“You say impossible, but all I hear is ‘I’m possible‘.” Now that’s a Ted Lasso-ism for the ages.
With the Emmy award-winning show coming back to our screens for its final season, it’s worth exploring the leadership lessons that this football coach-turned-soccer coach can teach us about running a small business, managing staff and providing excellent customer service.
Ted Lasso’s philosophy goes beyond his profession and technical ability— emphasizing empathy, resilience and inspiration as key traits that can transform a good team into a great one.
1. Lead With Empathy
Ted approaches team leadership with empathy. He shows kindness and withholds judgment, hoping instead to understand his team members’ unique experiences and points-of-view.
Most importantly, he understands that what works for one player may not work for another. So, instead of taking a blanket approach with all his players, he treats each one individually but fairly, ensuring that they feel valued and understood.
When it comes to small business leadership, your situation is no different. Taking time to understand each of your staff members’ individual strengths and needs will help you figure out the best way to approach them.
Some may be going through hard times at home. Others might desire to be challenged with new responsibilities, while others may find adventure in day-to-day tasks. A few of your staff may even possess hidden talents, but haven’t felt valued enough to speak up.
By discovering how each member of your staff works on an individual level, you’ll better understand how to maximize their efficiency in your business. You’ll be able to pair up team members who can complement each other’s skills, assess when some team members require more training and maybe discover another team member who has the specific knowledge another team member is lacking. Pair them up so they can learn from each other!
When you learn more about the backgrounds of your staff members, you’ll also understand their unique perspectives. You may realize that you’ve been sitting on an untapped gold mine when you discover your back-of-house worker has been teaching your sales staff tactics, thanks to their prior experience in sales. Empower them to collaborate openly and without judgment, and you’ll be bettering your business in the long run.
2. Always Act With Positivity
Staying positive in the face of extreme challenges is one of Coach Lasso’s greatest strengths.
Through loss after loss, Ted Lasso radiates positivity. He doesn’t let negative feedback bring him down. Instead, he leads by example: If he remains positive to his players, then his players feel like they are allowed to feel positive too.
It’s kind of like back in the ’80s when ‘bad’ meant ‘good.’
This kind of leading by example can result in infectious positivity, which trickles down through your staff and to your customers.
This focus on positivity doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding problems or pretending they don’t exist. Hidden within this infectious positivity also lies authenticity, the capacity for you to be yourself, tell the truth and openly communicate changes.
Yes, your business may be going through a downturn, but you are planning for the future. Yes, you’ve been hit with some unexpected expenses, but you’re putting in extra effort to ensure next quarter is better.
Staying positive is about assessing what went wrong, discovering what your next steps are and communicating them to your staff, without placing blame or focusing on the negative. They’ll feel secure that you’ve thought this through and better yet, that you have a plan for getting them to the next step.
3. Be Resilient In Your Work
Knowing nothing of English football, Ted was, of course, met with firm criticism and resistance at first. From the players to the press (and even fans) everyone was incredibly verbal with their criticism.
But, throughout it all, Ted remained laser-focused. He didn’t try to convince people he was the best one for the job, or tell everyone about his qualifications. Instead, he simply did: He got on with the job, didn’t give up and kept going.
He knew his leadership had worked in the past, he was confident in his abilities and, in the end, that was all that mattered.
You know what to do with tough cookies don’t you? Dip ’em in milk!
The lesson here is about more than just confidence, however. It’s about ensuring you remain focused on getting results, rather than focusing on what people are saying about you.
Think of how negative reviews impact your business. It sucks, of course, but there’s also a way to approach them that will turn that negative review into a positive experience for your customers.
Negative reviews can be an opportunity for you to learn. They are ways to help you see where holes lie in your processes, where you can make changes to better suit your customers’ needs and where your staff requires extra support or training.
Resilience means not giving in over a few bad reviews. Instead, take them objectively and focus on bettering your business.
After all, you know your business better than anyone. Letting your actions speak for themselves will prove to critics that you’re on the right path— and that you can find it again if you take a quick detour.
4. Be A Beacon Of Inspiration
Believe. This word is hung above the door frame in the players’ locker room very early on in the first season, to show Ted Lasso’s philosophy on not just leadership, but life in general— believe in yourself, even after you’ve failed or messed up.
Words aren’t enough, and Ted knows this. This is why he leads by example. He takes every word of advice he gives to heart and lives by his own motto of “belief”.
Takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.
The lesson for your business here is simple: Lead by example. Show your team how you treat customers, and they’ll follow in your footsteps. After all, you’re the reason they’re here, and they need to know your values.
Consider that ordering people around does not make you a strong leader. A true leader inspires people to do their best, not by yelling orders, but by showing them the way.
The worst thing a leader can do is show indifference to the struggles of their staff. Sure, they don’t know the hours you put in behind the scenes of your business, but that’s part of the problem: They need to see what you’re up to, and that comes back to communication.
Knowing which direction you want to take your business is also critical to your success. From the moment he walked into Richmond Football Club, Coach Lasso had a vision of where he wanted the team to be. He makes brave decisions to get them there because he believes in their potential.
Likewise, your team has a hidden potential that only you can bring out. Helping them see your vision is a combination of leading by example, taking accountability for your actions and making brave decisions.
In this manner, you’ll inspire and empower your own team to greatness which will trickle down to your customers. As your staff starts believing in your vision, they’ll improve their customer service, which will, in turn, create more loyal customers and increase your bottom line.
You’re the one bringing the dream to life.
Small Business Leadership, Lasso Style
As a small business owner, there are many leadership lessons you can take away from Coach Lasso.
His inspiring attitude, unwavering positivity, empathetic approach and resilience in the face of adversity can all serve as guiding principles. But as a leader, it’s important to remember that you’re also part of the team.
As Ted Lasso once said, “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.”