Helping People Grow – The Ultimate Strategy

Knowing I am constantly on the lookout for new input on the topic of leadership, lots of my friends and acquaintances feed me material they have come across that they think I will find of value. One of my buddies in my music ensemble brought me this book last week and I was hardly able to put it down. Really a great read!

The title is “It’s Your Ship” by Captain Michael Abrashoff. It covers the leadership principles that enabled him to turn a ship with marginal performance metrics and morale into the most efficient ship in the fleet – essentially through helping people grow; bringing out their best. It’s not a retread of great team building stories like “Remember the Titans” or “Hoosiers.” It traces the leader’s (Captain Abrashoff) growth from being a “micromanager” to discovering the leadership principles that enabled his crew to take the lead in wanting to be the best – and then doing it.

One of the startling revelations comes from citing a recent Gallup study that reports when people leave their companies, 65 percent of them are actually leaving their managers. To many employees, their manager is their company. The manager creates their work experience, good or bad. Unfortunately, in small to medium sized businesses, not many managers have been trained how to create the relationships and work environment for people to contribute their best. According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, this also accounts for about a 30% loss in productivity.

Captain Abrashoff takes the reader through fascinating experiences of seeing his crew – most of which were not your most gifted and disciplined performers – turn into performance champions. These were people mostly from dysfunctional homes, poor economic conditions and modest educations. Yet, given an opportunity to excel, they chose to be the best they could be. And did it.

That is great leadership – finding ways to enable the ordinary to become extraordinary. Leaders must find ways to free their subordinates to fulfill their talents to the utmost. There is a reservoir of untapped productivity, and fulfillment, waiting to be unleashed in most organizations. The author attributes his transformation as a leader to discovering the obstacles to great results were his own fears, ego needs and unproductive habits. Once he realized that, and focused on bringing out the best in his people, the excitement began.

The point of this story is to remind us that the quality of the leadership determines the quality of the outcome. Helping people grow while “bringing out their best” is the ultimate strategy.

Hal Johnson has been CEO of several companies and has authored three books on business performance. He is Chairman of LeadershipOne, a transition consulting firm. He may be reached at (916) 391-3042 or at [email protected].