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It's Our Ship: The No-Nonsense Guide to Leadership

It's Our Ship: The No-Nonsense Guide to Leadership
Book (with additional video)
Captain D. Michael Abrashoff
Recommended by: Crystal Wessing, Director of Finance & Administration, Office of Administration
Additional Video
Title: Michael Abrashoff - Former Navy Commander | Bestselling Author
Date: Aug 25, 2015

What is your suggestion about?

Leadership is about influencing people for the better. When Captain D. Michael Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, he understood that the ship’s crew defined his circle of influence. His success as the USS Benfold’s captain depended on his ability to guide and motivate the crew to perform at its highest potential.

By spending time with the people and understanding their issues and concerns, Captain Abrashoff was successful in changing the USS Benfold’s culture. The USS Benfold became the top performing ship in the US Navy.

It didn’t happen overnight, and he learned along the way. In the end, the entire crew worked for the success of the ship – thanks to clear communication, respect for the risks, and shared goals.

Why did you choose it?

In our work every day, we encounter challenges related to motivation, communication, and aligning our goals. A culture of excellence comes about from every person taking responsibility for their job and owning their performance. This takes some hard thinking where every team members asks themselves: “how did I contribute to my team’s success or failure today?”

As I read this book, I shared snippets with my team. We talked through the challenge discussed in that story and how it related to our own work. What lessons could we learn from it? Were we successful in this area? How could we improve the way we work? 

By the end of the book, we had learned alongside the crew of the USS Benfold. Today we’re better equipped to tackle our jobs thanks to these stories.

What else do you want to tell us about it?

Captain Abrashoff has become a well-known author and keynote speaker. You can watch a video of the Captain speaking about the lessons from his book. He always focused on what he could truly influence: his crew. We need to invest in each other, while we also hold ourselves and each other accountable to help our teams deliver.

The short stories found in this book influenced the way I lead. Reading those stories with my team meant admitting my weaknesses (or getting them pointed out!) and growing from that new found knowledge. No one is perfect. We must lead with humility. Admitting we have areas to improve is the first step. Identifying our own weaknesses and finding the will to change makes us better leaders, and also lets our teammates know that feedback and learning is for everyone. 

What is a key takeaway for leaders driving improvement in how we deliver for the citizens of Missouri?

To deliver for the citizens of Missouri, all of us need to find ways to lead better – whatever our formal position in the organization. We perform well together when every team member feels a real sense of responsibility – and acts upon it. Captain Abrashoff reminds us that the basics matter:

  • Be the kind of leader you want to follow.
  • Lead teams by example – roll up your sleeves and get in the weeds with them when the situation calls for it.
  • Praise is a powerful motivator.
  • Trust is critical to any successful team.
  • Understand the risks.
  • Two-way straight talk is critical – Don’t be afraid to communicate…or to receive honest communication.

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