This story of Captain Abrashoff recounts his time aboard the USS Benfold as commander. His retelling of his time aboard this now famous ship started with much humbler beginnings. The previous captain was given a celebratory “send-off” and his current crew was relieved to see him go. This gave Captain Abrashoff some worry. He noticed the crew’s relief and hopes his future is not sealed in this same fate. This inspires him to take a different approach in his command. He gets to know them one on one, setting up time with each member to understand what they didn’t like before and what improvements they would like to see. This conversation with each member sparked a purpose to their role on the ship, as they didn’t just have a “job” but a proper function in which they can help facilitate change. Initially, the crew members asked for permission when taking on a task. Captain Abrashoff simply stated, “It’s your ship.” How would they handle that task? This empowerment allowed his crew to take the initiative and work as if they were the commanders. They would have to make the right choice, the right decision that would be best for the Benfold. I noticed this also gave them the self-direction they needed to decide and can explain why it was done that way.
Going over a few more chapters he mentions how he got to know each crew member personally and that most of them came aboard solely for a paycheck. Their time in the navy was short lived and that once completed, most would leave. Very few re-enlisted and why should they? Most of them have been put to work and merely accept orders. Captain Abrashoff’s time as commander changed those statistics. He had many of them reenlist and create a real future aboard the Benfold. This crew worked hard not just for the captain, but for each other. As well as for the pride they took in being better and growing within the crew. When captain Abrashoff recognized a problem, he sought the advice of his men to find not only a solution, but an efficient one. A better way of doing a standard task was the goal. By just listening to what they had to say, he was able to cut labor time to more than half, saving thousands of government funds on repairs, fuel and investments on new crewmen. This was not the result of a single man’s effort but a collaborative team effort with the single goal of being effective and efficient.
This crew’s hard work didn’t go unnoticed. He often showed his gratitude and pride to them and their parents with thoughtful letters and notes. When a crewman made an accomplishment, Captain Abrashoff went beyond his duties as commander and sent a personal letter to his or her parents of the sailor and stated the upmost pride he had in him or her. The parents would then feel the same sense of pride because “The” commander made their child stand out above the rest. This made a huge difference in the way the crewmen conducted themselves. They walked and worked with pride. Proving that what the captain had to say about them, was true. The Benfold became a well-oiled machine during Captain’s Abrashoff time, and was noticed by other navy men, captains and superiors. This ship became one of the best in the fleet, and the proof was in the numbers. Time and time again, records were being broken by them. These men worked harder than most ships during times of war, and Captain Abrashoff stated that their country needed their best men to maintain the safety of the country, and that by being the best, they needed to work a little longer than most and thanked them for it. The crew applauded at the end of his statement. Captain Abrashoff simply told the truth and it became a speech, inspiring pride in their hard work, giving them a sense of self-respect and empowerment. The affect he had on his crew was important. “Mediocre leaders don’t take the time to get to know their people, your people are the most important.” This struck a chord with me, not because I may have worked under mediocre leaders, but made me question if I was one. Did I take the time to know my employees when I managed? Do I take the time to ask for help among them and more importantly did I listen to what they had to say? Although some of these answers I may not be proud of, I can learn from them, and change how I manage in the future.
As I was reading this book I realized that this was his style of “management.” The lessons he learned aboard this ship are what helped him to continue to evolve his style. Simply by taking interest in his crew inspired meaningful change. The Benfold before his time was not known as a grand ship, it was only during his command that it became one, not due to one man, but to many. I understand now that it not only takes the team to get things done, but a great commander who takes pride in his team, planting seeds to help his crew grow, and take pride in the service they do. It’s Your Ship truly motivated me to use his techniques in every aspect in life. As I continue my employment here at IST, I will help my managers to turn a crew into grand men and women who take pride in the service we give. This book has helped my growth into my current position and will continue to inspire me in any position I may reach.
Bechtel Corporation – Houston, TX