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on June 25, 2008
I'm a big fan of Captain D. Michael Abrashoff's leadership methods and his books. His latest, IT'S OUR SHIP - The No Nonsense Guide to Leadership is the third in a series based on his command tour aboard USS BENFOLD (DDG65) and building on his experiences with leaders in the business world. In this third book, I see Michael's growth as an author and as a leader. The third book includes some snippets from the story outlined in his first best seller - IT'S YOUR SHIP. Sure to be a best seller in its own right, IT'S OUR SHIP provides a great blend of Michael's own story with those of other proven leaders in the business world. These are stories worth telling and Michael tells them exceedingly well. In his latest book, he takes you back to USS Benfold, then to The Container Store, Pitney Bowes, Aflac, 1-800-GOT-JUNK and many other commercial enterprises before ending where he started - USS BENFOLD. From each enterprise, he brings together their leadership lessons with his and demonstrates that these principles work in every environment. All it takes is "collaboration" - the key word in this book.

I come at the three books (the second was GET YOUR SHIP TOGETHER) from a different perspective and much more critical eye than most readers. I was commissioned the same year (1982) Michael was - though from Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island rather than the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. We both assumed command in 1997 (though my command was a shore command) and we both worked for the Secretary of Defense (though mine was Donald H. Rumsfeld - as fine, patriotic, and honest a man as ever served (twice) in that demanding position). When I assumed command, I was taking over for an interim caretaker Commanding Officer who was nurturing a command back to health after two failed Inspector General inspections (somewhat like the Operational Propulsion Plant Examination that USS BENFOLD had failed before Michael assumed command). I know first-hand the challenges of command. I retired as a Navy Captain in 2006 with a career spanning 30 years of service as an enlisted Sailor and a commissioned one. I am a Navyman. I fully appreciate the context of his books and the purpose for which they were written. Read these books, apply the principles and watch your people grow, succeed and surpass your expectations.

I know that the leadership principles that Michael outlined in all three books work. They work extraordinarily well, when properly employed. They worked for him, they worked for me, they work for Commanding Officers at sea and ashore today, and they will work for you. Captain Abrashoff is a masterful leader and brilliant storyteller. I've gone back to do some research and can't validate that "virtually all 310 Sailors were deeply demoralized" or that "clearly his (the former CO's) leadership had failed", as Michael has described the situation. I say this, because statements like these are toned down a bit in his second and third books, which shows Michael's growth as both author and leader. While this over-dramatization tells a better story, Arleigh Burke destroyer Sailors are the cream of the crop of surface Sailors. Michael started off in a far better position than a reader might otherwise think, though he and his crew faced significant challenges and overcame them together to achieve remarkable successes by any measure.

Commander Abrashoff assumed command of a nearly new Arleigh Burke destroyer and inherited a crew that suffered the natural trials and tribulations of pre-commissioning a ship and `bringing her to life.' The truth of the matter is that three of the officers under the former CO and the former CO himself are all Navy Flag officers today - the enlisted Sailors of that first crew went on to enjoy great success as well. The first CO of USS BENFOLD was certainly doing something right and continues to do well on active duty today. I think it's more a matter of different approaches to leadership - there are many ways to effectively command an Arleigh Burke destroyer.

I give you my own insight so that you understand fully that there is no doubting that Commander Abrashoff's approach is successful - and he fills you with genuine confidence that you can be equally successful (that in itself is a sign of a good leader). Leaders everywhere would do well to make his three books a part of their libraries - but only putting them on the shelf after they have devoured every word. I remain a student of leadership and Michael's books have contributed greatly to my education. I could have used them at the start, in the middle and at the end of my Navy career. I read and reread them today. And I will, again, tomorrow. I hope you'll join me. You will not regret it.
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on June 24, 2008
In "It's Our Ship," CAPT Mike Abrashoff describes the element missing from his first book, "It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy," a bold leadership approach that turned the conventional ideas of stodgy senior Navy leaders on its head. I used many of the techniques he described in his initial book to shape my own work environment in healthcare. What he describes in his latest book, and what I have come to realize in my own endeavors, is the wisdom of collaboration.

Instead of encouraging healthy sustainable improvements, competition (as in "the best") can actually provoke schadenfreude (glee in another's downfall) and off-track searches for armor chinks. Collaborative leadership looks to the bigger picture, to the mission and accomplishments of the larger organization that create opportunities for all to benefit.

Abrashoff uses the nautical theme to organize his material into eight chapters:
1. Ahoy - Welcome aboard our ship
In this chapter, Abrashoff describes one of the techniques he used on the USS Benfold to welcome new sailors and describes learning good and poor leadership in his experiences on the Benfold. He highlights the practices developing a company "World Tour," where new employees receive a "passport" with lists of to-do training and customer-service classes. Another company hired its best customers, resulting in a turnover rate of less than 10% while competitors routinely face 70% turnover rates. Companies must continue to recruit people even after they're onboard.
2. Buoy up your people - inspiring everyone to be their best.
In this chapter, he states, "A great leader defines excellence and then inspires his team to exceed it through training and staff development." He then reviews several companies who have developed innovative training programs.
3. No more aye-aye men (or women) - cultivating truth-telling.
Wishful thinking is dangerous and he gives suggestions on how to deliver bad news and how to keep communication flowing up and down. Honesty and integrity are to be nurtured and encouraged.
4. All hands on deck - unifying a crew.
Abrashoff says, "Mindless rivalry leads to backstabbing, an ethos of every man for himself, and probably unit failure when danger threatens." He adds, "Nothing beats the power of unifying disparate people, of showing them the magic of working with and for each other instead of against each other. Quite simply, the first law of leadership in today's world is to give people irresistible incentives to collaborate for a purpose that enhances everyone."
5. Foul weather doesn't respect rank - creating a climate of trust.
An ancient proverb says a fish rots from the head down. Abrashoff discusses the importance of developing trust, pursuing excellence without arrogance, and treating all with courtesy and respect. He also reviews the principle of fairness and justice.
6. Navigate by the stars - Clarifying what it's all about.
Do you know the mission of your organization? Then you have to communicate, focus on what matters, and teach your organization's core values.
7. Sail close to the wind - taking the right risks.
Good leaders calculate the odds so risks are minimized.
8. Fly your true colors - Leading by example and getting results. Abrashoff discusses the importance of courage. A leader's main function is to set the right example and leaders can be found at all levels throughout an organization. It's important to know that good leadership can inspire people to do their best everyday.

In conclusion, collaborative leadership is what makes an organization unbeatable. I highly recommend this book for the interesting situations and the vivid examples leaders at any level can put into play at his or her company.
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on July 13, 2008
Finishing this book, I thought, it's ok. Fundamental advice, nothing too innovative, well told: treat your people well; make sure even those with tough jobs get your appreciation and understand you know that their job requires skill like any other( Abrashoff tells of visiting on a regular basis the sole sailor responsible for the ship's waste); train your people to be good and then delegate to them; make sure you understand that people are always looking at what the leader says and does. and take their cue accordingly. But, on reflection, the book is much more, although not apparent. It really is a story of a guy who worked for an organization that is rigid, with often pointless rituals, and arrogant leadership. That is, the Navy. The real narrative and book value is how he managed well in this environment. By way of example, his evals of his officers were forced ranked a la Enron, and made or broke careers, pitting one officer against another and making it harder to manage, not easier( so he told them I can't change the system but I will help you transition to civilian life by getting you marketable assignments). Great section on how to decide how much risk to undertake and deciding what is worth a risk. For those stuck in this type of organization, the books speaks to you. Take a read.
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on August 12, 2014
I have listened to this book a few times already. A great companion for "It's Your Ship," as it not only expands from some of the stories in the first book, but adds new ones. Even to include stories from organizations he has come across in his lecture circuit who have utilized some of his leadership/management philosophies. No need to understand military or Navy speak either. Additionally, to have the book narrated by Captain Abrashoff, just as in "Its Your Ship," is fantastic. He provides emotions that would only come from the author. He peaks at areas of importance, and flexes his tones and pitch accordingly. A fantastic read/listen!
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on May 19, 2011
Great leaders give off heat, an energy that frees others of their inhibitions and encourages people to start controlling their own desires, according to Captain Michael Abrashoff in this book. This is the second leadership book by the man who used to be the "skipper of the best ship in the US Navy", containing lessons that can usefully be added to those from the first book. These include:

* Starting well: how to attract the right kind of people, bring them aboard in a welcoming manner, and keep them happy and eager to come to work each day.
* Defining excellence: how to show your crew members what excellence is about, then share responsibility for decision making, and build confidence through training.
* Listening to truth-tellers: how to deliver bad news, challenge questionable decisions, and encourage your own crew to be candid even when it hurts.
* Prioritise collaboration: how to discourage mindless rivalry, be generous with your praise, and drive our bickering, sabotage and disunity.
* Create trust: how to keep your promises, treat your people with respect and delegate authority in order to cultivate a climate of trust.
* Be clear about the mission: how to use previous achievements to inspire staff, state your ethical guidelines clearly, stress your core values, and avoid diversions.
* Hedge your bets: how to avoid recklessness while navigating through acceptable risks with big potential payoffs.
* Lead by doing the right thing: how to use your own failures as lessons for others and turn the constant scrutiny of others into teachable moments.

There is plenty of good advice in the book, and the writing style is clear and interesting. Most readers who have some experience of leadership will find that the book reinforces their current knowledge rather than providing anything particularly startling or novel, although each issue is presented from the unique perspective of a navy captain.
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on October 8, 2015
Great insight into leadership from a person who has lead. Many times people who have an idea how leadership looks writes books and things are theoretical. Captain Abrashoff tells it like it was and how it is. Very inspiring.
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on June 1, 2013
I had the privilege of hearing the author speak passionately about his naval and business experiences and read the book in just a few sittings.

Great down to earth analogies between a navy ship and a business. All of us are on our own voyage and encounter the perils and pleasures of the adventure that is our individual business. The book is very thought provoking for anyone wanting to improve their organization. Don't expect a how to book, but rather one that allows you to think about how you can apply the concepts to your business and encourage your team to be their best. Bought more copies for my staff and plan to involve the whole organization in this process of business improvement over the next 6 months.

Company president
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on June 25, 2013
Captain Abrashoff presents this sequel to his original book using many more excellent examples of how to build a successful business team. His Navy illustrations in addition to industry cases keeps the book interesting and moving at a fast pace. It is particularly good reading for management trainees - a great starting point for understanding "Do's" and "Don't's" when trying to empower employees and hold them accountable in a sustaining corporate environment.
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on February 7, 2014
If you are serious about leadership, value your people and want to empower them, this book shows you how through the story.
The principles Micheal Abrashoff talks about is well illustrated and practical, with true value.

I would definitely recommend this book to all leaders who are serious about developing true leaders and change the way people see managers.

By self developing your people, you not only create future leaders, you create a happy, motivated and loyal employee
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on August 19, 2013
Captain Abrashoff has "been there, done that," and again shares from the wealth of his experience. This book is worth reading several times to fully grasp the nuances of the lessons being taught. I have recommended this book to many of my colleagues.
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