It’s Your Ship
If your company is a ship, it may be sinking...
Michael Abrashoff was given command of one of the worst performing ships in the Navy, the USS Benhoff. In his two year command, he turned it around to be the “best damn ship in the Navy” by empowering his crew. In this book he lays out the leadership concepts he utilized and demonstrates each with examples from the ship.
This book was recommended to me by a colleague as one of the “best damn books on middle management out there”. After reading it, I concur. Many books have been written on leadership that focus on ethereal topics that are difficult to apply to day to day life. Perhaps this is the distinction between leadership and management. Leadership is high and lofty and management is down and dirty. Rather than knowing how important Level 5 leadership is, sometimes you just need to know what it looks like.
This book reads almost as a journal. As such, I would encourage you to read it not as a novel but as a study. I often make that recommendation with these type of books, especially good ones, as little is gained if little is absorbed. As I read through this I constantly drew parallels between the situations discussed on the Benhoff and my own company and team. This often led to conviction to act and I took notes to incorporate in to my next review, team meeting, etc. as needed. The practicality of this book is high. It is one you can refer back to often as a “field guide to management”.
The concepts discussed are not necessary new. Although leadership is rare, it is not a mystery. The application of these concepts, however, is not easy. Abrashoff talks about how he got to know the name and story of every person in his 300+ crew. This alone is an accomplishment, but then he also took time to send personal notes to their families, welcome them on board, help them advance in their careers, and countless other solid tactics. These all take intentionality but are fundamental to improving morale and performance.
Around 240 pages long, “It’s Your Ship” is an easy and entertaining read. I would encourage you to take the first 30 minutes of your work day, or lunch break, or some other valuable time and read a section/chapter with pen and paper in hand. Reflect on how you can apply this book to your team and your entire organization will thank you for it.