Essential Coaching
Trillion Dollar Coach

Essential Coaching

Google executives Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle illuminate the intersection of strategy and coaching in this homage to executive coach Bill Campbell.

In this number one Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today bestseller, current and former Google executives Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle illuminate the intersection of strategy and coaching by honoring Bill Campbell, the late football coach turned executive coach. The authors detail Campbell’s significance to the success of Google and other companies. They also show managers how to apply his beliefs to business and demonstrate the importance of coaching.

Establishing trust is a key component to building what is now called ‘psychological safety’ in teams. Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle 

The authors report that Campbell, a leader of old-school iconoclasm and bold honesty, earned an economics degree in 1962 and a master’s in education in 1964. He served as an assistant football coach at Boston College until Columbia University hired him in 1974. His Columbia team lost far more than it won, but – as the authors describe – Campbell later came to feel that his attitude and approach there were excessively compassionate.

After Sports

Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle detail Campbell’s non-sports saga after he left coaching at age 39 and became an executive coach at Apple. In 1987, Apple made Campbell CEO of Claris; after that, he became CEO of Intuit. Starting in 2000, Campbell coached the start-up firm that became Google. Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle assert that Campbell proved his worth – about a trillion dollars – to Google and the other companies he coached.

Trust means freeing people to do their jobs and to make decisions.Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle

The authors believe the people a manager directs make him or her into a leader. As the book’s focus shifts back and forth between Campbell and the principles he embodied, Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle develop and expound on their theme that managers must make sure their people succeed and are happy and healthy.

When Campbell had to make tough decisions, Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle explain, he assigned the two people most directly involved with the issue to gather data and work on a solution. Usually, the authors report, those two came back with a clear recommendation and the information that led to a solid decision.

When it came to guiding larger groups through making decisions, the authors hail Campbell’s concept of discussing an idea until those present recognize its best iteration. If no one idea emerges as the clear best, the manager must decide.

Core Values

Campbell taught managers to base their decisions on their organization’s first principles or core values. Everyone, he insisted, should be aware of these values, which should guide all employees.

We can say, without a doubt, that Bill Campbell was one of the people most integral to Google’s success. Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle

When managers consider staff compensation, the authors urge them to remember that employees’ concerns aren’t always about pay alone; they also encompass other signals, such as expressing appreciation. Money isn’t only a financial matter, as Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle learned from Campbell; money carries an emotional component because it signals recognition and expresses how much the company values the employee.


The authors report that Campbell urged leaders to build trust with people before focusing on tasks. They teach that you build trust by doing what you say you will do and by showing integrity, loyalty and discretion.

Bill Campbell was known for many things, but perhaps his most notable characteristic, his signature, was the hug. Bill hugged everybody.Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle

The authors explain Campbell’s belief that people must be honest, humble, willing to work hard and willing to learn. They must have the grit to carry through on tough challenges. Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle explain that Campbell was always honest and candid; he spoke directly, sometimes abruptly. The authors reveal that Campbell gave feedback as quickly as possible – and in private, if his comments were negative. But, they say, Campbell helped people believe in their own courage and helped them bring their full identities to work.


Campbell argued that you need a team to do anything important, and that people must be loyal to their team. When a company ran into trouble, Campbell worked addressed the executive team first and the problem second. Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle note that this reverses the usual approach.

Believe in people more than they believe in themselves, and push them to be more courageous.Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle

Campbell, the authors underscore, didn’t allow gender bias on his teams. He encouraged women and members of often-excluded groups to speak up, claim their place in the company, and express themselves and their cultural backgrounds.

Lead with Love

Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle knew Campbell spoke from a place of love. The authors sadly recognize that most people never mention love in business. This, they say, sets Bill Campbell and other great leaders apart. Leaders must treat everyone with respect, which means sharing what’s important and listening to employees and managers talk about what matters to them. Good managers, as the authors learned from Campbell, treat all staff members as full and complete human beings.

An Unusual Memoir

You might not expect top-level current and former Google and Alphabet brass Schmidt, Rosenberg and Eagle to expend much so effort praising another person. Their loving, but practical, memoir about Bill Campbell shows how inaccurate that expectation might be. The authors’ admiration of Campbell and their willingness to express their moral, philosophical and financial gratitude speaks as profoundly to Campbell’s influence as the tales they relish telling about him.

Just note that Campbell’s teaching also is the horse the authors ride to create a successful business-help book, and so he’s helping them out here as well. The authors’ prose is functional, making this an easy read. More importantly, they structure Campbell’s leadership and team-building lessons clearly. This account of his guidance will greatly aid those who work with other people, regardless of the size of their organization.


Eric Schmidt served as Google’s CEO and executive chairman, and as executive chairman and technical advisor of its parent company, Alphabet. Jonathan Rosenberg, former Google senior vice president of products, is an advisor to Alphabet’s management. Alan Eagle is Google’s director of executive communications. Schmidt and Rosenberg co-authored How Google Works. Schmidt also wrote The New Digital Age: Transforming Nations, Businesses and Our Lives with Jared Cohen, and The Age of AI: And Our Digital Future with Henry A. Kissinger and Daniel Huttenlocher. Other notable works on humane, aware leadership include Measure What Matters by John Doerr and High Output Management by Andrew S. Grove.

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