Michael Abrashoff teaches us, in his book “It’s Your Ship”, to look at leadership with different eyes, based on his experiences at the U.S. Navy, providing us with insights to improve management and teamwork.
He not only awakened the leader within him but took charge of a crew with a difficult track record, managing to motivate his team and increase their productivity.
Embark on this journey of development and learn more about leadership!
About the book “It’s Your Ship”
The book “It’s Your Ship” was written by Michael Abrashoff and released in 2002, by Grand Central Publishing.
With a total of 240 pages and twelve chapters, it is possible to easily navigate through this reading, which is simple, practical, and objective.
Captain Michael Abrashoff shares his incredible experiences in command of the battleship USS Benfold, with unique analogies to the corporate world.
About the author D. Michael Abrashoff
D. Michael Abrashoff is a former U.S. Navy captain and American writer.
His practices in command of the warship USS Benfold have been so efficient and effective that they have been extended to other ships, as well as serving as inspiration for the book “It’s Your Ship”.
Some of his other books are “Get Your Ship Together” and “It’s Our Ship”. Also, on YouTube, there are several videos of his impressive lectures and presentations with thousands of views.
To whom is this book indicated?
The book “It’s Your Ship” is one that every leader should read. It is also highly recommended for people looking for Team Management and Motivation content.
Main ideas of the book “It’s Your Ship”
To begin our summary, how about knowing the itinerary of our trip aboard Michael Abrashoff’s teachings? Here they are:
- True leadership starts with understanding yourself. It’s the basis for creating the best organization;
- In order to take actual command, the leader must establish a new leadership model, adapted to a new era;
- Leaders shouldn’t promote themselves, but people and the organization as a whole;
- Profit can’t be the real objective of a company, but a consequence. First, the leader must focus on people and the common good;
- To be consistent, leaders have to align their actions with their speech;
- A leader should only take calculated risks;
- To motivate a team and achieve goals, the leader has to make each member feel valued and encouraged to grow;
- True leadership is achieved by example, not by precepts.
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Overview: It’s your ship
Michael Abrashoff begins the book “It’s Your Ship” explaining important leadership concepts. According to him, what all leaders have in common is the challenge of getting the most out of their team.
Thus, success depends on three variables: the needs of leaders, the climate in the organization, and the potential competence of the team.
That said, the author Michael Abrashoff proposes to explain how the Navy and other organizations in general wrongly balance these variables, and that leads to loss.
But you may be asking yourself: “Can it work for me?”.
Rest assured: in the view of the Captain Michael Abrashoff, exceptional leaders have always been rare, but besides being born leaders, they can also be formed, and the case of Benfold is a typical example.
The main concepts about leadership raised by the author are:
- Understanding yourself is the basis for creating the best organization and achieving true leadership;
- Help the members of your team to develop their talents to the fullest;
- Be careful: the biggest obstructions to people’s potential come from the leader;
- The main obstacles of leader are their own fears, the needs of the ego, and unproductive habits;
- As a leader, you must examine your thoughts and feelings to understand yourself: this is the trigger for true transformation;
- The goal of your company may be profit, but you will not gain anything by telling people to act the way you want them to;
- Do not seek short-term benefits;
- Help people to realize their full potential: this can lead to goals that were previously impossible in the “command and control” method;
- Act in the least reckless way possible;
- None of your actions should cause the company to go bankrupt (of course!) or harm other people’s careers;
- Take risks prudently (calculated risks);
- Do nothing to promote yourself, but only to promote people, the common good, and the organization as a whole.
Overview: Taking the command
Continuing the book “It’s Your Ship”, the author shows us how he faced the challenge of taking command of the ship. Here are his main teachings about it:
- When taking on a “crew”, you may encounter resistance for representing an outdated and perhaps obsolete authority;
- As a leader, you need to be respected, trustworthy, and effective;
- Establish a new leadership model, adapted to a new era;
- Your team members should feel free to say what they think of you;
- Your main challenge as a leader will be to attract and retain “the best”; for that, you have to motivate them to act with passion, energy, and enthusiasm;
- Value ideas, skills, and initiative;
- Help your less talented followers to transcend limitations;
- To be a successful “commander”, look at your “ship” through the eyes of your “crew”;
- Keep in mind that there is always a better way of doing things;
- Ask each member of your team if there is a better way to do what has already been done;
- Only implement processes that people will enjoy running;
- Encourage people to find better ways to carry out their tasks, taking pleasure in doing them;
- “Leader for a day”: ask your team members to think and outline a strategy as if they were “the leader”. You can be positively surprised.
But how will you know if you are on the right track as a leader?
Pay attention to the moment when your team recognizes that you really care more about “the ship” as a whole than about your own profit.
Also, the author Michael Abrashoff shares four tips to keep your team together and motivated:
- Treat everyone with respect and dignity;
- Give them the opportunity to exercise an important influence in the company;
- Be considerate of everyone;
- Reward everyone with more responsibility.
Overview: Lead by example
In Michael Abrashoff’s view, leaders never get what they want by simply ordering it to be done. Thus, true leadership must be achieved by example, not by precepts.
Your team will follow your example and watch you all the time in search of signs since you exert a huge influence on them, whether you like it or not.
For this very reason, it is necessary to align your action with your speech. If your “sailors” realize that you, the captain, do not implement a policy or disagree with it, or say one thing and do another, they may think they have carte blanche to do the same.
This applies to everything. Likewise, the author considers that if your employees see you questioning obsolete work practices, they will follow in the same step. It will become ingrained in the culture, as it is affirmed in the book “It’s Your Ship”.
To help you understand the importance of “leading by example”, here are some directions:
- Ask your team: “Why do we need to do it this way? Isn’t there a better way?” - this is the path of continuous improvement;
- The signals you give are important;
- You instruct your “crew” by the way you act, in every decision you make, and in every action you take;
- If there is a problem, you will be as much a part of it as your people;
- Stay informed: you never know everything you should know;
- As a leader, your optimism and pessimism are equally contagious;
- Don’t be a mediocre leader: know your team;
- Understand your influence and use it wisely;
- Make each member of your team feel valued and willing to grow;
- Be an enthusiastic leader and your workforce will be enthusiastic;
- In general, no one wants to be blamed for “a big mess”, but the leaders know when to present themselves as responsible.
- Avoid “ethical shortcuts”. Ask yourself: if I were about to be on the front page of the most influential newspaper in the country, would I be proud or ashamed?;
- When in doubt, follow your instincts;
- If the members of your team realize that you act when you want, they will feel free not to support you when they disagree with your policy.
Another interesting point shared by the author Michael Abrashoff is that, even if you are a leader, you can take orders from other people.
In such cases, there is nothing wrong with trying to find a better way to carry out these orders. If you have superiors, know that, just like you, they will especially like your honesty.
What do other authors say about it?
In the book “Everybody Matters”, the authors Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia explore how true leaders must continually study to develop themselves and those around them, so that they also become excellent leaders who believe and value people.
Also, collaborators should be encouraged to innovate and experience new things, even if they fail. This makes them realize that managers have full confidence in their potential and in their work. In the book, this practice is called “responsible freedom”.
Ed Catmull, author of the book “Creativity, Inc.” advises: always give more preference to people than to ideas, because creative people create good ideas, but good ideas can be destroyed by bad teams.
For John C. Maxwell, author of the “Leadership Gold”, the best leaders are those who know how to listen. They know what is happening because they pay attention, and learn better than others because they absorb from various places. Also, good listeners have the ability to better see the strengths and weaknesses of other people.
Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?
- If you are going to take on a “difficult team”, remember that the problem is not with you: take the command and establish a new phase;
- “Put your boat in order”: organize your work environment in the best possible way;
- Make a personal assessment: write down your strengths and weaknesses;
- Meet your team: talk individually with each member of your team;
- What are the skills of the people on your team? And the weaknesses? Help each one to learn what they need and to achieve their best performance;
- Talk to your team, ask for feedback and opinion on everything;
- Lead by example: remember to keep your posture, after all, your team is watching you.
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