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on May 27, 2014
"We all feel satisfaction in a job well done, but the greatest satisfaction transcends personal achievement - it comes from helping others reach their potential." ~ Captain D. Michael Abrashoff

What does leading a ship in the U.S. Navy have to do with your workplace? You might be surprised!

It's Your Ship is not a book I would necessarily have picked up for myself but, on a friend's recommendation, I gave it a try. By the time I finished reading and obsessively highlighting the Introduction, I was hooked.

Taking command of the Navy ship, USS Benfold, Captain D. Michael Abrashoff quickly discovered his leadership skills needed refining if he was to succeed in his new role. It's Your Ship summarizes his lessons learned, which eventually set Benfold apart as an extraordinary model of efficiency, teamwork, and multifaceted leadership. Right from the start, Abrashoff puts into practice one of the most important leadership principles: In order to successfully lead others, you must first lead yourself - be the leader in your own life.

Abrashoff shares excellent tips highlighted by the context of his Navy experience. While you may think your organization differs vastly from the military, his stories and examples help you easily apply his suggestions to leadership roles in business, nonprofit, academia, and beyond. I have shared many of his tips with my coaching clients, with three in particular that stand out:

1. Listen Aggressively.

Abrashoff discovered early that his crew was talented, smart, and filled with good ideas - but they hadn't always felt they were heard. "I decided that my job was to listen aggressively," he writes, discussing how he conducted one-on-one interviews with each of his 300+ crew members. He learned about their families, their reasons for enlisting, what they liked and didn't like about Benfold, and more.

"Something happened in me as a result of those interviews," Abrashoff shares. "I came to respect my crew enormously."

When you truly listen and act upon their suggestions, your team feels validated and important - like they matter. Nearly all of us crave this sense of mattering in our work experience. As a leader, you can uplift your team profoundly by simply asking questions and listening deeply.

2. Never Fail The Washington Post Test.

One of the first principles Abrashoff learned involved leading by example. As Gandhi famously said, "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Winning is important, but not at the cost of one's ethics and integrity. Abrashoff kept himself in check by regularly asking himself: "If what I'm about to do appeared on the front page of the Washington Post tomorrow, would I be proud or embarrassed?"

This simple question can do wonders as an accountability check, especially important since, as he later reminds us, "A leader's every action is always scrutinized." You could replace Washington Post with your most respected publication or person; in my family we often substitute "your grandparents."

3. Communicate Meaning And Purpose.

This lesson is twofold: First, your team must purposefully connect with the mission of your organization. When Abrashoff noticed low passion and enthusiasm among his crew, he realized what was missing: "No one had ever thought to give them a compelling vision of their work, a good reason to believe it was important." Burnout, loss of engagement, even turnover often result from a sense of disconnect between an employee's work and its importance to the organization, consumer, and world at large. As a leader, you need to help your employees connect these dots.

Second, you must communicate well, effectively, and often. "No matter how fantastic your message is," Abrashoff learned, "if no one is receiving it, you aren't communicating." Define the vision, mission, and values of your organization, then communicate them clearly and often.

I recently reviewed The Servant by James C. Hunter, in which the author outlines the qualities of servant leadership: Respect, dignity, and a focus on developing other leaders rather than building your own prestige, to name a few. Abrashoff's suggestions thoroughly align with this powerful leadership concept, while providing the unique perspective of its application in the military.

Throughout It's Your Ship, Abrashoff exhibits his "winning leader's first principle: Optimism rules." He clearly understands that the leader sets the tone and focused his energy on creating an atmosphere of positivity, excellence, and trust, recognizing the win-win outcome. "Anything you can do to understand your people, support them in tough times, and nurture their gifts," he writes, "will pay benefits to your bottom line."

Whether your "ship" is an actual Navy ship, a company, a department or a family, It's Your Ship offers insightful, practical strategies that will elevate your leadership and strengthen your team with meaning and purpose.
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on July 22, 2015
Michael Abrashoff "It's Your Ship" weaves his Navy and leadership experience into an entertaining read. If you are new to management or looking to gain additional insight into the tried and true principles of leadership, this a good book to read. If you have been in the corporate management field for more than a few years, you probably have previously attended seminars or read books that have closely mirrored what this author outlines in his book. Having said that, I still found the book to be a good refresher and reinforcement to my best management practices. I liked his philosophy to push the boundaries, but do it intelligently and professionally. I have subscribed to the methods he outlined quite successfully In my own 25+ years in leadership and management roles. The author does a good job including humorous stories providing real life lessons of his experience. It's a short and good read.
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on February 5, 2018
I truly enjoyed reading this work. Great lessons on leadership...it’s your store, it’s your factory, it’s your restaurant, it’s your ship. The principles are fungible or interchangeable with any kind of group working toward a common goal. I truly enjoyed reading this work.
Mr. Abroshoff’s writing style kept my interest throughout the book and I will probably read the book again...and perhaps again.
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on May 22, 2017
Captain Abrashoff is able to relate his leadership experience in thee most high stress environments and pass his knowledge on to Civilians alike so that we ourselves may become better individuals and hopefully better leaders.
He is able to take his failure and provide a game plan as to how he would better approach each character building situation. He furthermore lays out traits and characteristics that could bring out the inner leader in each and everyone of us!
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on September 7, 2017
I should have gone with the audio version of this book, as it's not written as an essay, report, or your typical book. It's written as he would speak, a littla meandering, but all in all well written.

Most of these suggestions are similar to what I've always done, but it was great to see it used in a more rigid environment than my experiences have been and still see success.

A great read for managers and employees alike.
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on February 12, 2018
We always hear about leadership, but this is the first practical guide to how to become an effective leader. I throughly enjoyed this book and will try to inter-grate it’s teaching into my leadership style.
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on March 28, 2010
I have mixed feelings on all leadership or management type books and I have read a ton of them. This is a good book in that it is easy to read, gives good advice through examples (though based in the Navy setting) and almost steers completely clear of the PC drivel now omnipresence in leadership books. The advice given easily translates to any organizational setting but my guess is those who have not been in the military will have a difficult time making the connection.
I wish the author had spent more time discussing the problems faced by the junior officer senior enlisted relationship. In the Navy the senior enlisted NCOs really run the show. How does the junior office lead them? The same case is in the civilian world where often the long time employee is the person who really knows how to get things done, how does the new, young, manager interact with this person? Also I wish the author could have mentioned that running a ship or any military unit is a lot easier during wartime than peacetime. Wars bring a lot of clarity to the mission and the training that makes for easier leadership, better retention, and better recruits.
I am not so sure I didn't read anything in this book that I didn't learn in my own Navy leadership classes but for those that never had the privilege to sit in those classes and for those who slept through them they should give this a read. I was shocked to read in this book that the author had officers who were going to head of the chow line. Officers should always be the last.. very last.. leadership class day 1.
btw for those who don't know... command of a Navy ship or squadron is the highest honor that an individual in the Navy can be given. "Given" after a lifetime of dedication to earning it.
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on January 3, 2016
I found this to be a well-written guide to working with troops and getting the best organizational performance.

The concept and practices aren't necessarily always unique military in nature so they can be applied to civilian organizations.

I read this book specifically to be prepared for the job I'm doing now as a section chief in a military unit.
Good stuff.
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on September 15, 2017
One of the best books on leadership I have ever read. The author gives you a first person guide as to what works, what did not work and how you can be a better leader in any area.
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on January 9, 2016
With 22 years service and 8 years of sea duty I think this is the best book on leadership that I have read. The book validated many of my long held beliefs concerning leadership, getting the job done and just doing the right thing. The most important concept was treating people the way you would like to be treated. Reading the book was fun because it caused me to recollect how I had seen these concepts play out during my career. It will have value to any organization.
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