Episode 58

Your Title Makes You a Manager. Your People Make You a Leader. - Trillion Dollar Coach Series - Chapter 2 Part 1

Published on: 3rd February, 2022
"If you're a great manager, your people will make you a leader. They claim that not you." - Bill Campbell

In today's episode we continue our series on Bill Campbell and the Trillion Dollar Coach with Chapter 2: Your Title Makes You a Manager. Your People Make You a Leader.

This chapter is solid gold and a great start to the book. It's also very dense with lots of differing advice around leadership, executive effectiveness, and building great relationships throughout the organization.

Today we cover the areas of the chapter focused on building trust with your team and some of the attributes as a coach Bill brought to bear on the team to help it level up, both at the individual and group level.

For more information, visit our website at Wanna Grab Coffee? website or send us an email at [email protected].


Robert Greiner 0:04

We're gonna have a cat. Is there a cat?

Igor Geyfman 0:07

My cat? Okay, I'm sorry. I can't do anything about her. So whenever I don't mute you're gonna.

Robert Greiner 0:13

That's fine. I can tell them from my end.

Igor Geyfman 0:17

Hey, buddy, come here. It's okay, you know? Yeah, she misses her mom.

Charles Knight 0:22

Yeah. cute cat.

Igor Geyfman 0:24

Yeah, she's a great cat. You're very upset. Yeah. Anyway, anyway, or hear me out, Robert.

Robert Greiner 0:33


Igor Geyfman 0:34

We could cover chapter two of the trillion dollar coach

Robert Greiner 0:37

Hey, we should do that.

Igor Geyfman 0:38

Well you think?

Robert Greiner 0:39


this is a great chapter.

Igor Geyfman 0:41

It's an awesome chapter.

Robert Greiner 0:43

Yes. What's the title? Your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader?

Igor Geyfman 0:49

That's exactly it. Yeah.

Robert Greiner 0:51

I don't think we're gonna be able to get to all the topics today too. So I was actually gonna ask you if you wanted to maybe do a two parter. Yeah, well, yeah, there's,

Igor Geyfman 0:59

there's definitely enough in here for a two parter,

Robert Greiner 1:02

I think so. At the end, it kind of covers the sections in that last paragraph. And so operational excellence, putting people first being decisive, communicating well, knowing how to get the most out of even the most challenging people focusing on product excellence. And treating people well, when they're let go. So that's seven, seven things. I don't know that we can cover them all today. Unless there's anything burning. You want to you want to go first on?

Charles Knight 1:29

Yeah, I've got a hard stop at four. So I will do my best to.

Igor Geyfman 1:33

Yep. Same

Charles Knight 1:34

contribute. But yeah, I'm cool with two part or if there's a, I can't remember if we've got like a something in the hopper that we could do one off? Short. Yeah.

Robert Greiner 1:44

So you know, let's, let's just see how far we get. It's a pretty dense chapter that I don't remember. So much being packed into a single chapter before, but there's definitely a lot in here.

Igor Geyfman 1:53

Yeah, maybe we start with the the headline of the chapter. And and you know, what, maybe what it meant to you when you first read it? And then if that sort of changed, as you read the chapter?

Robert Greiner 2:09

Yeah, yeah, that sounds great. You want to go first?

Igor Geyfman 2:12

Sure. Yeah.

Okay, cool. Happy, happy to go first. Yeah, so your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader. And when I first read that, so I read this book, after I read, of the nine lies about work that we covered, you know, in a previous season.

Robert Greiner 2:28


Igor Geyfman 2:28

And what this really made me think of it made me think back to that book, and to the idea in that book, that basically, there is no, like, set of magic traits, that make you a great leader. And that the only thing that really makes anyone a leader is that they have followers. And this really hit the same note, the your people make you a leader, you know, those people, through their self determined will have bestowed sort of the mantle of leadership upon you. And, and maybe that's the distinction that we can make between somebody who says that their manager, somebody who says that their leader is somebody that made me that says that they're, they're both. And the idea to me that you can be a leader without having a title. And without being a manager. Like I don't, I don't think being a manager is prerequisite to be a leader. But being a good leader is probably a prerequisite for being an effective manager. And in my mind, and this goes back, there's a friend of mine, Scott, every morning, he would drop his little boy off at school. And he, he would tell them, he would tell him be a leader. And that's all he would say, you know, he'd say, you know, he wouldn't sort of elaborate on that. He'd say just be a leader. And I don't know why I remember that. This is something that, you know, I talked to him about it maybe eight, nine years ago. But I thought that was such a powerful moment. Every morning between father and son, your son being six, seven years old, he was just getting into first grade. That is his message every morning is be a leader. So that's that's kind of how I processed the title of this chapter when I when I first saw it. What what did you think, Robert?

Robert Greiner 4:21

Yeah, there's this really good quote. So this is when, you know, Bill Campbell, earlier in his career was a little bit too micromanaging, dictatorial? And Donna, who worked for Bill, who I think ended up being a CEO somewhere else, if I remember the palm and

Igor Geyfman 4:40

Yeah, palm.

Robert Greiner 4:40

Yeah. She came in and said, Hey, if you were gonna go back to Apple, if, if you keep treating us this way, your title makes you manager, your people make you leader. So, you know, Donna Dubinsky, right down into bins. Yep. That's That's right. That's right. Okay. And so what I think there's a hidden sort of virtue here, around humility, I think But Bill Campbell demonstrated by telling the story, because he looks like the jerk and Donald looks like the hero, which in this case, that's accurate. It's just coming from Bill coming from the person who looked like a dummy in the situation, you know, typically we don't, you know, we tend to forget those pretty quickly. And he kept calling back to it, which I think is cool. But later on, Bill was coaching, a manager who was struggling him and he said, You have demanded respect rather than having it accrue to you accrue to you, which is really interesting. And then he says, You need to project humility, selflessness, things that project that you're you care about the company and about people. And the thing about respect accruing, like really was an interesting way for me to think about it. You know, we've talked about emotional bank accounts and stuff like that, that's fairly common. But this, this idea as a leader, that you're slowly accruing respect, it's building up incrementally, slowly over time. And that pays dividends for you in the future to more effective teams through rapid growth, objectives being met, things like that. So I think that's maybe the one thing that stuck out to me around, if maybe if you could focus on one thing, it's like engaging in behaviors that help accrue, you could call it respect, you could use another word like loyalty trust, I think is a great word that you trust is probably a really great word that you could pop in for respect like that, to speak to you the kind of following that we're talking about here that humans have to intentionally and through their own volition opt into, accrues to you slowly over time, through your behaviors or diminishes very rapidly. And so that, I think, is a really kind of poignant focus for for me on this chapter.

Igor Geyfman 6:48

Yeah. Charles, did you have any thoughts that were spurred by my like the title of the chapter?

Charles Knight 6:54

Yeah, there's a lot to unpack in this. Title, it. It's a wonderful title for a Chapter. Your title makes you a manager, your people make you a leader. I, the initial reaction I had was similar to yours, Igor, about hate the definition of leaders that have followers, which is a pretty simple definition, but not, it's not all that inspiring, you know, necessarily, it doesn't speak to what you are leading and, and why, but that your people make you a leader. The more I sit with it, the more kind of layers of the onion, I can peel back. And, you know, I think in the first couple of pages of the chapter, Robert, I landed on a similar quote, This is not what Donna Dubinsky said, but this is Bill's mantra that he attributes to her. That unpacks that phrase a little bit more, if you're a great manager, your people will make you a leader. They claim that not you. And I, I don't consider myself to be arrogant, self centered, person, I have those tendencies. But I tried, I have tried very much to cultivate some balance there. I mean, you need a little bit of ego to have the confidence to try new things, but not so much that that there's no shred of humility in you, that makes you unbearable. You know, I've well aware of that I have a I have a print that has that, like the balance of humility and confidence and allowing the ego to be porous, as a reminder. But when I read that, you know, specifically, they acclaim that not you? And he's referring to the leader part. I was like, oh man, I've been thinking about leadership, all wrong. Like when I think about leadership, it's what am I doing? You know, your reaction, Robert, to the what are those behaviors that accrue? You know, stuff in a relationship that maybe leads to people claiming to be a leader? I think about that a lot. In every interaction, I can either gain share or lose share, says What am I doing to gain share? Well, that's a phrase that came across it I tried to embody, whether it's with a client, a prospect or, or a friend or teammate. But even though I feel like I'm doing the right things, it's clearly my mentality about leadership is rooted in me and my abilities and capabilities and worthiness and experience and strengths, as opposed to No, I don't have the right to say that I'm a leader. Others do, and only others do. You know, so it's, it really kind of shook me up a little bit when I when I saw that. And I think, you know, in our firm, we talk a lot about servant leadership, which I think is, you know, Bill, Bill Campbell would probably really appreciate and support. It's kind of related to this lead from behind courageous followership, is a phrase that we use and that we teach. You know, it's it doesn't matter your title, like you said, Igor, you can still lead. But I've had to do quite a bit of reflection on. Wow, you know, that's I, I consider myself a leader. Why is that the case? Yeah. Looks like it's because I think people follow. Follow me for what I say and for what I believe in. But I don't know. I mean, I'm not saying I'm having an existential crisis here, based off the title of this chapter. But I'm really trying to unpack this, this sentence here, they acclaim that your people acclaim that not you. And so it just kind of begs the question is like, who am I to say that I'm a leader,

Robert Greiner:

you know, that this is really interesting, I was hoping we would go down this route. I was I was thinking of it maybe a little bit differently than you. But we're, I think we're landing on the same spot. There's such a level of practicality, to the way Bill Campbell operates, he was a true like practitioner of leadership. Right? There are people who might think about how tables and chairs are built. And then there are people who like build tables and chairs, he was at the saw, at the workbench like building things with people. And the things we talked about the beginning around operational efficiency or effectiveness, managing people really well dealing with difficult people. Those are all things that Bill Campbell did really well, they were in pursuit of an objective, that he managed the holistic organization and people around it that lead to good results that lead to people being taken care of that lead to people thinking he was a leader feeling like he was a good leader. You know, there's this story at the beginning that we, I'm hoping that we could talk a little bit more about where Google at one point did away with all their managers. They went like super flat organization, we don't need them. Over the next year, they sort of asked around, and it turns out, yes, like, even the smartest people on the planet, who at the time were all being hired by Google, right, you could make and make a case, they had all the smart people, or at least the lion's share of them. They would they're saying I want someone I can learn from I want someone to break ties, right? I just I don't want to be directed and micromanaged. But I'm fine. taking direction from being led, and not being like required to self start all the time. And I thought that was really interesting, too. So people actually want someone to come in in a fair way, to have a good framework for making decisions to to coach and grow the team around them. Like it's kind of like hardwired in us. And so I think we're at, in some sense, like add an advantage there, because most people want that in their professional lives. The downside is, I think just we've talked about this before, too, like, humans are just generally pretty terrible at the act of management and leadership. And so it is it is definitely hard to craft a Master.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, and speaking about his craft, you know, leveling up the whole team, right. That's something that we talked about in the intro that he he views his job as a coach to level up the team's performance, where a lot of times we think about individual coaching in the corporate world. And when you, when you frame it like that, then it, I think it becomes more obvious that you can't say that you are a leader, that it must come from your team. And it actually creates a nice little feedback loop. Because if you are doing what you need to, as a team coach, to level up the team's performance, to rank up wins to improve, improve output and productivity and whatever and make make people's lives better. While doing that, then, you know that that would very easily make that team see you as a leader. And then if they see you as a leader, then that reinforces your desire to improve the team's performance and creates this nice little virtuous cycle. And so I think I still have to, throughout this whole series, like I just need to think about what does it mean to coach a team? Yeah, that's just such a different paradigm than what I'm used to thinking about when I'm coaching people. But I think that is that is part of his craft. Like your time I Robert. I'm trying to piece apart or tease apart through this through this book.

Igor Geyfman:

I'm with you, Charles, like I reading this chapter. I started to feel like a jerk, you know, every time you know, anytime that I sort of implied whether implicitly or explicitly that I was a leader, it like, you know, it's like me parachuting in with a big, red mission accomplished banner behind me, but, you know, maybe I didn't earn that. And it really made me reflect on how I talk about myself and any claim that I can have towards leadership, you know, being uttered by me

Robert Greiner:

well, If you're ever feeling if you ever feeling bad about yourself as a leader, Igor, and you would like to give yourself some grace, you could. I don't have all the details right on this, but I think zoom recently laid off like five or 700 people. And they did it over zoom.

Igor Geyfman:

Oh, it wasn't the same time zoom. It was like booking brokerage.com or something like that. But they did it on my

Robert Greiner:

Are you sure it wasn't zoom.

Igor Geyfman:

It was not Zoom. Yeah, it was it was some sort of like, financial company or something.

Robert Greiner:

Maybe better.com.

Yeah, it started with a B.

Oh, man. I thought it was actually at zoom. Okay. better.com Yeah. better.com

Igor Geyfman:

The dude gets on there. He's a you 900 Or like the unlucky group that is getting like go and by the way, part of that is because you're underperformers and I mean, it was pretty brutal. You know, holy cow. I can't imagine that.

Robert Greiner:

Oh, and he always taking a leave of absence now.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I mean, like what to do after disaster like that.

Robert Greiner:

So you could be doing worse is? Oh, for some reason. I thought it was Zoomers. So fire 900 employees over zoom. Yeah. Oh, gosh.

Charles Knight:

You know, just to bring this back to Bill. I'm reading a part of the second chapter again. And here's, here's an interesting tidbit. I'd like to get your take on this a little bit. Thinking about your weekly coaching sessions with your team leads. So in the book, it says when they met with Bill, So Bill's coachees, I guess they said what we discussed first and foremost, was management. Yeah. So there's something subtle there where he's not coaching them to be good leaders. He's coaching them, initially at first, right, first priority was are you effectively managing? And so although, Igor, I agree with you, you don't have to be a manager to be a leader. At least in this context, especially in the corporate world. It's like your job as a leader is to train and coach effective managers. You know, so I guess maybe a question to you, Igor, is if can you be a leader? And poor manager? Yeah. Yeah.

Igor Geyfman:

I think I think maybe in a, in a corporate context, probably not. And, but But I also think if you really expand the definition of manager, mate, maybe being a good manager is a prerequisite even more broadly than just strictly in the corporate world. Yeah. You know, maybe bringing, Charles wanted to get away from it, but like, the better.com thing, right? You know, as part of this chapter, there's, there's a part that says the, the top priority of any manager is the well being of success of her people. And I think if you apply that standard, and you ask, you know, the shawl, who's who's the person that did the slay off, you know, it in, in that, in that activity, was his top priority, the well being and success of, of his people? And I, I would challenge people to give a definitive yes to that. You know, and I think maybe if, if the shot brought that lens, to, you know, because the layoffs probably necessary, right, if he brought that lens to that interact, you know, how, how could he have, you know, shown leadership, and subsequently not have to like, sort of, you know, slink off and take a break, and, you know, turn off his Twitter, just just the thought, you know, if that's, like, a consistent lens that you can apply as a manager to you. Yeah, so, so the lens is the well being and success of your people is your top priority,

Charles Knight:

as a manager?

Igor Geyfman:

as a manager.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, that's yeah, that's, I don't know, I don't know, man. Because if I try to put my bill hat on, I would say, as a manager, your, your, your goal and purpose is to be successful in business. And which requires a lot of operational excellence, which I know is a topic that comes up later. And so I don't know, I can't articulate what my issue is with that. Because, in my mind, I want to be able to try to separate the two and say, Hey, man, I don't know. I mean, it's just the the, you know, as a manager, I think you have a duty to the outcomes of the business, making the business to be successful. And, and yet you have responsibility as a leader that that's what I asked you to state the lens again, because it's like, Hey, if you're the focus of being a leader, I think is is rooted in your people's well being for sure. Yeah. I think I'm just confused with that. It seems like it's crossing boundaries that that don't need to be crossed. I don't know I'm the same people fill those roles, right at the same time. People are managers and expected to lead and some people are more effective at one than the other? Well, if you are good at both, and I don't know, I'm probably not making any sense.

Robert Greiner:

While I'm having the same thing going in my head, I just I have the luxury of not having to ramble about it. Because you were doing that for me. So thank you. If you're it says the top priority of any manager is the well being and success of her people I do think is the foundational element that's like the cornerstone or the the ground that you're building the solid ground that you're building the the organizational structure on, right, because Bill was super results oriented. But no one ever called him a jerk about, you've seen like the stereotypical hard driver, we need you to come in over Christmas break, even though you put your time in, to take off, you know, months ago, that people always tend to try to eke more hours of effort out of humans as a proxy for getting things done, build and do that. But he was very practical, very focused on operational excellence and improvement. Not shy about giving feedback. I think it's because he built these relationships up first, he accrued that trust, focused on well being and success first, and then when all these other things came up, that required difficult conversations, he got the benefit of the doubt, right, people jumped because they were well taken care of. And so I think this is the core leadership behavior, or priority, or whatever you want to call it, that unlocks all the other things that that you can accomplish with a team. Because the foundation is solid sense.

Charles Knight:

I mean, if you, if I read later on to the into the chapter, the book says the primary job of each manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop. And I think maybe there's some nuance that I'm applying here that I shouldn't, that, to me that's in alignment with to serve a greater purpose, you know, beyond the individual person. You know, it's the it's the purpose and the goals of the organization that they may collectively work for. But when you talk about, like, well being, you know, and taking care of being a caretaker of individual people, that I don't think that's the job of a manager, that could be the job of a coach. Yeah, or friend or therapist, you know, but the, the manager piece, I think, where it starts to, and look, I probably sound like an ass because, but I mean, you to know me, like in, in our company, I care very much about the well being of the whole person, you know, in our, in our firm and including our clients. But we are definitely an anomaly in terms of how we train our people to think about leading and coaching and developing people. But

Robert Greiner:

yeah, I mean, you do have, I would say, a very sophisticated and nuanced understanding around the area of wellbeing. I'm not sure. Like when you say the word well being, and they say the word well being they mean the same thing.

Charles Knight:

That's true.

Robert Greiner:

But if we go back to perma, right, so we have a whole series on this positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning accomplishment, is the sort of positive psychology constituent elements of what is broadly called well being. Yeah. And I do want to get to this either in the conversation today, or the next one around positive emotion because the thing that I love about this chapter is Bill Campbell, such a kid, right, he's his tables, goofing up, goofing around, in like super serious business dinners, right? He's throwing napkins at Al Gore, who's throwing them back at him, right. Everybody always felt a little jealous that they weren't at the table with Bill Campbell, because he was, like, set had brought such levity to situations, which I think is pretty cool. So you could definitely argue that bill in his style, generated a lot of positive emotion through the personal connectivity that he facilitated in one on one and group meetings, like the trip report and things like that, you know, engagement, meaning and accomplishment. That makes total sense, right? Like I don't, I don't think those really even need to be dug into, because that's just part of doing excellent work, which the chapter is full of, and then positive relationships, you know, the, that's part of the his whole team, team building philosophy and structures working individually working at the group level, and then sort of smoothing out some of the rough edges of the team. So I mean, if we take the sort of the clinical What is it positive psychology definition of? well being? I would say that all of these component elements Bill Campbell, brought to his coaching and leadership management style.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, yeah. That's a really good point.

Robert Greiner:

I like the gain share thing too, by the way. You brought that up earlier. I wrote that down. That's pretty, that's a cool thing to think about going into a meeting, or an interaction around.

Charles Knight:

I mean, it completely changes my mentality and posture and tone. You know, because I think once I, once I really, you know, heard that advice and started to practice it, I noticed that. And really what the practice entailed was, even if it was just a moment, like a split second, before I started the meeting, or I started the conversation, I checked in to say, my gain, am I about to gain share loo share, that's all the practice was, I was surprised at how often I was on the verge of losing share with somebody. Because I, I'm very quick to judge. And I don't like that about myself, but very quick to judge. And, and that in combination with, I think I'm maybe slightly above average, at being able to diagnose like underlying root causes, I can, I can tend to be pretty harsh, and incisive, as opposed to helpful. And so that was the biggest thing for me. It's like, wow, I'm geared up and ready by default for losing share, because I'm not considering the impact of what I'm about to say on on other human beings. And so, yeah, yeah, that's good advice.

Robert Greiner:

I mean, there's three conversations I've been in this week that are just off the top of my head. So I know there's more. Where I, I went in, on the defense, right, like I knew there was going to be a bit of a spar, and looking back and thinking, oh, man, that's a guy I lost share in those discussions. And maybe it'll be fine. My, of course, will be fine like that the people I was talking to are, I've known forever, like it'll, but you can only do that so much. Right? And you lose share much faster, exponentially faster than you gain share.

Charles Knight:

Yeah, yeah. When I don't remember if, in the book, they talk about Bill making mistakes, don't remember that at all. Like we're where Bill screwed up, or he did something wrong. Or I know and I know, he talked about early on, and as CEO, he was dictatorial, but that that was before he was, you know, superhero bill, as adored by everybody that he's ever kind of coached and worked with. Do you recall any major failures on his part were our main superhero.

Robert Greiner:

I mean, he was part of Light GO which failed. They don't really get into that, though. Yeah, there was the one where someone on the board, he was advising a CEO, I think Flipboard, but I can't remember now. And they kind of said, Hey, you dealt with this person wrong. And then the issue happened again, and he said, Oh, no, I was wrong. This is actually the problems over here, you know, that kind of thing. But yeah, I don't recall any major failures outlined in the book. But I, I do think that he's pretty good about relating his coaching. And maybe there's some wisdom in this. When he coaches another person, a lot of times or a measurable amount of times, it's through the lens of having made that mistake in the past.

Charles Knight:

Yeah. I think I just want him to be flawed like me that way?

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, I'm human. Yeah, it definitely was.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I guarantee it. Yeah, this, this discussion made me made me think of something. And it's, you know, it's a tool that we use, and that other companies use, and it's the Herman brain dominance instrument. And it's, you know, it's the circle that sort of split into like, quarters, and it's, you know, color coded, and each color sort of corresponds with a particular, you know, one of four brain dominance types. And when I, when I read the top priority of any managers, the well being the success of our people, that's like, a red dominance, sort of thinking. So that makes sense. Yeah, I mean, makes sense to me. And I think that that's probably the tension that Charles had with it, because it felt maybe incomplete. And, you know, what, part of what Charles said was, you know, part of management is providing a common vision for the future, right, and goals, or, let's say, a vision, you know, and that's sort of the yellow part. And then the other one was, you know, performance, you know, and making sure that things are getting done and excellence. And, you know, the fourth one that maybe we hadn't mentioned was, you know, sort of safety. Right? And probably, all four of those things are important. And maybe, I don't think they're the point being made here is that they're not part of being a manager. But maybe that the read, you know, the people, which is the well being and success of your people should be like, the top thing that you're considering, but not at the expense of the others. Probably, maybe if, for whatever reason, there's a conflict, right that maybe you skew more people oriented. And

Charles Knight:

I like that.

Because at the end of the day, what we're doing whether we are developing a software product, or trying to transform a company, where it requires, you know, coordinating and motivating humans at scale. And so I buy into the idea that pretty much every problem we encounter doing that is a people problem. And so as a manager, or a leader, however you want to define those things, people has got to be at the top of the list. And because if you don't, then it becomes infinitely harder, if not impossible to actually do anything.

Igor Geyfman:

One of the most beautiful quotes I've ever read in a book is from Gerald Weinstein, and he wrote the secrets of consulting. And the quote is, regardless of what the client tells you, it's always a people problem. And I love that so much. So that's, that's my takeaway. Yeah, I think I think this is a very high read point of view from from Bill.

Robert Greiner:

Yeah, he was definitely human first. Hey, I mean, I know y'all said you have a hard stop. I think we should go. Another episode on this chapter. We definitely do a second session. There's some gold in here around structuring one on ones and preparing for them. Yeah, dealing with difficult people, product excellence, communicating well, being decisive. And so certainly, I want to cover the decisive and one on one structure stuff, so maybe we'll just pick up where we left off next week.

Igor Geyfman:

Yeah, I love it.

Charles Knight:

Sounds good.

Robert Greiner:

Okay. Great talking to y'all.

Igor Geyfman:

Great talking to you guys.

Charles Knight:


Igor Geyfman:


Robert Greiner:

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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