Mike Abrashoff

It's Your Ship! Achieving Breakthrough Performance

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.

Clients Include:

  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Franchise Times
  • The Cleaning Authority

Click here for sample client list

Speaker Bio

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 actually 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 the USS 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.”  

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Travels From: Miami, FL

  Fee Range: $28,500

“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, VP
National Association of Chain Drug Stores

Program Information

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 the 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.

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 taking performance to the next level.

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Speaker Resources

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Sample Client List

  • A&W Food Services of Canada
  • Applebee’s
  • Best Western International
  • Benihana
  • Bruegger’s Bagels
  • Carlson Restaurants Worldwide
  • Chick-Fil-A
  • Darden Restaurants, Inc.
  • Dave & Buster’s
  • Denny’s
  • Drury Hotels
  • Five Guys Enterprise
  • FedEx
  • Franchise Times
  • General Mills
  • Goldman Sachs & Co.
  • Hampton Brands
  • Home Depot
  • In-N-Out Burgers
  • InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)
  • Interstate Hotels & Resorts
  • KFC
  • Lowe’s
  • Marcos Franchising, LLC
  • Massage Envy
  • O’Charley’s
  • Olive Garden Restaurants
  • P.F. Chang’s
  • Qdoba
  • Red Robin Gourmet
  • Orangetheory Fitness
  • Starbucks
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
  • The Cheesecake Factory
  • The Cleaning Authority
  • Texas Roadhouse
  • The Cleaning Authority
  • UPS
  • VeriSign