47: Lasso Leadership Playbook: Lessons from the Sewer

Before being nominated for 61 Primetime Emmy Awards. Ted Lasso was a short, silly sketch created by Jason Sudeikis for NBC Sports.

What can an American football coach teach us about leadership through a British football, i.e., a soccer club?

Well, it turns out a lot. In an endearing, funny, almost outlandish kind of way, Coach Lasso will truly make you a believer.

In this series on our Athletics Leadership channel, we are going to uncover the timeless truths of leadership as told by Ted Lasso himself.

Show Outline

  • 0:55 – Emotional Farewell between Coach Lasso and his Son
  • 1:22 – Importance of Understanding Well-being and Motivation of Team Members
  • 2:31 – Contrasting Leadership Styles: Coach Lasso vs Coach Nathan
  • 12:38 – Building a Culture Based on Ted’s Lessons
  • 13:22 – Let the Poop Flow

Ted Lasso is property of Apple TV+ and Warner Brothers Studios.

Episode 47 – Full Transcript

Aaron Lee, Host (00:00:00) – Before being nominated for 61 Primetime Emmy Awards. Ted Lasso was a short, silly sketch created by Jason Sudeikis for NBC Sports. What can an American football coach teach us about leadership through a British football, i.e. soccer club? Well, it turns out. A lot. In an endearing, funny, almost outlandish kind of way, Coach Lasso will truly make you a believer. In this series on our Athletics Leadership channel, we are going to uncover the timeless truths of leadership as told by Ted Lasso himself.

Jay Smack, Voice of the Show (00:00:37) – Welcome to the New Generation Leader podcast. We’re giving you the tools you need to lead in the digital world, ready to reach your true potential. This is the New Generation Leader podcast.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:00:55) – Season three of Ted lasso begins with an emotional, tear jerking farewell between Coach Lasso and his son Henry at London’s famous Heathrow Airport. And in this goodbye, you can see that. Coach Lasso is truly heartbroken to say goodbye to his son. He doesn’t want to say goodbye, but Henry heads home and after he gets on the plane, Coach Lasso heads into the office.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:01:22) – And just as Jeremy Kubiak shared with us back on episode 22 and talking about the power of our peace index, if we want to look at happiness, sadness, how are people are actually doing when they show up for work every day? What they’re bringing with them can take them to the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. And Rebecca, the owner of AFC Richmond, picks up on this as soon as Ted walks in the door because something is different. There’s a little bit of nuance in how Ted walks in the door and she says no rhyming salutation. And immediately she knows and asks him, Is something wrong? And right here from the get go, we can see just how strong the leadership lessons are. Because we as leaders need to know how our people are doing. We need to know how our people are responding, reacting, what kind of energy, what kind of motivation are people bringing to the office every day? Because if they don’t bring that to the office, then we’re going to have trouble.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:02:31) – We’re going to have trouble accomplishing tasks, reaching goals, communicating effectively, and getting work done. Well, this translated then to. Ted’s interaction with the team out on the pitch. They were having a rough practice and Ted noticed that he could see it in their eyes. And he looked at his assistant coach, Coach Beard, and he said, You know what? It’s time to take things on the road. Let’s have a little field trip, guys. Practice is over. Let’s get in a bus. And he takes them to the sewer. And in this comical exchange where you go all over London. There are stories. There’s banter back and forth. Ted makes headlines. That’s just what Ted does. That’s his leadership style. Part of it is making headlines because he does things so outside the box, always. So a few guys working along the roadside. And I remember we walked this street right down by the River Thames. There’s an entry where Ted takes the team into the sewer below the street.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:03:43) – And so these guys snap a picture. It makes its way around. The the headlines social media almost instantaneously. Rebecca The same. Rebecca who just said, Ted, what’s wrong? Ends up questioning Ted’s decision about why in the world he would take them into the sewer. But the lesson worked. He took him outside. He took him in the sewer. And the sewer, as he told them, was built in 1858 to overcome the cholera outbreak, to literally take the poop out of the system so that it wouldn’t spread, so the disease wouldn’t spread. And he said, Here’s the lesson. When things are going wrong, you have to lean on each other. People from outside are going to be telling you you’re wrong, you’re bad, you’re not good enough, but you’ve got to lean on each other. And this powerful, poignant lesson about leaning on each other, Ted takes from the same lesson, the same kind of experience he had in walking in. So Rebecca’s office. Her asking him something wrong.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:04:57) – He picks up on this in his own team and he says, you know what, We need to do something different today. Now, let’s contrast that with Coach Nathan style. Coach Nathan was Ted’s protege at AFC Richmond. He leaves to the Nemesis program across town, and at the beginning of season one, we see Coach Nathan taking on the leadership of this soccer club. And in the very first interaction, contrast Ted’s style of, Hey, this is a bad practice. We need to regroup. Let’s go to the sewer with Nathan’s style. And Nathan’s trying to puff himself up. He’s trying to be something that he’s not. And in this example, in this exchange at practice, we also see the difference between. Ted and Nathan’s style. And Nathan is putting down his team only to be put down himself a few minutes later. So he says to his team, he just snaps at one of his team members. You. He points out this team member, he calls him out. He’s come over here, come stay on this line.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:06:07) – This is a very important line, everyone. This is the dumb, dumb line. This is where Dum dums go. Stay. It’s as if he’s talking to a dog. He’s dominating these players into submission according to his style. And as soon as the words have come out of his mouth, stay. One of Rupert’s assistants comes down and says Coach Kelly. Rupert would like to see you in his office. So he immediately walks into Rupert’s office and the tables are turned and no longer is he top dog. He’s now on the bottom because Rupert is no doubt top dog in this system. He walks into Rupert’s office and. Rupert, the assistant. Nathan have this back and forth. And the assistant says, Oh, by the way, security is having this car removed. They think one of the new cleaners must have parked in the prestige lot by accident. And Nathan thinks for a minute he runs to the window and he says, Rupert, that’s. That’s my car. Now, Rupert has already said, Oh, the cleaner parked in that parking lot by accident.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:07:23) – Well, accidents have repercussions. And so from the top down, we say that leaders define culture and sub leaders define subculture. Rupert has created a culture of domination, and now Nathan is perpetuating this from his level as a coach down to the players so that everyone in the organization, the cleaners, as Rupert thought, were parking in the wrong parking lot to the coach, to the players. Every single person is being dominated. That’s the culture that the leader is perpetuating. That’s the culture that the sub leaders are building. And this is not the kind of culture that’s going to bring a winning formula. It’s not going to work. It’s not going to be helpful. Everyone then dominates the people below them, and we see this in this exchange from the bottom up, but dominating culture, any sort of unhealthy culture. Can also really come from the top down. Now, Nate then is shown a picture of Ted’s practice and at the end of a press conference, Ted leading people down, his team down into the sewer.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:08:40) – And Nate absolutely trashes Ted. Now. Flip the tables again back over to Ted style. Somebody asks Ted, Hey, do you have a response to how Coach Nathan reacted or responded to your lesson in the sewer? And all he said was, Nate is a great coach. Now the peace index, understanding who your people are, what they’re bringing to the table every day requires you to have an open mind. It requires you to pay attention to what’s happening around you so that you’re ready to react and respond so that you can bring the best out of your people. Call them up and take them to the next level. Because if you’re not taking them to the next level, you’re probably stifling them. You’re putting a lid on their leadership and their opportunity for growth and you’re not allowing them to take their leadership to the next level. This is a problem in so many organizations. This is a problem in so many leadership coaching conversations and relationships where individual leaders are dominating those underneath them. They think there’s no other way than to point out what has gone wrong.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:10:02) – They think they have to point it out, put pressure and keep pushing down the people around them to make themselves feel better. Have I done this? Yes. Have I seen other leaders do this? Absolutely. Some of the most challenging leaders I’ve ever worked with. Worked around. Worked for. Seen. This causes a significant cultural challenge because. Not only are you stifling the people around you individually, but you’re stifling what the collective can accomplish together. Accidents do have repercussions. As Rupert says, domination also has repercussions. The waves ripple out from the epicenter of what’s challenging, what’s going wrong in these organizations. Now, the flip side of domination is protection. If we are too nice, if we don’t ever tell the truth, if we’re really kind and cordial. We’re also not going to get off the starting blocks. We’re going to feel like a family or like a country club, but we’re never going to build momentum. What we have to do is speak the truth kindly. We have to be able, as Ted does so often, to sell somebody.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:11:22) – I believe in you. I want the best for you. But you have to fix this. Let’s look at the story in this example from your life. Let’s look at this experience that we’ve had a shared experience together. Let’s figure out how we can start. But we have to start. We have to make a move. We have to build momentum forward, to liberate each other, to bring the best out of each other, to fight for each other. As I say time and time again, there’s a difference between fighting against and fighting for. And in this case, what we want to do is to fight for the highest possible good of the people around us. Ted does this every day. Ted endears Rebecca to this style, and he leads up in a way that gets her on his side. Over the course of this season, we will reflect on and see how Rebecca takes on this Ted style of leadership. She’s not trying to prove anything to anyone. She wants the best for Ted, for her team, for herself, just as she does for anyone else.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:12:38) – She is building a culture. And starts building a culture based on the lessons that Ted is bringing to the table. Now, one of my favorite quotes, and I play this around and around in my head all of the time. If you want to handle feedback, here’s a classic Ted lasso quote from Jamie.

Phil Dunster (00:13:02) – It’s got to be pooper. Because that was literally born out of me standing next to Brett and just trying to make him laugh as much as possible. It’s just for me being an idiot, really. That’s, you know what? I crazy. But no, it was basically just. Just from me. Being stupid really is what I came from.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:13:22) – So there you have it. In the words of Jamie, let the poop flow. You got to let the bad stuff out as a team, no matter what’s happening beyond your organization, within your organization, you have to stand together, stand united, stand tall, get everybody on the same page, Make sure you know the poop that’s happening in everyone else’s life around you so that you can stand together, stand tall, stand strong, and take on the world every day.

Aaron Lee, Host (00:13:53) – One step at a time. Enjoy all three seasons of Ted Lasso on Apple Tv+ Download it. Watch it on your favorite streaming device. Download the Apple Tv+ app and enjoy this series. It is not family friendly. That’s our one caveat. Also, check out the show notes on this episode and more at New Generation leader.fm/47.

Jay Smack, Voice of the Show (00:14:17) – Thanks for listening to the New Generation Leader podcast. Subscribe today on your podcasting platform. Download the show notes and unlock your true leadership potential at New Generation Leader FM. Thanks for listening today and we look forward to seeing you next time on the New Generation Leader podcast.