I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Captain D. Michael Abrashoff, former commander of the USS Benfold. He took the worst performing ship in the Navy and turned it into the top performing ship in twenty months or so. Little did I know, he grew up in my hometown, just miles from where I did, and was only two years older than me. I attended a local Leadership Forum in January hosted by my long time friend and consultant, John Moore of Moore Power Sales Vision. John saw Michael speak at one of the recent Sandler Sales events and asked if he would spend some time with a small group of leaders in Blair County, which he generously agreed to do.
Michael shared some of the leadership techniques that made him successful and gave us a chance to ask questions. Here is a snapshot of what he shared about what made him a successful leader.
5 Tips for Successful Leadership:
- Get to know your people. His goal was to show up every day and create an atmosphere where his family would want to work. He interviewed all 300 crewmen on his ship and learned about their spouses, favorite football teams and other interests. This gave him insights into the crew members' motivations so that he could connect with each member in the most effective way.
- Constantly strive to get better. Come to work every day and get your crew to challenge everything in an effort to improve. Change starts at the top; you have to lead by example. When you do not get the results you are looking for, never blame your people; look internally first. Whenever you are disappointed with the outcome, ask yourself what you could have done better.
- Know yourself. The first step in leadership is becoming an expert in self. Be genuine and authentic and develop your own style. Keep things in perspective when they go wrong. Was anyone injured or killed? Most likely not, so do not overreact as if they did. Move forward and learn from the experience. Be a part of the solution rather than finding fault. People watch how you react as a leader.
- Don't micromanage. Stop telling people how to do things and let them figure out the solution. Provide the requirements and get out of the way. Let go of your ego and instead focus on results.
- Encourage people, and be empathetic. Do not berate. Exercise situational awareness and articulate the right message at the right time. Tailor your tone and the quality of the message while connecting with each person based on their age and background.
I asked Michael what he thought was the number one leadership trait, and here's what he had to say:
Be aware of how you are showing up. You need to have situational awareness and people need to feel secure with you as a leader. Be seen as genuine and authentic. Be technically competent for the business you are running. Outstanding results come from leadership. Do not be stuck doing ten dollar an hour work; focus your talents on the five hundred dollar an hour work.
I came away with a lot to think about and was very inspired. I received a copy of Michael's book, It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy. I am looking forward to reading it and gaining additional insights.
I hope you find these tips as useful and inspiring as I did. So I ask you, are you running the best damn company in your market? Please share your thoughts.
Good luck and lead well, Alan
Photo Credit: iStock by Getty Images