Episode 56

Trillion Dollar Coach - Series Kickoff

Published on: 13th December, 2021

Today we kick off a new series: Trillion Dollar Coach, a book that outlines the leadership style, approach, and secrets of one of the greatest business leaders of our time: Bill Campbell.

Bill Campbell is not who you might have normally pegged as a fantastic leader that was in the middle of some of the greatest successes from the largest companies in silicon valley. He had a unique approach that informs how we might improve our own leadership craft.

Just like before, we will kick off the book, cover each chapter individually, and close out the series with our final thoughts and some ideas on how we can collectively grow.

Thanks for joining us today and don't forget to hit the subscribe button or reach out at [email protected].


Robert Greiner 0:05

Welcome back, everyone, Episode 56.

Igor Geyfman 0:08

Happy Veterans Day.

Robert Greiner 0:09

Happy Veterans Day. November 11. Is when I got engaged.

Charles Knight 0:15

Happy engagement day.

Robert Greiner 0:17

Thanks. feels like forever ago was a long time ago. I was just a kid.

Charles Knight 0:22

Was there something special about November 11.

Robert Greiner 0:24

Now, you know, it was one of those. Diana and I met in high school, did the long-distance thing over college. And so I knew I wanted to marry her. We had talked about it pretty early on. At that point, we're just waiting to grow up, basically. And so by the time we were all graduated, and I had enough to buy a ring and those kind of like the logistics around it, it was just kind of woke up one day and said, Oh, I guess I'm like, I'm doing it today, because there's nothing else we're waiting on. And it just happened to be November 11. So nice. Nothing special about that day, except it's the earliest possible time I could have proposed.

Charles Knight 1:02

Yeah. If you didn't hesitate. Once all those things were in place. That was great.

Robert Greiner 1:07

There's no hesitation that that's it. That was a pretty easy, easy decision for me. Diana, I don't know. You have to ask her. She has a major reservations or regrets at this point. So we're talking new series today? Yeah?

Igor Geyfman 1:21

Yeah. Kicking off a new series. trillion-dollar coach.

This is the story of Bill Campbell,

Robert Greiner 1:28

one of my favorite books.

Igor Geyfman 1:29


Robert Greiner 1:30

Yeah. It's nice and short to they don't embellish it, which I also feel as sort of a maybe a nod to Bill Campbell. There's not a lot of fluff, like some business books.

Igor Geyfman 1:40

Yeah, that's right. Sometimes you read a business book, and you're like, boy, this could have been a blog post instead of a 400. Page. You know, paperback?

Charles Knight 1:47

Let's, but I got a question for y'all. Because this is about Bill Campbell, who is a business executive coach, but it is not written by him. It's written by people that he has coached before. Is that right?

Robert Greiner 2:03

That's correct. Yeah. So Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle. And then the foreword was written by Adam Grant, Adam Grant, who's a business thinker and author. This is a book that I think people wanted to write over the years, Bill Campbell, was the kind of person that didn't really want the spotlight. I think Adam Grant tried to write a book about Bill Campbell's what I think is what he said in the foreword to he declined when he was alive and those kinds of things. And so this is sort of a

Charles Knight 2:37

waited for him to die to write a book about him.

Robert Greiner 2:39

But I think it's like a general appreciation for him in his work. There's maybe a legacy component. I'm pretty sure I could be mixing my sort of biography business book, memory here, but I'm pretty sure the family's okay with it. And yes, kind of thing.

Charles Knight 2:53

I remember that too. Yeah, that was a pretty interesting part of this book for me, like the content is amazing. Bill Campbell, seems amazing. But it's just an interesting, it's just it's not your typical biography or business book, because Bill Campbell is such a probably anomaly, like so highly effective and good and yet doesn't want the spotlight. It just, yeah, not many people like that. Yeah, not many people like that. If they're, if somebody is world-class, they're gonna want people to know it. It didn't seem like he wanted that all that much. So

Igor Geyfman 3:31

It's very telling, you know, that it wasn't like Walter Isaacson that wrote his biography, right. Yeah.

The victor writes the story kind of thing.

And the people he coached, it was like executive at Google, right, like former CEO of Google cares enough to write a book about somebody who's obviously impacted their life in a big way. Not like it wasn't like a professional writer who just needs to crank out another, you know, biography novel, because that's what the publisher is telling him to do.

Robert Greiner 4:00

There are a few things that resonate with me around Bill Campbell style, which we'll get into, I like to how this is a this is just a human, right, we had a whole series on leadership and the kinds of things that make up leaders and how people can be evaluated or not. He was a fairly mediocre football coach, but everybody loved him. Because he was in this sort of zero sum sport, had a bit of a mediocre track record. But his focus was on growing and developing the players around him. And I think there's that translation into the business world that just made all sorts of sense. I'm curious though that have y'all watched Ted Lasso at all? I got a Ted Lasso vibe when I'm reading this for the second time, now, I've seen the show

Charles Knight 4:45

I was thinking the same thing. I've only watched a few episodes. But yeah, I that that was right in my mind as you're just Robert. Yeah.

Robert Greiner 4:54

Okay, man. I'm so glad you said that. He Where have you seen it? I know we talked about it, but I'm not sure if you've seen

Igor Geyfman 4:59

I haven't started yet?

Robert Greiner 5:00

Okay? We may make some references, because I do think relating it back to analogies or shows could help as well. Bring brought another dimension of how I view Bill Campbell, whether it's right or wrong.

Charles Knight 5:12

Makes sense. Robert, did you recommend I read this? I can't remember if it was you or Igor, who

Robert Greiner 5:17

Igor, was the one that has been evangelizing trillion-dollar coach. So it's probably he probably recommended it to us at the same time. I think you did a trip report a couple years ago. Right, Igor, when you went to

Igor Geyfman 5:29

Yep, went to kind of the Iberian Peninsula. And the doing the trip report was inspired by reading the trillion-dollar coach. And knowing that was one of the things that Bill recommended to his executive as a way to build deeper connections between the teams.

Do you mean Portugal?

It was Portugal and Spain? That's why I said the Iberian Peninsula

Robert Greiner 5:51


it. I don't know what that is. I just know that you had been to Portugal.

Igor Geyfman 5:55

Yeah, yeah.

Charles Knight 5:56

So Igor, how did you come across the book or catch wind of Bill Campbell? I know Bill Campbell's time at Apple for a while. So I don't know if that's, I'm just curious. How did you come across the book and Bill Campbell,

Igor Geyfman 6:07

I have to thank our like machine learning overlords at Amazon, I think because I buy a lot of like business books every year. And the algorithm knows that. And so this was one of the top recommendations for books, you might be interested in things. The machines told me to read it.

Robert Greiner 6:25

Hey, can I just chime in with a funny, maybe holiday-themed meme that's floating around? Since you said that?

Igor Geyfman 6:32


Robert Greiner 6:33

okay, so there's sauce posted. What's stopping Jeff Bezos from being Santa? There's some don't let your young kids 5 or under listen to this next 30 seconds. Not that I think anyone would anyway, that'd be weird. What's stopping Jeff Bezos from being Santa. He has our address. He has drones. He has a wish list and intimate knowledge of all of our habits. He is specifically making the choice to not be Santa. So there you go.

Charles Knight 6:59

That's pretty funny. And a little creepy.

Robert Greiner 7:01

Maybe I shouldn't quit my day job.

Charles Knight 7:02

Drones come into our house, dropping off presents.

Robert Greiner 7:04


Christmas, Charles. This thing we know that you wanted. Oh my goodness. Could you imagine the Yeah, it'd be cool to hear the drones at night. Coming into the chimney. There you go. Anyway, sorry about that. Alright, so y'all have read the foreword? Yes, we're going to go through the same way, chapter by chapter. And then we'll roughly spend one episode on each chapter and then we'll do a wrap-up at the end.

Charles Knight 7:28

I did not read the foreword. But yeah, I think that that is the approach and this time I do plan on reading it, unlike the last book that we covered, because I don't want to miss out.

Robert Greiner 7:36

Yeah, that was an interesting experiment. But I think we did come to the mutual conclusion that it's just not very helpful. Yeah. Okay. Yeah, the forward is not too long. Talked a little bit about Bill Campbell's history as a football coach turned into this sort of executive coach. Igor, what was maybe one or two things that stood out for you in the forward here?

Igor Geyfman 7:58

Yeah, you mentioned it a little bit earlier in the discussion. But the one thing stood out to me, I think Adam Grant talks about him being a quote, football coach for six losing seasons. And that a lot of that can be attributed to Bill Campbell really caring about the whole player, and not a relentless need to win the game. So is he cared more about the players winning the game of life than the team winning a football game, at that may be the player's game of life expense. And I think he also mentioned football's a zero sum game, like a lot of suppose clear winners and losers and rankings and so on. And but caring for the whole human being and their life is much more useful in the business world, maybe than it is for winning a football game. So that's definitely one thing that, you know, stuck out to me and resonated with me as I read the foreword, because I think it aligns very much with how our organization thinks about talent development, and working with people and helping them make progress over their career.

Robert Greiner 9:11

Yeah, yeah, that really resonates with me, at this point in our careers. We've all built software that if you're listening to this, you've used software that we've built, like some really large projects, major companies, and that's pretty cool. I don't really look back on my career, though, and think about how I built this calendar widget that a million people use on this one website. I think about the individuals that I had the benefit of working with and how we grew together. And so I think there's a at least for me, this is like a model of what I would aspire to be professionally. And then you hear stories later on where there's this work, dinner and Bill Campbell's tables, the only one that's cracking up and they're having their like the kids table. And I think a lot of humor and play and levity has been sort of shoved out of beaten out of the professional. We're working day to day cadence and that's to our peril. And so it's cool to me that he found a good, a good style that uniquely him, right. I don't think you and I, or anyone listening here could go off and do exactly what Bill Campbell did. It wouldn't work. He was a unique person, you're a unique person. But some of the approaches and mentality around leadership and building others and camaraderie and trust, I think are really going to resonate.

Igor Geyfman:

Yep. And the other thing that stood out to me, Robert, there is a little funny quip that Adam Grant makes. I think when he's he was chatting with Sheryl Sandberg. And he said, there's every bookstore has a Self Help section, but not a help others section. And that the book, the trillion-dollar coach book, is a help others book. It's not a self-help book. And I think that's a that's like a very crucial lesson in going out of your way to give rather than take, because Adam Grant wrote that whole book about giving, right and he's put people into three categories as givers, takers, and matchers. And most people all in the match or category. But then he talks about givers, and especially givers with a specific nuance. And Bill Campbell, as he was writing that book, he was basically describing Bill Campbell, and as a giver. And so I think the more givers we have in our organizations and in our lives, and being givers ourselves, the better off everybody is.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. And I think if I remember right, that there needs to be a healthy balance of giving, taking matching. And there are times where it's appropriate to take

Igor Geyfman:

that. Yep. That's right. I think when he talks about givers, there's some folks that like give and give, but sometimes it can become almost like a disease. There's always such a, there's too much of a good thing. And I think that's the point that Adam makes in his book about givers, even though givers can be highly, givers have highly volatile results. So givers either come out really poorly, or really well. And it all depends on like, the nuance of your giving and why you're doing it and your reactions and who you're interacting with its own. That's another series.

Robert Greiner:

That's it. That is another series. I do have a quick side question, though. So especially around this time, so we're in November, holiday spirit is among us. Are you ever in a line at Starbucks, Igor, and there's like this chain created, this is typically in the drive-thru. So you go in order, you just do your you're doing your regular thing you pull up to the window, and the person who's taken to take your payment says, the car in front of you just paid your for your coffee. Does that ever happen to you? Yeah, yeah, the several times. Okay, so what do you do? When that happens? Do you pay for the next person's and keep the chain going?

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah. So that actually, maybe we have a trip report coming up. Next time we think and but this happened to me on our honeymoon road trip, we're driving through Starbucks, we're driving through Starbucks and getting a couple of drinks. And yeah, as we pull up the gentleman at the drive-thru sources, hey the folks in front of you paid for your drinks and so on. And I was like, Oh, great. I'd like to pay for the drinks of the people behind me. And, and he said something like, I think they ordered a lot. It was like, I don't know, like a $25 order or something like that. And I was like, Yeah, let's keep the chain going and brighten someone's day. And hopefully, they'll be compelled to keep the chain going for the people behind them and so on. Because it's like a feel good thing. And sure, there might be some weird disequilibrium between what you ordered and what you pay some people coming, let's call it coming out ahead, coming up behind whatever it is, but the positive emotions generated by that I think outweigh whatever mismatch might be.

Robert Greiner:

Okay, I'm about to disagree with you fully. But I think you might be doing the right thing. Charles, is this ever happened to you?

Charles Knight:

Never. Not a single time, man. But I don't go through Starbucks drive-thru all that much. Yeah.

Robert Greiner:

You're much more disciplined than Igor and I, what would you do? If you're going through a drive-thru anywhere?

Charles Knight:

or anything? I do? Pay it forward? Yeah, absolutely.

Robert Greiner:

That was my approach to and sometimes the person taking the payment will say, would you, the person in front of you paid for your coffee? Would you like to pay for the person behind you? Or they just say, hey, that person, in front of you paid for your coffee? So I will occasionally do that? I'll start the chain. Basically, I don't what I don't think, and this is this, a comedian actually pointed this out, is like humans are very bad at giving gratitude, and not feeling and feeling obligated. And so I said, use this as an example. And maybe when someone pays for your coffee and who's in front of you. The right approach is to feel gratitude to be thankful to take the gift and move on. And to me that my initial reaction was that selfish? That's a selfish thing. You're supposed to continue the chain, see how far the chain can go and stuff like that and I'm torn. Now, I may do 50/50 But sometimes I will Just take it and say, Oh, thanks, that's really great way that the person in front of the field tried to sit in the feeling of gratitude for a little bit and move on with my day.

Charles Knight:

I think your challenge and practice is to do both. Like, I don't think it's as easy as if you pay it forward, there is no, you're not experiencing the gratitude and the receiving of the gift, you can absolutely, I totally understand what you're saying. But it's, I think you got to view it as a goal to try to be able to do both all the time, because that's the best outcome. Yeah, to really, truly, fully receive, and let that overflow to the point where you pay it forward. Because if you don't fully receive, then absolutely, it's done out of obligation, or guilt, or, Oh, this person's gonna think I'm bad if I don't, right. Those are not good reasons to pay it forward. So and expense to stop and not pay it forward? If those are the motivations for it.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. Which is why I think starting is a cool, huh, yeah. But anyway, there you go. So two things, that stuck out to me in the foreword. So Adam Grant says, He has drawn in his research and his writing has drawn a correlation to, to be a great manager, you have to be a great coach. He says, the higher you climb, the more your success depends on making other people successful. You are dependent on other people, that's definitely true. And so coaches are like the behaviors that they exhibit are really geared towards helping other people grow. There's that dependency, where you're not on the field, there's nothing you can go and do to actually affect the outcome of the game. And so that that analog into the business or professional environment is definitely there. And then he equates coaching differentiates coaching and mentoring. Mentoring is in this wisdom, space, coaching, he says, getting your hands dirty, rolling up your sleeves, there in the arena to help us realize our potential hold up a mirror so we can see our blind spots, hold us accountable, take responsibility for making us better without taking credit for the accomplishments. I think that's really cool. There's an understanding or an articulation or a recognition that Bill Campbell is the sort of archetype here. There's no one better at doing at being a coach than Bill Campbell, there are other behaviors needed to be successful professionally. If you want to level up your skills as a coach or get a good litmus test for what that looks like. There's there's no better way place to look.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, that's that's stood out to me to Robert, the coaching piece, and how important that is maybe even more important than mentoring. Because as leaders, we have responsibilities to coach and mentor people on our teams. The thing that stood out to me, in the foreword that I know is backed up in the book is that Bill Campbell, and this makes sense when you think about this, from a sports standpoint. It's like he coaches, the football team. But I realized in reading the foreword, and then thinking back on when I read the book, the first time around, when I think of coaching, often, it's one on one coaching that I'm thinking about. And I would venture to guess that's not how Bill thought about it. Sure, he did one on one, coaching, but it was for the purpose of making the team overall better, whether it's the football team or marketing team at Apple or whatever. And that was, that's something that I'm going to think about as we reread this because I think generally speaking, when I mentor, I'm focusing on the individual and their career goals and aspirations and blind spots. But from a coaching standpoint, I think I may be too narrowly focusing on coaching the individual with their tasks, as opposed to thinking about coaching through this individual to raise the performance of the team. Does that make sense? Because that's the other thing that stood out from the foreword is Adam Grant talking about his time speaking at Google, and the insights around treating teams as the fundamental building block of the organization, as opposed to individuals and how to get maximum performance and output from a team. And so that's just a different paradigm than how I've thought about coaching. I don't about I don't know about

Robert Greiner:

That's such insight. I'm like, furiously taking notes as you're talking here. Because that was not clear to me at all. But you're, I think you're absolutely right. There's this team vision, this sort of clarity of purpose and where the collection of individuals need to go. And then that's the driving force between when you're focusing on the team level, what she would do with attending the, the executive meetings and things like that, where he was just kind of part of the collective. And then as he needed to, he would dip into the, to the individual, always with the sort of team success in mind. That's yeah, wow, that's really insightful.

Charles Knight:

And that's where it makes sense in the sports context. And that's probably why he's so unique because in the business world coaching is often spoken up as executive coaching, like you have one on one executive coach. And really what Bill did was team coaching in the business world. And that's just unheard of. And I think everybody's too focused on the individuals and not really embracing this team is the fundamental building block like Adam was talking about. So that was pretty, that was pretty helpful for me to further make sense as to why Bill was so unique, and also why he was so successful. I don't remember the story around why it's a trillion-dollar coach, as opposed to doing

Robert Greiner:

If you add all market caps together of all the organizations in Silicon Valley that he coached the CEOs of you would reach a trillion dollars. Okay. So I think that's a like he's created a trillion dollars of value. I helped them along that much. Yeah,

Charles Knight:

yeah. Yeah. I think that's why he took that team approach to coaching, which I can certainly learn from.

Robert Greiner:

Awesome, Igor, any closing thoughts from you?

Igor Geyfman:

maybe as we discuss this a little bit further, something that I've always really wondered about as a difference between maybe sports coaching and business coaching. If I'm coaching a football team, I'm there as a coach. I'm there for all the practice sessions, all the training, all the scrimmages, all the games, all the post-game, sync ups. And so I, as a coach, I'm intimately involved, and a participant in I'm not playing on the field, but I'm like they're right actively there, except for maybe whatever individual training that players might be doing with their physical trainers, or whatever. And so I have a pretty good view into what's going on with the team, how they're working together, and also individual players. And that's just not something that is normally done. If I'm coaching the development team, or something like that. I'm not there for everything that they do as the development team. And how does that impact my ability to provide coaching as compared to a sport? It's not mentioned in the forward, but just something that popped into my head as a question. And maybe as a challenge, and I don't know if I don't actually think that's addressed in the book either. So maybe something for us to ponder as we meander through the rest of the series.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah. Sounds good. Cool. Any closing thoughts, Charles, I'm looking forward to reading the book with you all and getting into the nuances of it. I feel like every time we do one of these series, I unlock a whole new understanding of the subject matter. So I'm excited to dig in here.

Charles Knight:

Me too. Yeah, I've got my bookmark ready for reading.

Robert Greiner:

Excellent. But I think we may take a diversion next time Igor or did you say you're ready for the trip report?

Igor Geyfman:

I'll be ready next week when we do it. And then after that, we'll move into the CEO and the caddy, I think is the name of the first chapter.

Robert Greiner:

Yes. Awesome. Okay, well, it's good talking to y'all today.

Igor Geyfman:


Charles Knight:

Take care y'all.

Igor Geyfman:


Robert Greiner:

Bye. That's it for today. Thanks for joining. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @wannagrabcoffee or drop us a line at [email protected]

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