Mike Abrashoff

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Former Commander, USS Benfold and Author, It’s Your Ship

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2 Video(s) By This Presenter

Mike Abrashoff
Mike Abrashoff – Servant Leadership

4 Programs By This Presenter

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.

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 his 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.

Dive deep into the Leadership Roadmap with a half- 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.

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.


“He was absolutely fantastic! One of the best speakers I’ve
experienced. His book “It’s your Ship” should be covered in every
MBA program.”

— SafeStart, A Division of Electrolab LTD

“We booked Mr. Abrashoff for our first-day keynote. He was so dynamic and well received by our attendees, we felt he would have been better positioned for the last day, to close the conference. Would highly recommend him.”

— GAF Materials LLC

“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!”

— 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.”

— 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.”

— Empire Caterpillar Southwest

“You set the tone for the meeting and hit a home run with our group! The feedback was extremely positive. I had my meeting today at 17:30 and it took us 1 minute to report a job very well done! Thank you very much for starting the program on such a great note and providing the momentum for another very successful conference! It made my job as director for this conference a pleasure over these two days!”

— American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers

“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.”

— TransCanada Energy Operations

“He knocked it out of the park. He was so good and on point that it almost looked like we wrote his script. The group loved him and the parallels to managing a ship and mill are remarkable.”

— International Paper

“I received excellent feedback from both the panel discussion and broadcast speech… Your leadership style and personal values appear to be similar to what we are attempting to achieve and hence I am very interested in your leadership toolkit. Let me know the best way to learn more.”

— ArcelorMittal Dofasco

“Thank you, Mike! Your presentation was fabulous, and hit very close to home for me. Many of our members were very moved and impressed with your talk. Thank you so much! And signing the books was an extra fine touch.”

— Independent Lubricant Manufacturers Association (ILMA)

“You did an exceptional job of connecting with the audience and reinforcing that leadership in safety matters, and is in fact the very cornerstone of our future success in safety and in general at BNSF. Everyone I talked to agreed that the keynote you delivered, was the highlight of the day and had a tremendous impact on them.”

— BNSF Railway

“He was fabulous! Everyone loved him and his message!”

— National Community Pharmacists Association

“Thank a million for your story today. Your stories are a wonderful inspiration for this team. Thanks for being on this ship for a short moment. Big impact for the people.”

— Business Models Inc.

“… our team members .. truly enjoyed your speech. They noted how it connected with our culture. I am confident that they took away they key messages we hoped they would, and I expect to see people implementing them over the coming months.”

— XL Industries
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