Mike Abrashoff
  • Organizational Transformation
  • Team Engagement
  • Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement
  • Leadership
  • Diversity
  • Innovation
  • Accountability
  • Leading Change
  • Execution
  • Organizational Change
  • Breakthrough Performance

“The feedback was clear — your presentation ranked #1 for most valuable… count me a fan.”
- Head of Marketing and Corporate Affairs, North America,
Nokia Siemens Networks

“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive! I personally have never listened to a better speaker. Your message was tailor made for my team.”
- VP, TransCanada Energy Operations

“He was fabulous! A big hit and hit the nail on the head with our meeting theme- was the perfect end to the week.”
- VP of IT, Underwriters Lab

“It went fantastic. Full house and everyone raved. He is one of the best speakers on leadership and management I have seen in a very long time.”
- Senior Manager, Event Services, Ingram Micro


Why Mike Abrashoff?

A Legendary Tale of Organizational Transformation:
Mike Abrashoff took command of the worst-performing ship in the Navy’s Pacific Fleet – 12 months later it was the best ship in the entire Navy… using the same crew. How? The transformation began with Abrashoff working to see the ship through the eyes of his crew and learning to lead differently.

Leadership Lessons – Heralded in Harvard Business Review and Fast Company:
Dozens of publications have cited Abrashoff’s tale as an inspiring lesson for business. Leaders identify with his story of being accountable for the results in an environment where they don’t make the rules. He wrestled with an extreme version of the management challenges business faces today – and won.

U.S.S. Benfold: The Ship That Launched a Bestseller:
Since it was released in 2002, It’s Your Ship has sold nearly 900,000 copies. Its timeless message of leadership and organizational transformation has inspired thousands. Don’t use the outside forces that stand in your way as excuses – control the things you can influence and amazing results will follow.

A Powerful Message on Improving Organizational Performance:
Command-and-control leadership is dead. As a speaker, Mike Abrashoff challenges and inspires audiences to rethink their beliefs about leadership and organizational culture. His powerful talks are tailored to suit: improve engagement, execution, leadership skills, teamwork, innovation and more.

Inspiring Keynote Speaker on Leadership and Change:
As commander, the one thing Abrashoff could influence was his crew’s attitude. “I didn’t turn the ship around,” he says “my crew did that. I created an environment where they felt safe, empowered and supported. When they came to me with a problem, I’d say ‘It’s your ship – how would you fix it?’.”

Roadmap to Creating a Powerful Organizational Culture:
Culture is the ultimate competitive advantage. “Leaders must understand how profoundly they affect people. Their optimism and pessimism are equally infectious and set the tone and spirit of everyone around them.” Abrashoff shows how to unleash a culture that achieves breakthrough performance.



Mike Abrashoff

Mike Abrashoff’s Presentations


When Mike Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold, morale was low, turnover was high and performance ranked at the bottom of the Pacific Fleet. Twelve months later the ship was the benchmark for performance – the shining star… using the very same crew. This inspiring talk is based on the vital leadership lessons Abrashoff learned as he led the remarkable turnaround of the ship. The first lesson was Abrashoff’s realization that before the ship’s performance could improve, his own leadership style had to change from the traditional command and control model. When the crew would present a problem, Abrashoff became known for responding “What would YOU do? It’s YOUR ship!” His Leadership Roadmap principles created a high performance culture and empowered his crew to take charge and use ingenuity and initiative to improve every aspect of the way things were done. Abrashoff’s presentation leaves audiences with the tools and inspiration to lead differently and elevate organizational performance to new levels.


For organizations that want to get serious about improving performance, this presentation delivers examples of the Leadership Roadmap in action. Abrashoff brings to life stories of how the principles that led the transformation of the USS Benfold have been put into action at companies and organizations looking to harness the power of their most important asset – their people. He shows real leaders achieving dramatic results as they work to address their most pressing people challenges: collaboration, commitment, cohesion, accountability, engagement, rapid and continual innovation and diversity in the workforce. In example after example, the lessons from the Benfold clearly translate across all kinds of organizations – corporations, small business, non-profits and government. Abrashoff shows audiences, by example, how to use their new leadership toolkit. “It’s Our Ship” goes deep into the how-tos of creating a culture where everyone takes ownership and responsibility for taking performance to the next level.


Meant to deepen the learning from Mike Abrashoff’s keynote talk, Take Action sessions provide attendees with additional powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Facilitated by a senior strategist from Abrashoff’s firm, GLS Worldwide, and taking place immediately following the keynote, Take Action sessions create an exciting atmosphere that examines the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations. Participants will experience innovative, fast-paced individual and group exercises tailored to the leadership and cultural issues most relevant to the organization. They’ll learn practical application of principles outlined in the keynote and build a roadmap to achieve the personal and organizational goals they’ve outlined. Take Action sessions are customizable to meet time and resource-sensitive needs and require a minimum of 2 hours.

Mike Abrashoff

Former Commander, USS Benfold and Author, It’s Your Ship

At the age of 36, the Navy selected Abrashoff to become Commander of USS Benfold – at the time, the most junior commanding officer in the Pacific Fleet. The immediate challenges that faced him on this underperforming Naval war ship were staggering: exceptionally low morale, high turnover and unacceptably low performance evaluations. Few thought that this ship could improve. In many ways, the USS Benfold was actually an extreme example of the same problems facing many organizations today.

The solution was to establish a system of management techniques that Abrashoff calls The Leadership Roadmap. At the core of his leadership approach on Benfold was a process of replacing command and control with commitment and cohesion, and by 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.” According to Abrashoff, The Leadership Roadmap is a practice that empowers every individual to share the responsibility of achieving excellence. “It’s your ship,” he was known to say. His former sailors to this day still remind him of it.
By every measure, these principles were able to achieve breakthrough results. Personnel turnover decreased to an unprecedented 1 percent. The rate of military promotions tripled, and the crew slashed operating expenses by 25 percent. Regarded as the finest ship in the Pacific Fleet, Benfold won the prestigious Spokane Trophy for having the highest degree of combat readiness. Most important – this transformation took place with the same crew. What had changed was the ship’s culture and Abrashoff’s leadership style.

Abrashoff recounted the leadership lessons from the turnaround of USS Benfold in It’s Your Ship, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, with over 800,000 copies sold to date. This extraordinary interest in Abrashoff’s leadership journey and Benfold’s organizational lessons led to two follow-up books – Get Your Ship Together and It’s Our Ship. Those books took readers deeper into ways these principles have been put into action by business leaders in their own organizations.

Prior to commanding USS Benfold, Abrashoff 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 GLS Worldwide, a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address leadership, talent and business challenges within their organization. The firm challenges leaders at all levels to re-imagine their leadership thinking and create new ways to elevate individual, team and organizational performance.

Abrashoff in Print

Mike Abrashoff’s Blogography

Blog Entries

Why Coaching is the Best Way You Can Spend Your Time

April 23, 2015

Coaching is one of the most difficult challenges facing leaders today. For starters, it places many outside of their comfort zones because they view it as “an additional requirement for which I have no expertise”.

Read More…

No Offense – None Taken

March 30, 2015

My 18-year-old nephew is a Plebe at the U.S. Naval Academy and wanted to spend spring break at his uncle’s house in Miami Beach. After the brutal winter in the northeast, who wouldn’t? The problem was he also wanted to bring his three high school buddies from Colorado. I dreaded the thought of four 18-year-olds for spring break but I relented as he is such a fine young man.

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Safety is No Accident by Mike Abrashoff

May 30, 2014

One of the critical issues facing organizations today is safety… not just safety in the workplace but safety in all facets of our personal lives. After all, if people get injured at home, it affects their on-the-job performance, as well as medical costs.

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Two Leadership Case Studies — How Do You Show Up?

January 30, 2014

One of the mental exercises I often put myself through is to look at current events from a leadership perspective and continue my lifelong pursuit of self-improvement. There are two cases that fascinate and stand out for me. One is the Captain of the Italian Cruise Liner, the Costa Concordia, the ship that ran aground and sank two years ago and the other fascinating case study is Pope Francis.

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The Bossless, Not Leaderless, Office

June 25, 2013

Matthew Shaer recently wrote an article in New York Magazine entitled The Boss Stops Here discussing the current state of flatter-transparent organizations and the evolution of bossless environments.

Read More…


Set High Standards

Love and respect are like self-esteem: hollow if they’re not earned. On Benfold, I tried in large part to unify the crew by insisting on high performance and continual learning.

The Agenda – Grassroots Leadership

Navy commander D. Michael Abrashoff uses a leadership model that’s as progressive as any in business.

A Partial List of the Organizations Mike Abrashoff Has Spoken For:

A.M. Best Company
Abbott Vascular
Advance Auto Parts
AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.
American Medical Systems Holdings, Inc. (AMS)
Anchorage Capital Group
Apartment Association of Metro Denver
Arthur J Gallagher
ASIS International
Associated Food Stores University
Association of KFC Franchisees
Atlantic Health
Baylor Health Care System
Beckman Coulter, Inc
Best Buy
Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals
California Bankers Association
Capital One
Carlson Restaurants Worldwide
CCC Information Services
Chesapeake Energy Corporation
CIBA Vision Corporation
Cincinnati Insurance Company
Clark Construction Group, LLC
CNA National Warranty Corporation
Deloitte Services LP
DENTSPLY North America LLC
Depend LTD
Dollar General Corporation
Drug Enforcement Administration
Duane Reade Drugstores
East Tennessee State University
Eli Lilly
e-Republic Inc.
Ernst & Young LLP
ev3, Inc.
Exxon Mobil
Fannie Mae
Fidelity Investments
Financial Network Investment Corporation
Florida Association of Homes for the Aging
Franchise Times
Fresenius Medical Services
FSC Securities
Janssen Supply Group, A Subsidiary of J&J
Johnson & Johnson
Kaiser Permanente
Kennametal, Inc.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Kiewit Power Engineers
KVAT Food Stores, Inc.
Laramar Group
LPS Asset Management Group
MassMutual Retirement Services
McKesson Corporation
MFS Fund Distributors, Inc.
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Mr. Lube
Munich Reinsurance America, Inc.
MV Transportation
National Association of Personal Financial Advisors
National Rural Utilities Cooperative Finance Corporation (CFC)
National Safety Council
National Sheriff’s Association
Nebraska Medical Center
New York Red Bulls
Novo Nordisk
O.C. Tanner Recognition Company
Oklahoma State Council for HR Management
Omnicare Inc.
Pacific Gas & Electric
Painters and Allied Trades Labor Management Cooperation Initiative (LMCI)
Panasonic Computer Solutions
Pfizer, Inc.
Philips Electronics
Pioneer Investment Management USA Inc.
PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.
Protective Life Insurance Company
Putnam Investments
PwC Management Services LP
Raymond James Financial Services
Rental Housing Association
RiverSource Distributors, Inc.
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.
Sanofi Aventis
Sava Senior Center
Schreiber Foods
Scott & White
Scottsdale Insurance Company
Sears Home Services
Serco Inc
SGS North America
Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics
Sonic Capital, LLC
Southwest Airlines
Spectrum Health
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
Stop & Shop
Stryker Spine
SunTrust Bank, Inc.
SV Life Science Advisers
Swett & Crawford Group
TD Bank Financial Group
Teachers’ Private Capital
The Cheesecake Factory, LLC
The Clorox Company
The Episcopal Church
The Governance Institute
The Mosaic Company
The Pantry, Inc.
The Scotts Company
The TriZetto Group, Inc.
Towers Watson
United Space Alliance
USAA People Services
Utah League of Cities and Towns
UTC Fire and Security
Veolia Environmental Services
Vera Bradley
VeriSign, Inc.
Verizon Wireless
Warnaco Inc.
Web Offset Association

What People Have To Say About Mike Abrashoff

“Mike Abrashoff’s address to our group in Denver was spot-on. It was quite evident that he had worked to include information regarding our company, our markets and in particular, our Project Managers Forum objectives and attendee backgrounds into the content of his presentation. Several people commented to me that they found his story inspiring and relevant. As I mentioned earlier, this was the third time I heard Mike tell his story. It seems that each time I pull something more from the information he shares.”
- Facilities Manager, URS

“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, CEO, Wireless Zone

“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, Denbury Resources

“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, Nokia Siemens Networks

“Mike Abrashoff’s remarkable story regarding the transformation of USS Benfold was extremely well received and appreciated by our event participants, who found great inspiration and practicality in his remarks. These are challenging times for many and his perspective on leadership and leading during difficult times is timely as well as thought-provoking.”
– California Bankers Association

“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. Thank you so very much Mike.”
- VP, TransCanada Energy Operations

“I wanted to let you know what an amazing speaker and presentation Mr. Abrashoff gave! It was a pleasure listening to him.”
- Program Analyst, SAO East

“Your insightful leadership guided us through a thorough, engaging and thoughtful examination of our current “state of the union” as well as our visions and expectations for the future. We have been inspired by your call for collaboration and are excited to bring your teachings forward with us into the future.”
- Laurence Gumina, CEO, Ohio Presbyterian Retirement Services

“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.”
- Steve Perlowski, Vice President, Industry Affairs & Member Relations, National Association of Chain Drug Stores

“He was fabulous! A big hit and hit the nail on the head with our meeting theme- was the perfect end to the week.”
- VP of IT, Underwriters Lab

“THANK YOU for visiting City of Hope! Our team of leaders was inspired by your sessions and many have emailed me or stopped me on campus to share how they can apply relevant learnings. We have ordered another 100 books and many will be taking the time to read the book in larger teams. We are creating an internal blog where leaders can share with others how they are creating organizational transformation through grass roots managerial efforts. Thank you again for helping us drive organizational change and evolving our efforts to build a more accountable culture!”
- Chief Human Resources Officer, City of Hope, Duarte, CA

“[Mike Abrashoff] was fantastic! He was extremely generous with his time, and he was absolutely the right person for what we wanted to accomplish.” – BP Exploration, Inc. “Conference ended today with a bang. You were by far the best presenter!” – Josh Linkner, CEO / Managing Partner, Detroit Venture Partners, LLC “Thank you for following up – we really enjoyed Mike’s presentation and the audience feedback was outstanding! He really kick started our day with a bang and we were pleased to have him as part of our agenda.”
- HR Specialist, Intel

“It went fantastic. Full house and everyone raved. He is one of the best speakers on leadership and management I have seen in a very long time.”
- Senior Manager, Event Services, Ingram Micro

“Everything went great! Mike was probably the best speaker we have ever had at one of our events!”
- Geoff Graves, Fugate Enterprises

“Thank you for making sure that your speech ‘connected’. The way you were able to make your points align with the roles of the sales reps/ field trainers was spot-on. I suspect this will not be the end of your relationship with Teva.”
- CNS Training Specialist, Teva

“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, Nexstar, Inc.

“Mike – Your scores were almost flawless (save for one single 1-point deduction from an audience member), and the highest I’ve ever seen in my tenure at Evanta. Audience feedback included: ‘Wonderful Presentation – Very appropriate for senior IT Leaders;’ ‘Excellent! Very Motivating;’ ‘One of the most inspirational speeches I have ever heard. Outstanding selection;’ ‘Very inspiring and thought provoking speech;’ ‘Michael was incredible! Dead on target;’ ‘Awesome! Loved Michael’s talk and can’t wait to read his book.’ As far as constructive feedback goes, there wasn’t any – only glowing reviews were left on the evaluation sheets. Again, thank you so much for speaking! We were lucky to have you on board for the Houston CIO Executive summit.”
- Content Director, Evanta

“I felt he nailed the message we were asking him to present, a true home run for our evening. Mike truly has a commanding presence, yet he was perceived as talking with our leaders, not at or down to them. Our team was so dialed into his message with rapt attention that at one point I heard a piece of silverware dropped in the kitchen it was so quiet. Besides the power of Mike’s message and leadership philosophy, we also wanted Mike because we felt he had the flexibility to be on the big stage, or in the more relaxed environment we had at The House of Blues. After his presentation, I appreciated that Mike took time for questions, then stuck around to personalize books and speak with our team. We only took two small boxes of his books back to the hotel as almost everyone wanted theirs immediately and wanted it personalized. I truly could not have been more pleased or impressed.”
- Head of Strategy & Growth, Dealer Channel, Syngenta

“Mike was a great fit for our program and we are getting overwhelmingly positive ratings on our post-summit survey. Thank you!”
- Executive Director, Meetings & Events, Marshberry

“I have received a ton of anecdotal feedback, people bringing up how much they liked you and your speech and message. One thing that came across was that you were very “real” and very down to earth – that is important to our audience. I think your ability to interweave the hospital and healthcare environment into your speech went a long way toward connecting with the audience.”
- Managing Director, Lincoln Healthcare

“Everyone loved Mike. He got a standing ovation. First time I’ve seen a keynote receive one in my history with ADESA.”
- Automotive Dealer Exchange Services of America

“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, Intel

“Abrashoff killed yesterday!!! Awesome!!!”
- CEO, Iron Union Group

“Everyone loved Mike. He was a huge hit and his message certainly resonated with our team.”
- Lesley Andersen, OMERS Private Equity, Inc.

“Mike did an amazing job and much appreciated. Thank you!”
- Victoria MacDonald, VP, Human Resources, Marketwired

“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, FIVE GUYS

Photos, Bios and More

Biography – Mike Abrashoff (PDF Format) Download

Introduction – Mike Abrashoff (PDF Format) Download

Testimonials – Mike Abrashoff (PDF Format) Download

Past Speaking Clients – Mike Abrashoff (PDF Format) Download

Promotional Headshot – Mike Abrashoff (JPEG Format) Download

Hi Resolution Photo – Mike Abrashoff (JPEG Format) Download

Book Cover – It’s Your Ship (JPEG Format) Download

Book Cover – Get Your Ship Together (JPEG Format) Download

Book Cover – It’s Our Ship (JPEG Format) Download