Ted Lasso Style Management, Or, How I Learned To Be A Better Library Leader

During a class presentation last week in my library admin course, I discovered a reference to Ted Lasso, the AppleTV program. While I had heard of the program while surfing my tv subscription menus at home, my interest was further peaked.

oAs part of the 2013-2014 NBC season, the network acquired the broadcast rights to the English Premier League. The Network ran commercials featuring a fictional American Football coach, the perpetually sunny optimist character named Ted Lasso. Played by actor/ comedian Jason Sudeikis, Lasso is hired to coach English football —which is soccer to most Americans. The four-minute commercial poked fun at the British obsession with their version of our football sport.

Through a storyline where Lasso is hired to fail and drag the team down with him, everyone underestimates his ability and perpetual positive work ethic. It is Lasso’s management style that brings the team into a more cohesive state, allowing them to win, despite several characters’ attempts two thwart his efforts, unbeknowsed to Ted.

Lasso’s philosophy “Be a good person, respect others and judge no one” is so much more complex that it appears on the surface. While participating in Brene Brown’s podcast “Unlocking Us”, Sudeikis describes Ted as

“…egoless. He allows people to be themselves and reflect what they think he is, but really what they are.”

Ted accepts everyone as they are, without judgment, flaws, and all. He shows unconditional love.

Four episodes in and I am hooked on Ted’s version of what a good leader is.  Admittedly, I find myself jotting down quotes and his management lessons which have struck me as profound in a simple, yet endearing way. Without being a spoiler to future episodes, here are 15 lessons I learned from Ted:

Treat people with respect – This means to treat everyone from the kit man (water boy) to the Chairman of the Board with the same respect; every person has value.

Communicate and fit people into your daily routine– Ted begins every day with “Biscuits with the Boss.” When he started this routine with Rebecca, the team owner, she wanted nothing to do with it.  But Ted insisted saying “we can’t be good partners if we don’t know each other.”  This means getting to know people by being curious and asking questions and really listening to the answers.

Be a goldfish – According to Ted, a goldfish has a 15-second memory. He wants his players to make mistakes and move on.  Do not dwell on the mistake, learn from it. https://youtu.be/_KXqWCLHgHg

Be understanding – Communicating with his players allows Ted to understand them and what they are experiencing. Whether it is a player’s first time away from home or a veteran dealing with losing a step or two, having that perspective allows a manager to have empathy.

Be a mentor – Ted had a great quote for his captain, “You know how they say youth is wasted on the young, I say don’t let the wisdom of age be wasted on you.” He was encouraging him to be a mentor for one of the junior players and share his experiences.

Good ideas can come from anywhere – Whether asking for advice on roster moves or dealing with his personal relationship issues with the Diamond Dogs, Ted has the ability and willingness to engage others on topics and issues where they have no agency over. Having no ego allows Ted to solicit and accept support from all levels of the organization.  He always does what is best for the team and not necessarily himself.

Obstacles can be opportunities – Take difficult situations and make them learning experiences so it is not so bad the next time around.

Take the time to get to know the players and the community surrounding the team – Be a positive, productive part of the community.

Teammates don’t need to be best friends to be great – Ted uses examples such as Shaq & Kobe, Lennon & McCartney, Woody & Buzz. Players simply need to have mutual respect.

Don’t judge a book by its cover – Amazing talent can be discovered in some of the most unusual packages and places.

Symbolism is important – Rituals and the severity of the initiation can bond a team together through shared experience.

Leaders don’t always have to be taskmasters – Sometimes they need to be cheerleaders as well.

Allow the members of the team to shine – Ted allows members of his staff to shine. He gives them credit and highlights their achievements which provides motivation and incentive to everyone in the organization and allows them to achieve the impossible.

“Be curious, not judgmental.” – Ted uses this quote from Walt Whitman to express his frustration that most people in his life have second-guessed his ability without getting to know him. They simply judged him without understanding him.

Believe! – From the beginning of Ted’s time in Richmond, the fictional city in England where Ted has landed, it was clear that this was his motto. Ted mounted a “Believe” sign in the locker room.  It is at the core of who Ted Lasso is – hope, opportunity, and love.

The true power of Ted Lasso is his ability to be fully present to each person he is with, and to be completely vulnerable during every interaction. He makes it clear that he is in each relationship for the long haul and will wear down your protective walls with his perseverance and his love. More importantly, he will never judge your imperfections or tear you down to make himself look better.  Ted’s actions and the impact he has on others provide lessons about being a good spouse, parent, friend, teammate, coach, and person.

Ted is the quintessential leader who mixes optimism, motivation, humor, vulnerability, and love into a powerful tool to accomplish his goal of making everyone a better version of themselves. As goofy as it all appears, I find myself applying several of Ted’s philosophies to my library team.

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