Like many of you, I dived into some good streaming shows during the pandemic. One of my favorite finds has been Ted Lasso – the Apple TV breakout hit. If you haven’t seen it, it’s about an American football coach who gets hired for an English Premier League soccer (or the “other football”) team.
At least that’s what it’s ostensibly about.
But not really.
Because to watch Ted Lasso is to appreciate the optimism that Ted Lasso has.
Like some of the best workplace comedies (think Newsradio, Taxi, or sure, the Office), the workplace just serves the basis for sharing laughs and perspectives.
I thought I would highlight some of my favorite workplace “lessons” that I was able to glean from the first season. It’s The Lasso Way.
- Be positive and a good person
We all know the expression regarding a glass half full (versus half empty), but the positive attitude Coach Lasso brings is infectious. “I do love a locker room. It smells like potential.” He puts up a sign of “Believe” and always thinks positive. Good will begets good will is an expression I often use. That positivity translates well to a workplace. There are limits to the positivity, however, as his broken marriage demonstrates so positivity can only get you so far.
- Be empathetic and treat people with respect
No doubt this flows from being positive, but Coach Lasso is consistently taking an interest in each team member to understand them for who they are, not necessarily who you want them to be. He allows people to be themselves, despite their flaws. He treats the team’s owner with respect saying that “we can’t be good partners if we don’t know each other” but also takes a genuine interest in the “water boy” too. There’s something to be said about not judging people by their worst days. The notion of being respected by others and not underestimating them is the subject of the favorite scenes while playing darts. I won’t spoil it but you can watch it here.
“You know what the happiest animal on earth is? It’s a goldfish. Want to know why? Got a ten second memory. Be a goldfish.” The point Coach Lasso makes is to not focus and dwell on mistakes; learn from them and move on. Quickly. We all have made mistakes in our careers, whether as staff or managers. Similarly, managers need to not judge an individual by a simple mistake; take a larger view. (Note: just don’t put your goldfish in a lake. Bad for the fish and the environment.)
- Surround yourself with good people and listen
Coach Lasso isn’t afraid to surround himself with opinionated assistants who can confront him. One of the signs of a strong leader is the ability to hire “A-level” talent instead of “B” or “C” grade talent. Why? Because good leaders understand that they can only be great when they can foster greatness from those that they work with. Be happy for their success and let them have their own moments, rather than making it all about you.
- Don’t hold grudges
One of the most moving scenes of the season happens when (spoiler alert) Coach Lasso forgives the team’s owner for sabotaging his efforts. It is done without reservation but rather with an understanding of her situation — “Divorce is hard….it makes folks do crazy things.” He extends his hand as a gesture of good will. Too often, people hold long lasting grudges, perhaps never allowing people to shake first or second impressions. Being open to change and understanding people is a big part of who Ted Lasso is.
- Understand that training and practice leads to success
Another big scene happens early on with the team’s supposed superstar. The star tells the coach he is “hurt” for practice (when it is clear he is just sitting out). But Coach Lasso — despite all his positivity — isn’t afraid to set his player straight. As he notes, they weren’t spending time and energy talking about the game, “the game you go out there and die for”, but rather just on practice. The point he takes is that his star was taking all this energy to be negative to his entire team about training. Thinking about this in an office setting, how many times has a key salesperson complained about having to go through training by saying they’re too “busy”. “You know you’re supposed to be out there. You know you’re supposed to lead by example”. Exactly.
(Incidentally, if you haven’t seen this mashup between this speech and the infamous Allen Iverson press conference, it is AMAZING.)
If you haven’t hopped on board the Ted Lasso train, I strongly encourage you not to miss it. Can’t wait to watch Season 2. Now, I just need to go make some biscuits (here’s the recipe).
By: Daniel A. Schwartz, Shipman & Goodwin LLP
Reprinted with permission from the Connecticut Employment Law Blog where this first appeared.