Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell

Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell

With 431 ratings

By: Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, et al.

Purchased At: $28.99

The team behind How Google Works returns with management lessons from legendary coach and business executive Bill Campbell, whose mentoring of some of our most successful modern entrepreneurs has helped create well over a trillion dollars in market value.

Bill Campbell 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. In addition, this business genius mentored dozens of other important leaders on both coasts, from entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to educators to football players, leaving behind a legacy of growing companies, successful people, respect, friendship, and love after his death in 2016.

Leaders at Google for more than a decade, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle experienced firsthand how the man fondly known as Coach Bill built 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. To honor their mentor and inspire and teach future generations, they have codified his wisdom in this essential guide.

Based on interviews with more than 80 people who knew and loved Bill Campbell, Trillion Dollar Coach explains the Coach’s principles and illustrates them with stories from the many great people and companies with which he worked. The result is a blueprint for forward-thinking business leaders and managers that will help them create higher performing and faster moving cultures, teams, and companies.

Supplemental enhancement PDF accompanies the audiobook. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio. 

In all, Trillion Dollar Coach, a book summarizing the lessons of legendary Silicon Valley business coach Bill Campbell, has been somewhat of a disappointment. Having recently read other acclaimed biographies (such as I Have America Surrounded on Tim Leary and Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson), I was hoping to read a book with the same level of depth, research and nuance. Looking back on it, this was of course a foolish expectation - none of Trillion Dollar Coach's authors are journalists or career writers, but rather busy technologists with diverse interests beyond writing. It's silly for me to expect that they'd spend time truly researching Bill Campbell's childhood or interviewing his children. Certainly, the byline makes it clear that this book is a collection of principles/lessons.

It's a bit less silly to expect that the authors would present a more nuanced perspective on the Coach though. The book doesn't dwell too much on Campbell's background or failings. Reading it, you'd think the only flaw the Coach ever had was his penchant for swear words - but don't be alarmed! He does it out of love, so it's all fine. I was hoping for a bit more meat on his failures: the unimpressive coaching career, the problems at Go - not least because this would help us learn alongside the Coach. The book breezes through Campbell's formative years and barely mentions his family. The Coach was born a fully-formed 40-year-old seasoned executive.

My second gripe with this book is the sometimes maddening lack of specificity in some of the situations Campbell helps adjudicate. In one such example, the book describes Campbell helping decide if a Google product should fall under one Googler's remit or under another's. We're never told what the product was, and the lesson falls flat as a result - the anecdote, stripped of its content, is too bland to truly land a punch.

That being said, I put this book down feeling weirdly warm and fuzzy. It's essentially a version of the eulogy that the authors didn't get the chance to put together before Campbell's memorial service - long by eulogy standards, but short by book standards (2h read). The Coach was clearly an outstanding man, whose guiding principles can be mostly summarized as "Be a good person". It all made me a tinge sad that I never got the chance to meet him.

- aiden_taylor

About a decade ago, I received the following e-mail forward from Andrew Westrgren, Intuit’s then head of corporate development.


Make sure Howard understands that if he (and his valuable team) want a home for their company, where they can pursue their dreams then putting the company up for bid is not the answer. Either go public or get the deal that you want from the company that you want to be part of.


The note was from Bill Campbell, legendary coach at Apple, Google, Intuit and many more companies. Silicon Valley’s elite called Bill “coach” to solve their toughest problems. Literally a coach, Campbell was a football coach turned marketing and sales exec turned executive coach. In our case, Bill Campbell was right again. Despite being pursued, it was the destiny of the special team at Yext to stay independent, go public, and put our own dent on the world.

Written from the vantage point of Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenburg, Trillion Dollar Coach lays out the lessons learned from Silicon Valley’ Coach. While many themes are covered in the book, I have one major takeaway: Every team needs a coach. Even Eric Schmidt, the seemingly omniscient technology executive, leaned on a coach during inflection points in his career at Google, and in normal operating cadence as a mediator to ensure team camraderie.

The key themes I note in the book include extraversion (Bill was clearly an E. I’m guessing Eric is ENTJ and Jonathan is ENTP, btw), direct honesty and tough love, grit and growth mindset (ala Dweck and Duckworth), teamwork and love for all humans. One of my favorite things to read was Bill looked for people capable of making “far analogies”. I personally believe far analogy is one of the greatest measures of intelligence. This connects deeply with my belief that human thought is driven by categorization, and intelligence is driven by analogy. Reading Campbell’s note on “far analogy” made me think of Job’s statement that a computer is like a bicycle for your mind and Einstein’s explanation of the theory of relativity through the lens of a beetle traversing a tree branch upside down.

Campbell also believed in minimally dwelling on negative things. Optimism, he believed is key to achieved outsized greatness. This is something I have also learned. When you’re playing a game of random chance, like gambling, believing you’re going to win is crazy. But when you’re in control of the outcome, positive thinking can make all the difference.

Small talk matters. Like Eric Schmidt at Google, I too hold the Yext executive meeting every Monday at 1:00pm. It’s tough to cold open right into the numbers. It can feel like a person being woken up in the middle of the night and asked to run 10 miles in the freezing cold while naked. To ease into a meeting, Bill Campbell had a “trip rule” where any executive who went on a trip was required to open the meeting by reporting on their trip to the whole team. The point isn’t the exchange of small talk as much as the warm up that connects people and primes people to wake up and warm up before sprinting.

A coach is a glue that holds a team together. They take the time to understand what motivates each unique person and challenge them to grow. They bridge gaps between incredible ambitious people who may otherwise be competitive so they can work together. They show up quickly when things are horrible when you don’t even have to ask. They also build trust so team members feel pyschologically safe to “let them in”. I sort of use humor to do this. Making fun of each other - and being a willing participant in being made fun of - can be a great leveler to make people more comfortable to be honest with each other.

I never met Bill Campbell. He was Apple, Google, and Intuit and I was a spec of dust. He lived on the other side of the country from me. Yet somehow, he managed to touch me with his coaching.

Every team needs a coach. Who is your coach? Read Trillion Dollar Coach to learn about the kind you want to bring on.

- madisyn_gray

Very insightful lessons from Bill Campbell's coaching techniques, but the struture and text did not do them justice. I personally found the execution to be quite unengaging and becomes repetitive after halfway point, ideal for skimming. This is more suited to reading as an ebook, don't want it to take up precious bookshelf real estate...

Hope this review can be helpful to someone :)

- dallas_reyes

The book offered a real insight into a top class coach and his practices. Whilst some of the ideas were not original they were a great reminder. I really enjoyed the style of writing and took many notes that I will refer to on a regular basis.

- sophia_jones

Le biografie dei fondatori o mega manager delle grandi aziende americane mi interessano sempre, soprattutto professionalmente, ma di solito mi lasciano con quel senso di depressione.

Sono tutti personaggi ineguagliabili, irraggiungibili, insomma predestinati perché dotati di visioni strategiche lucidissime sul futuro.
Mostri sacri, figure mitiche, e spesso anagraficamente poco più di ragazzini...

Leggere la storia di Bill Campbell, di cui ignoravo l'esistenza, mi ha lasciato invece con la piacevole sensazione che a volte basta semplicemente avere uno spessore Umano superiore al normale.

- antonio_edwards

Finished up my first book of the decade today and I guarantee you it will be in my top five for the year. A great recommendation from Jeffrey Maystruck - “Trillion Dollar Coach” shares the incredible story of the man behind the successes of some of the titans of technology. When your list of “coachees” includes Steve Jobs, Sheryl Sandberg, Sergey Brin, Marissa Mayer, Larry Page, Mary Meeker, Eric Schmidt,... you have to think he had something worth knowing about. What really hit home was that one of the common themes was the importance of getting to know your team and truly caring about them. “Make the human connection first, then approach the work with that understanding.”
Highly recommended!

- ayla_young

This is a book written after Bill Campbell passed away by the one time CEO of Google along with two current senior executives of the supersize company that is used by everyone everyday. Bill Campbell was a football coach in a small time college program, then at age 36 he resigned and moved into the business world. He was not that successful in coaching because by his own admission, he had too much compassion and played everyone, not only the best players. Bringing compassion to the team worked much better in the business world that on the football field. He started in the business world in an ad agency, then worked at Kodak in marketing. In 1983, five years after leaving football, he was asked by John Sculley to move from Ohio to Silicon Valley and work at Apple. Within the first year he was promoted to VP of sales and given the task of overseeing the launch of the Macintosh computer. He later was the CEO of Intuit and then when he turned 60 he was hired by a venture capital firm to coach entrepreneurs.
Campbell ended up coaching executives of Google, Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Apple, and many other Silicon Valley startups. The book is named trillion dollar coach because the value of the companies he coached is well over a trillion dollars. He worked side by side Steve Jobs to build apple from near bankruptcy to the largest company in the world. He helped Google go from a startup to one of the largest tech firms. The leaders of these companies say that it would have never happened without the coaching.
Campbell helped to develop a supportive community at work, he strengthened teams by making the leaders recognize the value of teams and the need to grow the members on the team. He sought to empower people at all levels of the company, and he made sure the leaders were doing this. He also helped the CEOs realize that they managed the board and the board meetings, not the other way around. He implored his students to gain the trust of both employees and board members. Work hard at establishing trust. Be honest, be coach able, humble and hungry. He also showed Silicon Valley that love was important. You break down the walls between the professional and the human by embracing the whole person with love. Compassion isn’t just good, Campbell showed that it is good for business.

- tatum_nelson

Built around Bill’s principles anecdotes, this is a good read on leadership and mentoring, particularly if you are interested in startups, tech and Silicon Valley. Lots of insiders stories on google and apple, though most are self-referential. Seems almost written for senior employees, let’s say.

At times the tone is a bit repetitive, as it draws a lot on the invincible figure of Bill, who comes across as a sort of corporate factotum with the hands of gold, impeccable in resolving every kinds of pitfalls.

Worth reading if you are interested in mentoring and advising (rather than coaching, I think Bill was more of a mentor). Points: 3.5

- alicia_collins

Esse livro é um must para quem quer conhecer o que é realmente liderança. Melhor livro sobre o assunto que li até agora!

- abel_rivera

Great book

- brinley_sanchez

A great story of one of Silicon Valley's greatest coaches. This is an inspirational read that leaves you wanting to be a better coach and leader.

- anaya_gonzales

Full with great tips to become a better leader, a better coach and most of all, a better person. Great reading for seasoned executives trying to get to the next level.

- leanna_adams

Its' very interesting to read how Bill Campbell vision to lead leaders help paved the way for companies like google, Apple.

- frances_nguyen

Tolles Buch über die Hintergründe der Techkonzerne und die Bedeutung von Coaching für Höchstleistungen.

- daxton_hill

Great leadership insights and great strategies to put the dots in the i

- emiliano_davis

Lots of books on growth, profit, money... this one is about PEOPLE, smarts & hearts, tough love and an exceptional inspirational coach, one of the best, Bill Campell. Loved it, highly recommended.

- victor_cook

Ein typischer headline grabber mit Google CEO der kaum was mit dem Buch zu tun hat. Schnell abgelegt

- braelyn_cooper

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