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It's Your Ship - Abrashoff

I actually "won" this book from a Fast Company magazine survey - and it sat on my shelf for almost 2 years before I decided it was high time to read it. As a new "leader" I figured I should bone up on management techniques... I really loved this book - Abrashoff's approach is terrific, and as a salute to him, I'll document some of the things that I'd like to emulate and try as a leader myself.

Take Command
An obvious one - the leader should be in command. Know where you are going, and figure out how to get there. At the same time, a leader should assume that his people want to do well and be the best. Start with the idea that there is always a better way to do things. Encourage your people to have fun in getting things done.

Lead By Example
"It's Funny How Often The Problem Is You" - what a great quote for a leader to remember! I often wonder myself about how I am perceived and what I'm doing that is causing the problems, and not the people who work for me.

Never forget your effect on people is another great tidbit. One on the things I realized at my new job was that with my "VP" title - my decisions sometimes go unchallenged. By getting to know your people, you can better understand how your decisions will affect them.

Always be accountable - duh.

Obey even when you disagree... the chain of command isn't something to mess with... this rule makes a lot of sense.

Listen Aggressively
See the department (ship) through the crew's eyes... not a bad idea - especially as I'm building a new department. Finding "round" people for "round" holes is another great strategy to think through - what are people good at - what do they like doing? Then let them do just those things!

Create Purpose and Meaning

Create a Climate of Trust
"Even the worst screwup may be redeemable" - Abrashoff talks about redemption a lot - especially in context of createing trust. Your people HAVE to know they can mess up and not be hanged for it.

Look for Results, Not Salutes
This seems so obvious - yet I see it every day. I was in a meeting recently and told someone that I got approval to hire 3 more people. This person was crestfallen and didn't know how to react. Their reaction was along the lines of "my boss's boss won't hear me out..." I told that person that rank was getting in the way of our mission and that we can't allow that to happen.

Nuture the freedom to fail. Again - oh so obvious - yet hard to implement.

Take Calculated Risks
Bet on the people who think for themselves. Probably the best one-liner in the entire book.

If a rule doesn't make sense - break it. All of the examples in the book are obviously based on the Navy - but this is a great one - just look around your office... start breaking rules! That said - if a rule does make sense, break it carefully :)

Go Beyone Standard Procedure

Build Up Your People
I was most interested in this chapter because it is where I am weakest in my mind at this point as a leader.

Little things make big successes - Abrashoff has letters sent to the spouses of crew members on their birthdays... how simple, and obvious!

Trust People - they usually prove you right.

Newbies are important - treat them well. What is the company welcome package? Who shows newbies around? Do they feel welcome? Would you want your daughter to have that experience?

Expect the best from your crew - you will get it. I love this one! Assume everyone is talented and supr them to live up to those expectations.

Counsel continuously - and honestly. Don't wait for the 6 month or 1 year review - counsel all the time. I think of this one like a coach - giving real time feedback as the play/project develops.

Generate Unity

Improve Your People's Quality of Life
I struggle with this one - in a past job my boss had "mandatory fun" outings which ususally turned out to be fun but not without effort. My current boss made a comment about how we're not friends, we're work colleagues. So I think there is a challenge in creating a fun environment.That said, Abrashoff says "Fun with your friends makes a happy ship." He talks about happy hour, movies and jazz... applying these to a corporate environment is hard - because most folks want to come in, do their job and get home (me included). Hmm...

"In Heavy Times, Lighten Up" - this one is terrific - and really important. I've learned that by keeping a sense of humor, I can really lighten the mood and keep the morale issues to a minimum during a crisis.