Capt. Michael Abrashoff operates by respecting his staff and taking necessary risks. Here, at random, are three of his approaches to leading:
- Leave your eccentric geniuses alone. Admitting that highly gifted people are “different” and often upsetting, Abrashoff points out that not everyone is lucky enough to employ them. His advice: let them do their thing.
As an example, he points to 1930s college basketball coach Johnny Bunn, who let a player use one-handed jump shots, unheard of at the time. Hank Luisetti’s jumpers changed the game.
- See and be seen. Abrashoff climbed all over the Benfold, including four flights down a narrow ladder to the ship’s sewage pump room, where the pump technician constantly battled leaky seals. Every other day, Abrashoff checked on the technician: “I couldn’t do much about his conditions, but I could tell him that he was doing a great job, and we depended on him to keep the ship operating.”
The technician responded by volunteering, in addition to his job, as a Navy rescue swimmer, another dangerous and grueling job.
- Make boring jobs better. When his crew tired of listening to Jimmy Buffett’s “Cheeseburger in Paradise” during hamburger lunches, Abrashoff authorized a raffle letting the winner use the CD for target practice. And during refueling by a tanker at night, he allowed music, videos and laser shows. One New Year’s Eve when everyone was stuck on board, he cracked out 100 cases of otherwise forbidden beer for a cookout on a party barge.