In episode 2, season 1 of Ted Lasso, a comedy series about an American football coach hired to manage AFC Richmond, a struggling British soccer team, the main character (Ted Lasso) has a chat with Jamie Tartt, an egotistical, young up-and-coming striker.
“I haven’t known you that long, but… I can honestly say you are the best athlete I have ever coached.” Ted begins.
“Wow. Yeah. I mean, I work hard, yeah.” Jamie brags.
“I see it. You are truly great at everything you do out there,” Ted agrees. “Except for one thing”.
“My left foot cross?” Jamie jokingly boasts
“No. Jamie, I think that you might be so sure that you’re one in a million, that sometimes you forget that out there, you’re just one of eleven. And if you just figure out some way to turn that “me” into “us”… the sky’s the limit for you. Was a heck of a goal out there, by the way. Thanks.” Ted counters.
You’re Just One of Eleven
Without a dedicated, cohesive and focused team the best player in any team sport won’t win any trophies or titles and team morale will be adversely affected. Being just one of eleven is something that Ted understands and communicates to Jamie even though Ted is seen as unsophisticated but is actually smarter than he looks. What’s surprising is Ted has been hired to coach a team in sport that he has no experience in and is regarded as un-American. It is clear that the owner of AFC Richmond Rebecca Welton, hired Ted convinced that he will run the team into the ground to spite her ex-husband.
You’re are One in a Million But…
Developing a high-performing team and nurturing a positive culture is something that many organisations struggle to achieve. Not only does everyone in the organization need to be part of the team but when team players jeopardize the collective good of the team, personnel changes need to be made. Ted brings Rebecca Welton small home-baked cakes and encourages her to participate in team activities and become one of the team.
Ted’s kindness, astute social and emotional intelligence may be seen by many as a weakness but it is actually a superpower that most leaders need to exemplify especially now when employees are saying ‘I Quit’ post-pandemic.
Nathan Shelley, christened “Nate the Great” by Ted is AFC Richmond’s former kit manager turned assistant coach who lacks confidence but knows a lot about football. Some team members pick on Nate but Ted values Nate’s perspective and grants him credit when due. The belief that team members can share ideas, disagree and ask questions without fear of being singled out, put down or embarrassed is something many organisations don’t practice.
How many leaders are willing to acknowledge the limits of their knowledge? How many regard this as a sign of weakness? AFC Richmond fans and the British media cannot reconcile the fact that Ted has never coached soccer before. Ted approaches all this with humble curiosity, seeking to learn and relying on Nate’s help.
Is it the hope that kills you? Well, Ted firmly doesn’t ‘believe’ so. Hanging a sign that simply reads Believe above his office door shows that Ted believes in the power of hope and seeks to cultivate it.
Leadership is not a title but a set of behaviors that promote good team work, kindness, empathy, the courage to make tough decisions and have tough conversations, and develop those around you because you care.