Canadian Motivational Speaker

Speaker, L&D, Digital

Michael Abrashoff

Former Navy Commander | Bestselling Author

Captain Michael Abrashoff took command of the worst-performing navy ship and crew in the Pacific Fleet and—within just one year—made it the best in the fleet. The challenges that faced him on the underperforming ship were staggering: low morale, high crew turnover, and dismal performance evaluations. What drove Abrashoff’s success was the realization that he needed to take a strong lead if things were going to improve. In his riveting talks, Abrashoff details what he did to turn his ship around, and how business leaders can take his lessons to achieve results and success with their own “crews.”

Prior to commanding USS Benfold, Abrashoff served as the Military Assistant to Secretary of Defense William J. Perry 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. Abrashoff is also the founder of GLS Worldwide, a consulting firm which works with and supports leaders as they address leadership, talent, and business challenges within their organizations.

Abrashoff is the author of It’s Your Ship: Management Techniques from The Best Damn Navy in The Country, a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

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 the 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 believe we are in a battle to beat an adversary or a competitor when in actuality, we are 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. Sometimes, 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 struck him: his ship could be better than average.  Mike’s eureka moment was 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 his New York Times’ and Wall Street Journal bestselling book, It’s Your Ship.

Many of Mike’s former crew members have gone on to accomplish great things in their careers.  They write to tell him their stories.  One of Mike’s sailors just ran for city council of one of the largest cities in the U.S. and he wrote Mike to say, “you gave us the inspiration and confidence to know that there are no limits.”

This presentation will challenge you to think differently on how to set expectations while realizing the only limits that you have are self-imposed.

It's Our Ship: Putting the Leadership Roadmap to Work

For organizations that want to get serious about improving performance, this presentation delivers examples of the Mike’s Leadership Roadmap in action.

Mike reveals 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, safety 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.

Mike 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.

Go Deeper With Half- and Full-Day Programs

Dive deep into the Leadership Roadmap with a half or full-day program.  The 2-hour Take Action session most often used as a follow-on to Mike’s keynote to create a half-day program that provides attendees with powerful tools and strategies to apply in their work environment. Typically facilitated by a senior strategist from Mike’s firm, Aegis Performance Group, Take Action sessions create an exciting interactive atmosphere that examines the key components of high performing leaders, teams and organizations. Full-day sessions with Aegis senior strategists provide an even deeper dive into the practical application of the Leadership Roadmap for the participants and their 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.

The Leadership Journey Video Series

Captain Mike Abrashoff’s success resided within his greatest asset—his people. Under his leadership, the USS Benfold, an under-performing Naval War Ship became the best ship in the Pacific Fleet within 12 months.

Based on his bestselling business book, It’s Your Ship, Captain Abrashoff’s digital offerings provide your leaders with the skills, strategies, and tools to re-imagine their leadership and people to drive results.

Your leaders can access 12 results-driven videos that contain Captain Abrashoff’s impactful stories, key strategies and tactics, thought provoking questions, and “marching orders” that can be easily integrated within their current leadership role.