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Trillion Dollar Coach - Book summary

To succeed, companies must constantly attract, retain and leverage smart, creative talents on a large scale. However, it’s not easy to get high-calibre people to set aside their own ambitions/differences to work toward a common goal. Coaches play a vital role in building team cohesion and synergy. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to hire a coach for every corporate team. This book captures the wisdom and teachings of legendary coach Bill Campbell, so you can apply them to coach your own teams. In this Trillion Dollar Coach summary, we’ll outline Bill’s philosophies in 4 parts. For the full details, examples and tips, do get a copy of the book, or get a detailed overview with our complete book summary bundle.Trillion Dollar Coach summary - book summary bundle

Bill Campbell—The Trillion Dollar Coach

Bill Campbell was probably the most influential executive and team coach in Silicon Valley. He started out as a football player and coach, before transiting into the business world. Bill was the VP of sales and marketing at Apple, then CEO for Claris, GO Corporation, and Intuit, as well as a board member for several Silicon Valley companies. He personally coached top leaders like Larry Page, Eric Schmidt, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, John Donahoe, and Marissa Mayer, and played a key role in shaping leading companies like Google, Apple and Intuit. The value Campbell jointly created with his coachees well exceeded a trillion dollars, making him probably the world’s greatest executive and team coach.

Bill was so influential because of his ability to bring out the best in others. He always put people first, helped others to succeed, supported and challenged them to move to greater heights. He coached Eric Schmidt since the latter became Google’s CEO in 2001. For 15 years, Bill met with Eric weekly, sat in for Eric’s staff meetings, facilitated team communications, and influenced many of Google’s philosophies and practices.

After Bill passed away in 2016, the authors wanted to ensure that Bill’s invaluable wisdom lived on. So, they spoke with dozens of people who’d been coached and touched by Bill and captured the key insights in this book. The key insights are organized into 4 key sections in the Trillion Dollar Coach book, with over 30 short chapters to explain the roles that Bill played as a coach and the wisdom he imparted.

Trillion Dollar Coach summary_Bill Campbell leadership playbook

We’ll now give an overview of the key ideas. Do get a copy of our complete Trillion Dollar Coach summary (get the full 13-page summary here) for more details.

Leaders are defined by their people, not their titles

Leadership is not the same as title or charisma. Great leaders make people feel valued, help them to flourish, and manages the balance between creativity and operational efficiency.  In fact, a great leader must first be a great manager. Every organization needs a balance of creativity and operational efficiency. You need freedom and spontaneity, but you also need sound processes, accountability, and good hiring/performance management systems. The question is: how can you achieve the balance?

This section is all about leading and managing people. In the book and our complete book summary, you can get more insights and examples including: (i) what it means to treat people as your biggest asset, (ii) how to use team-meetings, one-to-ones and personal stories to build trust and rapport, (iii) a powerful perspective on managers’ role as facilitators and tie-breakers in decision making, (iv) why/how to guide sound decisions with “first principles”, (v) tips/insights on managing people (including divas/superstars, under-performers), (vi) other insights on compensation, aligning people behind product vision, and managing the board of directors.

Build a Foundation of Trust

Trust is the foundation of any relationship. It brings psychological safety, which creates a sense of belonging and allows people to work out their differences with less hostility. Building trust was an absolute priority for Bill. He always took the time to know people and build trust before discussing work. To build trust, you must keep your promises, be loyal to your team, have integrity, honesty and discretion.

This section is all about building trust. In the full version of our Trillion Dollar Coach summary, you can get more insights and examples on why/how you should: (i) only coach the coachable, (ii) listen fully, (iii) let people find their own answers, (iv) offer feedback with care and candor , (v) be a source of courage, and (vi) bring your whole self to work (and encourage others to do so too).

Get more details and tips about Trillion Dollar Coach from our full summary bundle!

Build a Solid Team with a “Team First” Attitude

One of Bill’s key guiding principles was that the team must come first, i.e. every team member must be willing to put team interests before personal interests. Great leaders deliberately take steps to hold people together.When Google went public in 2004, the board wanted Eric to step down as the chairman and remain as the CEO. Eric felt hurt and wanted to leave Google, but Bill pointed out that he was allowing his pride to get in the way of what was best for him and Google. Bill assured Eric that his role as Chairman would be reinstated in the future. Eric decided to stay on and continued to play a crucial role in Google’s growth. This was but one of the many examples of how Bill held teams together. How did he do it?

This section is all about building solid teams. In the book / complete 13-page summary, you’ll find more insights and examples on why/how to: (i) evaluate the team before the problem, (ii) choose the right people, (iii) pair people up, (iv) include women in your teams, (v) tackle interpersonal issues upfront, (vi) air problems and then move on, (vii) win right, (viii) lead in good times and bad and (ix) be the bridge between people.

Embrace Each Person with Love

Most of us have been taught to separate our emotions from the workplace. Bill did away with that artificial line. He’d hug you, blow kisses, curse and swear, and discuss your personal life unreservedly. Yet, people didn’t mind because they could sense his genuine love for people and knew he acted sincerely from the heart. Each person on your team is a real human being with a life outside work. There’s no need to erect artificial walls at work—embrace every person fully with love.

This section is all about building deep, authentic relationships. You can get more insights and examples from our complete Trillion Dollar Coach summary bundle on why/how to: (i) care about people as human beings (not just in their professional capacity), (ii) be a great cheerleader, (iii) build communities within/outside the workplace, (iv) help others generously, (v) keeping business founders meaningfully engaged and (vi) master people-skills through practice (you don’t need to be a “people-person” like Bill to become good with people!)

Digest these powerful tips in minutes with our summary & infographic!

Conclusion & Other Details in “Trillion Dollar Coach”

Bill Campbell created such a major impact on the people around him because of his genuine love and belief in people, and his dedication to bring out the best in others. Unfortunately, not every leader or team can have a coach like Bill. What you can do is to internalize and apply Bill’s wisdom in your own organization. Do get a copy of the book for various short examples and anecdotes, get our Trillion Dollar Coach book summary bundle for an overview of the various ideas and tips, or check out more details at

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