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What Would YOU Have Changed First?

Monday, Jun 18, 2018

Imagine this: you’ve just taken command of the near-worst performing ship in the U.S. Navy. Your job is to try and turn things around – something others before you have tried and failed to do.  Where do you start?  What’s the first thing you’d do?

That was the intriguing question that was posed to Mike Abrashoff during the Q&A session in Greenwich, Connecticut last month. His answer may surprise you.

Mike explained that his parents had come on board on his first day in command and had dinner in his cabin. “The food was horrible and I thought to myself if they’re giving this to the captain – what is the crew eating?”

The next day Mike went down to eat with the crew. Sure enough, the food was worse than the awful meal that was served to him and his parents.

Mike made his first priority to give the mess crew the kind of training, support, and attention they had never received. With a serious focus on turning around things in the kitchen, the food improved but the crew’s morale improved, too. The crew saw that their new captain cared about them just as much as the jobs they needed to do.

Mike has always made a point that his crew was responsible for the stunning turnaround that made the USS Benfold the best ship in the Navy fleet. “My focus was on the one thing I could affect – the culture on the ship. I can tell people what to do but I can’t order excellence – for that to happen, the crew needed to feel like their captain had their backs.”

And to think that the celebrated transformation began with a simple act: Mike improved the food. It makes the point that sometimes we spend time working on the wrong things.


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. Mike often shares the leadership lessons and the immediate challenges that faced him as Commander of the USS Benfold. Mike challenges leaders at all levels to re-imagine their leadership thinking and create new ways to elevate individual, team and organizational performance. To book Leadership Speaker Mike Abrashoff, call Executive Speakers Bureau at (901) 754-9404.

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