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How to Apply Ted Lasso's Coaching Messages in Your Workplace
It’s happened now more times than I can count, where my clients have said, “You’re like the real-life female version of coach Ted Lasso (TL) with an Aussie accent!” So, I’ve decided to lean into this analogy, and do admit that I’m a big fan of the show ever since it was released in August 2020. But what are some of the key messages that we transfer back into our workplaces whether on a football field, over Zoom, or in the boardroom?
As many of you know, I recently released my book, What Makes a Great Coach? (#WMAGC), unlocking the top 10 practices of the world’s best coaches. Not fictional coaches, but real-life day-in-day-out coaches who are making an impact on the people they lead. So, what are some of the similarities between the TL messages and the top 10 practices as researched from over 500 of the world’s leading coaches and how can we apply them to empower our team members?
WMAGC Intro Chapter: Being the Best Coach You Can Be
TL Message: "I do love a locker room. It smells like potential."
Coach Lasso has a way of making everyone feel appreciated which helps people to believe in themselves. In the beginning, Ted makes a point of referring to Nate (who started out as the kit-boy) calling him ‘Nate the Great’. Regardless of the power dynamics within the organization, Ted goes out of his way to learn about his people, showing an interest in their families, and he values the importance of bringing in different perspectives.
Coaching Application: Coaching is defined as unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. Potential lives within all of us. Success is not granted to the chosen few but to the people who take action in the direction of their goals and dreams. Do you spend the time getting to know your people? How would you rate the coaching culture within your workplace?
WMAGC Practice 1: Decision-Making
TL Message: "Every choice is a chance."
When the players find out something about Coach Lasso through the media, Ted immediately confronts this situation with the team, and he acknowledges that this was a ‘dumb’ decision because he didn’t allow them to deepen their trust in him. He asks for forgiveness, further highlighting that sometimes in life, we don’t always make great choices. Owning them is far more important than hiding the truth. Coach Lasso also empowers his coaching staff to make major tactical decisions that sometimes pay off and sometimes don’t. Either way, this encourages everyone to make choices, take risks, and build trust.
Coaching Application: Every choice, no matter how big or small, provides us with an opportunity to show who we truly are. Getting out of bed in the morning is a choice. Hitting the ‘snooze’ button is a choice. How you start your day is a choice. Being able to make decisions under pressure is a choice and the more you develop and practice your decision-making skills (for yourself and your team members) the better you will stand up in high-stake moments. How can you encourage decision-making and build trust for your team members?
WMAGC Practice 2: Belief
TL Message: “Belief doesn’t just happen ‘cause you hang something up on a wall … What about the belief of hope? … To believe in yourself and to believe in each other, that’s fundamental to being alive.”
One of Ted's first actions is to stick a sign up above the door of his office read reads ‘Believe’. But how does Coach Lasso bring this word, ‘BELIEVE’ to life? First and foremost, Ted knows that they won’t be successful until they believe that they are a successful football team. In season 3, with the departure of their star player Zava, Ted tells the team that he believes that they don’t need him. In fact, they have everything and everyone they need in the locker room to be successful. Frequently, the only person who gets in the way of belief is ourselves. Ted explains that we get in our own way with thoughts around envy, fear, and shame. Instead, he asks the players to focus on the fact that they matter and that we all deserve to be loved.
Coaching Application: Belief in one’s ability doesn’t just happen overnight. In the book, WMAGC we talk about building your self-esteem layer by layer over time. This can only be done when we have team members and coaches who instill this belief in us from the get-go. Sooner or later, as this belief builds over time and you stretch your comfort zone, there awaits your next big opportunity. How are you fostering belief in your team members? Who do you need to tap on the shoulder and let them know you believe in them?
WMAGC Practice 3: Purpose
TL Message: “… I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life coaching with somebody, you want the rest of your life to begin ASAP.”
Whether it’s a When Harry Met Sally original or a TL quote, the point that Ted is making to his assistant coach Roy relates to the importance of finding your purpose. Roy was a football star in his own right, and as we know, so much of our identity is wrapped up in how people see us and what we used to do. As Roy finds his new identity in a coaching role, Ted reinforces how important he is to the team and in finding a purpose and a connection to coaching that is beyond himself.
Coaching Application: One of the biggest motivating factors, especially for the millennial generation, is being connected to a higher purpose and have a deeper and more meaningful connection with their work. Thanks to Gen X they have witnessed firsthand the erosion of work-life balance and they are not interested in working longer hours. In fact, they will work harder and smarter as long as they understand the ‘why’ behind their role and how they can contribute to the organization’s values, mission, and goals. Are you clear about your purpose? What needs to change for you to feel more connected to the organization’s purpose?
WMAGC Practice 4: Passion
TL Message: "If you care about someone, and you got a little love in your heart, there ain't nothing you can't get through together."
As a great coach does, Coach Lasso puts his people first and he is passionate about making sure that each person feels acknowledged, heard, and appreciated. When he arrives in the UK, one of his first missions is to visit the team’s owner, Rebecca Welton, as a daily ritual. She is skeptical at first sighting that she doesn’t have time, but these regular check-ins (biscuits with the boss) are a brilliant way to connect, check in with the team updates, and show that he cares. For the team to turn around, it is important that everyone is pulling together in the same direction. In fact, this quote above is a touching response to Rebecca after Ted accepts her apology for trying to sabotage the team to get back at her ex-husband Rupert.
Coaching Application: Many companies and sporting organizations are working in a hybrid environment that doesn’t allow for regular check-ins. Creating time for 15-minute ‘coffee-catchups’ even over Zoom will do wonders for team morale. When your team members feel like you care, and that they belong, they will move heaven and earth to support each other. When you are passionate about creating this culture, it is like a driving force, you can open your heart and lead with love. What are you passionate about? How can you create these feelings of care, belonging, and passion in your workplace?
WMAGC Practice 5: Energy
TL Message: "I promise you there is something worse out there than being sad, and that's being alone and being sad. Ain't no one in this room alone."
During one of Ted’s post-match speeches, he asks his players to look at each other and be grateful for this sad moment. He invites them to sit with the pain of another loss. And then he encourages the team to remember that no one in that locker room is alone. When you are in something together, there is energy in having a collective goal and purpose.
Coaching Application: During some of my darkest times, one of my mentors and an incredible coach in his own right, used to say to me, ‘Emma you are right on track. This is what being successful feels like, and I am here to support you.’ And I would reply, ‘Well, it feels like s_ _t.’ Then I would take a step back, and focus on what was within my control, whom I could call upon and I soon realized that I was not alone. There is energy all around us. Your thoughts have energy too – so be careful what you are creating. You can find energy (and top-up your energy reserves) in the people you surround yourself with, your biggest cheerleaders, your mentors, and especially in your coaches. The practice of gratitude also helps us top up our energy reserves. What three things are you grateful for? How can you check in with one of your team members who looks like they are struggling? How can you activate some self-care and top up your energy reserves?
WMAGC Practice 6: Empathy
TL Message: "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 in 11."
When Coach Lasso has a one-on-one coaching moment with Jamie Tartt (initially the arrogant superstar of the AFC Richmond team), Ted takes this opportunity to remind Jamie that he is a part of something bigger than himself. It is impossible for him to have success without the rest of his teammates working together towards the common goal. Despite Jamie needing to hear this message, Ted and Coach Roy, consider the relationship between Jamie and his father. They demonstrate empathy and witness the bullying and berating from his father firsthand. In fact, the hug that Roy and Jamie share after yet another barrage from ‘Dad’ is a testament to their support of Jamie’s situation. I’m excited to witness Jamie’s transformation in Season 3, and his encouragement of Roy to learn how to ride a bike through the streets of Amsterdam (one of my favorite episodes) is living proof that people can change.
Coaching Application: My co-author, Natalie Ashdown, summarizes empathy best when she said that empathy is about being able to walk alongside the person that you are coaching so that you can see what they see. Despite Coach Lasso having never previously coached a UK football team, he continuously asks questions to better understand the lens cap through which his players see the world. Essentially, he walks alongside them, and we must strive to practice this skill if we are to unlock high performance within our workplaces. How can you demonstrate empathy in your workplace?
WMAGC Practice 7: Listening
TL Message: "Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn't it? If you're comfortable while you're doing it, you're probably doing it wrong."
This quote comes from season 1, episode 1, where Ted acknowledges to Coach Beard that challenges should feel uncomfortable. And what does Coach Beard do? He listens. In fact, he is always listening. Even when you think he is not listening or reading a book (hopefully, one day it will be WMAGC), he provides a wonderful sounding board for Ted to share his thoughts, feelings, and his actions.
Coaching Application: All the great coaches whom I have interviewed said that listening was the cornerstone of their coaching. Coaching begins with listening, and hearing what is important to the person in front of you. If you want to encourage someone to take on a new challenge, then you must listen to what motivates them. This will help them to grow and enable high performance. Are you practicing your active listening skills? How can you improve your ability to hear what the person is thinking and feeling?
WMAGC Practice 8: Curiosity
TL Message: “Be curious, not judgmental.”
Ted is shooting darts in a high-stakes match against Ruppert. He is mocked by Ruppert. And just before he hits the winning bulls-eye he talks about how people have always underestimated others. Specifically underestimating him and belittling him. ‘They thought they had it all figured out.’ Ted tells the story. ‘So, they judged everything. And everyone. Not one of them was curious.’ But instead of feeling down, he focuses on a quote from the American poet Walt Whitman: ‘Be curious, not judgmental.’ ‘If they were curious’, Ted continues with his story. ‘They would ask questions like: “Have you played a lot of darts Ted?”. To which I would have answered. “Yes Sir. Every Sunday afternoon at a sports bar with my father. From the age of 10 to 16, until he passed away.”’
Coaching Application: Being curious is a coach’s superpower. It helps you to think outside of the square and ask better questions beyond, ‘How are you?’ Therefore, have a go at leading by example and asking curious questions, for example;
- “I wonder what would happen if ….?”
- “Imagine if we could ….?”
- “What’s happening outside our…?”
- “What would be possible if ….?”
- “If money was no object ….?”
- “What would have to be true if…”
- “Where can I start?”
- “Where can I find the answer?”
- “Who might know?”
One of the values of the company Uber is, ‘Great minds don’t think alike’. Having a diverse and curious team helps to breed a culture of curiosity which allows us to better understand the world we live in. It is often judgment, and the subconscious bias that keeps us from understanding something important, even necessary, about a situation or another person — even about ourselves (as supported by Coach Lasso's comments in the show). Therefore, how can you build your curiosity muscles and bring that out in your team members too?
WMAGC Practice 9: Communication
TL Message: “Little tip for y’all. Fries are called chips. Chips are called crisps. And bangers aren’t great songs, but they do make you feel like dancing because they’re so darn tasty.”
There are two interesting parts to this quote as it relates to communication. One is the appreciation of the transatlantic UK-US differences referred to frequently. And the other is just how many one-liners, parallels, and analogies to other great films are referenced throughout the show. Have you ever watched the same episode twice, popped the subtitles on, and picked up on way more hilarious moments (or insightful comments) than the first time?
Coaching Application: As an ex-pat living in Denver, Colorado, (I’m originally from Melbourne, Australia), there have been many times when what I have said, is not what I meant. Sometimes our communication can be lost in translation, especially from one email to another. Communication 101 is way deeper than just the spoken word. For example, in Ted Lasso’s press conferences he has a way of spinning negative questions into positive responses, even when he is unfamiliar with the fact that a match can end in a win, loss or tie (draw). He uses the names of the reporters (such as Trent Crimm of the Independent) and his upbeat tonality makes it hard not to like Coach Lasso. Remember that your communication is made up of your body language, your tone, and your words. Choose them wisely and be as clear as possible. What can you do to improve the clarity of your communication?
WMAGC Practice 10: Resilience
TL Message: "You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It's a goldfish. You know why? It's got a 10-second memory."
This is perhaps one of the best-known lines in the show when Coach Lasso encourages one of his players, Sam, to let go of the negative energy he was experiencing on the field from Jamie. Although Sam didn’t quite get the point at the time, the message is very powerful for all of us. Even the great golfer, Jon Rahm used this line recently to describe how quickly you need to let go of your previous golf shot and focus on the task at hand.
Coaching Application: In my chosen sport of tennis, we are allocated 20 seconds between points which is a great reminder about the power of resiliency. How quickly can you move forward from a past mistake? When I interviewed the great Nick Bollettieri, (the Godfather of tennis coaching) he said that all champions share a wave of anger when they make an unforced error but they can move on quickly and say; ‘Hey coach, give me another chance, I know I can make that shot.’ In the workplace, how quickly can you move past and learn from your mistake to focus on the next opportunity?
WMAGC Game, Set, Match
So, here’s the thing – while Ted Lasso may be a fictional coach, the show’s messages are critical in the modern workplace where managers and leaders are time-poor and have to navigate a hybrid environment. Today’s workforces are crying out for collaborative and unique approaches to building trust and they are craving to be empowered via a coaching culture. It really is the answer to unlocking your team’s potential not only on a sporting field or in the board room, but also in life creating a healthy and positive well-being mindset.
If you are looking for a real-life TL-style facilitator (who has been coaching in the trenches for over 30 years) whose purpose is to help companies develop their managers and leaders as coaches, then send me a DM and I look forward to our energetic and empowering conversation. At the end of the day, as cheesy as this sounds, the ball is in your court to take action. Or in the words of TL, "If God would have wanted games to end in a tie, she wouldn't have invented numbers."
And one more for good measure, “Doubt can only be removed by action." Spoken by Dr Sharon – Ted’s psychologist from the Show.
If you are interested in grabbing a copy of WMAGC or you want to jump on a free laser coaching call with Coach Emma, head over to this link and book a discovery call today: https://linktr.ee/EmmaDoyleiii
But don’t just take my word for it, here is a testimonial from Edward Hernandez who is the VP of Human Resources for GCC (providing innovative solutions for the construction industry).
“Emma Doyle facilitated part of a leadership offsite for GCC. She was engaging, motivating, practical, and fun, and the participants really enjoyed her session. Emma provided a great opportunity for the participants to have a more open and authentic discussion as they worked on their team dynamics. I highly recommend Emma as a speaker/workshop facilitator around coaching and leadership.”
Thank you to Jason Sudeikis, (@TedLasso), Brendan Hunt, (@brendanhunting), and the entire #tedlasso crew for the laughs, positivity, inspiration, and great coaching messages.