Project Description

Mike Abrashoff

Mike Abrashoff

Former Commander, USS Benfold and Author, It’s Your Ship

Speaking Style: Practical, Inspirational, Authentic, Informative

Travels From: Washington, DC

Fee Schedule: 3

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 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.

When Mike Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold, morale was low, turnover was high and the ship’s performance ranked near the bottom of the Pacific Fleet.  Just twelve months later Benfold was ranked #1 – using the very same crew.  The lesson was clear – leadership matters and culture is everything.  This inspiring talk is for every individual and organization looking for practical and usable ways to take organizational performance to new heights. In Mike’s case, he realized that before the ship’s performance could change, he had to change his leadership style. Mike worked to create a culture of trust and empower his crew to take charge and use ingenuity and initiative to improve every aspect of the way things were done.  Top down leadership is dead, so when the crew would present a problem, Mike became famous for responding “What would YOU do?  It’s YOUR ship!”  Mike’s presentation leaves audiences with the tools and inspiration to accomplish big goals.

Sometimes in our professional lives we might think we are in a battle to beat an adversary or a competitor when in actuality we are really 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. Other times, 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 dawned on him: his ship could be much better than just average.  It was Mike’s eureka moment: 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 Review, Fast Company magazine and his New York Times’ and Wall Street Journal bestselling book, IT’S YOUR SHIP.  This presentation will challenge audiences to think differently on how to set expectations while realizing the only limits that you have are self-imposed.

For organizations that want to get serious about improving performance, this presentation delivers examples of the Mike’s Leadership Roadmap in action.  Mike reveals how the principles that led the transformation of the USS Benfold have been put into action at companies and organizations looking to harness the power of their most important asset – their people.  He shows real leaders achieving dramatic results as they work to address their most pressing people challenges: collaboration, commitment, cohesion, accountability, engagement, rapid and continual innovation, safety and diversity in the workforce.  In example after example, the lessons from the Benfold clearly translate across all kinds of organizations – corporations, small business, non-profits and government.  Mike shows audiences, by example, how to use their new leadership toolkit.  “It’s Our Ship” goes deep into the how-tos of creating a culture where everyone takes ownership and responsibility for raising performance to the next level.

Dive deep into the Leadership Roadmap with a half- or full-day program.  The sessions are most often used as a follow-on to Mike’s keynote and provide attendees with powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Depending on the circumstances, these longer sessions are facilitated by a senior strategist from Mike’s firm, Aegis Performance Group, or Mike himself.  These sessions create an exciting interactive atmosphere where participants examine the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations.  Inquire for more details and program descriptions.

  • It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy
  • Get Your Ship Together:  How  Great  Leaders  Inspire  Ownership  from  the  Keel  Up
  • It’s Our Ship:  The  No-Nonsense  Guide  to  Leadership
  • Boeing Everett Communications
  • Campaign Monitor
  • Cox Communications
  • Depend LTD
  • Draft FCB
  • EMC Services Marketing
  • Google, Inc.
  • Rayonier
  • Sunrise Cooperative, Inc.
  • Syngenta
  • The Mosaic Company
  • Winfield Solutions
  • Rolls-Royce
  • Saturn Corporation
  • Sonic Automotive
  • Toyota
  • Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A.
  • America First Credit Union
  • American Express
  • Anchorage Capital Group
  • Association for Advanced Life Underwriting
  • AXA Equitable
  • Bank Administration Institute
  • CAIS Ltd. (Cayman Alternative Investment Summit)
  • California Bankers Association
  • Canadian Tire Financial Services
  • Capital One
  • Cetera Financial Group
  • CIBC
  • Citigroup
  • CoBank
  • Comerica Bank
  • Deloitte Services LP
  • Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu
  • Ernst & Young
  • FTI Consulting, Inc.
  • Global Imaging Services
  • Impact Networking
  • IQPC
  • Iron Mountain
  • KPMG
  • Livingston International Inc.
  • Marsh USA, Inc.

“Mike Abrashoff’s address to our group in Denver was spot-on. It was quite evident that he had worked to include information regarding our company, our markets and in particular, our Project Managers Forum objectives and attendee backgrounds into the content of his presentation. Several people commented to me that they found his story inspiring and relevant. As I mentioned earlier, this was the third time I heard Mike tell his story. It seems that each time I pull something more from the information he shares.”Facilities Manager, URS

 “You gave a memorable and enjoyable keynote speech that was enjoyed by all. Thank you for making our owners understand that they are the captains of their own destiny and that they need to take all action needed to succeed. You did a great job setting the tone for the rest of the convention.”Kevin G. Sinclair, CEO, Wireless Zone

 “We have never had such positive feedback so you very much exceeded our expectations. You were quoted numerous times throughout the remainder of the conference which says people took your message to heart and will put it to work in their everyday jobs – exactly what we aimed for!”Director of Staffing, Employee Relations & Development, Denbury Resources

 “The “day after” is over and the impact is reverberating throughout the organization .” I truly appreciate the effort you obviously made to incorporate our issues and to position the call to action for them as leaders of teams. The feedback was clear — your presentation ranked #1 for most valuable… count me a fan.”Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, North America, Nokia Siemens Networks

 “Mike Abrashoff’s remarkable story regarding the transformation of USS Benfold was extremely well received and appreciated by our event participants, who found great inspiration and practicality in his remarks. These are challenging times for many and his perspective on leadership and leading during difficult times is timely as well as thought-provoking.”California Bankers Association

  “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! I personally have never listened to a better speaker. Your message was tailor made for my team and I look forward to discussing future opportunities with you. Thank you so very much Mike.”VP, TransCanada Energy Operations

“I wanted to let you know what an amazing speaker and presentation Mr. Abrashoff gave! It was a pleasure listening to him.”Program Analyst, SAO East

 “Your insightful leadership guided us through a thorough, engaging and thoughtful examination of our current “state of the union” as well as our visions and expectations for the future. We have been inspired by your call for collaboration and are excited to bring your teachings forward with us into the future.”Laurence Gumina, CEO, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services

“Any audience that cares about leadership, culture, change management, performance and teamwork would benefit immensely from your presentation. Our group enjoyed not only your message, but also your presentation style. Needless to say, you received very high ratings in our post-conference survey.”Steve Perlowski, Vice President, Industry Affairs & Member Relations, National Association of Chain Drug Stores

 “He was fabulous! A big hit and hit the nail on the head with our meeting theme- was the perfect end to the week.” – VP of IT, Underwriters Lab

“THANK YOU for visiting City of Hope! Our team of leaders was inspired by your sessions and many have emailed me or stopped me on campus to share how they can apply relevant learnings. We have ordered another 100 books and many will be taking the time to read the book in larger teams. We are creating an internal blog where leaders can share with others how they are creating organizational transformation through grass roots managerial efforts. Thank you again for helping us drive organizational change and evolving our efforts to build a more accountable culture!”Chief Human Resources Officer, City of Hope, Duarte, CA

“[Mike Abrashoff] was fantastic! He was extremely generous with his time, and he was absolutely the right person for what we wanted to accomplish.” – BP Exploration, Inc. “Conference ended today with a bang. You were by far the best presenter!”Josh Linkner, CEO / Managing Partner, Detroit Venture Partners, LLC

“Thank you for following up – we really enjoyed Mike’s presentation and the audience feedback was outstanding! He really kick started our day with a bang and we were pleased to have him as part of our agenda.”HR Specialist, Intel

“It went fantastic. Full house and everyone raved. He is one of the best speakers on leadership and management I have seen in a very long time.”Senior Manager, Event Services, Ingram Micro

 “Everything went great! Mike was probably the best speaker we have ever had at one of our events!”Geoff Graves, Fugate Enterprises

“Thank you for making sure that your speech ‘connected’. The way you were able to make your points align with the roles of the sales reps/ field trainers was spot-on. I suspect this will not be the end of your relationship with Teva.”CNS Training Specialist, Teva

“Your presentation in New Orleans was outstanding. Not only was it the highest rated of the week (4.95 out 5), it was timely, inspirational and informative. Your accomplishments represent the pinnacle of achievement through the belief in and entrustment of people.”Sales Trainer, Nexstar, Inc.

“Mike – Your scores were almost flawless (save for one single 1-point deduction from an audience member), and the highest I’ve ever seen in my tenure at Evanta. Audience feedback included: ‘Wonderful Presentation – Very appropriate for senior IT Leaders;’ ‘Excellent! Very Motivating;’ ‘One of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard. Outstanding selection;’ ‘Very inspiring and thought provoking speech;’ ‘Michael was incredible! Dead on target;’ ‘Awesome! Loved Michael’s talk and can’t wait to read his book.’ As far as constructive feedback goes, there wasn’t any – only glowing reviews were left on the evaluation sheets. Again, thank you so much for speaking! We were lucky to have you on board for the Houston CIO Executive summit.”Content Director, Evanta

“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.”Head of Strategy & Growth, Dealer Channel, Syngenta

“Mike was a great fit for our program and we are getting overwhelmingly positive ratings on our post-summit survey. Thank you!”Executive Director, Meetings & Events, Marshberry

“I have received a ton of anecdotal feedback, people bringing up how much they liked you and your speech and message. One thing that came across was that you were very “real” and very down to earth – that is important to our audience. I think your ability to interweave the hospital and healthcare environment into your speech went a long way toward connecting with the audience.”Managing Director, Lincoln Healthcare

  “Everyone loved Mike. He got a standing ovation. First time I’ve seen a keynote receive one in my history with ADESA.”Automotive Dealer Exchange Services of America

“I just wanted to send a note and thank you for the very inspiring and humbling presentation you shared with us yesterday. I was in the audience in Oregon, so not there in person, but of all of the professional speakers I have seen, you by far were the most inspirational. Your experience and story are well worth sharing, and I plan to pick up your book this weekend. All the best to you.”Finance & IT Staffing Manager, Intel

“Abrashoff killed yesterday!!! Awesome!!!”CEO, Iron Union Group

Everyone loved Mike. He was a huge hit and his message certainly resonated with our team.”Lesley Andersen, OMERS Private Equity, Inc.

“Mike did an amazing job and much appreciated. Thank you!” Victoria MacDonald, VP, Human Resources, Marketwired

  “We have asked Mike Abrashoff to speak to our team twice now and he is in high demand for a third appearance. His message and coaching around leadership is perfect for every level of management in our organization ranging from the General Managers of our stores right up to our CEO. Mike provides practical advice sprinkled with some entertaining stories from his days as Captain of the USS Benfold. Our time spent with Mike has been invaluable and we look forward to working with him again.”Sam Chamberlain, Chief Operating Officer, FIVE GUYS

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