Former Commander, USS Benfold
The New York Times Bestselling Author, It’s Your Ship
Organizational Transformation Specialist
At the age of 36, the Navy selected Abrashoff to become Commander of USS Benfold – at the time, the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet. The immediate challenges that faced him on this underperforming Naval war ship were staggering: exceptionally low morale, high turnover and unacceptably low performance evaluations. Few thought that this ship could improve. In many ways, the USS Benfold was actually an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today.
The solution was to establish a system of management techniques that Abrashoff calls The Leadership Roadmap. At the core of his leadership approach on Benfold was a process of replacing command and control with commitment and cohesion, and by engaging the hearts, minds, and loyalties of workers – with conviction and humility. “The most important thing that a captain can do is see the ship through the eyes of the crew.” The Leadership Roadmap is a practice that empowers every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence. “It’s your ship,” Abrashoff was known to say onboard. His former sailors to this day still remind him of it.
By every measure, these principles were able to achieve breakthrough results. Personnel turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1 percent. The rate of military promotions tripled, and the crew slashed operating expenses by 25 percent. Regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, Benfold won the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness. Most important – this transformation took place with the same crew. What had changed was the ship’s culture and Abrashoff’s leadership style.
Abrashoff recounted the leadership lessons from the turnaround of USS Benfold in It’s Your Ship, 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 Benfold’s organizational lessons led to two follow-up books – Get Your Ship Together and It’s Our Ship. Those books took readers deeper into ways these principles have been put into action by business leaders in their own organizations.
Prior to commanding USS Benfold, Abrashoff served as the Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense William J. Perry. He also helped draft the air defense plan for naval forces in the Persian Gulf in 1990, coinciding with Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait; and 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, a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address leadership, talent and business challenges within their organization. The firm challenges leaders at all levels to re-imagine their leadership thinking and create new ways to elevate individual, team and organizational performance.
In tough economic times, it is critical that all organizations utilize every asset at their disposal to survive and thrive in the global marketplace. While many corporations have done a phenomenal job of wringing inefficiencies out of their processes and procedures, everyone knows that you can’t cut your way to greatness. There remains an under appreciation and investment in their top asset: people. While economic headwinds have many companies fighting for survival, it is during times like these that great companies are born by focusing relentlessly on innovation and executing new ideas that capture the imagination of the marketplace. A best-selling author of one of the most acclaimed business books of all time, and himself a successful entrepreneur, Mike Abrashoff has traveled the globe speaking to and consulting with some of the world’s most innovative companies. Leveraging his own leadership experiences and having seen up close and personal what separates organizations poised for growth from companies that can’t move beyond the status quo, Abrashoff equips organizations with the strategies, tactics, and tools necessary to unleash innovation, lead meaningful change, and improve operational performance. Abrashoff will walk leaders through the five-step process necessary to create innovation-focused, adaptable, high-performance teams, giving them the takeaways and know-how that is essential to getting organizations on the path to future success.
When 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 – with 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.
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