Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Use Collaborative Leadership to Go Further

In “It’s Our Ship,” CAPT Mike Abrashoff describes the element missing from his first book, “It’s Your Ship---Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy,” a bold leadership approach that turned the conventional ideas of stodgy senior Navy leaders on its head. I used many of the techniques he described in his initial book to shape my own work environment in healthcare. What he describes in his latest book, and what I have come to realize in my own endeavors, is the wisdom of collaboration.

Instead of encouraging healthy sustainable improvements, competition (as in “the best”) can actually provoke schadenfreude (glee in another’s downfall) and off-track searches for armor chinks. Collaborative leadership looks to the bigger picture, to the mission and accomplishments of the larger organization that create opportunities for all to benefit.

Abrashoff uses the nautical theme to organize his material into eight chapters:

Ahoy – Welcome aboard our ship.
In this chapter, Abrashoff describes one of the techniques he used on the USS Benfold to welcome new sailors and describes learning good and poor leadership in his experiences on the Benfold. He highlights the practices of developing a company “World Tour,” where new employees receive a “passport” with lists of to-do training and customer-service classes. Another company hired its best customers, resulting in a turnover rate of less than 10% while competitors routinely face 70% turnover rates. Companies must continue to recruit people even after they’re onboard.

Buoy up your people – inspiring everyone to be their best.
In this chapter, he states, “A great leader defines excellence and then inspires his team to exceed it through training and staff development.” He then reviews several companies who have developed innovative training programs.

No more aye-aye men (or women) – cultivating truth-telling.
Wishful thinking is dangerous and he gives suggestions on how to deliver bad news and how to keep communication flowing up and down. Honesty and integrity are to be nurtured and encouraged.

All hands on deck – unifying a crew.
Abrashoff says, “Mindless rivalry leads to backstabbing, an ethos of every man for himself, and probably unit failure when danger threatens.” He adds, “Nothing beats the power of unifying disparate people, of showing them the magic of working with and for each other instead of against each other. Quite simply, the first law of leadership in today’s world is to give people irresistible incentives to collaborate for a purpose that enhances everyone.”

Foul weather doesn’t respect rank – creating a climate of trust.
An ancient proverb says a fish rots from the head down. Abrashoff discusses the importance of developing trust, pursuing excellence without arrogance, and treating all with courtesy and respect. He also reviews the principle of fairness and justice.

Navigate by the stars – Clarifying what it’s all about.
Do you know the mission of your organization? Then you have to communicate, focus on what matters, and teach your organization’s core values.

Sail close to the wind – taking the right risks.
Good leaders calculate the odds so risks are minimized.

Fly your true colors – Leading by example and getting results.
Abrashoff discusses the importance of courage. A leader’s main function is to set the right example and leaders can be found at all levels throughout an organization. It’s important to know that good leadership can inspire people to do their best everyday.

In conclusion, collaborative leadership is what makes an organization unbeatable. I highly recommend this book for the interesting situations and the vivid examples leaders at any level can put into play at their companies.

No comments: