It's Our Ship: The No-Nonsense Guide to Leadership
by Michael Abrashoff, Business Plus, 208 pages, $25.99, May 2008, ISBN 9780446199667
One of our best-selling books of the new century has been Michael Abrashoff's first book, It's Your Ship
. Abrashoff was then a recently retired captain in the US Navy, and the book told the story of his successful turnaround of the USS Benfold. That book continues to sell in ever-increasing numbers, and Abrashoff is now in much demand as a speaker.
In his new book, Abrashoff returns to his experience on the Benfold, this time focusing solely on leadership lessons. He asserts that there are key skills a good leader needs to learn. He offers 8 of them, and each skill is represented in a chapter within the book.
In the chapter on inspiring your people to be their best, Buoy Up Your People, Abrashoff tells a story about Bill Walsh, the late, revered coach of the San Francisco 49ers. During one game, an offensive lineman was called for a holding penalty that cost the football team a touchdown, and, naturally, the player was dreading the film session the following Monday. As the coach was going over the film with the team, however, he said, "We all know what Bruce did on the play, but I want you to see what he did on the next play." Because the player was angry with himself, he had flattened the defensive lineman. Walsh said, "This is what I want you to do after you make a mistake. You don't need to be thinking about your mistakes. Do something constructive about it." Walsh had just changed the way the players viewed failure with a few minutes of game film.
Abrashoff's writing is a joy to read. Very simple, basic sentences convey rather profound ideas. Sprinkled in with the stories of his ship, he includes stories from the civilian world of business and profiles a variety of people dealing with leadership issues. One of the strengths of It's Our Ship
is that Abrashoff introduces us to businesses that are not your usual suspects. Following the Walsh story, for example, he includes a story on how the West Coast chain In-N-Out Burger manages to attract and motivate its great employees. I won't spoil that one for you though.