Saturday, April 03, 2010

It's Your Ship, D. Michael Abrashoff

It's Your Ship, D. Michael Abrashoff

This book and related coaching and training were rolled out to Lowe's leadership at our most recent International Sales Meeting.

Not wanting to be too far out of the loop (I'm doing career models, not leadership development right now, but I like to keep up on all things "talent management"), I figured I better read it so I have a sense of what it says, and what implications that might have for what store leadership is thinking and doing. The Lowe's organization is fascinating in how such a message or other themes will quickly permeate and you will hear key phrases of the message used in various communications and become a part of how employees think and work. So we'll see how far "It's Your Store" goes this year.

My reaction in reading it was similar to the Semper Fi book I just commented on. Some good leadership principles with some interesting stories- a bit more specific and quantifiable anecdotes, but still anecdotes and single-N experiences nonetheless, putting it into the same category of "managerial cotton candy."  I've spent too much time in social science training where I've built up an appetite for empirically-oriented approaches to problem solving, and the leadership and management books I like the most tend to satiate that appetite much more than these cotton-candy type books do.

There were some other off-putting characteristics of the book, such as Abrashoff's constant self-promotion (it was very clear to me that he'd never been on the enlisted side) and odd denigration of the Navy that provided him the opportunity to have the leadership experience that he has since leveraged into his leadership training consulting business. Much of what he presented as new or innovative ideas that he or his team had had.... well... the idea that leadership has to know and care about the people they lead... not so new. Eating with the troops, asking them for ideas about how you or they can improve work processes... etc. All good, just not exactly innovation. The idea that a military leader can't effectively lead using autocratic styles (here referred, inappropriately in my mind, as command and control)... well, yes, I've never seen great management and leadership outcomes from people who take such an approach- good leadership I've seen in the military doesn't rely on "the stick", and never has.

Broadly speaking, though, good techniques and ideas- when done with the right spirit, a lot of good can be done in using these approaches. So, a quick and easy read, and getting past some of the issues I noted in the last paragraph, it may be a worthy read for you, if you would like to gather insight into management techniques that might be used in both military and business settings.

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