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It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
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Other than the sobering fact that real lives are regularly at stake, running a navy ship is a lot like running a business: leaders of both must get the most out of their crews to operate at peak efficiency and complete the tasks at hand. As commander of the highly acclaimed USS Benfold, Captain D. Michael Abrashoff irrefutably demonstrated how progressive management can succeed at sea; in It's Your Ship, he translates his methods into an approach that can also be applied by land-bound captains of commerce and industry. Describing "the ideas and techniques that I used to win my sailors' trust and, eventually, their enthusiastic commitment to our joint goal of making our ship the best in the fleet," Abrashoff cites embarrassing failures along with subsequent triumphs to illuminate the keys to his accomplished 20-month tenure aboard the guided missile destroyer. His suggestions: lead by example; listen aggressively; communicate purpose and meaning; create a climate of trust; look for results, not salutes; take calculated risks; go beyond standard procedure; build up your people; generate unity; and improve your people's quality of life. While hardly original on the surface, Abrashoff's course should provide practical direction and inspiration for any leader hoping for similarly positive results in similarly rigid organizations. --Howard Rothman

The most important thing a captain can do is to see the ship from the eyes of the crew." This belief has successfully guided D. Michael Abrashoff, the captain of one of the U. S. Navy's most modern and lethal warships. Abrashoff has revolutionized how to handle such challenging problems as excessive costs, low morale, sexual harassment, and constant turn-over. Business managers will benefit from Abrashoff's guiding belief that focus should be on empowering your people rather than on chain of command. By shifting organizing principles from obedience to performance, managers will be rewarded with remarkable productivity. As Abrashoff explains, the more people enjoy the process, the better the results. Good leaders listen to the people under their command-and use their ideas to improve operating procedures.

Customer Reviews:

  • Modern Leadership and Change in Action
    There are very few practical examples of a modern leader in action. The true story of Captain Abrashoff's remarkable accomplishment in transforming the USS Benfold from one of the worst to the best ship in the US Navy is one of them.

    How captain Abrashoff did it, by going against over 200 years of US naval tradition and engaging his crew in the change effort, is not only educational, but highly entertaining and inspiring.

    I use this book and a related article in a seminar on change management, and the students love it because they can relate directly to Captain Abrashoff's leadership style. His ideas and actions teach them things that they can do in their own work place and inspire them to try.

    If you aspire to be a modern leader who engages, inspires, and motivates followers to take joint action to achieve common goals, than this book is an absolute must read.

    Robert E. Levasseur, Ph.D., author of "Leadership and Change in the 21st Century"
    ...more info
  • Entertaining read, questionable value
    It's an entertaining read, but I found the practical use a little lacking. He gives a few good examples and he knows how to tell a good story. The book doesn't go very deep into the decision making or anything that might be ambigous or where there might be a trade off involved. It will make you feel good to read it but if you had to summarized what you really learned and internalized you will not come away with that much....more info
  • Superior leadership tips for government leaders and managers
    On my bookshelf sit a wide variety and number of tomes on leadership and management, some of them provided to me as a result of my current job as a junior executive, while I purchased others myself based upon either recommendations from fellow executives or informal leaders within federal government whom I know and respect.

    Mike Abrashoff's book kind of "snuck up" on me, for while I had heard others mention it in passing, and noticed the cover on forays to the bookstore, I had believed - incorrectly - it was not in the league of "Good to Great," "First Break All the Rules," or other perhaps better known efforts.

    What I found was a leadership book that was not only a legitimate page turner, but something that I actually enjoyed well enough to read twice, which is almost unheard of for me given my schedule.

    Although I served in the U.S. military for almost a decade (sorry Captain, I was in the Army!), the bulk of my leadership training and experience has come from my work in the federal government, where targeted leadership texts are hard to come by and largely unfocused; that is, until now.

    I found Captain Abrashoff's writing to be succinct and to the point, his stories spot-on examples of problems with non-military applicability and his insights keen and consistently self-deprecating. The world in which I work (law enforcement) has a paramilitary structure, and contains many highly educated and intelligent "type-A" folks with matching assertive personalities. These in turn are mixed with a smaller number of people ranging from the unmotivated and unenthusiastic, to self-starting and virtually brilliant folks who are un-empowered and who therefore are not contributing as they could. Worse still, since law enforcement is hierarchical, the impact of a bad leader at the helm is even more damaging than you might imagine.

    When I found myself in a position of suddenly having control over a segment of our agency, one of the very first things I did was to provide all of my dozen or so subordinate supervisors and other key people with a gift of Captain Abrashoff's book at a staff meeting, along with the simple suggestion that they enjoy the gift and see what lessons they found within.

    Although this book is, in my opinion, best suited to organizations which are more structured or hierarchical, I think Captain Abrashoff's efforts have broad applicability if you are interested in trying some non-traditional, but surprisingly simple techniques, chief among them empowering your subordinates to excel by trusting and challenging them, sadly a rarity in a world where leaders are often ego-centric and/or authoritarian. I have rarely encountered such a readable and even inspiring book when it comes to pondering "what would I do if I were in charge?
    ...more info
  • Packed with Knowledge!
    Like many books on leadership from nonbusiness walks of life, this sea tale offers a refreshing new perspective. U.S. Navy Captain D. Michael Abrashoff explains how he and his crew turned their under-performing vessel into the pride of the Pacific Fleet. His colorful, somewhat self-promotional style of storytelling makes it enjoyable, especially for those who are curious about life on a guided missile destroyer. What is less clear, however, is how to apply the Captain's lessons from a naval vessel to the business of running an ordinary corporation. "Generate unity" and "build up your people" are noble maxims, but how do you apply them in a corporate environment where the greatest threat often stems from friendly fire? In any case, the Captain offers engaging stories about how he steered the USS Benfold back on course. We recommend his book to executives and students of management who appreciate an anecdotal approach to shipshape leadership....more info
  • I would go to sea with this man any day...
    In my twenty-three years of active duty, I served under quite a few Commanding Officers. With one notable exception, they were all competent leaders, and several of them were excellent. Two were extraordinary. After reading his book, I can only conclude that Captain Abrashoff qualifies for the extraordinary category. This is the kind of leadership that real Sailors pray for. I sincerely wish I'd had the opportunity to serve under his command.

    Jeff Edwards, Author of "Torpedo: A Surface Warfare Thriller"...more info
  • Best Damn Book on Leadership Ever Written
    As a long-time Air Force Instructor who specializes in teaching leadership courses, I was stunned at the simplicity and wildly effective techniques described in this book. Captain Abrashoff simply followed his heart, and in the process, not only nearly transformed the Navy but created allegiances so herculean that you'd think you were reading Greek mythology. Nothing fancy here--a committed leader, determined to do what makes sense and what makes his people feel most empowered and personally satisfied. His eager crew knocked the socks off every existing comparable ship in the fleet, but that wasn't his best legacy. His greatest gift as a leader was his willingness to learn and to change as needed--and that, as uncomplicated as it sounds, created physical and emotional miracles. More than once, I reached for the tissue box, and more than once, I asked Providence to bless him and anyone else who was determined to lead as he did and does. Easy to read, brief, and magnetically compelling, this is a magnificent primer for every person who leads or who aspires to do so one day. I have read many dozens of books on leadership for my profession, but this one blows every single one of them "out of the water". Read and heed, and your abilities as a great inspiration and guide will multiply exponentially. Extraordinary!...more info
  • A proven guide to successful leadership...

    ISBN: 978-0-446-19966-4
    Reviewed by Debra Gaynor for 5/08

    Captain D. Michael Abrashoff brings his vast experience and expertise from the Benfold to business leaders. The Benfold went from "a dysfunctional guided missile destroyer to the best damn ship in the Navy."
    With experience comes maturity. Abrashoff has learned that it takes teamwork to achieve success. A good leader will inspire, challenge, and demonstrate excellence in those he leads. He will cultivate truth, trust, and respect. Positive results will come from example. Abrashoff offers readers advice through stories. His methods are practical and proven successful. He presents the information in a simple easy-to-understand form. Regardless of whether it is a large or small business, persons in all positions of leadership will find It's Our Ship a priceless tool.

    ...more info
  • ***A MUST READ BOOK***
    I am both a Pastor, as well as a Critical Care Paramedic for a hospital in a nearby city where I live. This book, "It's Your Ship", contains a MUCH NEEDED MESSAGE that should be REQUIRED READING for ALL managers, CEOs, Presidents, Pastors, Administrators, Leaders, etc. in any and all organizations no matter their size. Too many of those, who are listed above, are still trying to "micro-manage" their employees, ignore the vast resources and ideas of their employees and personnel, as well as operate out of a system that is no longer relevant for today's generations, etc. The sad part is that they are doing it either out of ignorance, stubbornness, pride, refusal to change / adapt, or just plain stupidity which is 'destroying' organizations, companies, churches, by ignoring THE BEST RESOURCES they have available. Those who they are to lead and manage.

    I would HIGHLY recommend this book coupled alongside another book by Graeme Codrintgton entitled, "Mind The Gap". This book discusses the reality of generational differences (how they differ, why, etc.) in an easy to understand, well-researched manner that is both much needed and well-written book that would give anyone in leadership the foundation and principles that they need in understanding the 'WHY' they NEED to CHANGE and to APPLY those same principles that are mentioned in the book "It's Your Ship".

    Sadly, those in 'leadership' who "fail to do so", will, if not already finding themselves on a 'sinking ship' in their organization, and it is only a matter of time before they destroy the very company they want to succeed; by failing to change and adapt, by failing to make the necessary changes, by failing to 'grow themselves' "outside the box" they have placed themselves in, and by ignoring the awesome resources at their disposal which is found in the very employees they are supposed to "lead" instead of "drive and walk over".

    Again, this book is a very practical MUST READING for ANYONE who is in a leadership position, wants to improve their organization, grow themselves, etc. AND it could be a resource to bring about the very change needed in your organization. We could only PRAY & HOPE that in your or my situations we could have a leader who would become and embrace those principles and examples found in "It's Your Ship".

    However, be warned, IF you work for a boss who 'refuses to change', listen to others, and is determined to operate in a system that is no longer relevant from 20+ years ago, you WILL become frustrated. Even so, it may open your eyes, and the eyes of those around you how things "should be" as well as perhaps "ideas" on how things need to change, perhaps can change, motivating you to be the catalyst in brining about the change, or to seeing the hopelessness of the situation you are in until a new "admiral / captain" heads up 'your ship'.

    (Here is my suggestion: Leave a copy of this book for your boss. You might want to do it annonymously though. For in an abusive situation, "those that aren't the problem, who point out the problem, sadly, become the scapegoat or the problem they will focus on ignoring what the actual problem really is)

    Get this book and read it today!! :o) ...more info
  • Common sense... not a common book
    As a ten year Navy veteran, I was riveted to this book for it's common sense approach to leadership. There are many books available today about management but damn few that focus on great leadership. That's where this book's niche is. It's a quick and very interesting read. As I was going through the book I kept thinking "why don't more leaders act this way"? The answer, unfortunately, is that to be a great leader you must set your course and then get out of your own troops way.

    I loved the book and highly recommend it to anyone who wants a quick course in leadership....more info
  • Documented Account of Progressive Leadership Results
    This was my vacation read this year. I am not the kind of person who reads work related books, required or not, while on holiday. In fact, I am no longer in a position in which I am supervising others, but my wife brought the book home as it had become suggested reading in her company. The book is well thought out, enjoyable to read, full of real life stories, thoughtful analysis and practical conclusions.

    Abrashoff was motivated to consider new approaches to ongoing problems plaguing the poorly motivated crew of the Benfold when during the change of command ceremony the crew exhibited an overt sense of relief as the former Commanding Officer was departing the ship. It is likely that most managers would have construed that the crew was unprofessional then proceed with micromanagement policies and procedures that continued to make their life seamlessly miserable. Instead Abrashoff decided that if anything he would see the ship through the eyes of the sailors and try to deal with the gripes of his crew.

    The book is written as a series of captivating anecdotes rather than a simple autobiographical record of his experiences as the commanding officer. The book details his personal accounts illustrating his innovative interventions used to rectify the deficiencies of his ship and crew. Abrashoff also discusses the manner in which he navigated the relationship with his superiors as his ideas were often at odds with existing guidance, established doctrine and the way things had always been done.

    Unlike most authors espousing management theories, Abrashoff had the benefit of the results oriented, metric driven Navy to document the improved performance and readiness of the individual crew members as well as the Benfold herself. It is clear to the reader that the bulk of the progress resulted from the progressive leadership of Abrashoff and not the established policies.

    Abrashoff is the very best of leaders, willing to take chances, break from policy, do the right thing for the his people, sometimes exposing himself to unwanted scrutiny in the process, and I am grateful that he captured all of it in his outstanding book.
    ...more info
  • Partners, Not Peons or Parrots
    "If all you give are orders," writes U.S. Navy Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, "then all you will get are order-takers." And so begins this new captain's voyage to change a ship's morale and create a polished crew of 310 self-starters. Trust me--this is a must-read!

    This risk-taking leader's dominant core value, "It's your ship, take responsibility for it. Don't ask permission; do it." Captain Abrashoff begins with his personal goal, "I was determined to be the captain these sailors deserved." Wow. He cites a Gallup study that said 65 percent of those who leave their companies are actually leaving their managers. So Abrashoff gives fascinating and fun stories demonstrating how he injected risk-taking leadership on his ship. He developed partners, not peons or parrots.

    He covers almost all of my 20 management buckets from my book, Mastering The Management Buckets: 20 Critical Competencies for Leading Your Business or Non-profit. Look at this list: lead by example, listen aggressively, communicate purpose and meaning, create a climate of trust, look for results--not salutes, take calculated risks, go beyond standard procedure and build up your people.

    Some estimate that the cost of losing a trained employee is one and a half times the annual salary of the outgoing team member ("as measured by lost productivity and recruiting and training costs for the replacement"). As you "supervise" team members (and volunteers, perhaps) are you creating order-takers or self-starters? What could you do to enhance your culture so being a self-starter is honored?

    Captain Abrashoff writes, "If a rule doesn't make sense, break it." Do you have that kind of "It's your ship" mentality onboard your company? Quick--order the book and pass it around to every manager.
    ...more info
  • It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Shi
    I picked this up as I had been part of the Navy and was interested to see what Captain Abrashoff offered in Management philosophy. The reading turned out to be a great pleasure and an informative one. The techniques and processes he used, translate to different industry managements, not just the military. I am a CIO and have provided this book to the Managers of the department. Management techniques are not one time events, but need to be developed as part of the company culture, Captain Abrashoff's offerings are what we are trying to instill in our culture....more info
  • Everyone should read this book.
    This book is very good and I recommend to all who are managers or looking to be managers to read this book. This book gives very good example of management skills. ...more info
  • Good book on leadership
    I'm about 2/3 through this book at this's an easy read, and has some very pragmatic suggestions regarding leadership....more info
  • Good book for most people
    So many people complain that they read leadership books and their is "nothing new" about them. Stop reading so many books and go lead! The basics of leadership don't drastically change. I've been teaching college classes on leadership for three years now and I've read dozens of books on leadership. The basic principles are often the same. It is a matter of finding someone whose examples and style make you relate to them and understand how to act them out.

    As a former enlisted Marine who spent lots of time on ships and around the Navy, I found I could really relate to this book and so have many of my military students. Many non-military students have found it interesting as well. Others got too caught up in trying to learn about the Navy and not about leadership. You don't have to know a lot about the Navy to understand the leadership lessons in this book but it does help you understand what Abrashoff accomplished as a leader.

    This book was recommended to me by a professor who has never been around the military but had read it and really liked it. I give it to my graduate students as they leave and take on their first leadership roles as education administrators.

    ...more info
  • Excellent Read
    It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
    Excellent Read! One of the easiest books that I have read in a while. Although this was mostly his experiences, it has great insight to the qualities of a great leader. I couldn't put the book down!...more info
  • Cool and Profound
    This book is cool. Captain D. Abrashoff is an ideal leader and knows how to tell entertaining stories packed with powerful truths. I was so impressed with this book I included it as a must read in my book, Cracking the Networking CODE - 4 Steps to Priceless Business Relationships. Make It's Your Ship...your book.
    Cracking the Networking CODE: Four Steps to Priceless Business Relationships...more info
  • Good leadership pointers, but lacks depth
    I picked up this book with great interest due to all the hype about its' value. I found it to be a decent book on the tenets of leadership and offered some insight on how to deal with challenging senior managers, but where it fell short was in the area of leading leaders. By this I mean that as Captain of a Naval warship, Captain Abrashoff spoke in depth of how he did this and that, but he failed to adequately address how he worked with his senior leadership (Department Heads, Division Officers, Chiefs and Leading Petty Officers) to get them moving in the right direction as well. I believe that this transition was not possible with out them, unless he rendered them totally impotent and lead from the Captain's At Sea Cabin, not unlikely.

    To be fair he did cite an instances with the New Cheng, Command Master Chief and XO; also he cited accounts where his personal leadership and example caused his officers to intuitively jump up and join the dance.

    It would have been very instructive to know how he changed a culture of status quo to a culture of opportunity amongst his senior leadership. Maybe that will be the next book....more info
  • A must read for every manager!
    I knew there were managers out there who thought like I did, but I didn't expect to find one in the Navy!
    Employee empowerment is not a "nice to have", it is essential for any business to gain in the marketplace.
    I have worked for too many businesses whose management stifled all employee input. One of them went bankrupt, another was sold.
    ...more info
  • Should be required reading for C level senior officers
    I can assure you we would not be in the mess we are in had the CEO's of our financial institutions and our U.S. auto makers read this puppy 10 years ago and acted accordingly. I know the book wasn't written yet but you get my point. Very thouht provoking and a great example of setting he vision and letting the "crew" take ownership of it! GREAT READ

    John Gregory Vincent
    President - Genesis Consulting Group LLC info
  • Captain D. Michael Abrashoff is "the Right Stuff"!
    This "out of the box" Naval Officer has written the "best damn book" on corporate culture change, management, and empowerment that I have ever read. I have recommended it upward, sideways, and downward within my company and to my best customers as well. It has yet to be unappreciated.

    Mangers at any level can learn valuable lessons from this story. This Naval Officer turned the "Worst Ship in the Navy" into the "Best Damn Ship in the Navy" with a simple game plan that not only changed his ship, but served to improve the U.S.Navy as a whole. (And in the process, improved our nation's security ... read the book to find out how he and a member of his crew did it!)

    It has given me the inspiration to expect excellence from myself, and my superiors.

    Well done, Sir!
    ...more info
  • Best Damn Book on Practical Leadership!
    As a Naval Officer, I'm aware of the challenges presented by working within a system that is as rigid and traditional as the Navy, or any military institution for that matter. What CDR Abrashoff has done is provide an outstanding roadmap for working within that system, or any organization with similar characteristics. Where he has succeeded, is by showing how to truly motivate and take care of his personnel, so that they are free to contribute in their own right. He has shown us how to work the system, with the ultimate goal of restoring ownership, (yes, empowerment), to those who breathe life into the organization. This book, along with his other books: "It's Our Ship" and "Get Your Ship Together" are recommended reading by the Chief of Naval Operations, and should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to know what servant leadership and striving for excellence is all about. In my doctoral program, I have focused on good leadership as the key to success in any endeavor. The military teaches leadership skills at all levels, from the new recruit to the highest Admiral or General, yet only those who put these principles into practice, as Abrashoff describes, become great leaders. The bite-size readability of this book and clear, concise examples only enhance the practicality and usefulness of this text. If you want to know how great military leaders think, read this series!...more info
  • An important book for every CEO, VP or Manager
    This book is simple, fun to read, and immediately useful. It is not theory nor lecture, but practical knowledge from a "field" manager who lived, and is now retelling, his experiences. I have been able to facilitate profound morale changes in my division by simply applying the guidelines Abrashoff lays out....more info
    For those of us starting a career in a leadership position, it is absolutely necessary to get the prespectives of many people. This book is delightful in detailing the thought process of this ship's leader. Wonderul read!...more info
  • great book
    My husband loves this book and the others by the same author. He bought a copy for everyone in management on his staff....more info
  • Lack of leadership and refreshing honest
    I read the book and the author was honest about his failure to defend some of his officers when he started out in the Navy and how he was insecure and had no self-confidence until he became an aide to Secretary William Perry. It is amazing that officers like him never got a chance to develop their leadership skills or never had a mentor to help develop those skills despite their years of experience. What bothers me is that he never talks about the lack of leadership by the Chief Petty Officers (CPOs) who are the NCOs of the Navy. I bet that many enlisted men and women left the Navy because the CPOs did not care about them. These CPOs were no different from the officers.

    Almost of the American officers of the 19th and 20 centuaries came from the upper-middle class, rich families and/or prominent military families. The US Navy was the last American military institution to establish a program in 1962 where enlisted men could become officers. Admiral Boorada who shot himself in 1996 was a product of that program and was the only Chief of Naval Operations who was not a product of the Naval Academy. America was not a meritocratic system despite what one believes. The American Officer Corps was more like the European Officer Corps. If you saw the 1942 movie Stand by for Action, Robert Taylor's character came from a rich prominent family. His commanding officer play by Brian Donlevy was an officer who came from the ranks which was very rare in that time period.

    I wonder how the author got away with issuing new civilians jackets to his men without his men being courtmartial for being out of uniform since the Navy has to approved new uniforms before sending out to its people.

    The author was surprise that most of his crew came from broken poor minorities families. If he was an officer in the late 19th and early 20th centuary US Navy, he would have found that all his enlisted men were white guys who were poor and came from broken homes and join the Navy to make something of themselves, have a roof over their head, a place to sleep, food in their stomach, getting pay regulary, and having some kind of belonging. The problem is that our schools do not tell our students (elementary, high school, and college) about how life was really like for the vast majority of the American population before World War II in terms of trying to make a better life. Until the GI Bill and better union laws came into being, there was no way most Americans could have a decent middle class life with a bright future.

    What is also is amazing that what kind of assignments you might get depending upon what your standing is at the Academy. If you graduate at the top, the world is your oyster. It is kind of like graduating from law school.

    Napoleon stated that every soldier is a potential field marshal. It seems that the people in the upper middle class and rich class in America believe that the poor people are nothing but peasants, so why should the author be surprise. The problem is that American managers do not come from the working class and therefore; do not have the technical skills to understand their products unlike Japanese CEOs. They also isolate themselves from the American workers on duty and off duty. Furthermore, the Japanese despite their class/caste system still manage to achieve technological breakthroughs with the help of their workers.

    Great book, just like Ross Perot's book "Principal of Success." However, I agree with some of the reviewers who stated that reading the book will not make you a leader. This is a must read for both civilian and military leaders. Even the Sergeants and Chief Petty Officers should be forced to read this book. You have to roll up your sleeves and continously work at it until you died or retire. Don't talk about it, just do it!!!!...more info
  • Interesting Techniques
    Michael Abrashoff has a very enlightened view of treating people and I found that very refreshing. However, while his methodology is commendable, it was applied in a context of a "closed" environment. And, most of the tasks on the ship were of a repetitive nature, which means that by practicing sufficiently and hard enough it was possible to improve and attain a higher proficiency rating. The military command structure is also tighter, and the ship operates in a real life-and-death situation since it is a combat vessel geared for the possibility of a war mission.

    A competitive and aggressive style of leadership as exemplified by Mr. Abrashoff demands a consistent and firm system of rewards and retributions-something that does not exist at American corporations. Trying to apply his leadership style In American industries is very difficult because they operate in an "open" environment. Thus, if a corporation has a "loose cannon" or someone fails to deliver as promised, there are no real consequences that occur as a result of these actions. Also, most of the tasks that are undertaken at corporations usually only have a single opportunity in which to accomplish them.

    The bottom line is that you can follow this style of leadership, and that it will probably yield results within the confines of a small group. And, maybe some of this attitude can affect other groups with whom this group interacts. It's worth a shot, especially since everything else has already been tried by American corporations.

    Finally, I found an interesting omission at the end of his book. In the "Acknowledgements" section he forgot to specifically acknowledge his crew members aboard the Benfold. I thought that they deserved special mention and recognition for the role that they played in the outcome of his management model....more info