When I began working at Kleiner Perkins I made sure to introduce myself to many of the executive assistants in the office. I knew that I was going to intermittently look foolish and lost in the coming weeks and wanted to learn some of the daily routines and protocols to the extent possible. That openness helped me bridge into some great relationships with men and women I still speak to frequently. One of the early dividends of those relationships came when, working heads down at my desk, Kendall (now at FBN) in her boisterous way introduced me to “Coach”. I was young and hadn’t fully learned the recent history of the Valley quite yet and didn’t know who Bill Campbell was. Yeah, dumb I know.
I ended up speaking to Bill for a few minutes. We spoke about learning from the more established KPCB Partners around me and to do my best to spend time with the founders to expand my horizon into the operational side of the business. He never once mentioned his stature and who he had worked with. So, when the conversation ended and I did the obligatory Google search, my jaw dropped. A Silicon Valley legend, 100% down to earth, connecting, listening to young me. There was nothing of significant value I could have provided Bill in that moment – but he was simply curious about what the youngest looking guy in the building was doing. The curiosity – the curiosity to really meet me (albeit very briefly) made me feel special. I can only imagine how good of a coach he was to those who received hours of his time each month. His combination of grounded personality and curiosity was a real treat.
The one main lesson I took away from this is that if THE Bill Campbell is spending time, slowing down his day, to talk to a young me, then surely we can all take the time to better connect (truly listen and engage!) with those around us. (Oh, and the other lesson is to always befriend executive assistants 🙂 – thanks again, Kendall!)