Mike Abrashoff: Biography highlights

Mike Abrashoff was the most-junior officer in the Pacific Fleet when he took command of the near-worst performing ship. Twelve months later, the USS Benfoldwas the best ship in the entire Navy –using the same crew.

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Full biography of Mike Abrashoff

Mike Abrashoff’s background

The story of that stunning transformation has lessons for every organization: leadership matters –and culture is everything. Mike’s written three books –his first, It’s Your Ship, has sold over 1 million copies. His Leadership Roadmap offers clear, battle-tested, and actionable steps. Mike shows people at every level of the organization how to engage and take incremental steps toward change that can make a dramatic difference at work. Mike is clear, “I didn’t turn the ship around –my crew did that. What I did was to create an environment where they felt safe, empowered and supported. When you do that, anything is possible.”

In many ways, what Mike was able to do with the USSBenfold was an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today. That’s why dozens of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, and Fast Companyhave cited Mike’s story as an inspiring lesson for business. Leaders especially identify with Mike’s being accountable for the results in an environment where he couldn’t make the rules.

“When my crew came to me with a problem, I’d say ‘It’s your ship –how would you fix it?’.” Mike focused on the one thing he could influence: his crew’s attitude, because culture is the ultimate competitive weapon for any organization.

Mike’s established a set of management principles that he calls The Leadership Roadmap. At the core of his leadership approach on Benfoldwas a process of replacing command and control with commitment and cohesion, and 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. The idea is to empower every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence.”

By every measure, these principles achieved breakthrough results: turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1%; the rate of promotions tripled; and the crew slashed operating expenses by 25%. Regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, Benfoldwon the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness. This remarkable turnaround was accomplished by the very same crew that had performed so poorly just months before.

Mike is author of three books. His first, It’s Your Ship, has a timeless message: don’t use outside forces that stand in your way as excuses –control the things you can influence and amazing results will happen. His next books, It’s Our Ship and Get Your Ship Together, showed how these principles have been put into action by business leaders in their own organizations.

A popular keynote speaker for audiences looking to ramp up organizational performance, Mike has spoken to every industry and kind of audience –from board retreats to front line personnel; from sales groups to universities; from Fortune 500s to startups. He inspires audiences to rethink their beliefs about leadership and organizational culture and tailors the message to focus on engagement, execution, change, safety, diversity, leadership, teamwork, innovation, accountability and more. Prior to commanding USS Benfold, Mike 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 Aegis Performance Group, a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address leadership, talent and performance challenges within their organizations. Mike and his team prompt leaders at all levels to re-imagine their leadership thinking and create new ways to elevate individual, team and organizational performance.


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1/2 videos
Performance Expert MIKE ABRASHOFF: Becoming the Best Ship in the U.S. Navy
Performance Expert MIKE ABRASHOFF: Becoming the Best Ship in the U.S. Navy
Navy Captain MIKE ABRASHOFF: People Don’t Come to Work to Fail
Navy Captain MIKE ABRASHOFF: People Don’t Come to Work to Fail
ADESA (Automotive Dealer Exchange Services of America)

”Everyone loved Mike. He got a standing ovation. First time I’ve seen a keynote receive one in my history with ADESA.”

First Financial Resources

“HOME RUN!!! Mike Abrashoff was a bases loaded home run! I believe he is the best that we have ever had. Wow!!!!! Wonderful feedback from the members. All future speakers will be judged against a very high bar that he set!!”


“It was a pleasure working with you –and it’s always the best news when our audience responds so well to a speaker. Your average score over 9 meetings was 4.9 out of 5.0 –wow!”

Empire Caterpillar Southwest

“Mike, you hit it out of the park, as I knew you would. Your message was on point and was exactly what I was looking for. It emphasized some of the things we were already working on and provided a good foundation for us to build on.”

Wireless Zone

“You gave a memorable and enjoyable keynote speech that was enjoyed by all. Thank you for making our owners understand that they are the captains of their own destiny and that they need to take all action needed to succeed. You did a great job setting the tone for the rest of the convention.”

Kevin G. Sinclair
Nokia Siemens Networks

“The “day after” is over and the impact is reverberating throughout the organization. .” I truly appreciate the effort you obviously made to incorporate our issues and to position the call to action for them as leaders of teams. The feedback was clear, your presentation ranked #1 for most valuable… count me a fan.”

Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, North America
Nexstar, Inc.

“Your presentation in New Orleans was outstanding. Not only was it the highest rated of the week (4.95 out 5), it was timely, inspirational and informative. Your accomplishments represent the pinnacle of achievement through the belief in and entrustment of people.”

Sales Trainer

“Mike was super! He was a great storyteller, funny, and tied the message to our business throughout. It was so relevant to exactly what our org needs right now leadership at the GM level and I have received nothing but rave reviews. In fact, several of our vendor suppliers and audience members from other companies have asked me for info about Mike to possibly speak for their organizations. It was awesome!”

SVP Marketing/Creative Director
Mercy Health

“Mike’s personality and message was both inspirational and educational. Several conference attendees have told me that he was the best speaker we’ve ever had. He certainly was the best way to close out our Symposium!”

Director, Public Relations
Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas

“In the close to four years I have been here Mike’s presentation was widely recognized as the best by far. He spoke for 75 minutes …no notes… no overheads… No podium…right out front. His Q/A was outstanding… our managers appreciated that we brought in someone that good. He does not try to impress people with any gimmicks or trendy expressions. I will call on him again and trust him with our most valuable asset…our people.”

Chief Operation Officer
International Paper

“He knocked it out of the park.He was so good and on point that it almost looked like we wrote his script.The group loved him and the parallels to managing a ship and mill are remarkable.”

Public Relations and Communications
Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association (MHEDA)

“You were amazing!! Kicking off the convention with a standing ovation is a home run.“

The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry

“Mike –Your presentation was an absolute home-run and we have the survey responses to back it up. Not only would I recommend you without hesitation, I have already done so.”

President & CEO
National Association of Chain Drug Stores

“Any audience that cares about leadership, culture, change management, performance and teamwork would benefit immensely from your presentation. Our group enjoyed not only your message, but also your presentation style. Needless to say, you received very high ratings in our post-conference survey.”

Vice President, Industry Affairs & Member Relations
TransCanada Energy Operations

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! I personally have never listened to a better speaker. Your message was tailor made for my team and I look forward to discussing future opportunities with you.”

Denbury Resources

“We have never had such positive feedback so you very much exceeded our expectations. You were quoted numerous times throughout the remainder of the conference which says people took your message to heart and will put it to work in their everyday jobs, exactly what we aimed for!”

Director of Staffing, Employee Relations & Development
BNSF Railway

“You did an exceptional job of connecting with the audience and reinforcing that leadership in safety matters and is, in fact, the very cornerstone of our future success in safety and in general at BNSF. I told someone, who agreed with me, that if you were to speak to a group full of high school seniors, and then set up a recruiting booth outside the door for the US NAVY, there would no doubt be a long line of future potential sailors signing up! Everyone I talked to agreed that the keynote you delivered, was the highlight of the day and had a tremendous impact on them.”

Director, Transportation Safety

“I just wanted to send a note and thank you for the very inspiring and humbling presentation you shared with us yesterday. I was in the audience in Oregon, so not there in person, but of all of the professional speakers I have seen, you by far were the most inspirational. Your experience and story are well worth sharing, and I plan to pick up your book this weekend. All the best to you.”

Finance & IT Staffing Manager

“We have asked Mike Abrashoff to speak to our team twice now and he is in high demand for a third appearance. 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. Mike provides practical advice sprinkled with some entertaining stories from his days as Captain of the USS Benfold. Our time spent with Mike has been invaluable and we look forward to working with him again.”

Sam Chamberlain
Chief Operating Officer

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