Think of the best leader you’ve ever worked for. The reasons they earned this title may be long and varying, but one commonality we guarantee made everyone’s list was their belief in you. The best leaders want their team members to continuously grow and improve their capabilities. Ask any CEO for suggested reading, and they’ll be able to rattle off a list of impactful, educational non-fiction. We have our own list, too: Radical Candor, Deep Work, and The Power of TED (The Empowerment Dynamic). But what about suggested things to watch? At One TEAM Partners, we believe in another Ted… The Power of TED [Lasso].
Ted Lasso is a show that doesn’t just provide an escape from reality, it has both life and leadership lessons we didn’t know we needed. It’s delivered with such a great sense of humor that you can’t be mad, even when it shines a humbling light on your own imperfections.
For three seasons, we’ve grown with, learned from, and been inspired by Coach Lasso and AFC Richmond. But is inspiration enough to justify asking employees to block time off during their workdays to watch? Yes, you heard us. Watching Ted Lasso is a part of our onboarding process. The reason is simple. True to the Lasso way, we believe in it.
Onboarding is a crucial time for new employees; beyond setting up tech and familiarizing themselves with processes, they are observing and learning the organization’s culture, values, and standards. This provides a window of opportunity to show them that whatever you have written on your website about culture and values is actually true. That it’s more than just lip service to impress your customers. In other words, it’s a critical moment to build trust.
For One TEAM, Ted Lasso exemplifies a team attitude that we strive for. We think a new hire can learn more about our values and standards through this task than through a homemade ‘culture lesson.’ And just like life, sometimes the strongest lessons come from observing how not to behave. Below we’ve outlined 5 key learnings new employees can take from the show. (Spoiler alert: they aren’t the same jolly five you’ve seen all over the internet.)
This is what One TEAM stands for. This is what we believe in.
How to be a great leader and build a strong team – 5 key learnings from Ted Lasso
1. Relationship building at work matters
We talk a lot about relationships in our blog posts because we believe they matter. So much so that it’s one of five values at One TEAM: ‘Invest in the relationship’. As Ted demonstrated, strong relationships form over multiple, consistent interactions – think daily biscuits with Rebecca, Diamond Dog sessions, and birthday gifts for players that all make people feel seen, heard, and special. One long meeting every quarter won’t have the same effect as regular check-ins. If you want the benefits of good working relationships (trust, loyalty, and people who want to win for you), you’ve got to be willing to put in the work.
We’re not saying you need to start baking biscuits for the office, but you should start making time to get to know one another and build positive working relationships within your team. The benefits are vast – and if nothing else, the ease of communication and comfort in asking questions will help complete projects more successfully.
“If you care about someone, and you got a little love in your heart, there ain’t nothing you can’t get through together.”Ted Lasso
2. Celebrating success is underdone
Celebrating success – or what One TEAM likes to call daily WINs (What’s Important Now) – is crucial to team morale.
Ted is exceptional at seeing the overlooked WINs in people he cares about. For example, when Jamie Tartt (known for his selfish play) makes a selfless pass that wins Manchester City the game, Ted notices.
When was the last time you praised a colleague for something seemingly insignificant? Or something that happened in the lead-up to a win, but wasn’t the WIN itself?
If nothing immediately springs to mind, here are a few things that often go unnoticed that we think deserve praise:
When a colleague…
- Sets boundaries so that they only attend meetings where they know they will add value.
- Recognizes when they need to prioritize their self-care.
- Influences without authority – meaning they chose to lead when it wasn’t required of them.
- Steps out of their comfort zone to try something new in the pursuit of innovation. Even if they fail.
Choosing to praise people not only for their results and outcomes but also for their process and achievements during the journey elevates a leader to the next level.
3. Staying teachable is how you win long-term
There is power as a leader in acknowledging what you don’t know. Ted excelled at this. But there is an additional step after admitting a lack of knowledge – staying teachable and actually putting effort into learning (Ted’s shortcoming).
It took three years of football for Coach Lasso to finally understand offsides. We don’t believe it was due to a lack of ability to understand but rather a desire to want to understand it. Staying teachable cannot only apply when the concept is interesting or the learning is easy.
AFC Richmond as a team, fortunately, excelled at staying teachable, being willing to switch strategies to ‘total football’ in the middle of a season.
This is a great example of the growth mindset. People and organizations with a growth mindset rarely accept defeat and instead treat failure as an opportunity to learn and do better next time – they believe that their effort will lead to improvement. AFC Richmond was successful because of their growth mindset, developed by players who kept learning and a coach that allowed each defeat to guide them on their journey to greatness.
4. Diversity of thought strengthens your team
When Ted arrived, he was different – neither a local nor a football player. But rather than this being a weakness, his different knowledge and experience (unrelated to the game itself) ended up being a strength.
Our teams are made stronger by being diverse. People with different perspectives provide insight that even the most senior leader may not see. But remember: diversity of thought doesn’t come solely from having a team with a diverse background. Leadership must also create a dynamic where people feel empowered to share their thoughts and opinions.
“Sure, you don’t know what you’re doing, but doesn’t that mean that you see the game in a different way than any other football manager? And shouldn’t that empower you to cause complete and utter confusion?”Rebecca Welton
Rebecca gave Ted his opportunity. Ted gave Nate an opportunity. All of these opportunities led AFC Richmond to success. It’s no different when it comes to business. It’s on leadership to create opportunities for the diversity of thought to flourish.
5. Optimism isn’t a shield
A good leader balances both optimism and realism. But when it came to the hard truth, Ted either shied away or passed the buck.
Ruinous Empathy™ is “nice” but ultimately unhelpful or even damaging. It’s what happens when you care about someone personally but fail to challenge them directly. It’s praise that isn’t specific enough to help the person understand what was good, or criticism that is sugar-coated and unclear. 1 This is Ted. And while there is significant value in having a leader that can boost morale and keep it light, it can also be harmful if that positivity overshadows reality.
Not using optimism as a shield means being as vulnerable about your humanness as you expect your colleagues to be, and Ted fell short. The sheer number of moments we could reference is proof enough: a panic attack disguised as food poisoning, initially opting out of therapy sessions and clearly avoiding hard conversations with both Nate and his mom. If Ted had shared more about his challenges, acknowledged discomfort, and not hidden behind a cheery smile, the team may have come together sooner.
Are you convinced?
Ted really is a clever leader, and we stand firm in our belief that our team has and will continue to grow as we unpack the many examples provided by the charming American football coach (both good and bad).
Want to talk more about any of the lessons we pulled out of Ted Lasso, or do you think we missed one? Comment below. And if you found value that will impact your teams and are ready to start implementing said lessons, let’s hop on a call and discuss how One TEAM can support you in that journey.
“If theTrent Crim, The Independent
Lasso[Richmond] way is wrong, it’s hard to imagine being right.”
We agree, Trent, we agree.
1 Radical Candor, Kim Scott