Bill Campbell, the Trillion Dollar Coach (book by Eric Schmidt, & Jonathan Rosenberg & Alan Eagle) – Here are my Six Lessons and Takeaways

Trillion Dollar CoachTrillion Dollar Coach is a book that reminds us all that there are no all-by-themselves self-made success stories.  People need help to succeed. And people on teams need help – their team needs help – to succeed.

These are some of the lessons drawn from the remarkable Silicon Valley Coach named Bill Campbell.

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle is written by the former CEO of Google, along with a couple of other Silicon Valley powerhouse leaders. This book makes a compelling case that every person, every team, every company needs a smart, fearless, get-to-the-point person to say things clearly.

What is the point of this book? People need to be developed.  Teams need to be developed.  People, and teams, need a good coach to help them develop.

I always ask Why is this book worth our time?  Here are my three reasons:

#1 – This book is something of a short history of how Silicone Valley succeeded.
#2 – This book is something of a reminder that teams, and people, can be fragile.  They need care.  They need…love.  This books describes some of the ways to provide needed care and love.
#3 – This book will help you think about how to coach others; and, maybe, how to coach yourself.

Here are a few quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted passages:

Trillion Dollar Coach reveals that to be a great manager, you have to be a great coach. After all, the higher you climb, the more your success depends on making other people successful. By definition, that’s what coaches do.
Whereas mentors dole out words of wisdom, coaches roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They don’t just believe in our potential; they get in the arena to help us realize our potential. They hold up a mirror so we can see our blind spots and they hold us accountable for working through our sore spots. They take responsibility for making us better without taking credit for our accomplishments.
A manager’s authority “emerges only as the manager establishes credibility with subordinates, peers, and superiors.” Or, as Bill liked to say: “If you’re a great manager, your people will make you a leader. They acclaim that, not you.”
Executives often overlook a company’s management culture when they are looking for ways to improve performance. This is a mistake: a 1999 article notes that firms that improve their management practices by one standard deviation above the mean can raise their market value by $ 18,000 per employee.
Never put up with people who cross ethical lines: lying, lapses of integrity or ethics, harassing or mistreating colleagues.
“The purpose of a company is to take the vision you have of the product and bring it to life,” he said once at a conference. “Then you put all the other components around it—finance, sales, marketing—to get the product out the door and make sure it’s successful.” Bill was a business guy, but he believed that nothing was more important than an empowered engineer. His constant point: product teams are the heart of the company.
One reason Bill threw himself into coaching people at Google:  he foresaw that the company had the potential to have a big impact in the world, to indeed be far bigger in every way than any of its individual execs.
Bill’s opposition to bullshitters wasn’t as much about their dishonesty with others as it was about their dishonesty with themselves.

So, who was this Bill Campbell?

  • Bill was a college football coach
  • Bill was a key player at Kodak
  • Bill was a key player at Apple – (basically, saved the 1984 Apple commercial, getting it on TV in 1984 — “F*** it! Let’s run it,” was Bill’s response. – His favorite phrase: DON’T F*** IT UP).
  • Bill served as CEO of Intuit
  • Bill was a/the Coach to many in Silicone Valley; credited by the leaders of many companies for their success (Google; Apple;…) – (For fifteen years, Bill met with Eric just about every week).
  • Bill basically saved Google by keeping the team together…
  • Bill cussed (a lot!); he hugged everybody! (perhaps his most notable characteristic, his signature, was the hug. Bill hugged everybody). – And…he clapped with his “percussive clap”
  • Bill was a great listener! – (Listening well helps ensure that all ideas and perspectives get surfaced).
  • Bill coached teams; and Bill loved people. – (“To care about people you have to care about people”)
  • Here are few of Bill’s non-negotiables:
  • trust is paramount – (trust means people feel safe to be vulnerable).
  • you’ve got to be able to practice radical candor; and then you’ve got to actually practice radical candor (the authors highly recommend the book Radical Candorby Kim Scott)
  • don’t just coach the individual; coach the team – (But to be most effective—and this was Bill’s model—the coach works with the entire team).
  • nurture the “smart creative”
  • make sure your teams act like communities
  • work diligently to reduce the harmful tensions on the team – (He came to master the art of identifying tensions among teammates and figuring out how to resolve them). – (This is where the coach comes in, as a “tension spotter.”).
  • product trumps sales/marketing; product “first” –
  • problem identification before product development – (if you ever tell an engineer at Intuit which features you want, I’m going to throw you out on the street. You tell them what problem the consumer has).
  • This was so central to Bill’s philosophy; Bill Campbell’s “It’s the People Manifesto — IT’S THE PEOPLE — People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great people who want to do well, are capable of doing great things, and come to work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect, and trust. Support means giving people the tools, information, training, and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow.
  • And here are my six lessons and takeaways:

#1 – You need a coach; you need to do some coaching.
#2 – All coaching starts with, and is built upon, trust.
#3 – The real basics are non-negotiable; listen; care; love… and wander around; get outside of your silo.
#4 – This book is about “soft skills” that really matter. Assuming expertise, soft skills are so very critical. So very critical!
#5 – Remember, for business success, it’s a product game. Product before sales and marketing.
#6 – And, we probably need more “fun” time outside of work with people we work with.

I found this book to ring true.  What I’m not sure of is whether or not the average manager and/or coach can live up the insights and success of this one remarkable coach, Bill Campbell. But, he certainly sets the bar nice and high for all to take aim at. 

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