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Leaders Are Praising This Fictional Coach. Here are 3 Good Reasons Why.

When life should imitate art, it’s worth mentioning. I use the term art loosely because I’m talking about a new television show called Ted Lasso. But don’t let the medium fool you. “The Lasso Way” is gaining momentum among leaders and coaches.

Lasso is a fictional college football coach played by actor Jason Sudeikis who gets hired to lead a struggling professional soccer team in England. Though Lasso’s story is fictional, many real coaches are taking note of the positive influence he has on players.

Lasso’s character is a breath of fresh air during a time when we could all use a few more smiles. Even the actors claim they’re using Lasso-isms in their personal lives. What is fodder for comedy in each episode has become what people gratefully are latching onto in the workplace. From telling one another “I appreciate you” to believing a team’s efforts are not only about the wins (but the journey), everyone is rethinking how they relate to one another.

NPR host Mary Louise Kelly says, “Search leadership and Ted Lasso on Twitter, and you will find tweet after tweet from management gurus praising the TV coach’s leadership chops.” If you’re wondering what kernels of wisdom can be found in a show, consider a few of the following gems that are bandied about in leadership chat rooms and LinkedIn forums.

Don’t go it alone

Lasso: “I promise you, there is something worse out there than being sad. And that is being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one in this room alone.” While Lasso’s sentiment was an effort to bolster his losing team, the same rules apply to the workplace. I’ve said it before, and it’s worth repeating: It’s not about you, and it never should be if you’re the leader. It’s about the collective. When your team faces challenges or falls on hard times, they depend on you to remove barriers, nurture growth, enlist their creativity, and create a culture where it’s safe to try and fail. When you’ve taken the mantle of servant leader, people grow, innovate, and succeed in the good times and bad. When you make it about everyone else, they’ll raise the tide to lift all boats.

Be a goldfish

Lasso: “You know what the happiest animal on earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a ten-second memory. Be a goldfish.” Those who’ve experienced failure on the job (or in life) know how critical it is to get back up, dust yourself off, and leave what’s happened behind. If we can mentally wipe the slate clean or compartmentalize the disappointment, we’ll have a much easier time moving on and motivating our employees to do the same. Sports psychologist Patrick Cohn says pushing reset is a two-step process that first involves letting go of the past, which is followed by recommitting to the process rather than obsessing about the outcome.

It’s the what, not the who

Lasso: “I like the idea of someone becoming rich because of what they gave to the world, not just because of who their family is.” If you’ve listened to any of my podcast interviews, you may have heard that when I’m asked about my family, I like to say that I won the parent lottery because of what they instilled in me. My parents always put more stock in the “what” rather than the “who.” They raised my sisters and me to focus on what was inside each of us and how we treated others. Many of the values they taught us have become the foundation of my leadership principles and guided me through crucible moments. I feel fortunate to have shared these values with colleagues and employees over the years. My hope is that I’ve created a positive ripple effect for the people around me.

There’s a moment in the pilot episode when Lasso goes out of his way to learn the name of the kit man (a.k.a. water boy). Up to this point, no one has ever asked or cared. After discovering his name and cultivating a working relationship, Lasso discovers Nate’s untapped abilities, including player and game analysis. Nate flourishes under Lasso’s respect and eventually becomes a trusted part of the coaching team.

Without a positive attitude, there’s never a gain in altitude. Leaders and coaches like our fictional Lasso see the possibility in everything and everyone—starting with front-line employees like Nate. How much greater would our lives be if we adopted The Lasso Way?  

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