Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's Your Ship

I saw this book (It's Your Ship) in a Barnes and Noble and the title and cover attracted me. So I picked it up and read the back, thought it was interesting, and later grabbed it for the Kindle. I do still buy books from B&N, but for friends and family. I prefer my books on the Kindle.

As I started reading this book, I thought this was a book that everyone in management should read. And everyone that is a worker should recommend this to your managers, directors, VPs, and especially C-level people.

That thought hasn't wavered and now that I've finished it, I think more than ever this is a great management book that really describes well how you can lead. In the military or in business.

This is the story of Captain Michael Abrashoff's tour on the USS Benfold. He took over this ship, his first command, and a ship that was below average in many ways. After he received the command, he turned around the ship, making it the highest rated ship in the Navy. And not just in terms of getting people to perform as qualified sailors, but he reduced turnover, getting almost all of his sailors to re-enlist, he improved morale, lowered accidents, and really built an amazing group of people.

In many ways this reminded me of how great JD Edwards was to work for, though I think I recognize more flaws in their operations that Captain Abrashoff points out.

The book covers a variety of aspects of leadership, usually with stories about issues and problems encountered and how the Captain worked at it. Granted the job on a ship is different than a company, but with more serious consequences, however there are a lot of similarities.

There two big things I've gotten from the book. One is that you should empower your people, trusting them to make decisions, which is an old idea, but one that many managers overlook. The second is that you need to act quickly and decisively on issues, not letting them fester. In your actions, you have to show that people have to take responsibility, but that they also deserve a second chance.

Too many managers and attempted-leaders try to control workers, telling them what to do but not sending the message with their actions. Captain Abrashoff illustrates where he found ways to show people he meant what he said and I liked that.

I would have liked to hear more about things that didn't work since those mistakes can really help us grow, and there is a little at the end where he talks about problems he created with his policies, but they are problems with peers, not problems with his decisions. It's a motivational book, so I understand some of that, but it would have been a great learning experience to see mistakes being made and how they are corrected, or you back out of your actions.

I highly recommend this book.

No comments: