Book Notes: Trillion Dollar Coach

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Handbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, Alan Eagle
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is a look back at some of the advice which senior leaders in silicon valley received from Bill Campbell who was their coach.

  • Corral any “team of rivals” into a community and get them aligned in marching towards a common goal and thus success.
  • The best coach for any team is the manager who leads that tea. Being a good coach is essential to being a good manager and leader. Coaching is no longer a specialty; you cannot be a good manager without being a good coach.
  • Your Title Makes You a Manager. Your People Make You a Leader

How do you bring people around and help them flourish in your environment? It’s not by being a dictator. It’s not by telling them what the hell to do. It’s making sure that they feel valued by being in the room with you. Listen. Pay attention. This is what great managers do.

  • Delivery is important – you have to have good processes, make sure people are accountable, you know how to hire great people, how to evaluate them and give them feedback and pay them well.

People are the foundation of any companies 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.

Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company.

Trust means freeing people to do their job and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.

It’s the People
  • It’s the people – the top priority of any manager is the well-being and success of her people
  • Start with trip reports – to build rapport and better relationships among team members, start team meetings with trip reports or other type of more personal, non-bussiness topic.
  • 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
    • Performance on job requirements
    • Relationships with peer groups
    • Management/Leadership
    • Innovation (best practices)
  • 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 decisions.
  • Lead based on first principles – define the “first principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundations for the company or product and help guide the decision from those principles.
  • Manage the aberrant genius – aberrant geniuses (high performance but difficult team members) should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behaviour isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues and teams.
  • Money’s not about money – compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company
  • Innovation is where the crazy people have stature – the purpose of a company is to bring a product vision to life. All the other components are in service to the product.
  • Heads held high – if you have to let people go, be generous, treat them well and celebrate their accomplishments.
  • Bill on boards – it’s the CEO’s job to manager boards, not the other way around
  • 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 facts – 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.
  • Don’t’ stick it in their ear – don’t tell people what to do; offer stories and help guide them to the best decisions for them.
  • 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.
  • Work the team, then the problem – when faced with 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.
  • Peer feedback survey:
    • Core attributes – For the past 12 months, to what extent do you agree/disagree that each person:
      • Displayed extraordinary in-role performance.
      • Exemplified world-class leadership
      • Achieved outcomes that were in the best interest for both the company as a whole and his/her organisation.
      • Expanded the boundaries of what is possible for the company through innovation and/or application of best practices.
      • Collaborated effectively with peers (e.g. worked well together, resolved barriers/issues with others) and championed the same in his/her team.
      • Contributed effectively during senior team meetings (e.g was prepared, participated actively, listened well, was open and respectful to others, disagreed constructively)
    • Product leadership – For the past 12 months to what extent do you agree/disagree that each person demonstrated exemplary leadership in the following areas:
      • Product Vision
      • Product Quality
      • Product Execution
    • Open-text questions
      • What differentiated each SVP and makes him/her effective today?
      • What advice would you give each SVP to be more effective and/or have greater impact?
  • Get to 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 an 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.
  • Winning right – strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, teamwork and integrity.
  • Leaders lead – when things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.
  • Fill the gaps between people – listen, observe, and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people.
  • Permission to be empathetic – leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams more effective, when you know and care about the people.
  • The lovely reset – 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.
  • The percussive clap – cheer demonstrably for people and their successes.
  • Always build communities – build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected.
  • Help people – be generous with your time, connections and other resources.
  • Love the founders – old 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.

The book ends with a forward looking page for advice given to Eric when he was stepping down from CEO of Google on how to stay engaged in later life: Be creative, don’t be a portfolio of interests, fine people with vitality, apply your gifts, don’t waste time worrying about the future.

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