4 Leadership Principles From Trillion Dollar Coach

Coaching is not a specialty anymore if you are a manager, executive, or any other kind of the leader of teams in any kind of business or organization, you need to know that an essential component of high-performing teams is a leader who is both savvy manager and a caring coach.

Very recently I’ve finished reading Trillion Dollar Coach, a book has been written by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle about Bill Campbell. For more than 15 years Bill Campbell coached many executives & leaders including Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Sundar Pichai at Google, Steve Jobs at Apple, Marissa Mayer at Yahoo, Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook and many other tech executives.

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Trillion Dollar Coach authors remarkably described Bill’s approach of coaching followed by some of the timely advice they’ve received on some of the most difficult challenges they’ve been facing in their role as executives in Google. To help the reader with a better understanding of each context and what were the things Bill told to people to do in a different state of affairs, authors interviewed a lot of other Bill’s coachee and put together many examples on how having Bill as a kick-ass coach helped them to overcome those challenges. Besides going through Bill’s principles of coaching the book refers to a great selection of academic studies and articles that support Bill’s techniques.

Here are 4 leadership lessons from Trillion Dollar Coach.

People

In Bill’s principles of leadership, people are the foundation of any company’s success and the primary job of each manager is to continuously help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop.

One of the best ways for a manager to help their people to be more effective and to grow is having an effective, well-structured 1:1 and take the time to prepare for it. Bill’s framework for 1:1 and review is one of the best, all-embracing frameworks I’ve seen so far. This framework grouped into 4 main sections:

  1. Performance on job requirement

Bill was starting the 1:1 by a small talk about family, trips, and life, from there he moved to ask questions on the performance of coachee, it could be sales figures, product delivery or product quality.

2. Relationship with peer groups:

Bill always get to peer relationships because he believed that peer relationships were more important than the relationship with your manager and other higher-ups. This includes relationships with product, engineering, marketing, and sales.

3. Management/Leadership

From peer relationships, Bill would move on to the team , he always wanted to know if his coachee setting a clear direction for the Team, understand what they were doing, and constantly guiding their people to do heroic things.

4. Innovation

Then he’d want to talk about innovation. He wanted to be sure if managers/leaders are constantly evaluating new technologies, new products, or new practices and making space for it on their team to balance between innovation and execution.

Trust

In a study conducted by Google to determine the factors behind a high-performing team, psychological safety came out at the top of the list, and establishing trust is a key component to building psychological safety in teams.

All the people who worked with Bill were too impressed by his ability on building trust quickly, most of them are cited they quickly established a relationship with Bill where they could be themselves without any fear.

To Bill building trust means keeping your word, means loyalty to your family, friends your team and company, means discretion, ability to keep a secret and ability that you actually have the talent, skills, power, and diligence to accomplished what you promised.

  • This is Bill’s formula to build trust:

He only coached the coachable people, the people who were curious and humble to learn. He was listening to people with full and undivided attention and was asking questions to get to the real issue. He was relentlessly honest and candid, while giving feedback he couple negative feedback with caring and provide his coachee with timely feedback and if feedback was negative, he delivered it privately. He was offering stories and help to guide his coachee to the best decision instead of telling them what to do. Bill believed in people more than they believe in themselves and push them to be more courageous. He encourages people to be themselves and bring their full identity to work.

Team

The essence of Bills was the essence of just any sports coach: Team First. As a former college football player and coach, his instinct focus was on the team’s dynamic and building the right team with the right players. When he faced a problem or opportunity the first step was to ensure the right team is in place and they have what they need to work on it and succeed. Bill loved to pair people up on projects or decisions. When things were going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders, with influence from coaching sport Bill’s single key technique was being highly empathetic and caring about people when things getting tough. Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the teams become more effective when you know and care about people.

Love

Yes, Love. Love is a word you usually don’t hear a lot in business settings, maybe people will just express love toward an idea, a product, a brand or a plan, but Bill loved people and was caring about them truthfully, he didn’t separate human and working selves and he was treating everyone as a person.

The whole team becomes stronger when you break down the walls between professional and human personas and embrace the whole person with love, you have to care about people by asking about their lives outside the work, by building communities with your people inside and outside of work, by understanding their families, showing up when things get rough, and generously offering your time, connections and resources.

If you are responsible for managing people in the technology industry — especially if you manage product managers — I strongly encourage you to read Trillion Dollar Coach.

Here is one of my favorite quote from Bill Campbell:

Leadership is about recognizing that there’s greatness in everyone, and your job is to create an environment where that greatness can emerge.

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