Driving SME Excellence: Lessons Inspired by the Trillion Dollar Coach

A business man in a suite carrying a laptop bag walking upwards on stairs

I consciously have an addiction to certain aspects of my life, which I believe we all should have. In this context, my addiction is to constantly expose myself to new learnings, insights and inspiration from others. This is the reason why I always need to routinely top up my Audible credits.

There is one particular book that I have listened to multiple times and each time I relisten, I gain more takeaways. If you are a business owner or a coach, I highly recommend adding it to your library."

The "Trillion Dollar Coach" by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle is a book that explores the leadership principles and practices of Bill Campbell, a renowned Silicon Valley coach who mentored some of the most successful tech executives, including Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt himself.

A diagram of ebbinghaus forgetting curve

While the book primarily focuses on leadership within large corporations, its principles can also be valuable for SME (Small and Medium-sized Enterprise) business owners.

Here are three key takeaways from the book that SME business owners could focus on to become better leaders:

A business man walking first behind his employees

[1] People First Mentality:

Bill Campbell emphasised prioritising people over processes or technology.

I think if you ask most business owners if they currently prioritise their people over process, they will say yes. But if you ask the average employee, their answer will be very different. There is a disconnect between how we perceive what we are doing to how it is being seen from the other side.

By investing in your team's growth, development, and well-being, business owners can cultivate a culture of trust, collaboration, and innovation within their organisation.

So how would you know how you are tracking on this front? If you are making use of Sukuma I would suggest that your first port of call would be in your Development Reviews and 360’s. Correctly structure these and you will get an accurate answer.

A business woman coaching her woman employee about leadership and excellence

[2] Coach Approach to Leadership:

Campbell's coaching style involved asking probing questions, providing constructive feedback, and offering support and encouragement to help individuals and teams reach their full potential.

SME business owners can adopt a similar coaching mindset by actively engaging with their employees, listening to their concerns, and empowering them to take ownership of their work. By serving as mentors and coaches, business owners can inspire and motivate their team members to excel and achieve their goals.

If you have not been exposed to effective coaching then this point may not fully hit the mark with you. Especially for leaders, developing your coaching skills is a must. I often remind myself that very often the quick solution always seems to be to simply bark an order, but just like Newton’s third law, there is always a consequence.

Barking out an order invariably results in some immediate action taken but the price to pay for this quick action is usually costly in the long term. Here is an article delving into this.

A business woman coaching her woman employee about leadership and excellence

[3] Focus on Relationships and Communication:

Building strong relationships was central to Campbell's leadership philosophy. How are you prioritising the building of trust and rapport with your employees, customers, and other stakeholders?

By focusing on open and transparent communication, you will create a culture of honesty, collaboration, and accountability. Additionally, maintaining strong relationships with customers and suppliers can enhance loyalty, satisfaction, and overall business success.

In summary: As a business owner, leader or coach you can learn valuable leadership lessons from "Trillion Dollar Coach" by embracing a people-first mentality, adopting to a ‘coaching’ approach to leadership, and prioritising relationships and communication.

And here’s the caveat: This all sounds pretty logical, does it not? So why is there such a disconnect between what we think we are doing and how it is seen from the other side? The answer to this question lies in the fact that getting this right requires constant self-awareness and commitment to the principles. Ready?

Sean Foster

Sean Foster

Business Coach & Advisor

PS: Interested in working with me? I help in 3 ways:
[1] Work with me privately to improve your business profitability, scale your business & improve your personal and business productivity - Schedule an appointment here.
[2] Join BIG – in-person, group based coaching program. Operating from Silverdale, Auckland
[3] Understand & develop your behavioural habits through psychometric behavioural assessments & coaching

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