Archive for March, 2021

Trillion Dollar Coach – A nugget of Gold for Coaches and Leaders

March 31, 2021 1 comment

Being human, is being humble, and compassionate to people. That is, and should be how a leader’s effectiveness needs to be measured. This was the 1st lesson I learned while reading, “Trillion Dollar Coach”, authored by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. These two gentlemen, great leaders in their own might, need no introduction. But how did they evolve into such great leaders. Who was behind their leadership successes?

Bill Campbell was a football coach turned business and leadership coach. Bill, played an instrumental role in the growth of several prominent companies, such as Google, Apple, and Intuit, fostering deep relationships with Silicon Valley visionaries, including Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt, leaving behind a legacy of growing companies, successful people, respect, friendship, and love after his death in 2016.

Bill, fondly known as Coach Bill builds trusting relationships, fostered personal growth-even in those at the pinnacle of their careers-inspired courage, and identified and resolved simmering tensions that inevitably arise in fast-moving environments.

Here are some key takeaways for me:

Be human – recognize that people around you are humans. The human values of love, kindness and care (which are foundational for interpersonal relationships) generally do not belong to a corporate boardroom, but practicing them can lead to great good – not just for the stakeholders, but also for the ecosystem at large.

Build & foster great teams – and the problems would take care of themselves (assuming you have technically adept people, working on the right problems).

Create psychological safety. If people take risks for the organization’s interests, their managers have got to have their backs.

People are the foundation of any company’s success. There is a headline which that says, “Your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader”. How true. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect, and trust.

I liked a passage in the book that talks about how Bill managed to resolved conflicts. There is a section that talks about the “The Throne behind the Round Table”, where Bill uses a management technique he calls, “The Rule of Two”.

He would get the two people most closely involved in the decision to gather more information and work together on the best solution, and usually, they would come back a week or two later having decided together on the best course of action. The team almost always agreed with their recommendation, because it was usually quite obvious that it was the best idea. The rule of two not only generates the best solution in most cases, it also promotes collegiality.

If there is still disagreement, you say, all right, either you two break that tie, or I will. If they fail, you make the call.

Bill believed that one of a manager’s main jobs is to facilitate decisions, and he had a particular framework for doing so. He didn’t encourage democracy. He always believed in striving for the best idea, not consensus.

He also suggests that leaders shall Lead based on First Principles. Ask Elon Musk, and he has a great response to this part in his interviews. Musk explains it so perfectly here -

In any situation there are certain immutable truths upon which everyone can agree. These are the “first principles”, You can argue opinions, but you can generally not argue principles since everyone has already agreed upon them. It’s the leaders job to remind everyone of first principles, that’s when the decision becomes easier to make.

Are you wondering how you can manage the Star of the Team? He/she is not a team player, but brilliant in their job. Bill calls them the “Aberrant Genius”. Support them as they continue to perform, and minimise time spent fighting them. Instead, invest that energy in trying as hard as possible to coach them past their aberrant behaviour. As long as you can do this successfully, the rewards can be tremendous.

Never put up with people who cross ethical lines: lying, lapses of integrity or ethics, harassing, or mistreating colleagues. What can’t be tolerated is when the aberrant genius continually puts him and herself above the team.

Bill says the following about company boards. According to him, it’s the CEO’s job to manage the board, and not the other way around. The first order of business always needs to be a frank, open, succinct discussion about how the company is performing, that includes financial and sales reports, product status and metrics around operational rigor.

There are several other key pointers about how leaders should function. Here are some highlights:

  1. Always build an envenlop of trust
  2. Practice free-form listening
  3. There should not be a gap between a statement and a fact
  4. Don’t stick it in the ear – don’t tell people what to do, instead tell them stories about why they are doing it.
  5. Be an evangelist of courage
  6. Full identify, front and center – People are most effective when they can completely be themselves (authentic) and bring their full identity to work
  7. Team first – Problems next
  8. Get to the table – You can always find a woman for the job, it may just take a little longer
  9. Address the Elephant in the room – Solve the biggest problem first
  10. Don’t let the bitch session last – Bill always made sure that problems were aired completely and transparently, and once that was accomplished, he moved on to the next.

And, there are many more. You should pick up and read the book.

In the concluding chapter the authors talk about Bill and the “Power of Love”, and how Bill loved people and cared about them. Not just about their lives at work, but rather more on their lives outside of work, understanding their families and friends, their personal challenges, hopes and desires.

All the principles outlined in the book may not feel natural, but they can be learned. The key is pushing yourself to do it.

When you’re in the elevator, passing someone in the hallway, or seeing a group from your team in the cafeteria, take a moment to stop and chat. Bruce’s lines are as good a starter as any: “How’s it going? What are you working on?” In time, it becomes natural.

That’s Bill. Can we also be like him!

Comment below, and/or add your perspective if these principles make sense in today’s world. What do you think?


Vasanthan Philip

P.S: Vasanthan Philip is a Business and Leadership Coach who works with business owners and entrepreneurs of small and medium sized businesses to help them grow their businesses exponentially.


Business leaders often are faced with the challenge of managing through uncertain times.

Faced with market disruption, eluding profits, meaner margins, eroding employee morale and lesser throughput, they have the daunting task to produce better results amides these disruptors.

The accelerators that can turn the wheel around need to be carefully evaluated, planned and executed to perform at optimum speed and efficiency.

During times of disruption, such as a pandemic that we are faced with today, the leader has to identify new markets, innovative products, value driven and cost effective services, and provide smarter solutions to the problems faced by their consumers.

To address this, a new way of thinking should emerge.

Business Agility and agile thinking may be the need of the hour.

Agile Thinking is the ability to consciously shift your thinking when and how the situation requires it. The Whole Brain® Model provides a powerful framework to ensure you can make that shift, identifying four different thinking preferences, (Analytical Intelligence, Results Driven Intelligence, Relational Intelligence and Creative Intelligence) and giving you the skills you need to leverage each.

Check out this link – where you can learn how best you can use the whole brain thinking model to become an agile thinker.

A person with an Agile mindset, thinks quickly and is mentally acute or aware.

The challenges such as globalization, sustainability, web-based and social technologies, rapid pace of change, fierce competition, and diversity that are faced by today’s business leaders should be addressed with a highly critical thinking (deep and accurate understanding of a situation) ability which is at the top of essential agile competency that is needed for a leader.

Agile critical thinking is a framework for applying critical thinking to decisions made in an organizational setting. We can call it the ACT (3-stage) framework; wherein “A” is assessing the situation, “C” is considering all the evidence and “T” is taking actions based on the evidence. Agility is built into each stage prompted, for example, by new information coming to light or a change in the situation.

As an Agile thinker you can also invent new business ideas by asking some probing questions such as:

Why are we doing this?

What if we tried doing it in a different way?

Is this a truly new idea?

Can we get excited about this idea?

Can we visualize what the result will be like?

So how can you the business leader start thinking in an Agile manner?

You can do this, too. The key is making a habit of metacognition—thinking about your thinking:

  1. During the day, pause to ask what kind of thinking is most appropriate to the task at hand. Consciously choose when to analyse, organise, personalise and strategise. When solving a problem, mentally walk through each mental process.
  2. Allow time for thinking. Create space during your day to reflect on the kinds of questions mentioned in this post. Put the most important answers in writing.
  3. Seek outside perspectives. When solving problems or asking for feedback, we usually seek out people who are on the same “wavelength”—those who are most likely to confirm our opinions. It’s a lot more comfortable to get validation than pushback. Yet there are times when a contrary perspective is what you need to get results.

Now, lets look at Business Agility.

According to Agile Business Consortium, Business agility is the ability of an organization to:

  • Adapt quickly to market changes – internally and externally
  • Respond rapidly and flexibly to customer demands
  • Adapt and lead change in a productive and cost-effective way without compromising quality
  • Continuously be at a competitive advantage

Business agility is concerned with the adoption and evolution of values, behaviours and capabilities. These enable businesses and individuals to be more adaptive, creative and resilient when dealing with complexity, uncertainty and change leading to improved well-being and better outcomes.

Here is how, you, the business leader can transform your business with agility as its primary enabler.

Agile business change is all about aligning into an agile organizational structure that is coupled with an agile business operations.

The levers that you need to look into are and change are:

  • People
  • Culture
  • Leadership
  • Strategy, and
  • Governance

All these have to be transformed into an Agile WOW (Way of Working).

This is all about enterprise transformation that when implemented properly with the expert guidance of an Enterprise Agile Coach, or a trusted Business Advisor, you can be rest assured that you are pivoting towards your True North.

P.S. Vasanthan Philip is an Agile evangelist and expert in transforming organizations into an agile enterprise by coaching leaders  across the organizations and working with diverse groups to bring about change that results in exponential growth and higher productivity. As a Business coach, he uses a proven coaching framework that produces great results. He can be reached at +91 9003075368 or on email at:

He is an author of a bestselling leadership book: “Tilt The Iceberg” and has over 3 decades of organizational experience. He is also a prolific writer, trainer, speaker and a coach.

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