Currently, I’m working with a business owner on the differences between Management and Leadership. As part of this exercise, we are reading a book called “It’s Your Ship” written by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff the former commander of the USS Benfold. In the book, he shares how he turned one of the worse ships in the United States Navy onto one of the best. When he took command it had some of the lowest performance scores, poor morale and an extremely low retention rate.
Through what I call proactive, transparent, and empowering leadership, Captain Abrashoff created an environment that brought out the very best in his sailors. Not only did the ship begin to have some of the best performance scores in the Navy, it also solved issues that brought about many innovations. Several of these innovations were recognized and adopted by the Navy as standard operating practices. The outcome was a more battle ready fleet that maximized the utilization of tax dollars.
Here are a couple of the topics discussed in the book…
Crew and Employee Retention – In the book you learn that most crew members of any ship leave for other assignments because (1st) the top reason was for not being treated with respect or dignity, (2nd) being prevented from making an impact on the organization, (3rd) not being listened to, (4th) not being rewarded with more responsibility and (5th) finally pay. You also learn in the book that these reasons pretty much parallel with turnover in civilian businesses. As a leader you should / must focus on empowering your employees (crew members) in these areas to be battle ready!
Listen Aggressively – To be an effective leader you have to have an effective team. When Captain Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold he interviewed each and every one of the 310 crew members. His interview questions had to do with getting to know the individual and not to “size them up”. Questions like, did they have special memories from high school? How about from their home towns? Did they have goals for their time in the Navy? Why had they joined the Navy? Something special happened to the USS Benfold as a result of these interviews. When the crew realized that they had a commander that listened and cared they began to take ownership. As a result, numerous ideas for improvements began to flow up to leadership that led to improved operational efficiencies and innovation.
Are you focused on improving your leadership skills? There just might be some great suggestions for you in “It’s Your Ship”?
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