Home > Process Transformation > Trillion Dollar Coach – A nugget of Gold for Coaches and Leaders

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

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 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NV3sBlRgzTI

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.



  1. Harikrishnan
    March 31, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    Very nicely compiled Vasanth.


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