Book Review: Trillion Dollar Coach

Bill Campbell helped build some of Silicon Valley’s greatest companies including Google, Apple, and Intuit. A former college football player and coach, Campbell mentored great leaders including Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt. When he passed away in 2016, the “Coach” left behind a legacy of growing companies and successful leaders.

Based on the interviews with almost 100 people who knew Bill Campbell, the authors of the book, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle, explain the Coach’s principles and provide the reader with a solid blueprint for creating higher-performing teams and companies.

The following principles represent a sampling of Bill Campbell’s coaching beliefs:

  • Define the ‘First Principles’ for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for the company or product, and help guide the decision from those principles.
  • Aberrant geniuses – high performing but difficult team members – should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues, and teams.
  • Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company.
  • If you have the right product for the right market at the right time, go as fast as you can.
  • Letting people go is a failure of management, not of the people who are being let go. So it is important for management to let people leave with their heads held high.
  • When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.
  • The top characteristics to look for (in people) are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit, empathy, and a team-first attitude.
  • Identify the biggest problem, the ‘elephant in the room’, bring it front and 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.
  • Leaders lead. When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.