The Ted Lasso Approach to Leadership

Ted Lasso is a great show. If you haven’t watched it, you have a few days to catch up on this cultural phenomenon before Season 2 comes out on July 23rd! The show isn’t just entertaining and inspiring, it also offers an abundance of life lessons.

Last week, Ben Cohen of the WSJ wrote about how NBA coaches are taking a play out of Ted Lasso’s book and applying it to their own coaching. Quinn Snyder of the Utah Jazz referenced having a short memory like goldfish – a reminder to stay buoyant and optimistic – a key life lesson from the show. They’re going as far as to say it should be mandatory watching for any and all coaches! The premise of the show is how an American football coach comes to England to coach a professional soccer team. He doesn’t know anything about the sport, yet he focuses on culture and getting the best out of his players.

Now, let’s transition to business and the challenges we face:

  • Lead and inspire a diverse team in uncertain times
  • Managing and influencing people that don’t necessarily report to you
  • Moving from organization to organization and to areas of the business you might not have expertise in

Maybe the reason my wife Kelly and I love the show so much, and what resonated through Ben Cohen’s article, is that so much of what we do at Decker revolves around working on getting business leaders to adapt and embrace positivity. Two key characteristics stand out and can be implemented with ease:

  1. Empathy – It might be one of the top 3 words of the pandemic. (Pandemic is one of the other top 3). At Decker, we define empathy as being listener obsessive – you need to put yourself in your listener’s shoes and understand how they think about things – all to have the goal to meet them where they are. This is key to influencing at all levels.  It’s amazing how many of us don’t think about our listeners, and just say what we want to say. To have empathy, we have to adjust to meet people where they are, we have to show care and we have to adapt. It always sticks out to me when I hear the line, “they’re just a good human being” when people describe peers, supervisors, vendors, and partners. This means that person shows empathy and prioritizes connection with their listeners by meeting them where they are. We can do and show that in person, and through any video conferencing. But we have to stay intentional throughout the dozen times a day we speak with different people.
  2. Speak Human – If and when you watch the show, you’ll see how much Ted speaks in SHARPs, a cornerstone of the Decker Methodology. A SHARP (Story, Humor, Analogy, Reference/Quote, Picture) is that one bit of emotion that pushes our listeners over the edge – it makes them willing to act or be influenced. And it works because it makes them ‘feel’ something. I’ve already referenced the goldfish example, but even Lasso’s Q&A pre or post-game pep talk is littered with SHARPs – and they work in motivating his team!  So often, we work with leaders going into a board meeting or high stakes situation, and there is a fear of using a SHARP because they don’t want to come across too light or fluffy. However, because of that emotional tie-in, SHARPs tend to be the points of the message that are most remembered. They pierce through and get the influence you want.

Who wouldn’t want to go into a new company or organization and have an impact? To be able to recognize and pull out the best of the people around you, or who work for you. Ted Lasso shouldn’t just be mandatory watching for coaches, it should be for all of us. Between season 2 of Ted Lasso and the Olympics also starting on July 23rd – I’m not sure I’ll be scheduling many calls that day!

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