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RisingADs Podcast: Columbia’s Pilling & Rice’s Gardner on Trillion Dollar Coach

Guest Peter Pilling, Columbia; Tanner Gardner, Rice
36:42 min listen
On this Book Review from the RisingADs podcast, Columbia Athletic Director Peter Pilling and Rice Senior Associate Athletic Director & Chief Operating Officer Tanner Gardner discuss Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell. Pilling and Gardner discuss coaching in a business sense, building trust, the importance of soft skills and caring about those you serve.


1:00 – So Peter, you knew Bill Campbell, who was the former Head Football Coach at Columbia, tell us a bit about Bill Campbell.
6:14 – We often think of coaches of our respective sports programs, but this book discusses coaches in a business sense. What do you see it to mean as being a coach for your administration and coaches?
8:40 – How do you approach building trust among your team, both when taking over in a leadership role and in an ongoing basis?
12:54 – What are some examples of how you respond in a way that emanates an environment of psychological safety?
16:56 – How do you approach giving effective feedback to coaches and staff?
21:01 – Peter, in the book in discussing hard management tactics and the “It’s the People” manifesto applied to student-athletes. How did that come about in your interactions with Bill?
26:47 – How do you think about running meetings and what is the importance of the final chapter of the book, which discusses the Power of Love?
32:59 – What is your favorite Bill Campbell story?


Full Transcript


Tai Brown: Greetings. This is Tai Brown, and welcome to the Rising AD’s podcast. We’re here with another book review episode and our two featured guests today will be Peter Pilling. Peter is the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Columbia and Tanner Gardner. Tanner is the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Associate Athletics Director at Rice. Greetings, gentlemen, thanks for joining us.


Peter Pilling: Good morning.


Tanner Gardner: Our pleasure.


TB: Now the book we’ll talk about today is Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell.


To begin, Peter, I believe you knew Bill Campbell. He was the head football coach at Columbia years ago before you arrived but I wonder if you could tell us a little bit about Bill Campbell before we get into with you on the book.


PP: Yeah, absolutely. So Bill played at Columbia. He was on our Ivy League Championship Team back in the early 60s and it ended up being the head coach here. And then obviously got in to the business world and had incredible success in Silicon Valley. Ended up being the chairman of the board of the trustees when I was hired here at Columbia. So played an incredible role both as a student athlete, as a head coach and then ultimately as a trustee and the chairman of the board of the trustee here at Columbia.


And so, I got to know Bill. I was hired in February of 2015 and Bill at the time was living in Palo Alto but obviously would have a presence on campus during the trustee meetings and for games and homecomings and other events. And immediately, one of the individuals that was involved in the search committee that hired me said, “You need to spend as much time possible as you can with Bill”. And so, you know, we had a couple of phone conversations. You can tell he was a very dynamic, impressive individual. And then I asked him if you would mind if I got on a plane and went out, visited with him and I was fortunate enough to spend about five hours at his house with him and just one on one I still refer to my notes. I keep doc on Google and I still refer to my notes from that meeting with Bill and it was as powerful as anytime I’ve ever spent with anybody in terms of about just learning lessons of life. And I really cherish the moments. Unfortunately, Bill passed away about a year and a half later but we had regular, ongoing conversations.


And it’s interesting for a short glimpse in my life, I had a remarkable mentor that I will forever cherish the time I had was fortunate enough to spend with Bill and for all that he did for our university and for the individuals and the people that he touched.


TB: Right, his influence is felt if you read the book. And a lot of people say a lot of the same things about him. And a quick background on the people who wrote the book. Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Alan Eagle. Eric is a former CEO and Chairman of Google and Chairman of its parent company, Alphabet. Jonathan Rosenberg was a senior vice president at Google and did some things with the parent company also. And then you had Alan Eagle who also spent time at Google. So these are three executives who had influence within the company of Google who worked very closely with Bill Campbell.


And then, for you guys, the background with you, Peter, obviously, Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Columbia. Been here since 2015, former vice president at IMG College. You spent time at BYU and Vetanova as you worked up the ranks. So you have a wealth of experience in the profession and wealth of experience of leadership in the profession.


And then Tanner, Chief Operating Officer and Senior Associate AD at Rice, you worked with a number of leaders. You’ve done some consulting in terms of outside of the sports profession. Did work at Stanford, of course, former athlete at Stanford and you’ve been at Rice since 2014. So both of you guys have some experience in like senior level college athletics working with executives and understanding and willing to learn what it takes to be successful as a leader in college athletics.


Now, of course, this book walks us through some of Bill Campbell’s philosophies on successful leadership and management. And what we’d like to do with this book review is pick out some of the concepts and have you guys discuss, Tanner being a rising AD, somebody who’s up and coming and then Peter you’re in the athletics director chair to talk to him about some of the concepts and really talk amongst each other on how they relate to either past experience, current experience or even experiences you expect to face in the future.


So, Tanner, I’ll pass it over to you have any questions you would like to talk to Peter about or even just some insight on why you chose to read this book to start us off.


PP: Yeah, hey, Tai, also, it’s interesting to note that Tanner got his Harvard MBA and so he obviously has a presence in the Ivy League. So he was educated in the Ivy League. I’m just fortunate enough to work in the Ivy League. So he’s got a leg up on me there too.


TG: I think it may be harder to get a job, so kudus to you on that, Peter. Well, Tai, thank you for the introduction and, you know, one of the things that I’ve always been interested in whether it be in the business world or otherwise is leadership, and so, constantly looking for opportunities to study what makes a good leader.


My athletic director Joe Karlgaard is really big on reading as a mechanism for professional development in this summer actually did a brief book review of Trillion Dollar Coach for the D1.ticker. And so, when Joe recommends a book, I’m quick to read it as him and I have similar philosophies. So that’s how I came about Trillion Dollar Coach. Of course, I have a connection indirectly to Bill for time at Stanford, although I never had the opportunity to know him.


So, I guess, before we jump in, this book talks about what it means to be a good coach. We in athletics typically think about coaching in the context of the coach of our sports teams, but this one is a little different. It talks about what it means to be a coach in a business world. So, Peter, maybe you can start by describing what you see to mean as being a coach for your administration and even your coaches.


PP: Yeah, absolutely. You know, that’s an important part. And, you know, the book talks about a lot of business sacraments, but in my mind, they play, they play very closely to athletics. And that’s one of the remarkable things Bill did. Bill took all of these athletic components and he integrated them into the business world. And so, you can integrate them right back into the athletics world. And that’s exactly what Bill did in terms of understanding the importance of trust and understanding the importance of integrity and understanding the importance of letting people know that whatever they do, and however they do it, they contribute to the overall success of the department. And then I think is as powerful as anything, everybody knew that Bill cared about them. And he cared about everybody within whatever organization he was involved with and it resonates with people. And I was fortunate enough to go to Bill’s memorial service, and there was probably 3,500 people there that were, everybody there was convinced that Bill was their best friend, but Bill treated everybody like that. And so that was incredibly powerful, you know, that he was a very dynamic individual. And there aren’t that many people that have the ability to really walk into a room and be just a really incredible presence, but he was incredibly genuine. And it was, whoever was the person that, you know, necessarily, he wouldn’t gravitate to the most important person in the world, in the room, he may gravitate to somebody else that you wouldn’t expect. But those, when he spent time with that person, they knew that he really cared about them. And I think that was like one of the important qualities that I took away from my time with Bill. And then the things that I learned in the book was the value of caring about others.


TG: Yeah, I mean, that’s a simple concept, yet a foundational aspect of leadership. And, you know, I think the way that Bill cared about people is one of the one of the elements that really made people trust him. And so, you know, as I think about one of the key concepts in this book that stuck out to me, one of them was trust. And the reason why Bill was so effective in my mind is because people trusted him.


So I want to touch on a few topics there. The first being Peter, how do you approach building trust among your team, both, you know, when you started at Columbia or another job, and then on an ongoing basis? And I think it’d be interesting if you touched a little bit on what that was like when you worked at IMG being external to an organization and then what it looks like in your job as an athletic director.


PP: Yes. So let me hit IMG. You know, obviously, in my role I was traveling, so I was going to a variety of different schools. And so, I had little quick touch points with the athletic administrators and the teams that I was working with. And I think the important part there was to be a good listener. And so, to understand what people’s concerns were, is to understand what people’s challenges were at the time, and just kind of come in, and then look for opportunities to support them, whatever their issues were. And so, I kind of viewed that, knowing that I was only in a certain place for a short period of time, to be a good listener, and then look for opportunities to support and help.


Same applies, obviously, in terms of Columbia and then working in a collegiate athletic office. You know, you need to be obviously a good listener, and you need to get to know people. I think Bill talks about this in the book where, you know, he spends a lot of time getting to know people and in their personal lives and their aspects of what their hobbies are, and all the different components of it and I think if you develop relationships like that, where it’s not so business structured, and it’s not like, okay, we’re going to get this job and we’re going to check the box and we’re going to the next issue and the next issue. You know, one of the things in the book that they talk a lot about is just relationship building. And I think that’s an important element of trust. You know, Bill in the book also talks about loyalty and integrity, and the other aspects of trust development. And so, a lot of those tools, I look for opportunities within our department to just get to know people, to listen to what their biggest concerns are. Our role as administrators are pretty simple. We need to provide the resources and support for our teams and our student athletes to be successful. And if you continue to resonate with that value system around what you’re trying to accomplish, you continue to listen and learn. And you have to have tough conversations on a regular basis. But I think people even though you may not give them the answer they want, if they trust you, they’ll respect you, and therefore they’ll follow you.


TG: Yeah, that that’s great. And I mean, I think, you know, relationships, and listening are the foundations of building trust. And, you know, I found in my days of consulting, when we worked with our clients that we could come with the best answer. But unless we really listened to them and had a true relationship with them, you know, no matter how good the idea we brought, it would not be effective.


PP: Yeah, absolutely. Bill talks about, in the book too, there’s a reference to a study that was done at Cornell, just about this psychological safety. And, you know, it’s interesting on our senior staff, we have a, you know, a couple individuals that feel completely comfortable telling me that that’s not the right approach, or have you thought about this. And so, one of the things you want on your team is people that are willing to just say, “Gosh, have you thought about it this angle?” or “Gosh, that’s the wrong path to go down”. But they know when they provide constructive criticism, or when they provide feedback, it may not be the direction that you’re initially heading, that they’re comfortable doing that. And that’s an important part where everybody feels comfortable.


You know, you hear about businesses where there’s just a series of yes people following their leader. And I think that that is counterproductive in terms of growth and ambition and what you’re trying to achieve your goals, you need to make sure that there’s people that feel comfortable giving you feedback even though it may be contrary to where you think the best direction is at the time.


TG: Certainly, and I think, especially in a time, like right now, you know, during COVID-19, there’s a lot more negative news than there might otherwise be. And so, you know, creating that environment where people are willing to bring you the bad news is particularly important.


You know, Peter, I wonder, you know, I think about myself as a younger administrator, and, you know, psychological safety is something I talk about a lot, and I want to create among my team, I sometimes struggle to do that, you know, based off how I react to bad news sometimes, but you know, maybe you can talk about the, over your career, how you’ve, you know, from a younger administrator to now a seasoned athletic director, you know, listening in relationships are one way you’ve created psychological safety, maybe you can talk about some of the other ways that maybe you respond in a way that emanates an environment of psychological safety.


PP: Yeah, I think the concept is really simple. I think people need to feel comfortable expressing their opinions or expressing their views. And someone taught me a number of years ago that it’s important to praise people in public and then criticize them in private. So whenever I feel like there is something I need to talk to somebody about whether I just, you know, obviously, in this world, we don’t necessarily leave the office, I’m a big believer in face-to-face conversations. And that’s been really challenging in this, you know, in this situation with the pandemic. And so, one of the things that, you know, if somebody has something contrary to say, leave your office, go to that person’s office and sit down and talk to him, because, you know, body language and way people react is a lot different when you see that face to face as opposed to a text message, or an email, or even a phone conversation, to some degree. And so that’s an important part of it is just, you know, listen, we have a lot of tough conversations in this business. And unfortunately, sometimes we have to let people go and we have to change direction and leadership of sports and programs in different aspects of it. And I’ve always felt that the best way to do that is face to face. And the other part of it is always to praise people in public and criticize them in private and that builds to some degree where people know that, you know, if I’m going to make a mistake that somebody is going to kind of pull me aside and say, “Hey, have you thought about this or this is maybe a different approach? But also the aspect of doing things from a face-to-face standpoint, and now we’re living in these Zoom meetings, where, you know, at the end of the day, you’re just emotionally exhausted. And I’m fascinated with the fact that, you know, I had 11 Zoom meetings on this week on Monday, and I literally went to bed like at 9 o’clock at night and normally that’s not the hour that I go to bed, but you just, I’m fascinated with just the emotional exhaustion associated with how we communicate in this day and age too.


TG: Yeah, the face-to-face pieces are really important. And you know, I’m in my mid-30s now, but I find that many of my new employees, they want to handle things via email, text, Slack these things and, you know, they’ll often tell me, “Hey, so and so hasn’t responded to me”. And I said, “Well, you know, have you talked to them about it? They sit 10 feet from you?”


PP: Right.


TG: “No, I haven’t done that yet.”


PP: Right.


TG: “Okay, well, come back to me then once you talk to them”. And so, I think, you know, face to face is a lost art. And yeah, you know, one of the things that I think is maybe counterintuitive about the virtual world is that it’s actually somehow created an opportunity for more, and I’ll say it in quotes, “face-to-face interaction”. I mean, some meetings that we would have done over a conference call, usually, are now via video Zoom. And so, you know, maybe there’s some value in that, that if we’re in the same building, we can be face to face. But even when we’re not, we also can be face to face, even if it’s not, literally.


PP: Yeah, no, absolutely, I mean, I’m sure you’ve talked… spoken with your coaches about this, I think, coming out of this, whether it be Zoom or whatever mechanism you use, and when you can see somebody’s face, you can read body language to some degree, and there are efficiencies around it. Obviously, the travel component, you know, where you necessarily don’t have to, you know, get on the subway or get in a car, get in a plane and go see somebody and if you feel you can accomplish that via some type of face-to-face communication and technology, I think it is, gives us the opportunity to be a little bit more productive from that standpoint. So there may be some silver lining out of the pandemic that will give us opportunities to be a little bit more productive, and a little bit more efficient in terms of how we communicate.


TG: Absolutely. You know, one place that Zoom meetings may never be good for is giving feedback. We touched on this topic over the last 10 minutes or so. But I’d love to hear how you approach giving feedback to your employees. I think effective feedback both laterally, vertically, and down is one of the most critical aspects of having an organization and of course we have to have trust to do that. But talk about how you approach giving feedback to your coaches, and then those who report to you.


PP: Yeah, I think obviously, to be straightforward to understand, and people need to understand what your value system is, what your ambition is, what your desires and goals are trying to accomplish and help lead towards those. And then the other piece of this thing, too, I think, you know, one of the things, it doesn’t resonate, I mean, it resonates throughout the book with Bill Campbell is just emotional intelligence, and making sure people understand the important aspect of that, you know, you really genuinely do care about, I mean, you’re cognizant of what empathy is, and compassion and all those different elements. I’m actually reading a book from a Stanford professor right now, Leah Weiss. It’s called How We Work. And it talks about soft skills. And it talks about the different aspects of how important soft skills are in terms of how we communicate. And it’s interesting, a lot of MBA programs now alludes to Harvard and alludes to Columbia, and alludes to some other MBA programs that are spending more and more time understanding the value of soft skills and the different aspects around compassion and empathy because those are important. I mean, there is, everybody has a challenge right now. And so, you know, you’re not necessarily aware of what that challenge may be. I mean, I have a coach who has a brother that is a police officer. And so, you’re dealing with a lot of different situations in terms of that. And so, when you’re aware of things like that, you can be a little bit more compassion, a little bit more understanding.


And, you know, we were in New York City, at one point, the epicenter of the COVID in the world. And so, you know, I can tell you, there was a touch point when almost everybody in our staff that knew somebody that was affected by the pandemic, or knew somebody that lost their life. And so, when you’re a little bit more understanding, a little bit more aware, a little bit more compassion, then I think it resonates with people too.


TG: Yeah, the concept of emotional intelligence, I think, I’m glad you mentioned that and it’s a very important one. I think, particularly when you get to higher levels of leadership, you can hire for technical skills, you can’t hire for emotional intelligence. You have to have it or you will not be effective.


PP: Yeah. And that’s one of the things that Bill, listen, Bill was a tough individual and you know, if he didn’t agree with you, sometimes Bill would call you out and he would tell you, you know, to your face how he felt and so but yet he was… you knew that he really cared about you and you knew that that compassion and that empathy was there, even though he may jump down your throat and tell you what he really thinks about you. And so, that was that balance where it was okay, you know, if Bill may have said, raised his voice at you or said something to you in a manner and how he said it because you knew that genuinely he cared about you.


You know, I’m not a screamer or a yeller. I don’t think Bill was either. But I knew that Bill was you know, he was tough on people when it needed to be tough on people. He was a football coach, you know, so football coaches and a lot of coaches have a tendency, there are some classic stories about Bill when he was a coach here. I played golf with one of his former players the other day, and you know, Bill got the most out of everybody and he used different techniques for different people.


TG: Yeah, tough love is a concept that comes up in this book a number of times, and I think, you know, wow, how neat would it be if someone said about us one day that, you know, “That person gave me hard feedback, they were honest with me. But when they told me that I felt like they loved me still”. And you hear that story through and through this book, and certainly I think it’s a trait that all administrators should aspire to.


PP: Yeah, absolutely.


TG: Switching gears a little bit, Peter, to more hard management tactics, of course, we have to have the soft skills. But, you know, we also have to have sound management tactics if we want to be effective. Those of course interact closely with soft skills. But, you know, you appear in this book in the chapter on strong management tactics. Bill talks about the people being the foundation in the organization, and he has a, it’s the people manifesto. You appear in the book and talk about how you adapted that. It’s the people manifesto to be about student athletes. So maybe you can talk about, you know, how that came about in your interactions with Bill.


PP: Yeah, no, you know, one of the things that I looked back at my notes last night from my meeting with Bill in 2015, and one of the things I noted down there was be consistent with how you treat everybody. And, you know, that’s really difficult sometimes, because there are certain people on your staff or your coaches that you just gravitate towards, maybe because of their people skills, or maybe because you have common interest, or maybe for whatever reason it’s just natural to gravitate towards people. And so, one of the things that I’m always cognizant of, if we have a coach, that necessarily I may have personality conflicts with or for whatever reason, I got to make sure that I maintain consistency with that person. I maintain the person that I may think I, you know, would spend more time with on the golf course or wherever it may be than the other person, I got to make sure that I’m cognizant of the fact that I need to be consistent. And I think that that resonates with Bill. And in the message that he taught, you need to be consistent with everybody and how you treat everybody, even though you may have different types of personalities or different aspects of, you know, the… if you look at coaches, in this day and age, some of the people that are just sometimes the most challenging to deal with are the most successful. And they’re very, very driven in terms of how they do things, to some degree, sometimes they’re stubborn, and you need to deal with that aspect of it, but they’re incredibly successful. And it resonates with people and they develop a good culture. And so, I’m just always trying to be aware of the fact that even though I may have a personality difference, if you will, with somebody that I got to be consistent with how we treat everybody. And that’s the aspect of it too, with student athletes is whether it’s the, you know, the star athlete, or the Olympian or whatever it may be, or whether it’s somebody that may not get off the bench on a regular basis, I got to, I’m trying to make sure that I treat everybody equally and supporting them in all aspects of what we’re trying to accomplish within our athletic department.


TG: Well, you know, I think that’s particularly important. And I imagine that Bill did the same thing when he was a coach of the Columbia football team and then when he was a coach of these executives. And I think this aspect of consistency is particularly important right now in this age of kind of divisiveness, social inequality, systemic racism. I think, you know, we have biases. We all come with biases. And that can cause us to not be consistent with how we treat everyone. And so I know, we, as a senior staff have been talking a lot about exactly that. How can we be more consistent with how we treat everyone and not bring biases to any relationship or situation that we have? So I’m glad you mentioned that point.


PP: Yeah, and that’s a great point. You know, I’ve purchased a few books about inclusion, leadership and other aspects of how we can be better as a department, how we can be aware of everybody’s situations. I mean, I spoke with some of our Black student athletes in the middle of all the different situations that were evident and continue to be evident throughout our country. And so, I just picked up the phone and called a few of them. And I just wanted to listen and to be aware and to understand because we, you know, it just, you just don’t necessarily walk in those shoes. And you just need to be constantly cognizant of the challenges that everybody faces. And you know, part of that too, is Bill alludes to, you know, humility a lot in terms of how things are done, and making sure you have that humble attitude in terms of what people are dealing with and how they’re dealing with different circumstances. And it also goes back to this quality of being aware and listening and just being cognizant of a lot of people’s situations. And that’s the challenge, you know, in terms of, you know, obviously you deal with a lot of people at Rice and you deal with a lot of student athletes. And so, how do you manage, how do you find the time to properly allocate and be productive in what you’re trying to do, but yet be impactful? And so, I always struggle with that. You know, you get in, you get into your office and you know, you become a slave to emails and then all of a sudden, you know, you just become a slave to emails throughout the whole day. And then what did I really do? And what did I accomplish? And I’m always asking myself, what, how did I make a difference today? And how do they impact somebody else?


And if you just continue to remind yourself about those areas, then you’ll prioritize what you’re supposed to do and when you’re supposed to do it, and then get out of your office. I mean, that’s one of the things I miss is, you know, management kind of by walking around, and we don’t have that opportunity. We’ve hired people, as I’m sure you have in the middle of this pandemic, I’ve never seen them. I’ve never shook their hands, not that we’ll ever be able to do that again. But, you know, I just, I said that to our coaches, “Hey, can you give me their cell numbers?” And, you know, I spent part of my day yesterday just calling a few of our new staff members, coaches that we brought on board, just to say hello. I would normally walk across the hallway and say hello to you, but we’re in a world situation, a different situation right now. And so, that’s the part of it, the aspect of making sure that I think that we miss is the ability to just kind of manage by getting out and about and letting people know that you’re present. Yeah, and I mean, I think hiring the right people, and then onboarding them well, like you talked about and then treating them right, that’s the foundation of a great organization. And, you know, if you do those things, and I think the probability that you will succeed is very high.


PP: Yep, absolutely.


TG: Let’s switch to meeting management. This might seem like a mundane topic, but I actually think it’s really effective and something that was touched on a number of times in the book about management tactics. So I’m interested to know how you think about running meetings, whether it be one on one meetings, or even your senior staff or group meetings.


PP: Yeah, you know, one of the things that Bill noted in the book is, I think this was actually the technique that Eric Schmidt instilled at Google was kind of like this, start the meeting with just how was everybody’s weekend, what’s going on.


TG: The trip report.


PP: Yeah, exactly the trip report. And I think that that resonates even more at this point, you know, when we have our senior staff, and I’m sure you’re in the same scenario, our senior staff is literally meeting three to five times a week, and I have a senior staff meeting here in about 20 minutes. And we’ll start it off with, you know, like, “Hey, what do you think… we had a webinar last night with Sunil Gulati, who’s on the FIFA board and the former president of USA Soccer. And, you know, it was a great interaction in terms of the economics of the world of sports. And so, we’ll talk about that for a second. We’ll talk about how that applies to us and certain aspects of it. So just take people off the grid, if you will, for a few minutes of your agenda that you may or may not have set. And one of the things that Eric mentions, and that obviously the components that Bill recommends, is when people start speaking and they’re talking whatever they’re talking about, that they’ll be more apt to contribute at some point during the meeting than they would if you just go right to agenda, point A and start the process. And so, it’s just the ability to resonate and let people know that you’re interested in their personal lives to some degree, or you’re interested in something that happened. You know, did you see this article that was in D1.ticker? And what do you think about that? How does that apply to us and so you can just start a conversation that doesn’t necessarily apply to what the vital components of the department is doing on that particular day or during that week, but yet, it gives people the ability to kind of share their thoughts and their interest in a topic that not necessarily is applicable to your department.


TG: Yeah, I mean, I love that piece. And I’m prone to trying to be overly efficient. And sometimes when you go too fast, it actually slows you down. I think about the phrase a lot “Go slow to go fast,” and I think this is a great example that, you know, breaking the ice and talking about more personal non-work related items to start a meeting actually can make that meeting more effective.


PP: Yeah, and you just, you got to… the other part, especially during this situation is you got to have fun. The one thing that I think that resonates within department is, you know, your senior staff, they need to know that you’re all in this together, they need to know that you care about each other. But that resonates very quickly throughout your department. And one of the things we take great pride in and I’m sure you do at Rice is to let everybody know that you care about them. And when you care about them, especially the student athletes, and this is the holistic support around what you’re doing is they become great ambassadors of your athletic department, of your university. And so, whether it be some interest and area, you know, that they… you can introduce somebody to an alum or whatever it may be. Ultimately, you’re going to know that that individual knows that you’ve taken a special interest in what they’re trying to accomplish. And that stays with them. And you know, when student athletes graduate, if no other thing I want them to know that we care about them. We tried to help them reach their potential and everything that they do in every aspect of their lives. And then that’ll stay with them. And so, you know, look, we’re not perfect and by any means have we perfected what we’re trying to accomplish. But when you self-analyze and when you’re getting constructive criticism and you’re looking for opportunities to continue to improve, then you get better. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish.


TG: And I think that Peter speaks to, you know, the final chapter of a Trillion Dollar Coach, which is the power of love, right? So that’s kind of the broader way to say I care about you. And, you know, whether it’s the people you talk to in this… you hear from in this book, or people you talk to who knew Bill, they would say that he loved them and he cared about them. And I think that’s a foundational trait of leadership. And like you point to not only is it the right way to treat people, but it also has a lot of positive externalities and how people think about your organization, whether that be student athletes, or employees.


PP: Yeah, exactly. And I’m not sure if you’re aware of this. And then this year, during the pandemic, it didn’t… it didn’t take place. But, you know, Bill was the former chairman of the board and CEO of Intuit and Brad Smith, who just stepped down as the CEO and chairman of the board has committed to supporting financially this Campbell Leadership Summit that takes place on Stanford’s campus every year and they bring back all of the Campbell award finalists, semifinalist every year, and then they have people that Bill was great friends with that spend three days on the Stanford campus just teaching Bill’s life lessons. And I remember, you know, you have high profile people like Steve Young and Ronnie Lott every year go back because Bill had an influence on their lives. And they teach some of those life skills that Bill taught them. And it’s an incredibly… I’ve gone the past three years, and it’s incredibly powerful. And you know, that’s the beauty of Bill Campbell is that what he taught is continuing to be taught. And this Campbell Leadership Summit is a remarkable component that continues to teach Bill’s life skills. And you have, you know, CEOs of Silicon Valley companies coming back and a remarkable experience for these young men that are football players that were participants in the Campbell award, and continue to learn about Bill even though Bill is not with us.


TG: Well, that’s truly the definition of legacy. And I actually did not know about that event until recently when I found out that not only, you know, do they invite business leaders, but they also invite any individual who was nominated for the Campbell award when they were in college. And so, what an investment in the future of our country to do something like that even into, you know, hopefully into perpetuity. So, that’s legacy.


PP: Yeah, absolutely.


TG: Well, to wrap up our time, I thought, whether it’d be a fun story or series story, would love to ask you your favorite Bill Campbell story.


PP: Well, I’ll share this one. So I went to BYU. I’m of the LDS faith. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. I don’t cuss. And so Bill drank a little bit. And Bill cussed a little bit. And they actually, when I was hired, there was actually a discussion that took place that somebody at some point had to tell Bill that the new athletic director at Columbia doesn’t drink and doesn’t cuss. And anyway, I just thought about that for a brief moment. I was like, and Bill and I were dear friends and he would, he would say things in front of me that were a little off color and listen, but he was a remarkable individual. And so, I look back at that it just kind of puts a smile on my face.


I’ll tell you one other great story about Bill’s friendships. Bill had a group of about 20 individuals every year that he would take to the Super Bowl and Bill was very blessed in his life, financially. And so, he wanted to make sure some of these were former teammates of his and some of these were dear friends, a lot of Colombia people. There was a lot of people in Silicon Valley and this group would hard charge the Super Bowl every year and they would get in there and Bill would put them up and take care of everything. They would have great seats and everything. And this is something that’d been going on for years and years and years. And when Bill passed away, there was actually an endowment established…


TG: Wow.


PP: …to provide the funds for this group to continue to go to the Super Bowl, which they do. And to me, it’s just Bill’s legacy and that’s how he cares about people. There’s a restaurant in New York City called Smith & Wollensky and we would have, during homecoming week, Bill’s teammates, we would have a dinner there at Smith & Wollensky and then the maître d’ there became very good friends with Bill and the maître d’ at Smith & Wollensky’s was a Bill’s memorial service because Bill had such an incredible impact on his life. So he just… just a remarkable individual that touched so many people’s lives in so many positive ways, really incredibly impactful. You see that in the book. And if you haven’t read the book, I would encourage everybody to do that. And then look for opportunities to take a couple different aspects and a couple different components from Bill’s life that they learned about and look for opportunities to implement them in how you do things and how you manage and how you lead.


TG: Terrific. Peter, thanks for sharing those stories. Trillion Collar Coach, a book that I’m sure both Peter and I will greatly recommend, lots of really, really valuable leadership lessons. And I hope everyone has a chance to read it.


Peter, thanks so much for having this conversation with me today. And I hope everyone else found it as impactful as I did.


PP: Awesome. Thanks, Tanner. I appreciate you leading this discussion. Wish you and the Rice family all the best during these challenging times. But again, thank you for the opportunity to spend time and talk about Bill Campbell.


TG: Likewise. Thank you.


TB: Gentlemen, this has been an excellent conversation here on the Rising AD’s Podcast reviewing the book, the Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell.


Thank you, Peter. Thank you, Tanner, for joining us on the Rising AD’s podcast.


PP: Our pleasure.


TB: That was Peter Pilling. He is the Director of Intercollegiate Athletics at Columbia, and Tanner Gardner who is the Chief Operating Officer and Senior Associate Athletic Director at Rice. And, of course, I’m Tai Brown with Rising AD’s and in the words of Jill Bodensteiner, “Keep learning and keep leading”.