18 Nov

Trillion Dollar Learning – Learn all this at the earliest in life

Just finished reading “Trillion Dollar Coach”, a brilliant recount of the ways and ideas of Bill Campbell who coached the management teams at Silicon Valley companies like Google, Apple, Intuit etc. Numerous other businesses and their leaders benefited from his counsel and advice. At a Diwali party at his home in San Diego Krishna, who has been with Inuit for many years, lent the book to me.

One does not easily get interested in reading the biography of a person who is not famous. In this case the authors are more well-known than the subject. I was it reading casually till I reached page 15, and I quote. “But he made sure the team was communicating, that tensions and disagreements were brought to the surface and discussed, so that when the big decisions were made, everyone was on board, whether they agreed or not. We can say, without a doubt, that Bill Campbell was one of the people most integral to Google’s success.” I was curious to know how it was done. Nothing could stop me now from reading the book.

It is the story of an amazing person who started as a football coach and transitioned to a business executive and coach. His philosophy was to make people successful in life, not in just what they do. He was at his best in making groups of talented and ambitious individuals produce spectacular results.

Learning the difficult way

I found that luckily I followed some of the ideas and practices mentioned in the book as a manager and business leader. I learnt these over a period of time by observing others and realizing what worked best when one leads teams. It took a long time, the learning was by trial and error and incomplete. Blessed are those who got the opportunity to know, work with and be guided by a coach like Bill Campbell. Let me summarize what I learned from the book, for the benefit of young managers and leaders.

It will be interesting to start with some practices that I followed, may not be with the needed intensity. Humility tops the list, followed by ethical behavior. Treat everyone with the respect irrespective of his or her position, wealth or vocation. Hug people when you meet them, even at work. You can love and care about everyone you deal with, more so your team and friends. Know them well, and engage with them about their families and aspirations. Help them excel and grow. Applaud them for their achievements, stand behind them if they make mistakes. Don’t dwell on negative situations – move on. Be coachable – willing to learn lifelong. Develop and nurture teams, encourage frank discussions in them. Do not criticize people in public. Keep their trust. Do not encourage or indulge in politics. Develop peer relationships. Work well with companies’ founders

And much more

Practices that I should have followed and accepted more include being decisive, not overemphasizing consensus. Tackle the biggest problem first. Take the boldest option. Seek feedback from peers. Observe people as you listen to them, and observe others too in a meeting. This will give you a better understanding of issues and communication gaps in the team. Hire people with a team-first attitude, not just for their individual skills and experience. Be direct in giving feedback. If the person trusts you, s/he will be grateful instead of taking offence. Manage and counsel aberrant geniuses, and fire them if they wreck teams. Consciously encourage diversity, help women in taking leadership roles. And surprisingly, strong language will be tolerated by people if it comes from a position of love.

It’s never too late

I celebrate that, being a conscious lifelong learner, I will be better person after having read this book.

The end of the book prods me to begin. “Your post-fifty years should be your most creative time. You have wisdom of experience and freedom to apply it where you want.”

I will recycle my active life. No longer will I describe my current status as retired. Even though I am no longer in a position to create significant business value myself using Bill Campbell’s concepts and practices, there is a lot I can still do using these. For example, I can help develop close-knit communities. I can do more for lifelong learning, for myself and for others.

Naturally, I will strive to connect better with you.

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