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 to see the ship through the eyes of the crew.” According to Abrashoff, The Leadership Roadmap is a practice that empowers every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence. “It’s your ship,” he was known to say. His former sailors to this day still remind him of it.
Mike Abrashoff was the most-junior officer in the Pacific Fleet when he took command of the near-worst performing ship. Twelve months later, the USS Benfold was the best ship in the entire Navy – using the same crew. The story of that stunning transformation has lessons for every organization: leadership matters – and culture is everything. Mike’s written three books – his first, It’s Your Ship, has sold over 1.3 million copies. His Leadership Roadmap offers clear, battle-tested, and actionable steps. Mike shows people at every level of the organization how to engage and take incremental steps toward change that can make a dramatic difference at work. Mike is clear, “I didn’t turn the ship around – my crew did that. What I did was to create an environment where they felt safe, empowered and supported. When you do that, anything is possible.”
In many ways, what Mike was able to do with the USS Benfold was an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today. That’s why dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, and Fast Company have cited Mike’s story as an inspiring lesson for business. Leaders especially identify with Mike’s being accountable for the results in an environment where he couldn’t make the rules.
“When my crew came to me with a problem, I’d say ‘It’s your ship – how would you fix it?’.” Mike focused on the one thing he could influence: his crew’s attitude, because culture is the ultimate competitive weapon for any organization.
Mike’s established a set of management principles that he 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 engaging the hearts, minds, 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. The idea is to empower every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence.”
By every measure, these principles achieved breakthrough results: turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1%; the rate of promotions tripled; and the crew slashed operating expenses by 25%. Regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, Benfold won the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness. This remarkable turnaround was accomplished by the very same crew that had performed so poorly just months before.
Mike is author of three books. His first, It’s Your Ship, has a timeless message: don’t use outside forces that stand in your way as excuses – control the things you can influence and amazing results will happen. His next books, It’s Our Ship and Get Your Ship Together, showed how these principles have been put into action by business leaders in their own organizations.
A popular keynote speaker for audiences looking to ramp up organizational performance, Mike has spoken to every industry and kind of audience – from board retreats to front line personnel; from sales groups to universities; from Fortune 500s to startups. He inspires audiences to rethink their beliefs about leadership and organizational culture and tailors the message to focus on engagement, execution, change, safety, diversity, leadership, teamwork, innovation, accountability and more.
Prior to commanding USS Benfold, Mike 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 Aegis Performance Group, a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address leadership, talent and performance challenges within their organizations. Mike and his team prompt leaders at all levels to re-imagine their leadership thinking and create new ways to elevate individual, team and organizational performance.
IT’S YOUR SHIP – ACHIEVING BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
When Mike Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold, morale was low, turnover was high and the ship’s performance ranked near the bottom of the Pacific Fleet. Just twelve months later Benfold was ranked #1 – using the very same crew. The lesson was clear – leadership matters and culture is everything. This inspiring talk is for every individual and organization looking for practical and usable ways to take organizational performance to new heights. In Mike’s case, he realized that before the ship’s performance could change, he had to change his leadership style. Mike worked to create a culture of trust and empower his crew to take charge and use ingenuity and initiative to improve every aspect of the way things were done. Top down leadership is dead, so when the crew would present a problem, Mike became famous for responding “What would YOU do? It’s YOUR ship!” Mike’s presentation leaves audiences with the tools and inspiration to accomplish big goals.
NO LIMITS – DON’T LET GOALS BECOME LIMITATIONS
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 others. When Mike Abrashoff took 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 Mike’s 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.
THE VIRTUAL LEADER’S ROADMAP
Mike Abrashoff had to change his leadership mindset when he took over the near-worst performing ship in the Navy. The situation was dire. If performance did not improve, sailors could have gotten injured…or worse. In response, Mike quickly adopted a new set of principles to guide a new way of leading. His focus was on building trust and authentic ways of engaging. It was about listening to and empowering his crew who then went on to make the USS Benfold the best ship in the entire U.S. Navy. These very same principles are the foundation of success for organizations that embrace working virtually. In the short term, many organizations have found virtual work arrangements actually increase effectiveness of employees. That effectiveness may not be sustainable if leaders and organizations don’t master a new skill-set of how to lead people they can’t see. It’s about measuring results – not activity; and about finding ways to let people know their efforts are appreciated. Those who succeed in leading in the virtual environment will create a decisive competitive advantage.
GO DEEPER WITH HALF-DAY AND FULL-DAY PROGRAMS
Dive deep into the Leadership Roadmap with a half-day or full-day program. The sessions are most often used as a follow-on to Mike’s keynote and provide attendees with powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Depending on the circumstances, these longer sessions are facilitated by a senior strategist from Mike’s firm, Aegis Performance Group, or Mike himself. These sessions create an exciting interactive atmosphere where participants examine the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations. Inquire for more details and program descriptions.
“I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye after your presentation to our franchisee group. You did a terrific job – we heard nothing but rave reviews on your stories, your leadership ideas, your style, the lack of PowerPoint slides, etc. Well done!”
– President, Great Clips, Inc.
“Despite the fact that it was late in the afternoon on the closing day of a 3-day conference, Abrashoff engaged and inspired the participants. As I coordinate these events, I tend to watch the crowd more than any individual speaker. Doing this tells me how the program is going based on how many faces are looking down at their phones or talking to the person next to them. The entire time Abrashoff spoke he had command of the entire room.Not a single set of eyes was anywhere but on him.”
– Chief of Staff, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America
“Mike, you hit it out of the park, as I knew you would. Your message was on point and was exactly what I was looking for. It emphasized some of the things we were already working on and provided a good foundation for us to build on.”
– President/CEO, Empire Caterpillar Southwest
Mike Abrashoff’s address to our group in Denver was spot-on. It was quite evident that he had worked to include information regarding our company, our markets and in particular, our Project Managers Forum objectives and attendee backgrounds into the content of his presentation. Several people commented to me that they found his story inspiring and relevant. As I mentioned earlier, this was the third time I heard Mike tell his story. It seems that each time I pull something more from the information he shares.”
– Facilities Manager, URS
“You gave a memorable and enjoyable keynote speech that was enjoyed by all. Thank you for making our owners understand that they are the captains of their own destiny and that they need to take all action needed to succeed. You did a great job setting the tone for the rest of the convention.”
– Kevin G. Sinclair, CEO, Wireless Zone
“We have never had such positive feedback so you very much exceeded our expectations. You were quoted numerous times throughout the remainder of the conference which says people took your message to heart and will put it to work in their everyday jobs – exactly what we aimed for!”
– Director of Staffing, Employee Relations & Development, Denbury Resources
“The “day after” is over and the impact is reverberating throughout the organization. .” I truly appreciate the effort you obviously made to incorporate our issues and to position the call to action for them as leaders of teams. The feedback was clear — your presentation ranked #1 for most valuable . . . count me a fan.”
– Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, North America, Nokia Siemens Networks
“Mike Abrashoff’s remarkable story regarding the transformation of USS Benfold was extremely well received and appreciated by our event participants, who found great inspiration and practicality in his remarks. These are challenging times for many and his perspective on leadership and leading during difficult times is timely as well as thought-provoking.”
– California Bankers Association
“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! I personally have never listened to a better speaker. Your message was tailor made for my team and I look forward to discussing future opportunities with you. Thank you so very much Mike.”
– VP, TransCanada Energy Operations
“I wanted to let you know what an amazing speaker and presentation Mr. Abrashoff gave! It was a pleasure listening to him.”
– Program Analyst, SAO East
“Your insightful leadership guided us through a thorough, engaging and thoughtful examination of our current “state of the union” as well as our visions and expectations for the future. We have been inspired by your call for collaboration and are excited to bring your teachings forward with us into the future.”
– Laurence Gumina, CEO, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services
“Any audience that cares about leadership, culture, change management, performance and teamwork would benefit immensely from your presentation. Our group enjoyed not only your message, but also your presentation style. Needless to say, you received very high ratings in our post-conference survey.”
– Steve Perlowski, Vice President, Industry Affairs & Member Relations, National Association of Chain Drug Stores
“He was fabulous! A big hit and hit the nail on the head with our meeting theme- was the perfect end to the week.”
– VP of IT, Underwriters Lab
“THANK YOU for visiting City of Hope! Our team of leaders was inspired by your sessions and many have emailed me or stopped me on campus to share how they can apply relevant learnings. We have ordered another 100 books and many will be taking the time to read the book in larger teams. We are creating an internal blog where leaders can share with others how they are creating organizational transformation through grass roots managerial efforts. Thank you again for helping us drive organizational change and evolving our efforts to build a more accountable culture!”
– Chief Human Resources Officer, City of Hope, Duarte, CA
“[Mike Abrashoff] was fantastic! He was extremely generous with his time, and he was absolutely the right person for what we wanted to accomplish.”
– BP Exploration, Inc.
“Conference ended today with a bang. You were by far the best presenter!”
– Josh Linkner, CEO / Managing Partner, Detroit Venture Partners, LLC
“Thank you for following up – we really enjoyed Mike’s presentation and the audience feedback was outstanding! He really kick started our day with a bang and we were pleased to have him as part of our agenda.”
– HR Specialist, Intel
“It went fantastic. Full house and everyone raved. He is one of the best speakers on leadership and management I have seen in a very long time.”
– Senior Manager, Event Services, Ingram Micro