Trillion Dollar Coach – Installment #2

In my last post, I introduced a few notes about one of my favorite books. Trillion Dollar Coach was written about Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. If you have never read the book, and aspire to be a strong manger or leader of teams, I could not recommend it more highly. Bill “coached” many of the top entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. This after he was a CEO (both successful and failed) and a football coach (by wins and losses not a huge success). The lore is that many young buck CEOs would bristle at the idea of a “coach” to help them and their business succeed. That is until they met and worked with Bill.

You, As A Manager, Have To Think Like A Coach

You may not have the luxury of a coach, or a board member, investor or mentor who behaves like a coach. So you may have to figure it out on your own. In the world of Bill C, what were some of the things that he focused on and taught people?

  • As a Coach, you must work with individuals AND with the team to…
    • Smooth out tension
    • Continuously nurture community
    • Make sure all are aligned around a common vision and set of goals
  • You must strive to move beyond controlling – beyond evaluating, supervising, rewarding, punishing – and TOWARD a climate of communication, respect, feedback and trust. And you can do this all through thinking like a coach.

There are numerous places in the book where they point out one of Bill’s super skills. At every point in his career, Bill had a knack for identifying tensions among teammates and figuring out how to resolve them.

Learn To Ring Out Politics & Provide Feedback The Right Way

You cannot accomplish much in business, or in any type of organization, without a team. And whether you call it tension, or politics, or differences – interpersonal barriers between teammates are all obstacles to trust, communication and performance. Bill was well known for identifying those types of issues, bringing them out and helping to move past them. He would fill in the gaps in communication between people. As he sat in a meeting, if he observed someone not seeming to get what was being communicated, or not seeing the “why”, he would follow-up and fill in the gaps. This helped keep everyone on the same page.

He was positive, level headed and constructive. He would identify problems, but he stayed positive and would praise people, he would hug people. But he was always striving to get to the heart of the problem in a positive way.  He taught others to be constructive in their feedback and to focus immediately on what you are going to do about it. Not what happened and whose to blame, but rather what are we going to do about it. He was relentlessly positive. If people started to complain / bitch, he would wouldn’t let it go on too long. He’d let them get it out, and then redirect to identifying the issue, working toward a next step or solution, and then moving on.

Build Trust & Put The Team First

Reading between the lines, you can see that Bill strived to build trust in the organization. He viewed the world as a network of people, with trust at the center of effective collaboration and execution. A team in particular is a network set upon producing some kind of results. Individuals on that team will have relative strengths and weaknesses, and they must learn to trust one another if they have any chance of fulfilling their potential execution capability together. Trust is a currency that must be fostered. You have to be discrete, loyal, and you must keep your word. If the manager / leader acts this way – the team will catch on. And if they don’t, they must be addressed.

As a leader or manager, you have to strive to build a team that allows you to work the team first, not the problem. If you find yourself having to continuously roll up your sleeves and dive in to solve problems – somethings broken. Start by looking yourself in the mirror. Challenge yourself to work the team first, not the problem. Helping to identify the problem is important, but ask questions as a way of challenging the team, or the individual, to solve the problem themselves.

In installment #3, I will attempt to provide some more concrete tools from the book to help you lead and coach in Bill Campbell fashion.