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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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Former Navy Commander and Author
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 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.
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, 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.
Mike Abrashoff is 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.
Why select 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.
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