It’s Your Ship
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.
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. 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.
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.”
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. He has established a set of management principles that he calls The Leadership Roadmap, which offers clear, battle-tested and actionable steps.
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.