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Trillion Dollar Coach: Bill Campbell on putting teams first

Bill’s guiding principle was that the team is paramount, and the most important thing he looked for in people was a “team-first” attitude. Teams are not successful unless every member is loyal and will, when necessary, subjugate their personal agenda to that of the team. That the team wins has to be the most important thing.

As managers, we tend to focus on the problem at hand. What is the situation? What are the issues? What are the options? And so on. These are valid questions, but the coach’s instinct is to lead with a more fundamental one. Who was working on the problem? Was the right team in place? Did they have what they needed to succeed? “When I became CEO of Google,” Sundar Pichai says, “Bill [Campbell] advised me that at that level, more than ever before, you need to bet on people. Choose your team. Think much harder about that.”

If you’re running a company, you have to surround yourself with really, really good people,” Bill said… Bill looked for four characteristics in people. The person had to be smart, not necessarily academically but more from the standpoint of being able to get up to speed quickly in different areas and make connections… the ability to make “far analogies.” The person has to work hard, and has to have high integrity. Finally, the person should have that hard-to-define characteristic: grit. The ability to get knocked down and have the passion and perseverance to get up and go at it again..

When he interviewed job candidates to assess these points, he wouldn’t just ask what a person did, he would ask how they did it… Were the hands on? Were they doers? Did they build the team? He would listen for pronouns: does the person say “I”… or “we”?

He looked for commitment, to the the cause and not just to their own success. Team first! You need to find, as Sundar Pichai says, “people who understand that their success depends on working well together, that there’s give and take – people who put the company first.”… How do you know when you’ve found such a person? Keep note of the times when they give things up, and when they are excited for someone else’s success.

When change happens, the priority has to be what is best for the team.

[Sheryl Sandberg]: “It’s not what you used to do, it’s not what you think, it’s what you do every day.” This is perhaps the most important characteristic Bill looked for in his players: people who show up, work hard, and have an impact every day. Doers.

Smarts and hearts.

That there is a plan is important. That there is a team is paramount.

Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle – Trillion Dollar Coach

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