Three leadership lessons you may have missed from the hit Apple TV show.
Bang in the middle of our 2020 lockdown lives, Ted Lasso provided us all with a shot of laughter & kindness just when we needed it most.
And now season 3 is over and I miss it already!
I miss Ted’s funny one liners. But most of all I miss watching his untamed kindness win-out in a world of snarky cynicism.
However, Ted Lasso is so much more than a funny TV show. It teaches us something important. Its a masterclass in leadership that anyone with that role would do well to study.
Ted is a Jesus figure who teaches us how to lead in difficult… even evil situations.
I could have picked 20 of Ted’s Lasso-isms to help you on your leadership journey. But here are my top 3 (along with a top-tip from me.)
Leadership Lesson from Lasso: Call people by their name
When you remember someones name and use it to address them it shows huge amounts of respect and sets the tone for your relationship. Especially if that person has a lower position or social standing than you.
In one of Ted’s early season 1 scenes he introduces himself to his driver from the airport to the club. “My name’s Ted. What’s yours?” He goes on to call ‘Ollie’ by name twice before they reach the ground.
Later on he introduces himself to Natan the kit man. A very surprised Nathan answers, “Who me? No one ever asks my name.”
Lasso notably remembers the names of boisterous journalists like Trent Crimm who eventually go on to treat him kinder as a result. He even remembers the names of the 3 angry fans in the pub who are constantly giving him grief in those early days of losing every game and getting relegated. But they find it hard to stay mad at a manager who calls them by name.
If you are as old as me you’ll remember the theme tune to the US Sitcom, Cheers: Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came.
Calling people by name is such a simple and underrated leadership skill but the better you can get at remembering a name, the more buy-in you’ll get as a leader.
Duncan’s Top Tip: When you are introduced to someone new say their name back to them immediately. “Hey Sam, it’s so good to meet you.” Then try and say their name again before you part ways. “Thanks Sam. See you again soon I hope.” (And if you do forget, own up to it and ask them.)
Leadership Lesson from Lasso: Build a team who fill your competence gaps
You don’t have enough capacity or ability to do everything needed to grow your church. So if you don’t empower the right people you will become the limiting factor on your team.
Its rare to find a leader who has great vision & ideas; who can discern which ones will work best; then galvanise the team to get on-board; and have the tenacity to get all the ideas implemented. You will probably score well in a few of these areas but fall short in others - and thats okay.
Look at the working relationship between Lasso and Coach Beard. (Is that his real name or a reference to his notable face fungus?) Lasso is warm, fun & folksy. He knows how to manage people and get the best out of them. He knows nothing about football. (When asked by reporters if he can even name any footballers Ted replies, “Ronaldo and the fellow who bends it like himself.”
In contrast Beard isn’t very talkative or engaging. He is thoughtful and quiet. But unlike Ted he has made an effort to understand the game. The very first scene opens with Lasso & Beard on a plane flying to England. We see Ted reading a fiction book whilst Beard is reading a book on football.
Despite a terrible start to Ted’s leadership at Richmond AFC, by season 3 the team are flying high in the table. Neither Ted or Beard would have been half as successful in turning the team around without leaning into each others strengths where they are weak.
Duncan’s Top Tip: Start the process of discovering what gives you most joy and energy at work as well as those on your team. Who on the team is wondering about potential opportunities and coming up with new ideas? Who is discerning those ideas and aligning everyone behind them? Who is landing the plane on those ideas and making sure things get done around here? (One of the best ways I’ve discovered to discover this is through Working Genius. As a certified trainer I’d love to help your team work better together - just ask me.) The strength of your team is not a reflection of what you control - its a reflection of who you empower. Its your job to put the right people in the right seats. If you empower the right people there will be no limit to what you can accomplish.
A Leadership Lesson from Lasso: Stay Curious even when you’re in the top job.
The most powerful and emotional scene I can recall from the show is the scene in the pub where Ted plays darts with the ever nasty Rupert (Rebecca’s ex husband). He assumes Ted can’t play because he’s ‘just a dumb yank!’ So he accepts a bet with Ted.
If Rupert wins, he picks the starting lineup for the last two games of the season. If Ted wins, Rupert has to stay away from the owner’s box while Rebecca is in it.
Ted needs two triple 20’s and a bullseye to win. As he lines up to play his first shot he gives a powerful little monologue to Rupert (and everyone else in the pub watching on)
“Guys have underestimated me my entire life….I saw this quote by Walt Whitman….It said, ’Be curious, not judgmental.’ I like that….It hits me. All them fellas that used to belittle me, not a single one of them were curious. They thought they had everything all figured out. So, they judged everything, and they judged everyone. And I realised that their underestimating me, who I was, had nothing to do with it. ’Cause if they were curious, they would’ve asked questions. Questions like ‘Have you played a lot of darts, Ted?’ To which I would have answered, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”
Ted then hits the necessary combination, wins the game and wins the bet.
When you see curiosity in a leader (along with teachability, humility and a good dose of intentionality) employ them. Develop them. Mentor them. Promote them.
Ted seems so comfortable in his ignorance of certain things. He doesn’t feel he needs to know everything as a leader. In fact in one episode he admits to the ref in the middle of a game that he still doesn’t understand the offside rule. “Explain to me how that’s offside. No, I’m serious. How is that offside? I don’t understand that yet.”
How do you know you are staying curious as a leader? Curious leaders, like Ted, ask great questions. They don’t make harsh judgements.
Duncan’s Top Tip: When it comes to being a great leader, the questions you ask are as important as the answers you give. Don’t judge a leader by the answers they give but the questions they ask. Spend more time being genuinely curious, be the last to speak, rather than telling everyone what you think then asking others to comment. It’ll take longer but you’ll come to a better conclusion.
Duncan Banks, Director of the Further Faster Network.
Looking to go further faster with your team? Invite Duncan to come and run a free working Genius session with you all. Duncan's a certified coach! To find out more get in touch via the Further Faster Website.