Book Review: Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell

Google’s Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle describe the life, values, and principles of Bill Campbell — the “coach” to silicon valley elites including Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, and many others.

Bill Campbell — The Career

Bill Campbell — The Mindset

Bill Campbell — The Principles

  • It’s about people. People are the foundation of any company’s success.
  • The top priority of any manager is the well being and success of their people.
  • To build relationships, start 1:1 or meetings with personal, non-business topics.
  • Be prepared for 1:1s. Focus on performance, results, goals.
  • Managers exist to a) run a decision making process where all people are heard, and b) break ties / make decisions when necessary.
  • Lead based on first principles. People agree to principles in advance, they can’t be argued.
  • Tolerate “brilliant jerks”, as long as their value outweighs the toll on the management, colleagues, teams. (I actually disagree with this one — I don’t tolerate brilliant jerks)
  • Product matters. The purpose of a company is to bring a product vision to life. All other functions are in service to the product.

Bill Campbell — On Trust

  • It starts with who you coach. Only coach the coachable. Those who are honest, humble, willing to persevere and work hard, and are always learning.
  • Listen intently, ask questions. Focus your full attention on the conversation.
  • Be direct. Couple negative feedback with caring. Deliver negative feedback privately.
  • Don’t tell people what to do. Tell stories and guide them to the right decision.
  • Push the team to be courageous. Believe in people more than they believe in themselves. Push them to be more courageous.
  • Be yourself. Bring your whole self / identity to your work.

Bill Campbell — On Teams

  • Work the team, then the problem. When faced with a problem, get the team right in place first. They’ll solve the problem.
  • Pick the right players. Value potential more than experience.
  • Pair people on projects or decisions (varies the team chemistry).
  • Value diversity. Winning teams have more women.
  • Solve the biggest problem first, the “elephant in the room”
  • Air the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.
  • When things go bad, leaders need even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.
  • Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and the people more effective, when you care about the people.

Bill Campbell — On Love

  • Understand people’s lives outside of work. Their families, their lives. When things get rough, show up.
  • Cheer for people and their success.
  • Build communities. Teams are stronger when people are connected.
  • Be generous with your time, connections, and resourcdes for helping people.
  • Love founders. They have passion and vision for the company.

Bill Campbell — On Success

Book Review




Hi there, I’m Damon. I’m a software engineer from Minneapolis, MN. I’m into writing code, an occasional blog post, running marathons, and caffeine.

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Damon Allison

Damon Allison

Hi there, I’m Damon. I’m a software engineer from Minneapolis, MN. I’m into writing code, an occasional blog post, running marathons, and caffeine.

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