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Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell Hardcover – Illustrated, 16 April 2019
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From the Back Cover
Bill Campbell helped to build some of Silicon Valley's greatest companies--including Google, Apple, and Intuit--and to create over a trillion dollars in market value. A former college football player and coach, Bill mentored visionaries such as Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt, and coached dozens of leaders on both coasts. When he passed away in 2016, "the Coach" left behind a legacy of growing companies and successful people and an abundance of respect, friendship, and love.
From their vantage points at Google, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle experienced firsthand how Bill developed trusting relationships, fostered personal growth, infused courage, emphasized operational excellence, and identified simmering tensions that inevi-tably arise in fast-moving environments. To honor their mentor and inspire and teach future generations, they have codified his wisdom in this essential guide.Based on interviews with more than eighty people who knew and loved Bill Campbell, Trillion Dollar Coach explains the Coach's principles and illustrates them with stories from the great companies and people with whom he worked and played. The result is a blueprint for forward-thinking business leaders and managers that will help them create higher-performing and faster-moving teams and companies.
About the Author
Eric Schmidt served as Google CEO and chairman from 2001 until 2011, Google executive chairman from 2011 to 2015, and Alphabet executive chairman from 2015 to 2018.
Jonathan Rosenberg was a Senior Vice President at Google and is an advisor to the Alphabet management team. He ran the Google product team from 2002 to 2011.
Alan Eagle has been a director at Google since 2007. Formerly Eric and Jonathan's speechwriter, he currently runs a set of Google's sales programs.
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It's a bit less silly to expect that the authors would present a more nuanced perspective on the Coach though. The book doesn't dwell too much on Campbell's background or failings. Reading it, you'd think the only flaw the Coach ever had was his penchant for swear words - but don't be alarmed! He does it out of love, so it's all fine. I was hoping for a bit more meat on his failures: the unimpressive coaching career, the problems at Go - not least because this would help us learn alongside the Coach. The book breezes through Campbell's formative years and barely mentions his family. The Coach was born a fully-formed 40-year-old seasoned executive.
My second gripe with this book is the sometimes maddening lack of specificity in some of the situations Campbell helps adjudicate. In one such example, the book describes Campbell helping decide if a Google product should fall under one Googler's remit or under another's. We're never told what the product was, and the lesson falls flat as a result - the anecdote, stripped of its content, is too bland to truly land a punch.
That being said, I put this book down feeling weirdly warm and fuzzy. It's essentially a version of the eulogy that the authors didn't get the chance to put together before Campbell's memorial service - long by eulogy standards, but short by book standards (2h read). The Coach was clearly an outstanding man, whose guiding principles can be mostly summarized as "Be a good person". It all made me a tinge sad that I never got the chance to meet him.
Make sure Howard understands that if he (and his valuable team) want a home for their company, where they can pursue their dreams then putting the company up for bid is not the answer. Either go public or get the deal that you want from the company that you want to be part of.
The note was from Bill Campbell, legendary coach at Apple, Google, Intuit and many more companies. Silicon Valley’s elite called Bill “coach” to solve their toughest problems. Literally a coach, Campbell was a football coach turned marketing and sales exec turned executive coach. In our case, Bill Campbell was right again. Despite being pursued, it was the destiny of the special team at Yext to stay independent, go public, and put our own dent on the world.
Written from the vantage point of Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenburg, Trillion Dollar Coach lays out the lessons learned from Silicon Valley’ Coach. While many themes are covered in the book, I have one major takeaway: Every team needs a coach. Even Eric Schmidt, the seemingly omniscient technology executive, leaned on a coach during inflection points in his career at Google, and in normal operating cadence as a mediator to ensure team camraderie.
The key themes I note in the book include extraversion (Bill was clearly an E. I’m guessing Eric is ENTJ and Jonathan is ENTP, btw), direct honesty and tough love, grit and growth mindset (ala Dweck and Duckworth), teamwork and love for all humans. One of my favorite things to read was Bill looked for people capable of making “far analogies”. I personally believe far analogy is one of the greatest measures of intelligence. This connects deeply with my belief that human thought is driven by categorization, and intelligence is driven by analogy. Reading Campbell’s note on “far analogy” made me think of Job’s statement that a computer is like a bicycle for your mind and Einstein’s explanation of the theory of relativity through the lens of a beetle traversing a tree branch upside down.
Campbell also believed in minimally dwelling on negative things. Optimism, he believed is key to achieved outsized greatness. This is something I have also learned. When you’re playing a game of random chance, like gambling, believing you’re going to win is crazy. But when you’re in control of the outcome, positive thinking can make all the difference.
Small talk matters. Like Eric Schmidt at Google, I too hold the Yext executive meeting every Monday at 1:00pm. It’s tough to cold open right into the numbers. It can feel like a person being woken up in the middle of the night and asked to run 10 miles in the freezing cold while naked. To ease into a meeting, Bill Campbell had a “trip rule” where any executive who went on a trip was required to open the meeting by reporting on their trip to the whole team. The point isn’t the exchange of small talk as much as the warm up that connects people and primes people to wake up and warm up before sprinting.
A coach is a glue that holds a team together. They take the time to understand what motivates each unique person and challenge them to grow. They bridge gaps between incredible ambitious people who may otherwise be competitive so they can work together. They show up quickly when things are horrible when you don’t even have to ask. They also build trust so team members feel pyschologically safe to “let them in”. I sort of use humor to do this. Making fun of each other - and being a willing participant in being made fun of - can be a great leveler to make people more comfortable to be honest with each other.
I never met Bill Campbell. He was Apple, Google, and Intuit and I was a spec of dust. He lived on the other side of the country from me. Yet somehow, he managed to touch me with his coaching.
Every team needs a coach. Who is your coach? Read Trillion Dollar Coach to learn about the kind you want to bring on.