Canadian Motivational Speaker

Michael Abrashoff

Former Navy Commander | Bestselling Author

Michael Abrashoff is at the center of one of the most remarkable modern-day stories of organizational transformation. Abrashoff took command of the worst-performing navy ship and crew in the Pacific Fleet, plagued with low morale, high turnover, and abysmal performance evaluations, and — within just one year — made it the best in the fleet using the same crew. The lesson was clear — leadership matters and culture is everything. In his riveting talks, Abrashoff provides a leadership roadmap to help audiences achieve the same results and success with their own “crews.”

A popular keynote speaker for audiences looking to ramp up organizational performance, Abrashoff has spoken to every industry and kind of audience — from board retreats to front line personnel; from sales groups to universities; from Fortune 500s to startups. He inspires audiences to rethink their beliefs about leadership and organizational culture, and tailors the message to focus on engagement, execution, change, safety, diversity, leadership, teamwork, innovation, accountability, and more.

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. He is currently the founder of Aegis Performance Group, a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address leadership, talent, and performance challenges within their organizations.

Abrashoff is the author of It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from The Best Damn Navy in The Country, which has sold more than one million copies and is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. He has also written the follow-up books, It’s Our Ship and Get Your Ship Together.

The Virtual Leader’s Roadmap

Mike Abrashoff had to change his leadership mindset when he took over the near-worst performing ship in the Navy. The situation was dire. If performance did not improve, sailors could end up injured or worse. In response, Abrashoff quickly adopted a new set of principles to guide a new way of leading. His focus was on building trust and authentic ways of engaging. It was about listening to and empowering his crew who then went on to make the USS Benfold the best ship in the entire US Navy.

These very same principles are the foundation of success for organizations that embrace working virtually. In the short term, many organizations have found virtual work arrangements actually increase effectiveness of employees. That effectiveness may not be sustainable if leaders and organizations don’t master a new skillset of how to lead people they can’t see. It’s about measuring results, not activity; and about finding ways to let people know their efforts are appreciated. Those who succeed in leading in the virtual environment will create a decisive competitive advantage.

It’s Your Ship: Achieving Breakthrough Performance

When Mike Abrashoff took command of the USS Benfold, morale was low, turnover was high and the ship’s performance ranked near the bottom of the Pacific Fleet. Just twelve months later Benfold was ranked #1 – using the very same crew. The lesson was clear – leadership matters and culture is everything.

This inspiring talk is for every individual and organization looking for practical and usable ways to take organizational performance to new heights. In Mike’s case, he realized that before the ship’s performance could change, he had to change his leadership style. Mike worked to create a culture of trust and empower his crew to take charge and use ingenuity and initiative to improve every aspect of the way things were done. Top down leadership is dead, so when the crew would present a problem, Mike became famous for responding “What would YOU do? It’s YOUR ship!” Mike’s presentation leaves audiences with the tools and inspiration to accomplish big goals.

No Limits: Unleashing Breakthrough Performance

Sometimes in our professional lives we might think we are in a battle to beat an adversary or a competitor when in actuality we are really in competition with ourselves but just haven’t figured it out yet. When battling the competition, you want to come out on top, if only by one more sale or maybe a few percentage points. Other times, someone at a higher level gives you a goal based on some median expectation set for others.

When Mike Abrashoff took command of a well below-average ship in the U.S. Navy, his goal was to get to average. He initially set average goals and expectations for himself and his crew until one day it dawned on him: his ship could be much better than just average. It was Mike’s eureka moment: realizing they weren’t in competition with anyone but themselves. To be their best they had to stop putting limits on what they believed was possible.

That realization changed Mike Abrashoff’s approach to leadership and led the same crew to accomplish one of the most remarkable turnarounds that was chronicled in the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company magazine and Mike’s New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling book, It’s Your Ship. This presentation will challenge audiences to think differently on how to set expectations while realizing the only limits that you have are self-imposed.

Go Deeper With Half- and Full-Day Programs

Dive deep into the Leadership Roadmap with a half-day or full-day program. The sessions are most often used as a follow-on to Mike’s keynote and provide attendees with powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Depending on the circumstances, these longer sessions are facilitated by a senior strategist from Mike’s firm, Aegis Performance Group, or Mike himself. These sessions create an exciting interactive atmosphere where participants examine the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations. Inquire for more details and program descriptions.


Duration: Half day
Target Audiences: Managers, Leaders and Executives

Captain Abrashoff’s keynote challenges you to re-imagine your leadership. At this Take Action session, you can build on that momentum and get results now.

Many of our clients choose to follow Mike’s keynote with a breakout session. We call them “Take Action” sessions since they are high energy, interactive, fast paced set of exercises and discussions tailored to the leadership and cultural issues most relevant to your organization. These follow-on group meetings are a great opportunity to deepen the learning from Mike’s keynote with additional tools and strategies to apply in your work environment. The breakout sessions are customized based upon your needs and focus.

Below is a high level overview of the topics discussed in the 2-hour breakout session.

Deep Dive

  • Drill down into the tactics and key approaches Mike discussed during his keynote address

Define your Leadership

  • Define what great leadership looks like and how it will help you create a place where your people can do their best work every day
  • Strategies and tactics to move from vision to reality

Look Back to Move Ahead

  • Your current leadership practices can be the very thing that propels you towards success or trips you up

Where Do We Go From Here

  • How do YOU make this happen…now

You’ll leave with a tactical plan you can immediately put into place when you go back to work.

Unleashing Your Leadership Potential

Duration: Half day / Full day
Target Audiences: Managers, Leaders and Executives

The story of Captain Mike Abrashoff and his command of USS Benfold has become legendary inside and outside of the Navy. Exceptional leaders have always been rare, but they can be made as well as born, and the Benfold story is a case in point.

Just like Mike did, you may ask yourself, “Why do smart people fail?” Why do technically brilliant individuals have trouble managing others and collaborating on a team? It is not because they lack intelligence or technical skills.

Far from it.

What they lack is a critical level of Emotional Intelligence (EI) and the ability to manage their own emotions and others’ when they are under pressure.

In this fast-paced and interactive session you will learn how to look inward to increase your personal leadership effectivess, as well as how to manage your emotions in your most difficult moments, enabling you to perform and lead at your best, and connect with others in a more meaningful way.

You will:

  • Learn the emotions that drive your behavior under pressure
  • Increase your awareness of the situations that put you at risk of having your emotions lead to unskillful behavior and poor decisions
  • Have the option to utilize our state-of-the-art Emotional Quotient Assessment to looks specifically at a your emotional intelligence, so that you can understand and effectively apply the power of your EI to facilitate higher levels of collaboration and productivity
  • Learn practical strategies to help you respond more skillfully as pressure, tension and complexity increase
  • Practice techniques through interactive exercises and develop an action plan to put those strategies into practice

Whether you are a formal manager or want to increase your individual performance (or both), this program will teach you the foundational principles of Emotional Intelligence (EI). You will also gain critical skills that will enable you to influence others, regardless of your position in your organization.

Driving Team Performance

Duration: Half day / Full day
Target Audiences: Managers, Leaders and Executives

One of the toughest things for organizations to accomplish is to get people to set aside their personal differences and work for the good of everyone involved.  On the USS Benfold, Captain Mike Abrashoff believed it was the task of a leader to assemble the best team possible, train it then figure out the best way to get the members to work together for the good of the organization.

Teams are the force that drives most organizations. Whether it’s a functional team, a team of managers, or a project team, people get most done when they work together effectively. So when members of a team don’t work well together, performance and productivity can suffer.

That’s not good for anyone.

Have you seen tension, conflicting goals, and unclear expectations within your teams? These are symptoms of an unhealthy team. To avoid these harmful effects, you need be proactive about improving team performance. And even when a team is meeting its objectives, there’s often room for improvement.

The importance of work teams appears to be gaining in strength, as jobs get bigger, organizational structures get more complex, and more and more companies become multi-national in scope. In today’s corporate environment, it appears the team – not the individual – holds the key to business success.

This fast-paced and interactive session will give you the tools to take your team to the next level.

You will discover:

  • What makes a good team member – the abilities and behaviors that really matter
  • What behaviors in a group foster effective team member relationships
  • What are the behaviors of teams – as perceived by their members and leaders – that cause some teams to be more successful than others at problem solving
  • What are the behaviors of team leaders – as viewed by members of the team – that foster team success or failure?
  • What organizational processes and practices promote clarity, confidence, and team performance

Your organization has clearly defined this—it’s WHAT your teams need to achieve. Our focus in this workshop is on HOW you will get there using the grassroots leadership principles born on the UUS Benfold. You will leave with strategies that will inspire your diverse group of people to come together and work hard.

Harnessing The Power of People

Duration: Half day / Full day
Target Audiences: Managers, Leaders and Executives


Leadership, according to Captain Mike Abrashoff, is mostly the art of doing simple things well. However we sometimes make it far tougher than it needs to be. Mike always preferred to build himself up by strengthening others and helping them feel good about themselves. What happened next—their work improved and engagement skyrocketed.

We know that everyone is stretched–resources are tight, pressure to perform is intensifying and you are being pushed to do more with less. The challenge you face is being able to take those limited resources and somehow turn them into creative solutions. In this new world of constant change, getting the most out of your people by unleashing their existing and potential talent needs to be a top priority.

One of the most important factors in your leaders’ success is their ability to link business needs to the skills and capabilities of their people, while at the same time challenging, developing and engaging their people to elevate their performance. We will show you how to build an environment that encourages open dialogue, promotes the growth of your team and its individuals, and nurtures strong productive relationships, just like Mike did in USS Benfold.

In this session, your will discover what it takes to harness your people’s talent by creating the culture, development opportunities, and relationships that elevate their performance so that they will deliver on your purpose and business goals.

  • Identify what matters most to your team
  • Identify the building blocks of the culture you want to create
  • Align development goals and opportunities for your people
  • Provide effective and constructive feedback

It all starts with a mindset shift. If your expectation is that your team will produce beyond your expectations, they will start to believe it too. These expectations become trust and both you, and your team, can feed off of it.