Turn the Ship Around!

Summary Written by Jill Donahue
“I imagine a world where we all find satisfaction in our work. It is a world where every human being is intellectually engaged, motivated and self-inspired.”

- Turn the Ship Around! page xxx

The Big Idea

Thinking Anew

"At its core is the belief that we can all be leaders and in fact, it’s best when we all are leaders."- Turn the Ship Around! page xxvii

Leadership in the navy, and perhaps in your organization, is typically about controlling people. It divides your team into two groups: leaders and followers. This model worked well in the physically demanding factories of the Industrial Revolution. But today’s work is less physical and more cognitive. Should we still be using a model developed for physical labor for our intellectual work? David Marquet doesn’t think so.

He proposes the leader-leader model is far superior to the leader-follower model. Why? It achieves greater improvements in effectiveness and morale and makes the organization stronger. These improvements endure beyond the tenure of the current leader. They are independent of the leader’s personality or presence. They are resilient and don’t require the leader to always be right.

As Stephen Covey says in the forward “Our world’s bright future will be built by people who have discovered that leadership is the enabling art” (xxi).

Insight #1

Three keys to leader-leader

"The core of the leader-leader model is giving employees control over what they work on and how they work."- Turn the Ship Around, page 206

The mechanisms outlined in this book to turn passive followers into active leaders can be summarized into three C’s:

  1. Control
  2. Resist the urge to provide solutions
  3. Eliminate top-down monitoring systems
  4. Think out loud (both superiors and subordinates)
  5. Use “I intend to….”
  6. Short, early conversations make efficient work
  7. Competence
  8. Don’t brief people, rather certify them
  9. Learn (everywhere, all the time)
  10. Continually and consistently repeat the message
  11. Specify goals, not methods
  12. Clarity
  13. Build trust and take care of your people
  14. Achieve excellence, don’t just avoid errors
  15. Encourage a questioning attitude over blind obedience
  16. Use immediate recognition to reinforce desired behaviors

Marquet also includes ideas to start to achieve the above. For example, to work on Control, ask people to complete this sentence “Our company would be more effective if [level] management could make decisions about [subject].” Then ask them what, technically, do the people at this level of management need to know in order to make that decision?

To achieve Clarity, have people write their ‘end-of-tour’ awards (3 years into the future) or at a minimum, their performance evaluation for the next year.

To identify the specific changes needed to achieve the broader ‘cultural shift’, he suggests that people complete the following sentence: “I’d know we achieved [this cultural change] if I saw employees [what specifically]”. I work with pharmaceutical teams to help them achieve a more patient-focused culture, and this question helps them clarify what exactly this patient-focused mindset means to them and what they do each day.

He also offers ideas to help measure the above. For example, to measure competence, ask people how many minutes a week they spend learning on their own. Typically, it’s a small number. An organizational measure of improving health would be to increase that number. Isn’t it true, when you look around, the people and teams who are self-directed learners are the most successful?

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Insight #2

Do this not that!

"I believe that rejecting the impulse to take control and attract followers will be your greatest challenge and, in time, your most powerful and enduring success"- Turn the Ship Around! page 216

Marquet provides a description of the three-step exercise he uses to help organizations achieve leader-leader outcomes.

  1. Identify where excellence is created in your company (what internal and external interfaces generate excellence).
  2. Determine what decisions the people responsible for those interfaces need to make to achieve excellence.
  3. Understand what it would take to enable those people to make the decisions that lead to the excellence.

To achieve leader-leader instead of leader-follower think ‘partner’ not ‘control.’ Here are the top ten mind shifts. Which ones do you need to work on?

Don’t do thisInstead do this!Take controlGive controlGive ordersAvoid giving ordersBrief (tell)Certify (train)Have meetingsEngage in conversationsFocus on technology/productsFocus on peopleThink short termThink long termWant to be missed after you departWant not to be missed after you departProtect informationPass informationIncrease monitoring / inspection Reduce monitoring / inspection Have a mentor-mentee programHave a mentor-mentor program

Are you ready to take the first steps toward an empowered and engaged team? Are you ready to embrace the changes that will unleash the intellectual and creative power of your team members? Do you have the stamina for long-term thinking?

Read the book

Get Turn the Ship Around! on Amazon.

David Marquet

David Marquet imagines a work place where everyone engages and contributes their full intellectual capacity, a place where people are healthier and happier because they have more control over their work–a place where everyone is a leader.

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