NSB Logo Mike Abrashoff Mike Abrashoff

Mike Abrashoff


Stamford, Connecticut, USA

Former Commander, USS Benfold & Author

An inspiring story of innovative leadership and organizational transformation, Mike Abrashoff took command of the worst-performing ship in the fleet and made it #1 by changing his leadership style and the culture.

Keynote Speeches

No Limits: Unleashing Breakthrough Performance

Sometimes in our professional lives we believe we are in a battle to beat an adversary or a competitor when in actuality, we are in competition with ourselves but just haven’t figured it out yet. When battling the competition, you want to come out on top, if only by one more sale or maybe a few percentage points. Sometimes, someone at a higher level gives you a goal based on some median expectation set for others. When Mike Abrashoff took command of a well below-average ship in the U.S. Navy, his goal was to get to average. He initially set average goals and expectations for himself and his crew until one day it struck him: his ship could be better than average.  Mike’s eureka moment was realizing they weren’t in competition with anyone but themselves to be their best. They had to stop putting limits on what they believed was possible. That realization changed Mike Abrashoff’s approach to leadership and led the same crew to accomplish one of the most remarkable turnarounds that was chronicled in the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company magazine and his New York Times’ and Wall Street Journal bestselling book, IT’S YOUR SHIP.  Many of Mike’s former crew members have gone on to accomplish great things in their careers.  They write to tell him their stories.  One of Mike’s sailors just ran for city council of one of the largest cities in the U.S. and he wrote Mike to say, “you gave us the inspiration and confidence to know that there are no limits.” This presentation will challenge you to think differently on how to set expectations while realizing the only limits that you have are self-imposed.


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.

It's Our Shop: Putting the Leadership Roadmap to Work

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-to’s of creating a culture where everyone takes ownership and responsibility for taking performance to the next level.  

Audience reviews:

  • His message and coaching around leadership is perfect for every level of management in our organization ranging from the general managers of our stores right up to our CEO. Our time spent with Mike has been invaluable and we look forward to working with him again.

    - COO, Five Guys
  • Captain Abrashoff energized our organization in a new and powerful way. I walked away with plenty of inspiration and new ideas -- and a handful of new leadership tools that can be applied immediately.

    - Area Sales Director, US Vision Care, Bausch + Lomb
  • The "day after" is over and the impact is reverberating throughout the organization. The feedback was clear -- your presentation ranked #1 for most valuable . . . count me a fan.

    - Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, North America, Nokia Siemens Networks
  • Mike Abrashoff was fantastic! He was extremely generous with his time, and he was absolutely the right person for what we wanted to accomplish.

    - BP Exploration, Inc.
  • Mike Abrashoff was an outstanding speaker and really connected with the audience. Not only was he wonderful to listen to, but his messages resonated.

    - The Episcopal Church
  • Fantastic! Several of the employees came to me and told me how they were so touched by your comments, that they cried. The way you treated your crew is what Impact is trying to emulate. I read your book many years ago and it still Impacts me and the way I run Impact today.

    - CEO, Impact Networking

Speaker Biography

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.

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.