Trillion Dollar Coach
by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle
I don’t much write about work-related stuff. But I’d been thinking about happiness and work, and I had a book on my (virtual) shelf I had bought about four years ago. I read it. And it was okay.
The coach in the title is Bill Campbell, a former college football coach in the 70’s who had made the shift to business back in the 80’s. He joined Kodak back when it was a thing, and Apple, back when it was making the original Mac, and also at Google in the two thousands (among other companies in between). He was CEO of a couple of companies, but mainly served as executive coach to lots of really famous silicon valley folks, Al Gore, too. He was apparently such a good coach that these executives wrote this book about him.
The book can be summed up in the following:
…Be a Leader, not a manager
…Create Psychological Safety
…Be honest and direct
…Believe in your people, Push them hard
…Only Coach people who listen
…Listen to your people
…The Team comes first
…Hire Good People (defined below)
…Use 360 Peer feedback
…Ensure Diversity and Inclusion
…Face your problems
…Care about your people
…Cheer your team’s achievements
…Love the Company Founders
None of the above is particularly new or insightful. The bolded sections are particularly popular in business self-help these days (with one exception). The list is a bit unusual in that the coach was doing those things before they were in vogue (which they are now, you can’t throw a stick and not hit a book about any of the above). Maybe what is most important about the story is that one man embodied all of the above before anyone was talking about it. It’s hard enough to get managers to be leaders as it is, much less before anyone wrote a book about it.
Around p. 161 (I’m reading the Kindle version), the authors write, “None of this feels that novel, right?” talking about treating everyone the same no matter what job level. This can be said for most of what Bill Campbell did. I guess what the authors wanted to say with this book was that he’s one of the few people who actually did it. More importantly, he seemed to genuinely mean it. And that’s something special.
Apparently, at least according to the book, Bill Campbell took little to no compensation for coaching. When he did, he gave it away to charity. When I first read this, I was a little shocked, and frankly found it hard to believe. What, is this guy, a saint? But upon further consideration, I think it’s true, and indeed necessary. He had the money to be able to spend his time and energy on other people. He must have really loved what he did, and the people he worked with. If he did it for the money then he wouldn’t have the sincerity to do what he did. People would see through him. I guess I question why he would spend all his love on a bunch of rich people, though. And this is probably why what he did is irreproducible.
One thought on “…in Which I Write About Business Stuff”
I agree with most of the items except 360 peer review. If you’ve ever fiercely argued for your favorite next wanted project in a scrum, and won, then the peers you beat over their favorite next project then they will probably not give a good review. Get rid of scrums and then I would agree with all the items in bold.