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5 Leadership Lessons from Ted Lasso

Updated: Apr 19, 2023

By Jane Cox

I was fascinated to learn recently that Brene Brown identifies as the self-appointed president of the TLFC (Ted Lasso Fan Club)

Wow I thought… !!

1) Haven’t I already claimed that role?

2) And what's the awesome researcher, author of “Dare to Lead” and famed Ted Exer doing watching my Ted Lasso?

Then I remembered Brene’s work on human connection. "Keeping it awkward, brave, and kind". And Ted, as you will discover, is a master of human connection!

For those of you who have yet to experience the pure joy of watching Ted Lasso, it’s an Apple TV comedy series. Ted is an American football coach, hired to manage AFC Richmond a fictitious football team in the Premiership by a new owner who wants the team to fail so she can get her own back on her cheating former husband. Ted arrives in London at the start of a new season with no technical knowledge of the glorious game.

“Heck, you could fill two Internets with what I don't know about football. But I'll tell you what I do know. I know that AFC Richmond, like any team I've ever coached, is gonna go out there and give you everything they got for all four quarters“ Boom 😊 Boom.😊

But what Ted does have is bags of charm, empathy, a strength in relationship building and a positive outlook, and so begins the story of how he wins the love and admiration of all of those around him, working with others to help them deal with life’s many ups and downs, overcoming their emotional challenges and conflicts to build a positive team environment. No spoilers AFC Richmond win some and lose some – and we laugh and cry on the journey with the many fabulous characters surrounding the team. Jason Sudeikis, the co-creator who plays Ted in the series goes on to win a Golden Globe, and Emmy for best actor and outstanding comedy.

Brene, like me adores Ted’s positive outlook and it turns out we both recommend watching the show to people we work with, as there are many lessons in leadership, showing empathy, vulnerability, and personal connection that jump off the screen.

So, turning now specifically to coaching, what we can learn from Ted to enhance the ways we coach our teams?

Here’s my take on 5 things he does incredibly well.

1) Building Relationships & Rapport

Ted is an incredible relationship builder – he has an easy, relaxed, open style and welcoming smile. He makes time to get to know each member of his team, in fact everyone he encounters, his boss, the clubhouse attendant, his players. He learns names, asks questions, listens well, and discloses information about himself to help others to get to know him. He advocates "being curious, not judgemental” as a way to understand others. He builds connection using kindness, humour and empathy. He uses team celebrations around significant personal events such as birthdays, and rituals like his daily homemade"Biscuits with the Boss” to create opportunities to further strengthen connections. And Ted is consistent and sincere – it’s clear to those on the receiving end of his attentions that he cares about them as a whole person -not just for what they can do for him or deliver for the team.

2) Demonstrating Unconditional Positive Regard

Ted consistently sees the best in others. He treats everyone with respect and dignity. He accepts and supports people exactly as they are without judging them, even if their behaviour is quite horrid, which is vital in coaching. Ted is committed to helping everyone in his team become their best. "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." Behaviourally this means we never see Ted criticising people, instead we see him being consistently optimistic and engaging with others to effect change at a mindset level.

3) Fostering enabling beliefs

As a coach Ted knows the importance of mindset, and confidence if you want to achieve positive outcomes and he will stress this at every opportunity - sometimes to comedic effect. Just look how he responds to being asked if he believes in ghosts: "I do. But more importantly, I think they need to believe in themselves. You know?" 😊

Ted believes so much in the importance of Mindset that one of the first things Ted does on arriving in the changing rooms at AFC Richmond is to tape a handwritten sign spelling the word “Believe” above the entrance to his office door. It’s a visually powerful symbol and daily reminder that focusses everyone on the same message. It says, “I believe in you, You believe in yourselves. We believe in each other. And if we do this, together we can make anything happen”. We also see him using physical and visual prompts to re-inorce enabling beliefs later in the series when he gifts one of his team a toy soldier as a reminder to stay strong.

4. Enabling growth and a growth mindset

The fourth thing Ted does incredibly well is encouraging his team to build resilience, learn from mistakes and be able to move on from them. He introduces a team “GOLDFISH” mantra after one particularly embarrassing team mistake when he consoles his team member with this heart-warming interaction “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? It’s got a 10-second memory.” “Be like a goldfish” He encourages the team to experiment, be creative, and know that it is ok to fail, and he is also able to ask for feedback himself. At one point we see him challenging his assistant manager. “Oh, come on, man. You're mad as hell at me. I just wanna know why. Huh? What have I got to learn here?”

5) Focussing on strengths

So, mindsets, building self- confidence and finally strengths. One of the ways Ted enables growth is to work with each individual in developing their strengths, and by knowing each player well he is able to put them in the best position mentally and physically to do their best work. He also looks at what might be holding each of them back and coaches each person individually so they can overcome their personal barriers.

And he does all of this whilst telling amazing stories. To help others get their heads around things they might find difficult, he’s not afraid of using emotion or personal anecdotes. Stories that help people be more open to embracing change, acknowledging how challenging it can be to navigate the challenges of modern-day life, particularly in the limelight. “I think things come into our lives to help us get from one place to a better one.”

Experienced or not, I think we can all learn as coaches from Ted Lasso. He reminds you that you don’t have to be the content expert to achieve great outcomes. Instead, you can “Lasso” your coaching impact by increasing the human connection in your coaching relationships and strengthening your ability to:

· Build Relationships & Rapport

· Demonstrate Unconditional Positive Regard

· Foster enabling beliefs

· Enable growth and a growth mindset

· Focus on strengths

Personally, I love Ted’s positive outlook, kindness and use of humour, and I hope that my clients see some of that same human connection and playfulness in the way that I coach.

If you're curious about all the other reasons we love coaching take a read HERE

Author: Jane Cox

Jane is one our Work Stories founders and resident executive coach. To find out more about Jane click HERE


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