Bill Campbell was no ordinary coach; he was my coaching hero.

His client list read like a fantasy tech hall of fame.

From Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Google, to Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Sheryl Sandberg at Facebook. Bill Campbell was in a league of his own.

But what made him so extraordinary?

Bill had a unique approach to coaching leaders and changing lives. He knew the art of turning potential into greatness.

Today you’re in for treat. I’m sharing three priceless lessons that set Bill apart.

They transformed my coaching and can do the same for you.

Let’s dive in and discover them together.

1. Building an envelope of trust

The most important currency in a relationship is trust.

Coaching a “Who’s Who” of Silicon Valley, Bill Campbell knew building a trustworthy environment was the cornerstone for success.

Creating it was his superpower.

If clients trusted you, they’d open up. The more they’d open up, the more receptive they’d be to sharing their innermost thoughts and feelings.

To Bill trust meant:

  • Keeping your word
  • Loyalty
  • Integrity
  • Discretion
  • Business success

To others it meant having a safe space to be comfortable being themselves.

When Google discovered the factors behind high-performing teams, psychological safety came top of the list.

The subtle takeaway being when it comes to trust, it’s your responsibility to nurture it.

Now, let’s move on to how Bill did that.

2. Only coach the coachable

“Are you coachable?” Bill said.

“It depends on the coach.” came the reply.

“Smart alecks are not coachable.” He snapped.

Bill chose his clients based on two qualities: humility and honesty.

The three traits he looked for were:

  1. Willingness to persevere
  2. Openness to learn
  3. Strong work ethic

The reality is not everyone has these attributes or is ready to be coached.

If you find yourself working with someone who is not coachable, it’s okay to reassess the coaching relationship. You can decide if it’s beneficial for both parties to continue.

Remember, your role as a coach is to facilitate change and growth. But your client must be willing to meet you in the middle.

Trying to coach an ‘un-coachable’ will lead to frustration, burnout, and a lack of progress.

Bill only coached the coachable.

If you passed that test, he listened intently. With total loyalty and discretion. He believed his clients could achieve remarkable things.

3. Leading with love

To care about people, you have to care about people.

Bill cared about people.

A sharp mind and a warm heart. He treated everyone with respect.

He cared about the “whole you” fiercely and genuinely,

When Sundar Pichai (CEO, Google) sat down with Bill for his weekly meeting, he recalls:

“I was always busy with lots of things to do, but my time with Bill always gave me a sense of perspective. That whatever I was doing was important. But he showed me what really matters at the end of the day is how you live your life and the people in your life.”

Coming from a place of love became a green light for honesty.

John Donahoe (CEO, Nike) remembered, “Bill had a way of communicating that he loved you. And that gave him license to tell you that you were full of shit and you can do better. It was never about him. Coming from him, it didn’t hurt when he told you the truth”

The key takeaway is the power of love.

There’s a warmth, respect and brutal honesty in your ability to love. It doesn’t mean you can’t share a home truth, but it comes from a place of love.

Coaching leaders and coaching teams?

The whole team becomes stronger when you break down the walls and embrace each person with love.

Faking it won’t work.

Ask questions, get to know your client beyond the client. Ask about their lives outside of “work”.

Understand their dynamic and when things get rough, show up.

3 Bill Principles

Gifts I’ve gratefully received and applied:

Practice free form listening

  • Listen to people with your full and undivided attention
  • Don’t think ahead to what you’re going to say next
  • Ask questions to get to the real issue

Don’t stick it in their ear

  • Don’t tell people what to do
  • Offer stories
  • Guide them to the best decisions for them

Be the evangelist for courage

  • Trust your instincts
  • Push them to be more courageous
  • Believe in people more than they believe in themselves


You don’t need to be a tech titan to benefit from Bill Campbell’s wisdom.

His coaching philosophy reached deep into the psyche of trust and love.

It’s not his strategies but his lifelong commitment to cultivating genuine relationships that’s so enduring.

Humility, honesty, and a burning desire to grow. In Bill’s world, these are the hallmarks of the coachable.

Bill showed us that to evoke transformation, we must do more than just execute tasks; we must connect at the most genuine and deepest level.

My goal isn’t to mimic Bill Campbell or paraphrase his playbook. It’s to find my unique way to embrace his spirit and apply his lessons with my clients.

I hope you’ll embrace them too.

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