Over the last year, my family has binge watched more than our fair share of television programs on Netflix and Amazon. Some have been delightful, while others have been absolutely dreadful. Unfortunately, more have fallen into the latter category, which is why it was such a refreshing change to watch the sitcom, Ted Lasso, on Apple TV+.
My family was skeptical about watching this show, as the plot line centers around an American football coach who is recruited to manage a beleaguered professional soccer team in England. They thought it would rehash the tired story line of a coach brought in to help a struggling team overcome adversity and win the “big game,” with an added dose of anti-Americanism to boot. Boy, were they wrong! Ted Lasso is an incredibly upbeat show that offers a surprising amount of sage advice on life, relationships, and work.
The first bit of wisdom is to be optimistic and have a good attitude. This is the overriding theme of the show, as the main character, Ted Lasso, is always positive and sees the good in everyone. He walks into a job situation in which no one really wants him there, but by being friendly and relentlessly optimistic, he is able to win over enemies and make friends with even the most difficult personalities on his team. Important takeaway: No one wants to work for a grump or someone who is always negative. An upbeat attitude is infectious, and employees will likely carry over that positivity into their interactions with coworkers and customers.
Another bit of advice is to be actively interested in people – especially your employees. This means not only asking (and remembering) their names, but regularly showing an interest in their personal lives. In an early episode, Ted asks the name of Nate -- the team’s equipment manager – who doesn’t answer at first, because he said no one had ever asked him his name before. Ted asks the name of virtually everyone he meets – and remembers it. He then follows up with questions about their hobbies and their families, and he is genuinely interested. Important takeaway: Get to know your employees. This will make them feel like valued members of the team, and they will be less likely to look for employment elsewhere.
The third piece of advice is to listen to employees on ways to make the business better. Ted Lasso knows next to nothing about soccer, so he takes advice from Nate the equipment manager, who proves himself to be an astute advisor. Ted also listens to his team, asking for their advice, and following up on recommendations. For example, one team member complains about the low water pressure in the shower, and without comment, Ted gets that fixed. Important takeaway: Listen to your employees. They all have ideas about how to better the business, and most are willing to share. If they’re asked.
Lastly, it is important to recognize that tough love may need to be used with the malcontents on your staff. One of the soccer players on the team is extremely talented but also a ball hog who refuses to pass to other teammates, even though he has been told to do so. Ted removes him from a game after he has scored the team’s only points, and eventually brings in another positive, upbeat player to take his place. This is not done with any malice on Ted’s part, and when the bitter player is traded to another team, Ted wishes him nothing but success. Important takeaway: Some people just don’t work well with others, and they may have a toxic impact on your team. There’s not much you can do to fix that, and letting them go may be the best option.
What I love most about Ted Lasso is that he leads by example. He comes across as genuine and caring, and his professed goal in life is to help others become better people. Indeed, one of my favorite quotes from the show is when he says, “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.”
For any manager, these should be words to live by.