Say you land a job about which you know little, in a field you know even less about, and in a country different from your own. If you do, you will be emulating the premise of Ted Lasso, a new show from Apple TV+.
The good news is that Ted Lasso, co-created by Jason Sudekis and stars in the title role, is a comedy. The better news is that the 10-part television series is an insightful primer on management and leadership.
Lasso is an American college football coach hired to manage a “football” (soccer) team in England’s Premier League, the world’s highest competitive soccer league. An outlandish premise, yes, but a treat to watch as well as from which to learn.
You see, Lasso is an everyman who makes up for what he doesn’t know about English football with a deep and profound understanding of human nature, in particular as it applies to creating a team culture. Without divulging the plot twists and turns (and delights), the series reveals vital lessons that every manager would be wise to follow.
Trust your people. Lasso’s right-hand man is Coach Beard (Brendan Hunt). The two have a long history together, and while they do not always agree, they trust one another. The two of them readily embrace the outside perspective that comes in the form of the team kit man, Nathan (Nick Mohammed).
Lay back. To me, the heart of Ted Lasso’s leadership is “laissez-faire.” It is an endearing quality that adds charm to his character while it reveals his faith in people. Lasso sees talent, skill and desire in players that others may overlook. That is the genius of the manager. Look at the best in others and allow them to prove themselves.
Make tough decisions. Management calls for setting direction and ensuring that the train stays on the rails. Leadership requires making tough decisions about people. Lasso’s natural style is laid back as it relates to people, but he knows that his role is to make the final call. He does it so well that others emulate his example.
Believe. In the first episode, Lasso posts a handwritten sign saying “Believe” over the door to his office, which by the way, has a very open-door policy. Lasso does what all great managers do: enable people to believe in themselves. (Yes, you will find such signs in every high school and college locker room, but with Lasso, the message is not a cliché; it resonates with authenticity.)
Believe begets confidence
Belief in self is what distinguishes the winners from the also-rans. Belief is the cornerstone of confidence, which is essential to leadership. People have to believe that the person in charge is capable of doing the job. That sentiment leads to faith in the leader. And when the leader can turn, dare say transmute, that confidence to the team, great things can occur.
“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them,” wrote Ernest Hemingway. That statement can be ascribed to Ted Lasso because the root of his ability to connect with others is his willingness to trust them. He looks at people with an open heart, a willingness to suspend judgment as a means of enabling them to fulfill their role in the team.
Managers who balance direction with guidance, belief with confidence, and purpose with conviction, are those who point their teams in the right direction and watch them soar. Or at least do their very best.