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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 the 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: UNLEASHING BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE
Sometimes in our professional lives we believe we are in a battle to beat an adversary or a competitor when in actuality, we are 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. Sometimes, 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 struck him: his ship could be better than average. Mike's eureka moment was 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. Many of Mike's former crew members have gone on to accomplish great things in their careers. They write to tell him their stories. One of Mike's sailors just ran for city council of one of the largest cities in the U.S. and he wrote Mike to say, "you gave us the inspiration and confidence to know that there are no limits." This presentation will challenge you to think differently on how to set expectations while realizing the only limits that you have are self-imposed.
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 Mike’s Leadership Roadmap in action. Mike reveals 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, safety 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. Mike 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.
GO DEEPER WITH HALF- AND FULL-DAY PROGRAMS
Dive deep into the Leadership Roadmap with a half or full-day program. The 2-hour Take Action session most often used as a follow-on to Mike’s keynote to create a half-day program that provides attendees with powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Typically facilitated by a senior strategist from Mike’s firm, Aegis Performance Group, Take Action sessions create an exciting interactive atmosphere that examines the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations. Full-day sessions with Aegis senior strategists provide an even deeper dive into the practical application of the Leadership Roadmap for the participants and their organizations.
SAFETY IS NO ACCIDENT
One of the critical issues facing organizations today is safety....not just safety in the workplace but safety in all facets of our personal lives. After all, if people get injured at home, it affects their on-the-job performance, as well as medical costs.
No matter how hard we may try, you can't order safety. It's a culture we have to create and each person has to feel it personally. A US Navy destroyer is an inherently dangerous place and no Captain, no matter how good he or she thinks they are, can order safety. In the year prior to taking command of USS Benfold, 31 sailors out of a workforce of 310 were involved in some type of injury producing mishap. The first afternoon after I took command of the ship, one of my sailors was involved in a DUI off base after going to a bar after work. The very night I took command of the ship, one of my sailors was severely beaten in a mugging because he walked out the wrong gate of the base after sunset in one of the worst parts of town. It was a newly reporting sailor who didn't know that you don't go to that part of town after sunset. That fact wasn't included in our welcome aboard program for newly reporting personnel.
Are all of these connected? Absolutely!!! It speaks to the culture that we try to create. You can never have a great organization if your top priority is not the safety of your people. The one thing that drove me throughout my entire tenure was that I never wanted to write the parents of any of my sailors and tell them that their son or daughter wasn't coming home because of something we did or something we failed to do. When I looked at safety on the ship, I assumed my sailors wanted to be safe and so everything I looked at was whether our processes facilitated a safe culture.
We implemented a program whereby every week, I would focus on one of the 24 divisions. I would inspect their work spaces for safety and other hazards. I would observe sailors doing their maintenance and quizzing them on the safety precautions. I reviewed their safety training program and participated in seminars with them. During these events they could ask questions about anything they weren't sure about. I wanted them to understand that the concept of safety was portable to their families and personal lives, as well. We trained on the dangers of drinking and driving and if they were drinking, they could call a local cab company to give them a free ride home which was then paid for out of our morale fund (and not taxpayers money). By the way, we also tried to create a culture of respect whereby sailors didn't have to go home after work and blow off steam and drink to excess.
Any sailor could stop any process if they thought safety was being impaired. Any sailor had a direct line to me if they thought their chain of command wasn't sufficiently concerned or didn't see what they were seeing. Every sailor knew that I felt their safety was a top priority of mine and not just lip service.
The result? My last year in command, there were two minor incidents; down from 31 incidents two years prior. Was I satisfied? No!!! Two is two too many. But we never missed an opportunity to try and drive that culture of excellence and safety. They go hand in hand.
Why Book Mike Abrashoff?
Mike Abrashoff is at the center of one of the most remarkable modern day stories of organizational transformation. At the age of 36, the Navy selected Mike to become Commander of USS Benfold. At the time he was the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet – on a ship that was plagued by low morale, high turnover and abysmal performance evaluations. Few thought that the ship could improve - yet 12 months later the ship was ranked #1 in performance – using the same crew. People were amazed and the lesson was clear – leadership matters and culture is everything.
In many ways, the USS Benfold was actually an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today. That’s why dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal 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.
Mike is clear, “I didn’t turn the ship around - my crew did that. What I did was to reinvent my leadership style and create an environment where they felt safe, empowered and supported. When they 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 solution was to establish 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.
Mike is author of three books. His first, It’s Your Ship, has sold over one million copies. Its message is timeless: 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.