Steve Jobs, Jonathan Rosenberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt these are names anyone familiar with the upper echelons of Silicon Valley must have come across. Bill Campbell, on the other hand, not so much. Yet Campbell, a former football coach, played an integral role in shaping these Silicon Valley masterminds, making them effective leaders and more astute problem solvers. In a way, one could say he’s the unsung hero of Silicon Valley. His principles centered around working towards a higher goal that transcended individual objectives and the dogma of ‘service leadership’. As an individual, was idolized for his persistent emphasis on teaming as a more effective approach to deriving results and also for his grand mastery of the decision-making process. In fact, so monumental were his exploits that three of his former mentees went on to write a book after his passing, Trillion Dollar Coach. Hence the inspiration for this post and, a book which IMHO I believe every leader of teams should read.  From football coach to highly sought-after C-suite executive, Campbell succeeded in cementing his name in the Silicon Valley hall of fame as one of its most impactful performance coaches, and there’s a lot to learn from his tale…

Performance goals ensure your team is on track

Through experience and real case scenarios, Campbell demonstrated that organizational setups and teams that leveraged performance-based management principles fared better by most measurable metrics. Everything from monitoring, offering incentives, to targeting, helped these teams ramp up their productivity quotient and overall efficiency.   In the very murky climes of our technology space, this could be the difference between developing a commercially successful product/service or fidgeting around with several functional but ‘valueless’ outcomes.

The importance of the decision-making process can’t be overemphasized

Ultimately, the fate of any organization is dependent on the decisions it’s subject to, and part of being the leader in any organizational setting is championing how decisions are made. When the decision-making process is fluid and efficient, it guarantees timely and overall effective decisions.

Campbell was a staunch opponent of consensus as a process for making decisions and for good reasons too. Most times in settings that adopted this approach, charismatic and persuasive people had the upper hand, often pushing their ideas forward (above others) even they weren’t the best ideas. Campbell instead advocated for a free and fair decision-making process where ideas were discussed on a level playing field. Naturally, the best idea with demonstrably better dividends is bound to thrive as opposed to simply pitching ideas and forcing a consensus. The emphasis in this setting is creating a fertile ground for ideas to establish their roots where the idea that remains over time is that one that’s pruned on the discussion table.

Honesty is the best policy

As a trusted advisor and confidant, Campbell often helped tech executives prepare for presentations and meetings. One principle he always stood by in these settings was that of honesty – an open and upfront approach. Campbell always voiced his sincere opinion and encouraged others to do the same. The idea here is that honesty broods understanding and creates an environment where trust exists. Both are critical tenets of any success story, and although being blatantly honest is often associated with conflict; Campbell saw healthy conflict as an avenue to foster cohesiveness amongst individual factions of an organization.

Finally, respect is an earned entity

While the phrase “respect is earned” is passed around frequently, it holds very little value. According to Campbell, that’s one place where some tech leaders get it wrong. For subordinates to respect you and perform their duties with your best interest (ergo the best interest of the organization) at heart, they have to introspectively realize that you deserve their loyalty. When respect is demanded without any solid basis, it projects a toxic aura of dictatorship. In the ever-competitive tech ecosystem, such a working environment almost always pans out to be uncompetitive and sometimes downright unproductive. For Campbell, the best way to cultivate loyalty and in extension respect among employees is to demonstrate humility, selflessness and a wholesome attitude that shows you care about your organization, its objectives and the people working to make those objectives a reality.

It would be a lie if I said that we’ve applied all of the tenants from this book in our organization but at least we’re aware, which is typically the precursor to change.  Regardless if you’re re-creating your team culture or embracing a new one, try looking out for the signs of a positive company culture which can improve employee engagement, increase productivity, promote brand loyalty, and enhance financial performance.

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