Today’s article is inspired by the words a Big 10 client of ours said to me once during, what we can call, a healthy discussion: Everyone needs a coach, even you, Brown! As a former college football coach and current CEO of my own company, that line was definitely a jolting one, but it reminded me of something extremely important:
No matter what position we have in our company or organization, we aren’t perfect; we can always get better.
“Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell,” a book written by Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg, and Alan Eagle (if you’re wondering why these names ring a bell, it’s because one used to be the CEO of Google and the other two were high executives during that tenure), sings the praises of Bill Campbell, an executive coach that touched the lives of some of the greatest CEO’s and leaders in recent history before his passing in 2016. Campbell is probably most prominently known for how close he was a guiding hand to Steve Jobs during Jobs’ reign at Apple. What’s spectacular about Campbell’s journey into Silicon Valley is the fact that he was once a former football coach with some mild success that didn’t end up in California until the start of his 40’s. The question is, what was the flaw in his football coaching that ended up thriving in the tech world?
He cared too much about his players.
Campbell treated his players with love and care, he rewarded players that showed dedicated effort and put them in games even if they weren’t at the highest caliber of skill, he valued their grades and the time they spent studying more than their time in the weight room. Perhaps this points to a flaw in the system of collegiate sports that caring too much about your players means a team can’t succeed (that’s a discussion for another time), but what it shows is that when you bring coaching ethics and human ethics together and, furthermore, bring it to the decision-makers and folks sitting at the top of totem pole, the reapings from this coaching can prove to be exponential.
A quote from the book on Campbell puts it best: Coaching is in vogue: it used to be just athletes and entertainers who had coaches, but now we have leaders taking on executive coaches and employees learning from speaking coaches. […] It’s up to all of us to coach our employees, our colleagues, and even sometimes our bosses.
It’s the last part of that quote that I think is extremely important to take to heart. We’re all human and, naturally, pride is built into our psyche. I get it. As a leader of a company and as a former coach, pride is not a foreign concept to me, but as leaders, we must have the humility to look into the mirror and say to ourselves I have room to improve. The second you make this leap, it opens up so many doors for the advancement of you and your team/organization. Another important line from “Trillion Dollar Coach” is the following: A 2014 study finds that it is the most insecure managers who are threatened by suggestions from others (in other words, coaching). It’s alright to be nervous and intimidated by someone else coming in and putting their hands on your work, again, it’s only human. But don’t let that fear of letting someone else taking a shot at helping you stop you from taking the steps to becoming the best version of yourself and the best leader for your team/organization.
If there’s something we’ve been stressing here at Profile since day one, it’s that searching for avenues of self-improvement, especially at the leadership level, is such a key element towards any kind of personal or team advancement. As leaders, we have a birds-eye view of our teams and organizations, but our wide view of what’s below us often leads us to miss a reflection of ourselves. This is the missing piece that Bill Campbell saw in some of the brightest and fearless innovators of our time, the fact that a little attention and direction from the outside could help steer them to a more streamlined path to success. This is the same praxis that Profile is founded on, the idea that what you’re doing is already good work; we’d just to love help make it better.