Leadership lessons via Ted Lasso: Let’s believe

© Can Stock Photo / michaeldb

Ted Lasso is an unexpectedly fantastic leader. Ted makes his much-anticipated return on July 23 as season two kicks off on Apple TV. If you’ve never seen the show, the first season provided a gold mine of leadership nuggets. My colleague, Brian Hale, and I found seven leadership lessons from season one and shared them below.

Investing in your people is everything

Invest in finding the right people, learning what motivates them, and showing empathy to them, not only as co-workers, but as people. When your team knows that you truly care about them and their well-being, their engagement, satisfaction and production skyrockets. Ted genuinely wanted to know his coaches, front office and players. History, backgrounds, family etc. By game time against Everton (Richmond had not won there in 60 years), he had the trust and belief of the whole team. The team performed at a level even they weren’t expecting, and they won the match. When we build strong teams with the right people, in the right spots and the right amount of empathy for them as people, it breeds unity and belief, and there is no limit to what we can do. The impossible can happen!

Nobody is bigger than ‘we’

I sometimes think titles can get in the way and be intimidating. They can become barriers to production and inhibitors of open dialogue. Ted Lasso was open to listening to anyone who wanted to chat with him, even if it was critical or insulting. He leaned on his assistant coaches for knowledge of the sport and for the hard things that needed to be said. He also gave “Nate the Great” a platform for his knowledge and opinions, even though he was only a “kit man.” Ted saw greatness in Nate in the form of knowledge and good ideas. He encouraged Nate to provide his opinions. Additionally, Ted was not afraid to bench the star of the team, Jamie Tartt, for his selfish attitude and refusal to play as a team. We can sometimes feel handcuffed by titles and thinking that we can’t go speak to someone because of where they fall in the org chart or corporate structure. Fostering openness in dialogue amongst every individual, as well as removing those who present a barrier to team success, is what leads to a cohesive and winning team. Nobody is bigger than “we.”

There is no room for ego

Ted never believed he was the only person responsible for success or failure. He acknowledged his weaknesses and looked to those who could provide the best path forward. It was never about himself. He realized that his job as a leader was not about winning or losing games; It was simply about motivating his team to be the best versions of themselves and to become leaders. When Ted saw ego and selfishness he removed it also. It’s been said, “culture is what you promote and what you allow”. Ted promoted a no ego environment and didn’t allow it on his pitch either.

Humility and vulnerability strengthen teams

There were many instances of humility for many characters in season one. With constant insults, being set-up for failure and negative outlooks and attitudes, Ted led the charge of a humble attitude and took every snide comment without blinking and kept a positive mindset. The owner, Rebecca, had many situations of showing vulnerability as well, and was the one to comfort Ted when he had his own personal breakdown. After that openness and understanding of each other, the two were on the same page after Ted’s divorce. I think it’s important to understand that showing humility and vulnerability are not perceived as weaknesses, but rather as trust in the team around you. It creates a culture of trust, strength and belief. I once had an employee of mine come into my office to tell me how bad of a leader I was. When I acknowledged them and said, “I can be a bad leader at times, what feedback can you pass along to help me improve?” it created a situation for both of us to grow and get better.

Oklahoma and full disclosure

We always expect honesty, but in a work setting, sometimes being the only one to raise a concern or speak your opinion can be daunting for fear of negative perception and/or retaliation. Complete honesty can be hard to say, yet incredibly beneficial in moving forward. I think ensuring our teams know that all opinions can be, and will be, respected and listened to makes a huge difference. Speaking “truth to power” is especially daunting, but in my experiences it’s always the right thing to do. I have been lucky enough to work with and for so many great leaders who respect honest, full disclosure and each of us are better for it.

When to speak, when to listen

When to speak and when to listen – it’s hard to know what to do. After 23 years in a professional work environment and 19 years leading my own family, it’s still challenging to trust when the right time is for each. Ancient proverbs like, “even a fool is considered wise when he keeps his mouth shut” fall in direct competition with other wise statements, like the importance of, “open your mouth for the mute and judge with integrity.” Ted seems to figure it out, and on the occasions he does not, he has enough self-awareness to know and apologize.

Ted has the right blend of leading conversations with Rebecca, even when she is not thrilled to listen, to being the best listener a friend could ask for in hard times (like at the charity ball and as she apologizes for her attempts at sabotaging the team). When he screws up with Nate at the hotel with a harsh late-night word and then a mean tone with Rebecca after losing one of his aces, Ted finds a way to apologize and even ask for forgiveness when necessary. Ted is a true master at observation and listening. Observe how he handles Rebecca’s apology in episode nine as a sincere listener and accepted the admission with grace, kindness and an attempted handshake. We could all learn from his examples of putting others in front of ourselves.

Delegation and success are always connected

Delegating can be a real struggle for all of us. We want to see things done the way we want them. With so many new digital management tools and the ability to learn things real-time on YouTube, it’s easy to be a part of every decision and micromanage many details of our businesses. Delegation is an age-old challenge (see Moses and his struggle to lead a nation with too much to do). Ted is a master delegator. He delegates scouting reports to Beard, play creation and pregame speeches to Nate, player leadership and locker room challenges to Roy, personal and team relationship conundrums to the Diamond Dogs, and special end of season stunt plays to his own players. Ted realizes that to scale what he is doing and to maximize his impact, he must delegate. Delegation is about scale, but it’s also about the gift of trust. When you hand over something important to someone else you give them a chance to succeed and even fail. This is where you allow your team to grow – to be allowed to make mistakes and own the burden of leadership.

Brian Hale is a senior manager of dealer content at GM Financial.

Will Stacy is the chief marketing and digital officer at GM Financial.

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on LinkedIn. 

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