Column: CEO Learnings
I found Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell to be an excellent book. As someone who has served as a CEO of early stage companies for many years and has also been asked frequently for advice by growth minded professionals and entrepreneurs, this book resonated. My copy is dog-eared and filled with post-it notes highlighting the many gems I discovered and can incorporate immediately into my own approach to managing and coaching.
Trillion Dollar Coach is the ultimate compliment for what appears to be an incredible individual. Like most, he was not known to me nor to many outside Silicon Valley and the tech industry. Paying homage with a great deal of love and respect to the person who had a positive influence on your life is the ultimate compliment a subordinate or co-worker can give. There is much we can learn from this book which was authored by Google’s Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle who spent years under his influence.
Campbell died in 2016 at age 75.
His passing drew tributes from many notable tech executives and other luminaries in Silicon Valley. Apple rescheduled its earnings announcement by one day to allows its top executives attend his funeral. He was known to all affectionately as “Coach Campbell.”
His roster of mentees went well beyond Google and included Dick Costolo, Lee Bullinger, Ben Horowitz, Ronnie Lott, Sundar Pichai, Bill Gurley, Sheryl Sandberg, John Doerr, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, and the boys’ and girls’ flag football teams at Atherton’s (CA) Sacred Heart Schools.
Trillion Dollar Coach takes you through Campbell’s life so you can learn about those experiences, particularly in coaching…that shaped him, his success as a CEO, and his influence as a coach. What is left out is Campbell’s devotion to being Catholic and exercising the Catholic values that helped shape him. He was not one to talk about his faith but all who knew him knew how important this was in his life.
Campbell’s journey began in the Rust Belt of Pennsylvania. He then attended Columbia University where he led its football team to an Ivy League Championship in 1961, a feat that has yet to be repeated. Upon graduation, he decided on a career as a college football coach ending up back at Columbia as its head coach. He had a hard time at Columbia and did not win. His failure was having too much compassion. “I was not hard-edged enough.”
So, with his compassion and degrees in economics and education, Campbell headed to J. Walter Thompson (a top ad agency my dad helped to build) and then to Kodak where he rose quickly. Apple’s Scully brought him in to head sales and marketing where he created its famed Orwell ad. He was recognized as a rising star and was brought in to be CEO from 1994 to 1998 of personal software company, Intuit.
Campbell, the CEO with empathy, created a strong organizational culture at Intuit. Campbell’s core belief was that teams that work together are the most productive. And to do this, all employees must focus on making themselves and those around them better.
Campbell’s motto was “your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader.”
Trillion Dollar Coach brings Campbell’s principles to the forefront. The fundamental take-away is that Companies (organizations too!) need to have teams that work together as communities and these teams need a coach to make this happen. Coaching for Campbell is not an after-hours session with a mentor. It is a real-time, interactive activity that requires managers to be involved as good coaches. “You cannot be a good manager if you are not a good coach.”
The book highlights Campbell’s: five key factors for success; his simple practices that lead to a strong, cohesive organization; the critical human values we all care about; what to do if you are over 50; five words on a white board; how CEOs should work with their boards; how to build and envelope of trust; the value of pairing people; how to deal with the elephant in the room; and the power of love (See Joel Manby’s Love Works).
Schmidt, Rosenberg, and Eagle provide many practical examples and the necessary color to make this book an entertaining and useful guide for everyone.
Campbell was an expert at getting people to do things they did not think they were capable of doing. His specialty was knowing people, identifying their strengths, and doubling down on them to help them shine both on the inside and out.
Thomas M. Loarie is the CEO of BryoLogyx, a rotating host of THE MENTORS RADIO SHOW, and a senior editorial advisor and columnist for Catholic Business Journal. He may be reached at TLoarie@CatholicBusinessJournal.biz.
View Articles Thomas M. Loarie is a popular host of The Mentors Radio Show, the founder and CEO of BryoLogyx Inc. (BryoLogyx.com), and a seasoned corporate... MORE »