Mike Abrashoff

Mike Abrashoff



Mike Abrashoff is the former commander of the USS Benfold. Abrashoff’s first book, It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy, remains a best seller with 850,000 copies currently in print.






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.


For organizations that want to get serious about improving performance, this presentation delivers examples of the Leadership Roadmap in action. Abrashoff brings to life stories of 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 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. Abrashoff 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.


Meant to deepen the learning from Mike Abrashoff’s keynote talk, Take Action sessions provide attendees with additional powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Facilitated by a senior strategist from Abrashoff’s firm, GLS Worldwide, and taking place immediately following the keynote, Take Action sessions create an exciting atmosphere that examines the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations. Participants will experience innovative, fast-paced individual and group exercises tailored to the leadership and cultural issues most relevant to the organization. They’ll learn practical application of principles outlined in the keynote and build a roadmap to achieve the personal and organizational goals they’ve outlined. Take Action sessions are customizable to meet time and resource-sensitive needs and require a minimum of 2 hours.

Publications from Fast Company to the Harvard Business Review have called it one of the most remarkable examples of organizational transformation: Mike Abrashoff took command of the worst-performing Navy ship in the Pacific Fleet and made it #1in twelve months – using the very same crew. In many ways, the ship was actually an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today. What drove the success was Abrashoff’s realization that if things were going to improve, the first thing that needed to change was his own leadership style. He began a determined effort to see the ship from the eyes of his crew – and then rethink how to lead and break from the traditional command and control model. When crew members asked him to solve a problem, his response became, “It’s your ship ─ what would YOU do?” The result was an empowered culture and an engaged team who set new benchmarks for performance. Abrashoff’s speeches challenge people to re-imagine their own leadership thinking and instill a renewed responsibility for results and success. Audiences relate to Abrashoff’s dilemma: being held accountable for results in an environment where rules and regulations pose significant obstacles. His presentation equips people with the strategies, tactics and tools necessary to unleash breakthrough performance and extraordinary results in spite of the odds.

At the age of 36, the Navy selected Michael Abrashoff to become Commander of USS Benfold – at the time, the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet. The immediate challenges that faced him on this underperforming Naval war ship were staggering: exceptionally low morale, high turnover and unacceptably low performance evaluations. Few thought that this ship could improve. In many ways, the USS Benfold was actually an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today.

The solution was to establish a system of management techniques that Abrashoff 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 by 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.” According to Abrashoff, The Leadership Roadmap is a practice that empowers every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence. “It’s your ship,” he was known to say. His former sailors to this day still remind him of it.
By every measure, these principles were able to achieve breakthrough results. Personnel turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1 percent. The rate of military promotions tripled, and the crew slashed operating expenses by 25 percent. Regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, Benfold won the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness. Most important – this transformation took place with the same crew. What had changed was the ship’s culture and Abrashoff’s leadership style.

Abrashoff recounted the leadership lessons from the turnaround of USS Benfold in It’s Your Ship, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, with over 800,000 copies sold to date. This extraordinary interest in Abrashoff’s leadership journey and Benfold’s organizational lessons led to two follow-up books – Get Your Ship Together and It’s Our Ship. Those books took readers deeper into ways these principles have been put into action by business leaders in their own organizations.

Prior to commanding USS Benfold, Abrashoff 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 GLS Worldwide, a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address leadership, talent and business challenges within their organization. The firm challenges leaders at all levels to re-imagine their leadership thinking and create new ways to elevate individual, team and organizational performance.

Please call for a quote for Mr. Abrashoff’s Keynote fee. 1-800443-9979

A.M. Best Company
Abbott Vascular
Advance Auto Parts
AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.
American Medical Systems Holdings, Inc. (AMS)
Anchorage Capital Group
Apartment Association of Metro Denver
Arthur J Gallagher
ASIS International
Associated Food Stores University
Association of KFC Franchisees
Atlantic Health
Baylor Health Care System
Beckman Coulter, Inc
Best Buy
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals
California Bankers Association
Capital One
Carlson Restaurants Worldwide
CCC Information Services
Chesapeake Energy Corporation
CIBA Vision Corporation
Cincinnati Insurance Company
Clark Construction Group, LLC
CNA National Warranty Corporation
Deloitte Services LP
DENTSPLY North America LLC
Depend LTD
Dollar General Corporation
Drug Enforcement Administration
Duane Reade Drugstores
East Tennessee State University
Eli Lilly
e-Republic Inc.
Ernst & Young LLP
ev3, Inc.
Exxon Mobil
Fannie Mae
Fidelity Investments
Financial Network Investment Corporation
Florida Association of Homes for the Aging
Franchise Times
Fresenius Medical Services
FSC Securities
Janssen Supply Group, A Subsidiary of J&J
Johnson & Johnson
Kaiser Permanente
Kennametal, Inc.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Kiewit Power Engineers
KVAT Food Stores, Inc.
Laramar Group
LPS Asset Management Group
MassMutual Retirement Services
McKesson Corporation
MFS Fund Distributors, Inc.
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Mr. Lube
Munich Reinsurance America, Inc.
MV Transportation
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC)
National Safety Council
National Sheriff’s Association
Nebraska Medical Center
New York Red Bulls
Novo Nordisk
O.C. Tanner Recognition Company
Oklahoma State Council for HR Management
Omnicare Inc.
Pacific Gas & Electric
Painters and Allied Trades Labor Management Cooperation Initiative (LMCI)
Panasonic Computer Solutions
Pfizer, Inc.
Philips Electronics
Pioneer Investment Management USA Inc.
PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
Protective Life Insurance Company
Putnam Investments
PwC Management Services LP
Raymond James Financial Services
Rental Housing Association
RiverSource Distributors, Inc.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Sanofi Aventis
Sava Senior Center
Schreiber Foods
Scott & White
Scottsdale Insurance Company
Sears Home Services
Serco Inc
SGS North America
Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics
Sonic Capital, LLC
Southwest Airlines
Spectrum Health
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
Stop & Shop
Stryker Spine
SunTrust Bank, Inc.
SV Life Science Advisers
Swett & Crawford Group
TD Bank Financial Group
Teachers’ Private Capital
The Cheesecake Factory, LLC
The Clorox Company
The Episcopal Church
The Governance Institute
The Mosaic Company
The Pantry, Inc.
The Scotts Company
The TriZetto Group, Inc.
Towers Watson
United Space Alliance
USAA People Services
Utah League of Cities and Towns
UTC Fire and Security
Veolia Environmental Services
Vera Bradley
VeriSign, Inc.
Verizon Wireless
Warnaco Inc.
Web Offset Association


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