Trust, Tenacity, and Ted Lasso: How to Build and Maintain an Organizational Dream Team
Since it aired in late 2020, Ted Lasso has inspired coaches, CEOs, managers and other leaders to reexamine their management styles.
As a career football coach forced to adapt to a new country, team, and sport (and the culture surrounding them), Ted’s fish-out-of-water origin story is certainly an example worth emulating as a leader.
But isn’t the true measure of a great coach an even better team?
Ted Lasso is an exemplary leader because he actually doesn’t fit the conventional mold of one. Instead, his primary goal is helping others achieve their goals.
Because this sounds like somewhat of a paradox (it isn’t, but we’ll get to that), it can be difficult to understand what it looks like in practice. Essentially, the best way to build a dream team isn’t piece-by-piece — it’s more about the potential of how those pieces can function as a whole.
Meaning: in order for a group of individuals to start acting like a team, they need the right tools to accomplish this themselves. As a leader, your job is simply to provide these tools, and then to let your team do the building.
How can you implement a Lasso-style-leadership approach to achieve the best possible outcomes for your organization or business team? We’ve outlined what that looks like in practice within the four tenets of work environment, policy, culture, and success metrics — so you can ensure the sturdiest possible foundation for team synergy in any industry.
The Work Environment
First, consider your team’s physical and digital work environment (your Slack channel, Zoom, office, hybrid-work-set-up, et cetera). Is it collaborative and inviting? Would someone feel stifled or confined here, or is there ample “room” for each team member to see themselves and their influence on the organization at large?
Creating a comfortable work environment can be relatively simple. Although expensive perks and novelties like in-house beer on tap and foosball tables may draw in prospective employees, it’s much more important to create a space worth coming to and sharing in (even if that space is not a physical location).
Lasso Leadership Moment: Though trivial at face value, Ted Lasso demonstrates his commitment to his players’ comfort by adjusting the locker room’s water pressure. Because he’s willing to do the work to fix a problem — especially early in the trust-building phase — rather than just acknowledge it, his tenacity inspires the team to extend that same courtesy to each other.
Policy varies by industry and, as such, is shaped by a variety of organization-dependent circumstances.
Generally, a company’s expectations of an employee are well understood, but what the company offers in return should be equally as clear — and constantly evolving depending on need.
When writing, proposing, revising, or even interpreting company policy, a good leader goes straight to the source. To avoid misinterpretation on all sides, simply ask team members what they need from you to be successful — including what might need clarifying when it comes to policies and processes — then do your best to implement it.
Lasso Leadership Moment: Knowing nothing about soccer, Ted elicits advice from equipment manager Nate. Right away, Nate is made to feel valued through Ted’s trust in his expertise, and Ted gains insight on the sport. Vulnerability in leadership is mutually beneficial.
Similarly, a company’s culture is more than the sum of its parts, but thoughtful, dedicated management can set the tone for success, especially in equipping your team to live out the culture on their own.
A leader who listens to their team’s wants and needs quickly also learns to recognize others’ unique gifts and how to utilize them. Unlike policy-making, though, fostering a healthy work culture involves participation beyond finding the right role for everyone. Lead by example with an open, optimistic, and vulnerable approach to your work — but don’t overthink it! Disingenuous positivity and forced team building can have the opposite effect on morale, so the goal here should be communicating with genuine intention, self-awareness, and humility.
Lasso Leadership Moment:
Ted points out that successful teams aren’t all built around camaraderie. His examples (including Shaq and Kobe, Lennon and McCartney, and Woody and Buzz) underscore the need for trust, diversity, and common goals over simply getting along.
The Success Metrics
Above all, Ted Lasso and his team are successful because they’ve redefined what success means. Instead of defining themselves solely within the constructs of hierarchy and data; the success metrics dictate that a team that loses a game — but still accomplishes teamwork — is a winning team.
(Spoiler alert: Season 2 disrupts this notion in an interesting way, and I’m here for it. Stay tuned for a part 2 article.)
It’s not possible to ignore the bottom line in business; an organization needs to be profitable in order to remain competitive. Nine times out of ten, though, job satisfaction IS good business because it cuts the immediate, literal cost of churn in addition to the steadily increasing costs of unengaged, unmotivated employees.