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The "Lasso" Leadership Way

Updated: Jun 1, 2023


Full disclosure; at FizzPopBANG we are a bit late to the ‘Ted Lasso’ fan club. But the finale has just dropped and having just binge watched all three seasons, we’ve been discussing how we can live without it, but also what we learnt (life-long learners us lot)!

Don’t you love those TV shows that hit you right in the heart, that invade your innermost thoughts, that you desperately want all your loved ones to experience with you…well, Ted Lasso is one of those shows for me and I can unequivocally say is a MUST WATCH for everyone, but especially for aspiring leaders.

Ted Lasso (and the Lasso effect) is a beautiful case-study of kindness, decency and leadership personified by joy, possibility, and goodness. It is a TV series on Apple TV+ that is quite frankly chicken soup for the heart, mind, and soul.

My husband insisted that I should watch the show (especially seen I work in the leadership space), so I dutifully ignored him for months...but honestly, I owe him an huge apology as I’ve been enthralled by humdinger life and leadership lessons in every episode.

The sitcom follows the adventures of a small-time college American football coach (Ted Lasso) from Kansas who is hired to coach a professional soccer / football team in England, AFC Richmond. The kicker being is has absolutely no experience (or even a basic understanding) of the sport...genius.

As someone fascinated by the world of positive psychology and behavioural science, it’s been epic to watch the Ted Lasso character, played by Jason Sudeikis, deliver a masterclass in leadership. He demonstrates what it’s like to be the kind of leader that truly inspires a team, the kind of leader you desperately want to follow, but most importantly the kind of leader you deeply care about (and that care is reciprocated).

A lot has been written about Ted Lasso since 2020, but now that the show has finished, here are my favourite quotes and the leadership lessons I’ve taken from them:

“I believe in hope. I believe in BELIEVE”

Ted believes. The team believes. The truth of the matter is you can achieve great things if you believe in yourself. The power of positive self-talk, of quietening down the inner chimp of negativity and using your voice of reason will help you achieve even the toughest of goals. It’s not about denying the reality of a hard situation, but it is the belief that the future is positive, that you will get through this.

As leaders, we must all trust our teams, we must believe in them. What would it look like to start with the assumption that your team is smart enough, resilient enough, capable enough, competent enough, brave enough and good enough? How might you lead differently?

“You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a Goldfish.”

Ted gives a valuable life lesson to a young player Sam, “Be a goldfish” to let go of criticism aimed at him from another player, Jamie Tartt. Criticism can hurt and it will deflate your team. As a leader, you should never give pure criticism. We can only hope that when criticism is given out in a workplace, your team can be a goldfish …move on and not let it define them. You can remind your team of that.

Now feedback. That’s a different kettle of fish. A key characteristic of a great leader is one that can reach organisational goals by motivating others. Giving constructive feedback helps people learn how they can improve and reinforces the activities they are doing well. Leaders still shy away from giving feedback - but it actually works best when it's framed as a question rather than telling i.e. 'What went well and what could have gone better?'. The beauty in this, is it's not so scary to open the conversation and people often know what they can do better, so then they 'own' the suggestion for improvement.

“Be curious, not judgemental”

Ted is one curious guy. He’s totally out of his comfort zone having never coached soccer before and living in a new country, but he learns through asking questions. That’s all being curious is…asking questions, not assuming. He also recognises that people who aren’t curious underestimate him, to their detriment.

To be a great leader you need to have a coaching mindset - where you stop telling your team what to do and embrace a collaborative approach where you empower them to find their own solutions. Asking those deep, open-ended questions will enable you as a leader to not only understand more and assume less but also build stronger relationships, and help others learn. When leaders lead with curiosity, remarkable things happen.

“The Diamond dogs have struck again…(woof woof)”

The Diamond Dogs (a group of men at AFC Richmond) often come together to discuss personal issues and concerns. The group was set up by Ted when he was seeking support and creates a safe space for the men to explore their emotions, connecting on a personal level, communicating clearly and creating a space of psychological safety. This safety fosters interpersonal risk taking, expression of concerns, sharing of ideas and the ability to contribute.

Ted knows the importance of building relationships across the whole team. He builds rituals around team birthdays, and he persists in establishing daily 1:1 meetings (aka ‘biscuits with the boss’) to get know his reluctant boss, Rebecca, as a person. Getting to know people on a personal level builds trust and loyalty, and it helps you understand what drives and motivates your team…all of which is foundational to creating a high-performing team up, down and across.

“Perfect is boring”

In the finale of season 3, the writers bring to close what it means to lead…

Leadership is not the business of changing people into what you consider to be ‘perfection’ … human beings are never going to be perfect.

As a leader you also will never be perfect, and that's ok. But if you give your team the autonomy and trust to perform, create an environment where they feel connected to a purpose greater than themselves and where they can ask for help so they can build mastery when they need it … then you are well on your way.

We are all trying to move towards better.

There are so many more reasons you should watch all three seasons. I have been utterly memorised by the humour, the storylines but particularly the beautifully crafted characters. The gentle reminders to hold onto your positivity in the face of uncertainty, to be curious, kind and believe in people and their potential.

Quite frankly, I wish Ted Lasso was in my inner circle of friends. Barbecue sauce.

By Georgie Smith Head of Sparkle, FizzPopBANG NZ

The season finale of Ted Lasso has just dropped: but never fear, you can still watch all three seasons on Apple TV+.

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