Charles Pfeffer

Executive Coaching & Leadership Consulting

Coach Bill Campbell’s Leadership Principles

Eric Schmidt and two of his colleagues from Google have written a beautiful book about their coach, Bill Campbell entitled Trillion Dollar Coach. I highly recommend the book for its combination of stories, principles and practical tips for leaders. The bottom line message that I took away is that it is not only okay to love people at work, it is an essential quality of leadership to be willing and able to do so.

Here are the 31 principles that the authors derived from their own experience of Bill and from interviews with dozens of people whose lives he touched.

It’s The People

People are the foundation of any company’s success. The primary job of any manager is to help people be more effective in their job and to grow and develop.

5 Words On A Whiteboard

Have a structure for 1:1s and take the time to prepare for them, as they are the best way to help people be more effective and to grow.

The Throne Behind the Round Table

The Manager’s job is to run the decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get heard and considered, and if necessary to break ties and make the decision.

Lead Based On First Principles

Define the “First Principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for the company or product, and help guide the decision from those principles.

Manage The Aberrant Genius

Aberrant geniuses – high-performing but difficult team members – should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior is not unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues and teams.

Money Is Not About Money

Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company

Innovation is Where the Crazy People Have Stature

The purpose of a company is to bring product vision to life. All the other components are in service to product.

Heads Held High

If you have to let people go, be generous, treat them well and celebrate their accomplishments

Managing Boards

It’s the CEO’s job to manage boards, not the other way around.

Only Coach The Coachable

The traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.

Practice Free-Form Listening

Listen to people with your full and undivided attention – don’t think ahead to what you’re going to say next- and ask questions to get to the real issue.


No Gap Between Statements and Facts

Be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if feedback is negative, deliver it privately.

Don’t Stick It In Their Ear

Don’t tell people what to do; offer stories and help guide them to the best decisions for them.

Be the Evangelist for Courage

Believe in people more that they believe in themselves, and push them to be more courageous.

Full Identity Front and Center

People are most effective when they can be completely themselves and bring their full identity to work.

Work The Team, Then The Problem

When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.

Pick the Right Players

The top characteristics to look for are smarts and hearts: the ability to learn fast, a willingness to work hard, integrity, grit, empathy and a team-first attitude.

Pair People

Peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.

Get to the Table

Winning depends on having the best team, and the best teams have more women.

Solve the Biggest Problem

Identify the biggest problem, the “elephant in the room,” bring it front and center and tackle it first.

Don’t Let the Bitch Sessions Last

Air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.

Winning Right

Strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, team-work and integrity

Leaders Lead

When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment and decisiveness from their leaders.

Fill the Gaps Between People

Listen, observe and fill the communication and understanding gaps between people.

Permission to Be Empathetic

Leading teams becomes a lot more joyful, and teams more effective, when you know and care about the people.

The Lovely Reset

To care about people you have to care about people: ask about their lives outside of work, understand their families, and when things get rough, show up.

The Percussive Clap

Cheer demonstrably for people and their success

Always Build Communities

Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected

The Elevator Chat

Loving colleagues in the workplace may be challenging, so practice it until it becomes more natural

Love the Founders

Hold a special reverence for – and protect- the people with the most vision and passion for the company

Help People

Be generous with your time, connections and other resources

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