountable for results in an environment where rules and regulations pose a significant obstacle.
  • His presentation equips people with the tactics, strategies and tools necessary to unleash a breakthrough performance and extraordinary results in spite of the odds.
  • Abrashoff’s first book, It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, remains a best seller with 850,000 copies currently in print.

At the age of 36, the Navy appointed Abrashoff as Commander of USS Benfold – at the time, he was the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet. The immediate challenges that faced him on this underperforming Naval war ship were staggering: unacceptably low performance evaluations, exceptionally low morale, and high turnover. Very few thought that circumstances on this ship could improve. In many ways, however, the USS Benfold was actually an extreme example of the same types of problems facing many organizations today.

First off, Mike Abrashoff established a system of management techniques that he calls The Leadership Roadmap. At the heart of this leadership approach on Benfold was a process of replacing command and control with commitment and cohesion, and by engaging the minds, hearts and loyalties of workers – with conviction and humility. “The most important thing that a captain can do is to see the ship through the eyes of the crew.” According to Abrashoff, The Leadership Roadmap is a practice that empowers the individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellent results. “It’s your ship,” he was known to say. His former sailors to this day still remind him of it.

By every measure, these principles helped achieve breakthrough results. Personnel turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1 percent. The number of military promotions tripled, and the crew cut down operating expenses by 25 percent. Soon, Benfold was regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet and won the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness. Most important part – this transformation took place with the same crew.  What had changed was the ship’s culture and Abrashoff’s approach to leadership.

Keynote speaker Mike Abrashoff recounted the leadership lessons learnt from the turnaround of USS Benfold in his book,  It’s Your Ship. It became a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, with over 800,000 copies sold to date. This extraordinary interest in Abrashoff’s leadership journey and the organizational lessons of Benfold led to two follow-up books – Get Your Ship Together and It’s Our Ship.  Those books delved deeper into the ways these principles have been put into action by business leaders in their own organizations.

Prior to commanding USS Benfold, our brilliant speaker Mike Abrashoff was the Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense William J. Perry. He also helped draft the air defense plan for the naval forces in the Persian Gulf in 1990, coinciding with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. He served as the Executive Officer of the Cruiser Shiloh, where he deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

With a distinguished past, the notable speaker Mike Abrashoff became the founder of GLS Worldwide. This is a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address talent, leadership and business challenges within their organization. The firm challenges leaders at all levels to re-imagine their leadership thinking. They push leaders to create new ways to elevate individual, team and organizational performance.

    Keynote by Speaker Mike Abrashoff

    It’s your ship – Achieving breakthrough performance

    • When keynote speaker Mike Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold, morale was low, turnover was high and performance ranked at the bottom of the Pacific Fleet. Twelve months later the ship was the benchmark for performance – the shining star using the very same crew.
    • This inspiring talk is based on the vital leadership lessons Abrashoff learned as he led the remarkable turnaround of the ship. The first lesson was Abrashoff’s realization that before the ship’s performance could improve, his own leadership style had to change from the traditional command and control model.
    • When the crew would present a problem, Abrashoff became known for responding “What would YOU do? It’s YOUR ship!” His Leadership Roadmap principles created a high performance culture and empowered his crew to take charge and use ingenuity and initiative to improve every aspect of the way things were done.
    • Abrashoff’s presentation leaves audiences with the tools and inspiration to lead differently and elevate organizational performance to new levels.


    Keynote by Speaker Mike Abrashoff

    No Limits – Unleashing Breakthrough Performance

    • Sometimes in our professional lives we might think we are in a battle to beat an adversary or a competitor when in actuality we are really in competition with ourselves but just haven’t figured it out yet.
    • When battling the competition, you want to come out on top, if only by one more sale or maybe a few percentage points. Other times, someone at a higher level gives you a goal based on some median expectation set for other.
    • When keynote speaker Mike Abrashoff tool command of a well below-average ship in the U.S. Navy, his goal was to get to average. He initially set average goals and expectations for himself and his crew until one day it dawned on him; his ship could be much better than just average.
    •  It was Mike’s eureka moment; realizing they weren’t in competition with anyone but themselves. To be their best they had to stop putting limits on what they believed was possible.
    • That realization changed Mike Abrashoff’s approach to leadership and led the same crew to accomplish one of the most remarkable turnarounds that was chronicled in the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company magazine and his New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling book, IT’S YOUR SHIP. This presentation will challenge audiences to think differently on how to set expectations while realizing the only limits that you have are self-imposed.


    Keynote by Speaker Mike Abrashoff

    It’s our ship – Putting the leadership roadmap to work

    • For organizations that want to get serious about improving performance, this presentation delivers examples of the Leadership Roadmap in action.
    • Abrashoff brings to life stories of how the principles that led the transformation of the USS Benfold have been put into action at companies and organizations looking to harness the power of their most important asset – their people.
    • He shows real leaders achieving dramatic results as they work to address their most pressing people challenges: collaboration, commitment, cohesion, accountability, engagement, rapid and continual innovation and diversity in the workforce.
    • In example after example, the lessons from the Benfold clearly translate across all kinds of organizations – corporations, small business, non-profits and government.
    • Keynote speaker Mike Abrashoff shows audiences, by example, how to use their new leadership toolkit. “It’s Our Ship” goes deep into the how-tos of creating a culture where everyone takes ownership and responsibility for taking performance to the next level.


    Keynote by Speaker Mike Abrashoff

    Take action breakout session

    • Meant to deepen the learning from Mike Abrashoff’s keynote talk, Take Action sessions provide attendees with additional powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment.
    • Facilitated by a senior strategist from Abrashoff’s firm, GLS Worldwide, and taking place immediately following the keynote, Take Action sessions create an exciting atmosphere that examines the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations.
    • Participants will experience innovative, fast-paced individual and group exercises tailored to the leadership and cultural issues most relevant to the organization.
    • They’ll learn practical application of principles outlined in the keynote and build a roadmap to achieve the personal and organizational goals they’ve outlined.
    • Take Action sessions are customizable to meet time and resource-sensitive needs and require a minimum of 2 hours.
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