Book Review: Trillion Dollar Coach

Google alumni Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle wrote Trillion Dollar Coach as a tribute to their late friend and coach, Bill Campbell. In the book, Campbell is memorialized as a larger than life personality, with a role in helping to shape leadership and business strategy for companies like Apple, Intuit, and Google.

Campbell, a former football player and coach for the football team at Columbia University, ended up in Silicon Valley in the 1980s and became the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Apple. After his experience at apple, he went on to lead several companies, including Intuit. Later in life, Bill Campbell became a confidant and coach for some of Silicon Valley’s titans, such as Steve Jobs, Ben Horowitz, and Sheryl Sandberg.

TrillionDollarCoachThe book is filled with Campbell’s wisdom as a business veteran, successful leader, and a warm and principled person. To begin, the book shares an account of Campbell’s funeral, which was attended by a wide range of Bill’s friends including his regular golf caddie at his home in Mexico, as well as Silicon Valley’s most well-known tech leaders. Campbell was known for his hugs, treating everybody the same, and his community building opportunities, like the annual Super Bowl trip, which he endowed in his will.

Campbell had all the characteristics of a good coach: brutal honesty, wisdom, complete confidentiality, loyalty, and accessibility, to name just a few. He imparted lessons to already extremely successful people in values-based leadership, how to run an impactful meeting, putting the team first, and achieving organizational and product alignment.

To get access to more of Campbell’s rich wisdom, you are going to have to buy the book, which I recommend partly because of the lessons within it and partly because coaching is an often overlooked, but necessary quality, for the most successful leaders.

If you think about it, leaders of companies play the role of a coach. In many businesses, the front-line, customer-facing staff and product developers are not in management roles. Like a sports coach, who plays the game through the players, management is almost always in the role of working to deliver a product or service through the employees. Reading this book will help give leaders insight over how to coach employees towards success.

Coaching is also not just the role of the leaders, including the CEO, but also a resource that leaders, especially CEOs, should invest in for themselves. Campbell was an outside eye, an adviser, almost like an organizational doctor, who could diagnose problems and work through solutions with the CEO. Often, leadership at the top of an organization can be lonely and isolating. Having a coach can help the CEO improve and be exposed to things he may not otherwise see.

To understand this point in greater detail, I recommend you watch Atul Gawande’s 2017 TED Talk on coaching. Gawande, a world-class surgeon, learned a lot about improving his surgery technique when he hired a coach. He believes that coaching is essential to becoming great in any field.

If Steve Jobs needed a coach, all of us probably do as well. I am sure many readers of this book will feel as I do, that it would have been a rare privilege to get to meet Campbell before he passed away. May his memory continue to be for a blessing.

KEY TAKEAWAY: Coaching is a core competency for successful leaders. The right coach can help a leader achieve greatness by showing them dynamics in the organization that they may not otherwise see. A leader who coaches their team members can open up incredible potential in the entire organization.


Trillion Dollar Coach is being released today and is available for purchase on Amazon for $28.99 (does not include Prime discount).