After assuming command of a ship, he spent his first days simply observing. He noticed that his young crew was smart, skilled and full of good ideas. Those ideas usually went nowhere, though, because nobody in charge ever listened to them.
Abrashoff also noted that the Navy—just like most organizations— put its leaders in transmitting mode instead of receiving mode. They were trained to relay orders down from above, rather than convey suggestions up from below.
The captain decided to listen “aggressively” and pick up every good idea the crew had for improving the ship’s operations. After all, the crew saw things that the officers didn’t.
Here’s how aggressive listening helped both Abrashoff and his crew:
- He began to see the ship through his crew’s eyes.
- He came to respect his crew enormously.
- He began to know his crew mates as individuals. To him, they became people with hopes, dreams, loved ones and pride in their work.
— Adapted from It’s Your Ship, Michael Abrashoff, Warner Books.