Trillion Dollar Coach – Book Review

Just finished reading an amazing book, “Trillion Dollar Coach – The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell” by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle. There are not many times in my life that I have been moved by a book. While reading the 192-pages of pure bliss, I cried like a child for having seen glimpses of my own mentors who’ve been distinguished coaches in my life and that I’ve chosen to become. Coaching is a much unappreciated characteristic, especially amongst mid-level managers like myself. Yet, some of us choose to overcome the marque of being operational and tactical, not enough strategic to continue making big business bigger and most valued per every person, process and technology we manage. Here are the illustrations that heartened me the most and I am hoping that those who are fraught to find the time to read this jewel, are able to move around their mundane obligations and those that may never have the desire to read, are in wonderment reading the excerpts. It seems to be culmination of exemplary research and profound interviews.
“To be a great leader, 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 is what coaches do.”
“The lessons of his experience are timely in a collaborative word, where the fates of our careers and our companies hinge on the quality of our relationships.”
“It’s all up to all of us to coach our employees, our colleagues, and even sometimes even our bosses.”
“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 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.”
“Start treating teams, not individuals, as the fundamental building block of the organization.”
“Excellent teams had psychological safety (people knew that if they took risks, their manager would have their back).”
“The other people I had interviewed had a cookie-cutter approach to developing people. You can have any color as long as it’s black. But Bill, he was a Technicolor rainbow.”
“Best friends are the ones who you can talk to about anything and you don’t have to worry. You know they will always be there.”
“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.”
“But as anyone who has ever been a member of a high-performing teams can tell you, teams don’t always operate this way. Such teams are by nature populated with smart, aggressive, ambitious, strong-willed, opinionated people with large egos. These people may work together but they can also be rivals, competing for career advancement. Or if they are executives, they are often positioning their divisions or their organizational silos against each other – in ‘status conflicts’ – to capture more resources and glory.”
“This tension (of having a team of ambitious, opinionated, smart people) is a good thing; if you don’t have it you will fade to irrelevance. But the tension makes it harder to cultivate community, and community is necessary to cultivate success.”
“A 2014 study finds that it is the most insecure managers who are threatened by suggestions from others (in other words, coaching). So, conversely, publicly accepting a coach can actually be a sign of confidence.”
“Every sports team needs a coach, and the best coaches make good teams great. The same goes in business: any company that wants to succeed in a time where technology has suffused every industry and most aspects of consumer life, where speed and innovation are paramount, must have a team coaching as part of its culture. Coaching is the best way to mold effective people into powerful teams.”
“Coaching is no longer a specialty; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach. You need tom according to a 1994 study, go beyond the “traditional notion of managing that focuses on controlling, supervising, evaluating and rewarding / punishing’ to create a climate of communication, respect, feedback, and trust. All through coaching.”
“Your title makes you a manager. Your people make you a leader.”
“These engineers liked being managed, as long as their manager was someone whom they could learn something, and someone who helped making decisions.” People managers necessarily do not have to be technical as long as they are dangerous enough.”
“He was concerned that people he worked with would mistake charisma for leadership, which was somewhat surprising coming from a man who worked closely with Steve Jobs – the poster child for a charismatic business leader – for nearly three decades.”
“So when we met Bill in our weekly coaching sessions, what we discussed first and foremost was management: operations and tactics. Bill rarely weighed in on the strategic issues, and if he did, it was usually to make sure that there was a strong operating plan to accompany the strategy.”
“It’s the people manifesto – 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.”
“The top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of her people.”
“5 words on a whiteboard – Have a structure for 1:1s, and take the time to prepare for them, as they are the best way to help people be more effective and to grow.”
“Bill’s framework for 1:1s and reviews – Performance on job requirements, Relationship with peer groups (this is critical for company integration and cohesiveness), Management / Leadership (are you guiding / coaching your people?), Innovation (best practices) (are you constantly moving ahead and thinking about how to continually get better?)”
“A place where the top manager makes all decisions leads to just the opposite, because people will spend their time trying to convince the manager that their idea is the best. In that scenario, it’s not about the best idea carrying the day, it’s about who does the best job of lobbying the top dog. In other words, politics.”
“Then one day Bill gave her (Marissa Mayer) a new rule: when she was discussing a decision with her team she always had to be the last person to speak. You may know the answer and you may be right, he said, but when you just blurt it out, you have robbed the team of the chance to come together. Getting to the right answer is important, but having the whole team get there is just as important.”
“The throne behind the round table – the manager’s job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get heard and considered, and, if necessary, to break ties and make decision.”
“Manage the aberrant genius – Perhaps one of the most difficult problems facing managers is what to do with the diva, the person who’s a star performer but a pain to work with.”
“Here is where the art of balance comes in: there is an aberrant behavior, and there is aberrant behavior. How much do you tolerate, and when is it too much? Where is that elusive boundary? Never put up with people who cross ethical lines, lying, lapses of integrity or ethics, harassing or mistreating colleagues. In a way, these are the easier cases, since the decision is so clear-cut. The harder cases are the ones where the person doesn’t cross these lines. How do you determine when the damage a person causes exceeds their considerable contributions? There is no perfect answer to this, but there are a few warning signs. All of these are coachable, but if there’s no change, they shouldn’t be tolerated.”
“Eccentric behavior can be okay as long as it is in the service (or intended to be in the service) of the good of the company. What can’t be tolerated is when the aberrant genius continually puts him – or herself above the team.”
“Bill was a business guy, but he believed that nothing was more important than an empowered engineer.”
“Ron Sugar, an Apple board member and former CEO or Northrop Grumman, says, “Bill helped me understand that in a company like Apple, the degree of independence of creative thinking, of being not so conformist, is a strength. You need to embrace that nonconformist streak.””
“If you ever had the crappy task of firing someone, and you think back on that experience, you will realize that this is absolutely correct. But again you must let people leave with their heads held high. As Bill once told Ben Horowitz about a departing executive: “Ben, you cannot let him keep his job, but you should absolutely can let him keep his respect.””
“And the same thing happened: the guy showed up unprepared and wasted a lot of time asking questions about things he should have known already. Yeah I was wrong Bill told Dan (Rosensweig) afterward. Fire him. (A board member at Chegg who wouldn’t read anything ahead of the board meeting and then spent a lot of time at the meeting asking about details that were in the preread.)”
“He was also quite clear about what a bad board member looks like: “Someone who just walks in and wants to be the smartest guy in the room and talks too much.””
“That is the culture we want to have around here, he explained. It wasn’t so much about hitting those short-term numbers, but about creating a culture where anything less than operational excellence wouldn’t be tolerated.”
“Establishing trust is a key component to building what is now called “psychological safety” in team.”
“ A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always knows you could be.”
“Today the concept of “servant leadership” is in vogue and has been directly linked to stronger company performance.”
“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.”
“An important component of providing candid feedback is not to wait. “A coach coaches in the moment,” Scott Cook says. “It’s more real and more authentic, but so many leaders shy away from that.” Many managers wait until performance reviews to provide feedback, which is often too little, too late.”
“Don’t tell people what to do, tell them stories about why they are doing it.”
“We often feel torn between supporting and challenging others. Social scientists reach the same conclusion for leadership as they do for parenting: it’s a false dichotomy. You want to be supporting and demanding, holding high standards and expectations but giving the encouragement necessary to reach them. Basically it’s tough love.”
“Bill’s perspective was that it’s a manager’s job to push the team to be more courageous. Courage is hard. People are naturally afraid of taking risks for fear of failure. It’s the manager’s job to push them past their reticence.”
“His constant advice to me, even back then was to trust my instincts.” – Shishir (Mehrotra when he started his first company, Centrata in 2001)
“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 completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.”
“Bill’s guiding principle was that the team is paramount, and the most important thing he looked for and expected in people was a “team-first” attitude.”
“But in teams, and particularly high-performing teams, other things matter, too. It’s not just about money. Purpose, pride, ambition, ego: these are vital motivators as well and must be considered by any manager or coach.”
“Work the team, then the problem – When faced with the problem or opportunity, the first steps is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.”
“Pick the right players – If you’re running a company, you have to surround yourself with really, really good people.” Bill said. Not one of his most surprising statements: it is a tired business mantra to always hire people smarter than yourself.”
“Like when you see a player on the bench cheering for someone else on the team, like Steph Curry jumping up and down when Kevin Durant hits a big shot. You can’t fake that.”
“Sheryl (Sandberg) finally copped to the truth: so far, she didn’t do anything. (At the time when she had been hired with the title of “Business Unit General Manager”, a position that didn’t exist before she arrived.) “I learned an incredibly important lesson,” she says. “It’s not what you used to do, it’s not what you think, and it’s what you do every day.””
“At Google, he helped us learn to appreciate that this combination – smarts and hearts – creates better managers.”
“The general tendency is to hire for experience: I’m hiring for job X, so I want someone who has years of experience doing job X. If you are creating a high-performing team and building for the future, you need to hire for potential as well as experience.”
“More than anyone we have ever encountered in our careers, Bill was an advocate for women being “at the table”. He believed in diversity on teams well before it was a common topic.”
“Solve the biggest problem – Identify the biggest problem, the “elephant I the room,” bring it front and center, and tackle it first.”
““Don’t let bitching sessions last for very long.” Psychologists would call this approach “problem-focused coping,” in contrast to “emption-focused coping,” The latter may be more appropriate when facing a problem that can’t be solved, but in business context focusing on and venting emotions needs to happen quickly, so more energy is directed to solutions.”
“Winning right – Strive to win, but always win right with commitment, teamwork, and integrity.”
“You cannot afford to doubt. You need to commit. You can make mistakes, but you can’t have one foot in and one foot out, because if you aren’t fully committed the people around you won’t be, either. If you’re in, be in.”
“Leaders lead – When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.”
“Bill showed me that when you have a friend who is injured or ill or needs you in some way, you drop everything and just go. That’s what you do, that’s how you really show up. That’s what Bill would do. Just go.”
“Today Clay (Bavor) (the head of virtual and augmented reality products at Google) has incorporated the “Bill Campbell Clap” – the BCC – into the culture of the team. When someone announces something good in a meeting, someone else will erupt with five loud claps. The percussive clap – cheer demonstrably for people and their successes.”
“Invest in creating real, emotional bonds between people. Those are what endure and what make teams truly strong.”
“Always build communities – Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected.”
“Love the founders – Hold a special reverence for – and protect – the people with the most vision and passion for the company.”
“The elevator chat – loving colleagues in the workplace may be challenging, so practice it until it becomes more natural.”
“He understood that positive human values generate positive business outcomes. This is a connection that too many business leaders ignore. Which is why we think it is so important that we learn to do it now. It is counterintuitive in the business world, but essential to success.”
“If you’ve been blessed, be a blessing.”
“So long Coach”, was the most emotional message for Bill Campbell when he left Claris along with other executive. Their employees demonstrated gratitude to him by taking out a full-page ad in the San Jose Mercury News. So much so that I aspire to be that Technicolor rainbow. Few years ago, when I met a certain someone who was high up in the corporate ladder and asked them for some guidance, they said that I should stop being a servant leader. Opposing their advice, I continue to serve than be a mediocre figure head at any level. All through reading the book, there was one realization. I may remain in mid-level management for the rest of my life but there is deep sense of triumph and gratification that comes from building strong teams. That perhaps is my true calling.

One thought on “Trillion Dollar Coach – Book Review

  1. I feel like I just read the book, 192 pages never went by faster 🙂

    In seriousness, I do like the tone the snippets are leaning on. Highlighting the differences between coaches and mentors, the importance of building community while balancing it against competitiveness between teams and the idea that even when you know the answer, effective managers let the team come to it without robbing them of that discovery process, all resonate with me.

    I certainly didn’t anticipate this could be a tear-jerker, but if it can have that effect, my curiosity is piqued. I’ll be adding this to my watchlist I backlog I think.

    Good read 👍🏾

    Like

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