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Turn the Ship Around!: A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders Hardcover – May 16, 2013
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I don't know of a finer model of this kind of empowering leadership than Captain Marquet. And in the pages that follow you will find a model for your pathway. -- Stephen R. Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
To say I'm a fan of David Marquet would be an understatement... I'm a fully fledged groupie. He is the kind of leader who comes around only once a generation. He is the kind of leader who doesn't just know how to lead, he knows how to build leaders. His ideas and lessons are invaluable to anyone who wants to build an organization that will outlive them. -- Simon Sinek, optimist and author of Start with Why
How do we release the intellect and initiative of each member of the organization toward a common purpose? Here's the answer: With fascinating storytelling and a deep understanding of what motivates and inspires. David Marquet provides leaders in the military, business, and education a powerful vehicle that will delight, provoke, and encourage them to act. -- Michael P. Peters, president of the St. John's College, Santa Fe
I owe a lot to Captain David Marquet ... not only for turning the Santa Fe around during some REALLY bad times but I learned many lessons on leadership from him that have been invaluable in my post-Navy life. I preach the three legs (control, competence, clarity) of Leader-Leader everyday to empower my people and move the decisions to where the information lives... I used these principles to turn around the GE Dallas Generator Repair Department, which was in crisis when I arrived in 2010 and now is the best Generator Repair Department in the GE Network... Now I am tasked with turning around the Dallas Steam Turbine Repair Department... -- Adam McAnally, Steam Turbine Cell Leader at the GE Dallas Service Center and former crewmember, USS Santa Fe
This terrific read actually provides new and valuable insights into how to lead. And nothing important gets done without leadership. Captain Marquet takes you through his life of learning how to lead, and presents you with a winning formula: not leader-follower, but leader-leader. It's about leading by getting others to take responsibility--and like it. It works for business, politics, and life. -- Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, a member of several business boards, and a former columnist for The New York Times
It's the Hunt for Red October meets Harvard Business School. Turn the Ship Around! is the consummate book on leadership for the Information Age--where unleashing knowledge workers' intellectual capital is pivotal in optimizing organizational performance: from maximizing market share and minimizing customer churn to improving margins. Capt. Marquet's thesis is a complete paradigm shift in leadership philosophy. This new approach to leadership is applicable in all industries and across all corporate functions. If you're an Organizational Behavior or Leadership expert or enthusiast this book can have a substantial impact on you and your organization s ability to meet its goals. -- Joe DeBono, Founder and President of MBA Corps and Merrill Lynch Wealth Manager
David Marquet's message in Turn the Ship Around! inspires the empowerment of engaged people and leadership at all levels. He encourages leaders to release energy, intellect, and passion in everyone around them. Turn the Ship Around! challenges the paradigm of the hierarchical organization by revealing the process to tear down pyramids, create a flat organization, and to develop leaders, not followers. -- Dale R. Wilson, Sr., business management professional, and editor/blogger at Command Performance Leadership (commandperformanceleadership.wordpress.com)
This is the story of Captain David Marquet's unprecedented experiment in the most rigid of environments on the Santa Fe, a U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarine. He had the courage to operate counter-culture, reengineering the very definition of leadership accepted by the U.S. Navy for as long as it has existed. He took huge risk to do this. The outcome was revolutionary - within a few short months, the crew of the Santa Fe went from worst to first. In today's information age, Human Capital is our most precious resource. It is the 21stCentury weapon of choice. Captain David Marquet's experiment in leadership has far greater application to the entire business world. This is thought leadership. -- Charlie Kim, Founder & CEO of Next Jump, Inc.
Leaders and managers face an increasingly complex world, where precise execution, teamwork and enabling of talent are competitive advantages. David Marquet provides a blue print, along with real-life examples and implementation mechanisms. Anyone who is charged with leading and making a difference needs to read this. -- John Cooper, President and CEO, Invesco Distributors
David Marquet's book discusses 'successful motivation' that provided his people the energy to overcome difficult obstacles. The values that he imbued in his folks provided a 'burst of energy' that positively energized them by satisfying their needs for achievement, providing appropriate recognition, providing a sense of belonging, developing self-esteem, permitting a feeling of control, and permitting an ability to live up to appropriate standards. This type of leadership energizes the work force and allows senior management to 'paint the future and light a path that takes the entire team to it.' This is a must read for all who desire good moral influence on the work force! -- Vice Admiral Al Konetzni, (USN, ret.) Former Pacific Fleet submarine commander.
The legacy of a Commanding Officer, or the leader of any organization, is how well the organization performs after he/she departs and the subsequent motivation, success and institutional contribution of those next generation leaders trained and developed. Read Turn the Ship Around! and you will learn how to build an enduring high performer, where people can't wait to get to work. -- Admiral Thomas B. Fargo (USN, ret.) Former Commander U.S. Pacific Command Chairman, Huntington Ingalls Industries
What I learned from and with David Marquet is that developing a bottom-up, Leader-Leader culture produces highly empowered people and highly effective teams. It worked on a nuclear submarine and it worked in the mountains of Afghanistan. That said, cultivating a Leader-Leader culture is much easier said than done because you must overturn almost everything people grow up thinking and learning about leadership. -- Captain (sel) Dave Adams, USN, Former Weapons Officer, USS Santa Fe, Khost Province PRT commander, Commanding Officer, USS Santa Fe
Captain Marquet's compelling leadership journey inspires each of us to imagine a world where every human being is intellectually engaged and fully committed to solving our toughest challenges. If it can be done on a nuclear submarine, it can be done everywhere. Turn the Ship Around! delivers a brilliant message. -- Liz Wiseman, Author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter
About the Author
L. David Marquet, a top graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, commanded the nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine USS Santa Fe from 1999 to 2001. Since retiring from the Navy he has worked with businesses nationwide as a leadership consultant. He gives presentations around the world and has also written a companion workbook called Turn Your Ship Around. He lives in Florida with his wife, Jane.
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I have not met any of the persons that David Marquet commanded, but I will lay a substantial wager that many will follow him wherever they can.
Full disclosure: I am biased. I think that David is a leader, not a commander or a CEO or a senior officer but an authentic leader, for two reasons: 1) his views conform largely to my own, and 2) He undeniably moved a top of the line US nuclear submarine form bottom of the heap to the top by many objective measures.
David's views on leadership, and I repeat I heartily endorse these, are:
1) "Our greatest struggle is within ourselves. Whatever sense we have of thinking we know something is a barrier to continued learning."
2) The way to build a great team is to push decision making down, way down. The more each person feels he has the ability to do what he needs to in his immediate working environment, the more he will "own" his job and the more engaged he will be.
3) Engaged people will bubble with ideas about how to make the whole enterprise better. Some of these ideas will be relevant to a particular section and some for the entire organization. For the larger scope ideas, the originators will go out and get the cooperation/approval of others necessary to make the improvement happen.
4) It is not enough to push the decision making way down. You also have to send down responsibility, authority and the requisite resources. If you do not do this simultaneously, you simply increase the frustration level. Would you invite some one to come and smell dinner but not eat it? Case closed.
5) The mission is critically important. What is it, how is it defined and communicated, and is it a critical determinant of what decisions are made and how they are made? The answers to these questions will determine the success of the organization.
There is much more but these give you the picture. There are wonderful anecdotes throughout the book. For example, Marquet relates an incident where he was denied the opportunity to sail with a submarine whose command he was to assume within a month. He just wanted to get a quick read on what he would soon be facing. The departing captain refused to take him for many reasons mostly unexplained. One explained reason was that Marquet would have taken up scarce sleeping space. What is interesting is the lesson Marquet draws from this incident and how it shapes his own future actions. I will quote directly from the book to illustrate this:
"Even though this 2-day underway period would be greatly useful in sustaining Olympia's quality performance after he departed, he apparently had no interest in helping facilitate that. Could I fault him? In the navy system, captains are graded on how well their ships perform up to the day they depart, not a day longer. After that it becomes someone else's problem.
I thought about that. On every submarine and ship, and in every squadron and battalion, hundreds of captains were making thousands of decisions to optimize the performance of their commands for their tour and their tour alone. If they did anything for the long run it was because of an enlightened sense of duty, not because there was anything in the system that rewarded them for it. We didn't associate an officer's leadership effectiveness with how well his unit performed after he left. We didn't associate an officer's leadership effectiveness with how often his people got promoted 2, 3 and 4 years hence. We didn't even track that kind of information. All that mattered was performance in the moment."
To truly understand how valuable this type of thinking and approach is, ponder this question: If the "leaders" of our financial institutions knew that their bonuses were dependent on how the executive decisions they made would play out over the next five years, and those bonuses were subject to being recovered within that period, do you think we would still have had the blow-ups that wrecked so many venerable institutions and nearly destroyed our financial sector?
There is one other reason I find this book invaluable. We all know that a good question is worth more than an hour of detailed instruction. Socrates certainly thought so. Each chapter has several profoundly thought provoking questions at the end. If you grapple with these questions, you may well find that your view of the world is being turned around. Here is a random example: "Are your people trying to achieve excellence or just avoid making mistakes?" Think about the implications of this for your organization.
Get this book and read it with your highlighter in hand. Probably a good idea to get two highlighters.
I read this book on a recent business trip. I selected it on the basis of being the most interesting and potentially useful book I found after doing an advanced search in Amazon, sorting by "highest average customer review" in the "business and money" category. This is certainly an interesting and page-turning book. And I am (still) strongly tempted to implement some ideas from it in my own organization. However after I read the book and let it digest, something started gnawing at me - I was uneasy about it for some reason though I could not put my finger on it at first.
I gravitated towards this book also because I knew a former "nuke" enlisted man, who graduated with a degree in electrical engineering after he was done with the military. If I recall correctly, he even had some item of paraphernalia with an anti-Navy sentiment, maybe FTN or some-such. I also recall that he loathed the khakis (officers). He was on a boat with a serious morale problem.
Now, have a think about that. Someone on the lowest tier of the totem pole (enlisted man) has the intellectual horsepower to graduate in electrical engineering at one of the top 50 universities in the world (a Big 10 school), and was most likely selected for that role on the ship on that basis. If you know much about engineering, especially the harder streams such as electrical, you will know that they require a level of intelligence that is significantly above average. The average IQ for a EE is 126. Only 1 person in 24 has such an IQ in the USA. My friend was above average for electrical engineers in terms of intelligence. And he said that the hardest thing he ever had to do was study for the nuclear (ORSE?) examinations.
That the US military would put such talent working on a submarine's nuclear systems, and that their examinations were that difficult should give you one small clue that perhaps comparing your workforce's potential competence and that of the USS Santa Fe may be an apples and oranges comparison. The US military is well known for recruiting on the basis of IQ and other factors, through various batteries of tests. They do this because it works. In order for a given role in the military to be performed competently, there is an associated IQ threshold. The military knows this and ensures that people who do not have the mental ability for a given role are not assigned to that role.
To put this in some more perspective, the USS Santa Fe is a billion dollar vessel, that was most probably world leading at the time it was built in terms of capabilities. It is the result of many millions, if not billions of dollars of R&D work done by some very talented engineers. Into this highly evolved and optimized system are placed individuals who have been subject to extensive testing for innate competence, and $100k is spent per submarine sailor in order to train them. At least some of the lowest level employees apparently have IQ better than 1 in 24 people in the general population (e.g. electrical engineers).
Does your business resemble this? Are the systems in your business world leading (or at least industry leading), having been designed with a budget of many millions if not billions of dollars, by some very talented engineers? Do some of your lowest-level employees have the intellectual horsepower to become electrical engineers? Do you spend $100k per employee in training every employee to an acceptable standard? Are you allowed by law to test for intelligence in the manner of the US Navy, and even if you could, do you know the minimum requirements for roles in your business? Is your business the unusual Silicon Valley type business that needs the sort of high cost talent that only a fraction of the country is capable of, or is it the more typical if unsexy business that gives gainful employment to the middle or even the left half of the bell curve that makes up the majority of the country?
If not, I would be careful about buying into the statement "If the leader-leader model can work on board a nuclear submarine, it can work for you.". Fixing a morale and empowerment problem in a vessel staffed with able but poorly managed people is difficult but fixable. Maybe it is even replicable with a leader that comes from the middle of the pack, or even top 25% of his class in nuclear power school class and the submarine officer basic course, instead of number 1 such as Marquet. But if you don't have the "right people on the bus", as Jim Collins would say (and I know Marquet is familiar with Collins as he has read "Built to Last"), then you have the same basic problem as a cargo cult - all the morale and empowerment in the world won't solve your business's aptitude problem.
According to Marquet, "leader-leader" stands on three legs, one of which is "competence". It is this leg that appears to me to be shakiest when implemented as laid out in this book and applied to the business environment, because especially if your business needs some significant R&D work to get to the top, there will likely be a minimum level of IQ/training/experience/skill to get there. If you don't have this sort of talent in your organization, you will need to hire it. If you don't have the money for that sort of hiring, you are SOL. You may not be able to get to where you want to be with the existing staff you have. To put this in the sort of phrasing Marquet uses:
ENSURING KEY EMPLOYEES HAVE SUFFICIENT APTITUDE is a mechanism for COMPETENCE. (The book to read is Herrnstein and Murray's "The Bell Curve".)
And this is only aptitude. In a business, honesty is usually as important as aptitude. When an employee uses his aptitude to rip off the business (something probably not of much concern in an SSN, but which can spell disaster in a small business), you want to hope that with all the empowering (or the lack of disempowering that would otherwise harsh an employee's mellow) you have done, there are enough checks and balances to detect the theft before your business goes bankrupt. But it's better to not hire a dishonest person in the first place. Similarly, good salespeople are partly born and partly made, but mostly born. The difference between the best salespeople and the average is in orders of magnitude.
In summary, this is a great book, and no doubt L. David Marquet had great success in boosting morale and getting maximum leadership potential out of his men on the USS Santa Fe. The momentum generated by Marquet's leadership approach still evidently in effect when Marquet was no londer in command, is commendable. However, in order to generalize Marquet's model as outlined in his book to situations other than US naval vessels (i.e. businesses) will require understanding that ability is not uniformly distributed among people. If your existing employees do not have sufficient ability, this will need to be rectified before leader-leader can possibly work to the extent you would like it to.