Trillion Dollar Coach
Bill Campbell may very well have been one of the most influential people in the history of business, having coached many geniuses in the world, and having kept teams together at critical junctures, where they could have fallen apart together with the future of their companies. Together these companies are valued at over a trillion dollars.
Trillion Dollar Coach is fittingly so, the title of the book, an account of Bill Campbell’s career as a football coach turned tech executive turned executive coach. What strikes you the most reading this book is his focus on people and his approach to leadership, culture, and teams; a common thread in all chapters of his life. The book emphasises the pinnacle of his career, when he was a business coach for Apple’s co-founder Steve Jobs, Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos and Sheryl Sandberg the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.
When the authors interviewed many colleagues after his death, they found one often overlooked yet critical factor for successful companies: “teams that act as communities, integrating interests and putting aside differences to be individually and collectively obsessed with what’s good for the company. Research shows that when people feel like they are part of a supportive community at work, they are more engaged with their jobs and more productive. Conversely, a lack of community is a leading factor in job burnout.”
While the book is full of aphorisms like that, it is also very insightful and has solid frameworks for some of his principles below. Spoiler Alert! We’ve ferreted out our favourite principles from the book. What makes them profound however are the stories behind each. How did he really shape teams, keep them together and put the right players in the right positions (and remove the wrong players from the wrong positions). Bill Campbell is remarkable for his love, care, and attention; applying each principle to its fullest extent.
Select Principles of Bill Campbell
It’s the People. The top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of her people.
Lead Based on First Principles. Define the “first principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for the company or product, and help guide the decision from those principles.
Money’s Not Just About the Money. Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company.
Let People Leave with Their Heads Held High. If you have to let people go, be generous, treat them well, and celebrate their accomplishments.
Build an Envelope of Trust. Listen intently, practice complete candor, and be an evangelist for courage by believing in people more than they believe in themselves.
Only Coach the Coachable. The traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.
Practice Free-Form Listening. Listen to people with your full and undivided attention—don’t think ahead to what you’re going to say next—and ask questions to get to the real issue.
No Gap Between Statements and Fact. Be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if the feedback is negative, deliver it privately.
Be the Evangelist for Courage. Believe in people more than they believe in themselves and push them to be more courageous.
Full Identity Front and Center. People are most effective when they can be completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.
Team First. You can’t get anything done without a team so the most important thing to look for in people is a team-first attitude. That the team wins has to be the most important thing.
Work the Team, Then the Problem. When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.
Pick the Right Players. The top characteristics to look for are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit, empathy, and a team-first attitude.
Pair People. Peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.
Everyone Needs to Be at the Table. Winning depends on having the best team, and the best teams have more women.
Solve the Biggest Problem. Identify the biggest problem, the “elephant in the room,” bring it front and center, and tackle it first.
Don’t Let the Bitch Sessions Last. Air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.
Fill the Gaps Between People – Listen, observe, and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people. Spot those fissures before they become deep and permanent, and act to fix them by filling in the information gaps and correcting and miscommunication.
Permission to Be Empathetic. Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams more effective, when you know and care about people.
It’s OK to Love. The people on your team are people, and the team becomes stronger when you break down the walls between the professional and human personas and embrace the whole person with love.
To Care About People, You Have To Care About People. Ask about their lives outside of work, understand their families, and when things get rough, show up.
Cheer Demonstrably for People and Their Success. Don’t just sit there, stand up and show them the love for the work they are doing.
Always Build Community. Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected. Invest in creating real, emotional bonds between people.
Help People. Be generous with your time, connections, and other resources.
Love the Founders. Hold a special reverence for—and protect—the people with the most vision and passion for the company. Campbell held a very special place in his heart for the people who have the guts and skills to start companies.
The book is somewhat on the same wavelength of Principles by Ray Dalio and Give & Take by Adam Grant. You can find both on social media, and if you tune into their waterfall of posts, you’ll get the full picture. I personally find this trinity very inspiring for any workplace.
Interested in High-Tech SeedLab’s approach to coaching? We will open up applications in October for batch 2021. Take a look at our website to learn more about our program requirements and contact us if you have any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This program is financed by the European Social Fund (ESF), as well as the State of Berlin.