Be a Better Manager and Coach with 5 Lessons from Ted Lasso
If you aren’t watching Ted Lasso on Apple TV, you are really missing out! This show has so much heart, optimism, and belly-laughing humor. It’s winning all the awards and I see great parallels between the show’s lessons and work lessons on how you can be a better manager and coach. (Contains Spoilers!)
In season one we meet Ted Lasso, a Kansas High School Football coach, starting his new career as Head Coach of an English Football team. He has zero experience with the rules, strategy, and terms used in the game. He should be completely out of his element but he persists with kindness, positivity, and a lightning-fast wit filled with pop culture references and unending optimism.
Every episode gives you “the feels” and some excellent life lessons. This is one of those shows that justifies the amount of time I spend watching TV! So, here we go!
Lessons from Ted Lasso
“I believe in hope. I believe in Believe.”
In his locker room, Ted posts a homemade poster that says “Believe.” That is a big part of leadership but we need to look at it a few different ways.
- Company. There is the belief of what your company does, how it creates its product, how it sells and markets its services, how it treats its customers, how it treats the environment, and how it treats its employees. That belief system is typically communicated through a company's Mission, Vision, and Values (MVV). If you don't have an inspiring mission or vision, how do you expect anyone in or out of the company to believe in it? You also need to hold your peers and your employees accountable for living the MVV. It might be time to review your MVV and see if it’s still inspiring.
- Team. You also need to look at it from the aspect of you believing in your team. If a coach doesn’t believe in their team, they won’t believe in themselves. This begins when you set your expectations of them. Do you expect the best or the worst? Are you giving your team the honest two-way communication they need? Are you giving your team performance feedback on a regular basis? I don’t mean annual performance reviews. I mean praising them for things they’re doing well in the moment, and coaching and training them in areas they need to improve.
- Yourself. There's also the belief in yourself as a manager. In the first season, we see Ted questioning his abilities. Honestly, we see everyone questioning Ted’s abilities to successfully lead an English Football team. While we don’t see him do it on screen, Ted takes stock of his competencies. He holds firm to what he knows his undeniable strengths, teamwork, communication, honesty, respect, humor, and his ability to win over others. And we see Ted start to surround himself with people who fill in the gaps of his shortcomings, knowledge of the game, knowledge of his players, understanding the leadership of the franchise. Coach Beard came over from Kansas with him but in the background we see him reading books learning more about soccer. Ted quickly befriends Higgins, Director of Operations, and has a champion on the inside. Ted promotes the equipment manager, Nathan, to assistant coach. Ted not only recognized Nathan’s passion and knowledge for soccer but also recognized that Nathan knew the team dynamics, he had the inside scoop on the players.
“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish, Sam.”
Ted says this to Sam after hotshot teammate Jamie Tartt hurts Sam’s feelings. He’s trying to get Sam to forget the slight, get out of his head, and move forward. The metaphor is great and motivational. Quickly, it spreads through the rest of the team to encourage them to take risks, not dwell on the past, not let their past failures dictate their future, and move forward.
This message of resilience is important for leaders everywhere. We all need to support our teams and their mental wellness as we continue working through the challenges of the pandemic. You can be a better manager if you have a higher level of empathy and emotional intelligence. Your employees are paying attention to your actions and how you adapt and respond.
“For me, success is not about the wins and losses. It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.”
Of course, in business, some key success metrics tie to sales, revenue, and profit, or in the case of Ted Lasso, the goal is also to win games. A coach is only as successful as their team. If your team wins, you win. If your team loses, you don’t blame your team. Set SMART goals so you can meet those business metrics. Also, offer your team opportunities for growth and development with training.
Ted takes a special interest in his clubhouse attendant Nate, who he nicknames “Nate the Great.” We learn that Nate has been bullied in school and has a hard time proving his worth to his own father. Ted looks for moments to build Nate’s confidence and allows him to contribute as a coach. There is a hilarious scene where Nate roasts the entire team and the season ends with Nate’s promotion to assistant coach. Ted has us all rooting for Nate!
To help your team be the best versions of themselves “on and off the field” or in and out of your workplace, you might consider a whole-person approach to training.
“Even Woody and Buzz got under each other’s plastic.”
A common challenge for coaches and managers is helping everyone to not just get along, but also to gel and thrive. Ted has two marquee players who are disrupting the team’s progress and have divided the locker room with their antagonistic relationship. He “Parent Traps” them at a charity auction in an effort to get them to see eye-to-eye.
His lessons in managing conflict involve finding mutual respect and common ground. These apply to any team. Ted acknowledged the conflict, and rather than dwell on the negativity, he chose to address it head-on with empathy and humor. In real life, managers may address the challenges in the diversity of team members: differences from the perspective of a rookie or a veteran, or differences with team members from different backgrounds or countries.
“Someone call 911! I want to report a truth bomb!”
In this scene, Ted is talking with Higgins about what it takes for a successful marriage. “If you're with the right person, even the hard times are easy.” I think the real-life lesson here comes from both Ted and Higgins. First, from Higgins, it’s important to find the right person. Translate this to recruiting top talent for your team. Second, from Ted, be courageous and tell the truth.
Successful leaders demonstrate managerial courage. This might involve having a difficult conversation with an employee about their weaknesses or mistakes. It may involve giving negative feedback with empathy and tact. Successful coaches have honesty and integrity and the courage to do and say the hard things.
Training Topics to Help You Become a Better Manager and Coach
When you work with a company like HSI and use our Business Skills library, you could easily create a fun and engaging curriculum for managers with a Ted Lasso spin. Here are a few of our courses you could include along with the quotes above.
- Coaching Skills
- How to Build Resilience
- SMART Goals
- Mission, Vision, Value
- Change Management
- Working Well with Everyone
- Unconscious Bias