A friend and mentor to Silicon Valley’s iconic executives from Steve Jobs to Eric Schmidt, Bill’s unique insights to leadership and team-building made him one of the world’s most influential business minds ever lived.
What Bill lacked in physical stature, he made up for in willpower
Bill, a former football captain and coach, weighed 165 pounds, standing at 5’10” was the team’s smallest member by some margin. But he possessed qualities that earned him the nickname ‘Ballsy’.
A brilliant start to a late-blooming career
His first job was at the ad agency where he showed the same enthusiasm in his new role. Clients loved him especially Kodak who decided to poach Bill from the agency and installed him as their head of consumer products in Europe.
He eventually moved onto Apple where his team come up with an a controversial Superbowl ad that become one of the most famous ads of all time.
A loyal friend and prominent coach
When Steve Jobs was forced out of Apple in 1995, Bill argued the company couldn’t afford to lose their talented figurehead. Jobs remembered his loyalty. When he was reinstated back as CEO few years later, Jobs named Bill as one of Apple’s directors.
Over the following years, Bill worked side by side with Jobs as rescued Apple from near-bankruptcy and put it on eh path to becoming a trillion-dollar company.
An ex-football coach proved initial skeptics wrong
Eric Schmidt, a start in his own right, was initially skeptical and wondered what on earth a gruff ex-football coach could teach him. It didn’t take long to change his mind. At their first meeting, the two men instantly hit it off. Over the next 15 years, Bill met with Eric and other Google leaders (Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Sundar Pichai) just about every week.
Flat hierarchies are great at fostering creativity but…
The democratic structure is less adept at making tough calls about how resources are going to be allocated. And rolling out projects like Google’s search engine is all about logistics.
Autocratic management isn’t a viable solution either.
After all, if you start dictating terms to talented subordinates, you’ll end up driving them away. But if neither democracy nor autocracy works, how do you make those kinds of calls?
A leader’s duty in reaching agreement is to remind everyone of the company’s first principles.
He gave the wake-up call to Mike, the founder of Tellme, the first cloud-based speech recognition software, when it was given a lucrative deal to exit the market. Bill laid out Tellme’s principles to the board, the deadlock was broken, and the offer was rejected.
There’s a common notion in the workplace that cold is competent, but warm isn’t.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Bill was famous for his personal warmth and informality. He gave his colleagues bear hugs, had a breezy and often downright profane way of talking an wouldn’t hesitate to blow a kiss or wink to a colleague on the other side of a meeting room.
‘Collective Intelligence’ can be measured in three dimensions.
1. The higher IQ teams allow everyone to participate rather than letting one or two voices dominate.
2. The higher IQ teams display greater EQ.
3. The higher IQ teams have more women.
Give undivided attention to your team and gain their trust.
Bill’s Free-form listening gives the other party full attention rather than fidgeting with the phone or anticipating the moment when he could drop his two cents in.
Your title makes you a manager. Your people make you a leader.
Start with trip reports. TO build rapport and better relationships amongst team members, start team meeting with personal or non-business-related topics.
Manage the Aberrant Geniuses.
They are high performing but difficult team members. They should be tolerated and even protected so long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value provided outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues and terms.
Coach the coachable.
Traits that make one coachable include honesty, humility, willingness to persevere. Hard working and a constant openness to learning.
Ask questions to come to a reality.
Rather than telling people what to do, ask them questions until they come to a moment of truth.
Tell stories to get buy-in.
Stories help people guide their decisions more than abstract ideas and facts.
Work the team, then the problem.
When faced with a challenge or an opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.
The deliverable matters, but what maters just as much is the opportunity for a pair of team mates to work together on something.
And get to know and trust each other.
What you won is less significant than how you won it.
Strive to win, but always win right with commitment, team work and integrity.
Every bookstore has a self-help section but there isn’t a help-others section.
Trillion dollar coach belongs in the help-others section. It’s the guide for bringing out the best in others for being simultaneously supportive and challenging, and for giving more than lip-service to the notion of putting people first.
Let people leave with their heads held high.
Bill once told Ben Horowitz about the departing executive. “Ben you cannot let him keep his job, but you absolutely can let him keep his respect.”
Task conflict is healthy but when it goes un-managed it can be highly correlated with relationship conflict.
Know the crucial distinction between task conflict, disagreements about decisions and relationship conflicts, emotional friction in teams. Task conflict is important to get to the best decision. On the contrary, relationship conflict leads to poor decisions and moral.
Smarts and hearts create better managers.
Don’t over-emphasize experience. Look at both skills and mindset and you can project what one could become. This is the coach’s talent, the ability to see a player’s potential, not just current performance.
The best person to be the team’s coach is the team’s manager.
Being a good coach is essential to being a good manager and leader. That is especially true at the top levels. Executive teams must have the coach if they want to perform at their best.
Any company that wants to succeed at a time when technology has suffused every industry and most aspects of consumer life where speed and innovation is paramount, must have team coaching as part of its culture. And Bill happens to be more than a coach. He was a warm friend, a phenomenal mentor and a shadow behind the world’s best-performing teams of a trillion dollar empire.