Quote review: trillion dollar coach
In general, I thought this was an ok book. Let’s give it a 7/10. The tips / tricks / approaches seem pretty well known nowadays. Maybe it was different a while ago, when Bill started out. The big thing, it seems to me, isn’t to know all the tips/tricks, but to be able to know when to apply them.
Trillion dollar coach by Eric Schmidt (Author), Jonathan Rosenberg (Author), Alan Eagle (Author).
Interesting quotes from the book:
Bill had been a big shot at Apple, VP of sales and marketing, and had been very successful at Kodak. In both companies he had been detail oriented, frequently micromanaging his team members. That worked pretty well, so when he took on the CEO role at Claris, he figured it was his job to tell everyone what to do. Which he did. Late one afternoon Donna dropped by Bill’s office and told him that if he was going to tell everyone what to do, they were all going to quit and go back to Apple. No one wanted to work for a dictator. She added a bit more wisdom for the first-time CEO: “Bill, your title makes you a manager; your people make you a leader.”
What is being discussed in a weekly coaching session
So when we met Bill in our weekly coaching sessions, what we discussed first and foremost was management: operations and tactics. Bill rarely weighed in on strategic issues, and if he did, it was usually to make sure that there was a strong operating plan to accompany the strategy. What were the current crises? How quickly were we going to manage our way out of them? How was hiring going? How were we developing our teams? How were our staff meetings going? Were we getting input from everyone? What was being said, what wasn’t being said? He cared that the company was well run, and that we were improving as managers.
“The most important asset”
People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. We have great people who want to do well, are capable of doing great things, and come to work fired up to do them. Great people flourish in an environment that liberates and amplifies that energy. Managers create this environment through support, respect, and trust. Support means giving people the tools, information, training, and coaching they need to succeed. It means continuous effort to develop people’s skills. Great managers help people excel and grow. Respect means understanding people’s unique career goals and being sensitive to their life choices. It means helping people achieve these career goals in a way that’s consistent with the needs of the company. Trust means freeing people to do their jobs and to make decisions. It means knowing people want to do well and believing that they will.
TO BUILD RAPPORT AND BETTER RELATIONSHIPS AMONG TEAM MEMBERS, START TEAM MEETINGS WITH TRIP REPORTS, OR OTHER TYPES OF MORE PERSONAL, NON-BUSINESS TOPICS.
Remember, he believed the most important thing a manager does is to help people be more effective and to grow and develop
HAVE A STRUCTURE FOR 1:1s, AND TAKE THE TIME TO PREPARE FOR THEM, AS THEY ARE THE BEST WAY TO HELP PEOPLE BE MORE EFFECTIVE AND TO GROW.
DEFINE THE “FIRST PRINCIPLES” FOR THE SITUATION, THE IMMUTABLE TRUTHS THAT ARE THE FOUNDATION FOR THE COMPANY OR PRODUCT, AND HELP GUIDE THE DECISION FROM THOSE PRINCIPLES.
On managing the abberant genius.
Support them as they continue to perform, and minimize time spent fighting them. Instead, invest that energy in trying as hard as possible to coach them past their aberrant behavior. As long as you can do this successfully, the rewards can be tremendous: more genius, less aberrant.
ABERRANT GENIUSES—HIGH-PERFORMING BUT DIFFICULT TEAM MEMBERS—SHOULD BE TOLERATED AND EVEN PROTECTED, AS LONG AS THEIR BEHAVIOR ISN’T UNETHICAL OR ABUSIVE AND THEIR VALUE OUTWEIGHS THE TOLL THEIR BEHAVIOR TAKES ON MANAGEMENT, COLLEAGUES, AND TEAMS.
COMPENSATING PEOPLE WELL DEMONSTRATES LOVE AND RESPECT AND TIES THEM STRONGLY TO THE GOALS OF THE COMPANY.
“The purpose of a company is to take the vision you have of the product and bring it to life,” he said once at a conference. “Then you put all the other components around it—finance, sales, marketing—to get the product out the door and make sure it’s successful.” This was not the way things were done in Silicon Valley
This was a constant theme from Bill and something he preached to us and others: if you have the right product for the right market at the right time, go as fast as you can. There are minor things that will go wrong and you have to fix them quickly, but speed is essential. This means that finance, sales, or marketing shouldn’t tell the product teams what to do. Instead, these groups can supply intelligence on what customer problems need solving, and what opportunities they see. They describe the market part of “product market fit.” Then they stand by, let the product teams work, and clear the way of things that might slow them down. As Bill often commented, “Why is marketing losing its clout? Because it forgot its first name: product.”
I hesitate this here, because I think some people will fire someone way to early. Generally, those people will also think of themselves as being rather patient and too slow to fire. They might take the advice below to heart, but really shouldn’t. So, if you read the quote below and immediately agree, the advice is not for you…
“When you fire someone, you feel terrible for about a day, then you say to yourself that you should have done it sooner. No one ever succeeds at their third chance.”
IF YOU HAVE TO LET PEOPLE GO, BE GENEROUS, TREAT THEM WELL, AND CELEBRATE THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS.
On managing the board
Bill’s perspective on boards starts with this observation: the CEO manages the board and board meetings, not the other way around.Board meetings fail when the CEO doesn’t own and follow her agenda. That agenda should always start with operational updates: the board needs to know how the company is doing. That includes financial and sales reports, product status, and metrics around operational rigor (hiring, communications, marketing, support). If the board has committees, for example to oversee audit and finance or compensation, have those committees meet ahead of time (in person or via phone or video conference) and present updates at the board meeting. The first order of business always needs to be a frank, open, succinct discussion about how the company is performing. Much of this material can be sent to board members ahead of time, with the idea that they will review it and be up-to-date on most stuff when they come to the meeting. If you throw a full set of financial reports up on a screen in a board meeting, they will want to talk about it forever, and you end up getting bogged down in operational details that probably don’t need the board’s attention. Send out financial and other operational details ahead of time and expect board members to review them and come with questions. And when we say expect, we mean expect: board members who don’t do their homework shouldn’t stick around. Dan Rosensweig once had a guy on his board at Chegg who wouldn’t read anything ahead of the board meeting and then spent a lot of time at the meeting asking about details that were in his preread. At one board meeting, Dan got angry at him for wasting everyone’s time. Afterward, Bill, who was at the meeting, told Dan that he shouldn’t lose his cool like that. Send the guy an information packet a week ahead of time and tell him exactly which pages you are going to cover in the meeting and exactly what you expect him to do. So that’s what Dan did. And the same thing happened: the guy showed up unprepared and wasted a lot of time asking questions about things he should have known already. Yeah, I was wrong, Bill told Dan afterward. Fire him. In our board meetings at Google, Bill always pushed Eric to ensure that the operations review included a thorough set of highlights and lowlights. Here’s what we did well and what we’re proud of; here’s what we didn’t do so well. The highlights were always easy to compile; teams love dressing up their best successes and presenting them to the board. But the lowlights, not so much. It can take some prodding to make teams be completely frank about where they are falling short, and indeed, Eric often rejected an initial draft of the board lowlights for not being honest enough. He was dogged in ensuring that the lowlights were authentic, and as a result, the board would see the bad news along with the good. Creating a robust set of real lowlights might entail giving honest updates on things ranging from revenue growth and product limitations to employee attrition and concerns about the pace of innovation. A 2002 Harvard Business Review article notes that a “virtuous cycle of respect, trust, and candor” is one thing that makes “great boards great.”24 And this level of honesty sets a tone of transparency and honesty that reverberates throughout the company. A company that is honest with its board can be honest with itself, too; people learn that not only is it okay to frankly share bad news, it’s expected. Determining lowlights is an important task, something to be handled by people running the business, not left to support functions such as finance or communications. At Google, we had product managers handle the task.
Who should be on the board? Smart people with good business expertise who care deeply about the company and are genuinely interested in helping and supporting the CEO.
On the coaching method
How did Bill do it? First, he only coached the coachable. Then, if you passed that test, he listened intently, practiced complete candor, believed that his coachees could achieve remarkable things, and was intensely loyal.
In a coaching session with Bill, you could expect that he would listen intently. No checking his phone for texts or email, no glancing at his watch or out the window while his mind wandered. He was always right there. Today it is popular to talk about “being present” or “in the moment.”
“mundane, almost trivial” things like listening and chatting with employees are important aspects of successful leadership, because “people feel more respected, visible and less anonymous, and included in teamwork.”
An important component of providing candid feedback is not to wait. “A coach coaches in the moment,” Scott Cook says. “It’s more real and more authentic, but so many leaders shy away from that.” Many managers wait until performance reviews to provide feedback, which is often too little, too late. Bill’s feedback was in the moment (or very close to it), task specific, and always followed by a grin and a hug, all of which helped remove the sting.
Don’t tell people what to do, tell them stories about why they are doing it.
He notes in an email to us that “we often feel torn between supporting and challenging others. Social scientists reach the same conclusion for leadership as they do for parenting: it’s a false dichotomy. You want to be supportive and demanding, holding high standards and expectations but giving the encouragement necessary to reach them. Basically, it’s tough love. Disagreeable givers are gruff and tough on the surface, but underneath they have others’ best interests at heart. They give the critical feedback no one wants to hear but everyone needs to hear.”
Bill’s perspective was that it’s a manager’s job to push the team to be more courageous. Courage is hard. People are naturally afraid of taking risks for fear of failure. It’s the manager’s job to push them past their reticence.
PEOPLE ARE MOST EFFECTIVE WHEN THEY CAN BE COMPLETELY THEMSELVES AND BRING THEIR FULL IDENTITY TO WORK.
WHEN FACED WITH A PROBLEM OR OPPORTUNITY, THE FIRST STEP IS TO ENSURE THE RIGHT TEAM IS IN PLACE AND WORKING ON IT.
THE TOP CHARACTERISTICS TO LOOK FOR ARE SMARTS AND HEARTS: THE ABILITY TO LEARN FAST, A WILLINGNESS TO WORK HARD, INTEGRITY, GRIT, EMPATHY, AND A TEAM-FIRST ATTITUDE.
Pair people on projects
The deliverable matters, but what matters just as much is the opportunity for the pair of teammates to work together on something and get to know and trust each other. That is invaluable to the team’s success.
TO CARE ABOUT PEOPLE YOU HAVE TO CARE ABOUT PEOPLE: ASK ABOUT THEIR LIVES OUTSIDE OF WORK, UNDERSTAND THEIR FAMILIES, AND WHEN THINGS GET ROUGH, SHOW UP.
Once you have your team or your community, what matters most are the bonds between the people on the team, which are forged by caring for each other and the common good. With all the trips Bill took with people, the trips were not the goal of the communities, the communities were the goal of the trips. It was all about making enduring connections between people,
Helping people - pay it forward
Most of the time, these little gifts were what Adam Grant, crediting businessman Adam Rifkin in his book Give and Take, calls “five-minute favors.” They are easy for the person doing the favor, requiring minimal personal cost, but mean a lot to the recipient.7 Grant also notes, in a 2017 article written with Reb Rebele, that “being an effective giver isn’t about dropping everything every time for every person. It’s about making sure that the benefits of helping others outweigh the costs to you.” People who do this well are “self-protective givers.” They are “generous, but they know their limits. Instead of saying yes to every request for help, they look for high-impact, low-cost ways of giving so that they can sustain their generosity—and enjoy it along the way.”
HOLD A SPECIAL REVERENCE FOR—AND PROTECT—THE PEOPLE WITH THE MOST VISION AND PASSION FOR THE COMPANY.