Bad bosses make for wonderful television comedy – I’m looking at you, Michael Scott. I’d have argued great bosses, not so much, at least prior to meeting the new Coach of the fictional AFC Richmond soccer club. I’m referring, of course, to Ted Lasso, namesake and hero of the smash hit from Apple TV+.
The show is based on a ridiculous premise: a successful American football coach moves across the pond to take the reins of a faltering English soccer club. Don’t know much about soccer? That’s OK, neither does Coach Lasso. Soccer does drive the story lines, but you don’t need to be a sports fan to enjoy Ted Lasso, just a human being. In addition to being uproariously funny, the show is equally positive and uplifting. You’ll become emotionally invested in the characters, and even you non-sports fans will find yourselves cheering for AFC Richmond. Every episode provides a plethora of lessons to draw from, and here are three taken from the show’s first three episodes.
“Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it?” Lasso leans into a leadership challenge
We first meet Ted on an airplane while en route to London with his assistant coach, who is making the move with him. The duo are discussing how crazy they are moving to a new country to coach a sport they know nothing about, when Ted declares, “Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn’t it? If you’re comfortable while you’re doing it, you’re probably doing it wrong.” Ted may not know soccer, but he does know how to coach, and it’s this knowledge that keeps him motivated.
After arriving in London, Ted holds an introductory press conference that can only be described as an absolute disaster. He’s lambasted by the media, and even his own players and the fan-base are against him. But Ted’s optimism never falters, and he maintains belief in himself and his leadership skills. His response serves as a great example for anyone facing a new challenge or taking on a new role. Yes, you likely will need to beef up your knowledge, but remember to keep the faith in the skills and abilities that earned you this new opportunity in the first place. Appreciate the discomfort that comes along with growth and development.
“Be a Goldfish!” Leading with your strengths (and leaving the rest behind)
By episode two, we’re realizing things at AFC Richmond are highly dysfunctional. Did I mention the owner got the team as part of a divorce settlement, and for her own selfish reasons, wants the club to fail? Coach Lasso has walked into quite a mess here. He fully appreciates the need to bring everyone together as a team, however, that’s proving difficult on the pitch as well. Their team captain is highly disgruntled, and their star young player is a me-first prima donna. Their newest player is a transfer from Nigeria who has been struggling to adapt and has been labeled an underachiever. After the new player makes a mistake in training, Coach Lasso tries to lift him up with one of the more memorable lines in the series: “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. It’s got a ten second memory. Be a goldfish!” As leaders, we often feel the need to point out mistakes, but Coach Lasso knows it’s equally important to recognize when someone needs reassurance. Acknowledge mistakes and learn from them, but be sure not to dwell on them. Ted is demonstrating some great Q4 behavior here – by recognizing his team member’s strengths and working together to find a solution, they’re on their way to success.
“I have a real tricky time hearing folks that don’t believe in themselves.” A Lasso lesson in leadership
Coach Lasso and his assistant are at the chalkboard trying to find a way to ignite some life into the team’s struggling offense, when Nate, the clubhouse kit man, pauses nearby. It’s clear from Nate’s body language that he has an idea, but is reluctant to share. After a brief back and forth, we hear Nate start, stop, and then begin to question himself again. Ted replies in a welcoming manner,“I have a real tricky time hearing folks that don’t believe in themselves. I’m gonna ask you real quick again. Do you think this idea will work?” When Nate answers in the affirmative, Ted listens to his suggestion and decides to run the play. Coach Lasso is wise enough to know anyone in an organization is capable of producing innovative ideas, and is humble enough to listen. This approach empowers a team by making everyone feel valued and appreciated. It’s also a great example of Q4 leadership, demonstrating respect for people at all levels of the team while always driving for results.
Ted Lasso is a unique leader, one who leads with kindness and respect, yet remains eminently enjoyable on screen. While his approach can be a little nontraditional, I’d say he demonstrates a number of Q4 behaviors we could all learn from. If you’ve watched it, what are some of your takeaways? If you haven’t watched it yet, go. Now. Seriously, it’s that good.
Season one of Ted Lasso recently set a record for a freshman comedy series with 20 Emmy nominations, and season two kicks off on July 23.