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Mike Abrashoff

Mike Abrashoff

Former Commander, USS Benfold, and Author, It's Your Ship. 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.

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Price range

  • $20,000 - $28,500
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Expert

  • Accountability
  • Corporate Culture
  • Employee Engagement
  • Innovation
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork/Teambuilding
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Experience

  • Education
  • Military
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  • About

    An inspiring story of innovative leadership and organizational transformation, Mike Abrashoff took command of the worst-performing ship in the fleet and made it #1 by changing his leadership style and the culture – not the crew.

    Mike Abrashoff’s message continues to have a profound impact on the audiences who hear him.

    Why Mike Abrashoff?

    • Took command of Navy’s near-worst performing ship; twelve months later it was best ship in the fleet – using the same crew.
    • Culture is everything. You can’t order excellence – learn to swap command and control for commitment and cohesion.
    • Inspires people to rethink how they lead: don’t focus on what’s out of your control; focus on the things you can influence.
    • Self-imposed limitations are the greatest enemy of improving performance. Learn new paths to breakthrough performance.
    • Everyone engaged: unleash the power of your organization. When the crew presented a problem, Mike’s signature response was “What would YOU do? It’s YOUR ship!”

    MIKE ABRASHOFF’S STORY

    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 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. This remarkable change was accomplished by the same crew. 

    Mike is the 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. 

  • Videos
  • Program

    Keynote | Educational | Inspirational | Motivational

    In tough economic times, it is critical that all organizations utilize every asset at their disposal to survive and thrive in the global marketplace. While corporations have done a phenomenal job of wringing inefficiencies out of their processes and procedures, everyone knows that you can’t cut your way to greatness. There remains an under-appreciation and investment in their top asset, people. While economic headwinds have many companies fighting for survival, it is during times like these that great companies are borne by having a relentless focus on innovation and executing new ideas that capture the imagination of the marketplace. A best-selling author of one of the most acclaimed business books of all-time and himself a successful entrepreneur, Mike Abrashoff has traveled the globe speaking to and consulting with some of the world’s most innovative companies. Leveraging his own leadership experiences and having seen up-close-and-personal what separates organizations poised for growth from companies that can’t move beyond the status-quo, Abrashoff equips organizations with the strategies, tactics, and tools necessary to unleash innovation, lead meaningful change and improve operational performance. Abrashoff will walk leaders through the 5 step process necessary to create innovation-focused, adaptable, high-performance teams, giving them the takeaways and know-how that is essential to getting organizations on the path to future success.

    Keynote | Educational | Inspirational

    For organization’s who want a deeper understanding of grassroots leadership and want to take those principles to the next level, Mike Abrashoff addresses the challenges most on the minds of leaders in these challenging times. Collaboration, commitment, cohesion, accountability, engagement, rapid and continual innovation, engaging employees and dealing with generational differences in that workforce – these crucial issues are the ones that that successful leaders need to master. It’s Our Ship is about creating a high-performance culture where everyone takes ownership and responsibility using real lessons from the business world and focus on innovation, accountability, and engagement.

    Keynote | Educational | Inspirational

    When Mike Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold, morale was low, turnover was high and performance ranked at the bottom of the Pacific Fleet.  Twelve months later the ship was the benchmark for performance – the shining star…using the very same crew. This inspiring talk is based on the vital leadership lessons Abrashoff learned as he led the remarkable turnaround of the ship. The first lesson was Abrashoff’s realization that before the ship’s performance could improve, his own leadership style had to change from the traditional command and control model.  When the crew would present a problem, Abrashoff became known for responding “What would YOU do?  It’s YOUR ship!”  His Leadership Roadmap principles created a high-performance culture and empowered his crew to take charge and use ingenuity and initiative to improve every aspect of the way things were done.  Abrashoff’s presentation leaves audiences with the tools and inspiration to lead differently and elevate organizational performance to new levels.

    Keynote | Educational | Inspirational

    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 ReviewFast 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 about how to set expectations while realizing the only limits that you have are self-imposed.

    Breakout | Educational | Inspirational | Technical

    Meant to deepen the learning from Mike Abrashoff’s keynote talk, Take Action sessions provide attendees with additional powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Facilitated by a senior strategist from Abrashoff’s firm, GLS Worldwide, and taking place immediately following the keynote, Take Action sessions create an exciting atmosphere that examines the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations. Participants will experience innovative, fast-paced individual and group exercises tailored to the leadership and cultural issues most relevant to the organization.  They’ll learn practical application of principles outlined in the keynote and build a roadmap to achieve the personal and organizational goals they’ve outlined. Take Action sessions are customizable to meet time and resource-sensitive needs and require a minimum of 2 hours.

  • Review
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    “We got fantastic feedback from everyone. I really appreciate the genuine sincerity you exude. Especially when you jumped into the mindsets of our people, suggesting for us to all stand and clap for Jeff Kish. That was a WOW moment that just highlighted how much of a good guy you are to so many people. Your real-time leadership shined through at that very moment. It’s one of the reasons you have been so successful in helping others throughout your life. It must give you a good feeling knowing that you can continue helping others to help themselves since you left the Benfold. And, I’m sure you had those personal attributes long before you assumed command of that ship.”

    Bartlett Tree Experts COO
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    “I felt he nailed the message we were asking him to present, a true home run for our evening. Mike truly has a commanding presence, yet he was perceived as talking with our leaders, not at or down to them. Our team was so dialed into his message with rapt attention that at one point I heard a piece of silverware dropped in the kitchen it was so quiet. Besides the power of Mike’s message and leadership philosophy, we also wanted Mike because we felt he had the flexibility to be on the big stage, or in the more relaxed environment we had at The House of Blues. After his presentation, I appreciated that Mike took time for questions, then stuck around to personalize books and speak with our team. We only took two small boxes of his books back to the hotel as almost everyone wanted theirs immediately and wanted it personalized. I truly could not have been more pleased or impressed.”

    Syngenta Head of Strategy & Growth, Dealer Channel
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    “Your message to the team was spot on! I received a lot of feedback from the team and universally they felt your message helped them think about leadership differently and help put them even more firmly in the Ownership Mentality. I thought you nailed it and helped 1) land the message of Own It 2) help them focus on their Leadership and 3) Help them think about managing through change. I am so glad that you were our speaker and I think it helped us at this critical point in time.”

    Office Depot Inc. Executive Vice President, Retail
Your message to the team was spot on! I received a lot of feedback from the team and universally they felt your message helped them think about leadership differently and help put them even more firmly in the Ownership Mentality. I thought you nailed it and helped 1) land the message of Own It 2) help them focus on their Leadership and 3) Help them think about managing through change. I am so glad that you were our speaker and I think it helped us at this critical point in time.
Office Depot Inc. Executive Vice President, Retail