Even Ted Lasso makes mistakes

One of my favorite aspects of our annual Top 100 Most Influential People list is when some commonality pops up among a large number of the profession’s brightest lights. Often it’s a book that unites them; this year, it was how many of them binge-watched the multiple-Emmy-Award-winning Apple TV show “Ted Lasso.”

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, star and creator Jason Sudeikis described the show as being “about two things Americans hate: soccer, and kindness.” More specifically, it’s about an American football coach who is brought to the U.K. to lead an underperforming soccer team. Despite knowing nothing about this other kind of football, he is more successful than anyone anticipated, precisely because of the aforementioned kindness, which he often takes to hilarious, but never saccharine, levels.

Jason Sudeikis in “Ted Lasso”

Courtesy Apple TV

I mention all this for two reasons: First, I love the show, which is a marvel of sharp writing, strong characters and great performances. Second, it offers a near-constant stream of valuable lessons for managing an accounting firm. Now, there is already a cottage industry in pulling positive leadership and management lessons from the show (you can choose them most commonly in batches of five, seven or 12), and I highly recommend both the show and just about all of the articles, even the ones I haven’t read. I won’t bore you with my favorites; instead, I’m going to briefly cover not what Ted does right, but what he does wrong, because it is one of the show’s strengths that he does make mistakes, and not everything turns out right. Despite my intense desire to describe every single episode to you in excruciating detail, I have kept this short list of Ted’s management mistakes as spoiler-free as possible:

  • Not making sure everyone is on the same page. Ted isn’t alone among the show’s characters in carelessly assuming that other people share their goals. In your own firm, you won’t always be able to identify exactly where the differences lie — or whether they’re conscious, or even possibly malicious — but you can start by being aware of the possibility.
  • There’s real malice out there. All of Ted Lasso’s positive lessons could be summed up in the instruction to “Be kind,” but you can never forget that not everyone else can or will be kind in return. Being able to rise above other people’s ill will is great, but keeping a weather eye out for it can help you protect yourself and your firm, without having to sacrifice your own kindness.
  • Not knowing is not an excuse for not finding out. Ted regularly acknowledges that he’s baffled by soccer’s offside rule, which is charming and honest — and, after a while, annoying. Admitting ignorance is supposed to be the first step to remedying it.
  • Just because you raised them up doesn’t mean you can let them down. Finding value in even the most insignificant employee is a core tenet of the Lasso philosophy, and a great real-life principle. But it also comes with responsibilities — ones that you must live up to, as a person you’ve invested time and energy in will often come to expect that same level of time and energy from you in the future.
  • Be kind to yourself, too. Ted spends a lot of time looking after others, while ignoring some of his own problems. The times when he literally can’t be there for others because he didn’t take care of himself make for great TV, but not great management.

It’s not the Lasso Way to focus on the negative, I know, but now that we have, we can go back to celebrating the show for celebrating the best in all of us.

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