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What A Coach Can Do For You.

Susanne May
Nov 22, 2016 · 3 min read

Five skills from legendary Silicon Valley Coach Bill Campbell.

“I just put my feet in the air and move them around”, said the famous dancer Fred Astaire. Many jobs are easier to explain than to do.

Coaching is a little like that. In the end, there’s something mysterious about what a legendary coach like the late Bill Campbell does, but we do know that most of what he accomplished depended on five key skills. Whether he was coaching Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Eric Schmidt or Larry Page, or a half dozen other high-tech giants, Campbell brought the same five passions to the table:

1. Listen

“Whenever I struggled with life, Bill was the person that I called. I didn’t call him because he would have the answer to some impossible question. I called him because he would understand what I was feeling 100%.”

Ben Horowitz. Andreessen Horowitz.

2. Question

“I’ve never known you to tell anybody what to do. You really operate by asking the right questions, and really empathizing with them as they go through the problem, helping them answer the question, not you answer the question.”

Randy Komisar, a General Partner at Kleiner Perkins, interviewing Bill Campbell on Tech Crunch.

3. Clarify

“You’d go to his house; you’d talk for 45 minutes; he listened. He probed, and he’d tell you, I love you to death, and I’m going to tell you the truth. Then he’d give you his reaction.”

John Donahoe, former eBay Chief Executive.

“There is nothing transformative to what I do…I am an operating guy, so I help them think about what their company should look like, how they should organize it.”

Bill Campbell, The Silicon Valley Coach.

4. Encourage

“I would argue that Bill has had a bigger impact on Silicon Valley than any other single person simply because his reach was so amazingly wide. He influenced so many people from Steve Jobs down to eighth graders on the Sacred Heart flag football team. Bill inspired greatness.”

Ben Horowitz, Andreessen Horowitz.

5. Push

“Convincing people to do things they didn’t think they were capable of — that’s his legacy.”

Pat Gallagher, Bill Campbell’s friend and neighbor.

Coaching in the Digital Age

Bill Campbell spent most of his business career in Silicon Valley, coaching many of the people who became the leaders of one of the world’s fastest-growing and most transformational industries.

Young, inexperienced, and in a rapidly changing industry, those executives needed a trusted advisor. Today, the entire business world is moving at Silicon Valley speed. To succeed, today’s business leaders will also need to keep reinventing themselves and reinventing their business.

The most intelligent founders and business leaders realize that they can’t do it alone. To achieve their goals, they need a coach — a trusted adviser who can help them discover and clarify what their company needs to achieve, encourage them to learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses and those of their team, help them identify their key problems and solutions, and keep them focused on reaching their vision.

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