Building Community: What Ted Lasso Teaches us About Organizational Culture
One’s culture will be reflected in its people. One example of this principle from Ted Lasso is the differences in the character of Higgins while different people owned the club.
We know Higgins as a generous person who could do no wrong; however, Rebecca mentions how Higgins lied for Rupert. Higgins had autonomy in hurting Rebecca. We don’t get to see how Rupert was leading Richmond, but you can imagine it was a more authoritative, fall-in-line, dog-eat-dog place where Higgins could not be the person we know him as.
The culture we create influences people’s actions. This is why fostering a welcoming and collaborative community is so important. Ted values collaboration over competition, as he wants everyone to see themselves as part of one team. You lose together and you win together. You get better results when you lift each other up.
Winning Isn’t Succeeding
The core of what Ted is doing is cultivating community. Ted is obviously a fan of John Wooden as he hangs up the pyramid of success in the office. Wooden explains the difference between winning and succeeding, saying “you can outscore someone and still not succeed.”
The problem with only focusing on winning is that it is a relative goal. You are only focusing on how you compare to others. You’ll never find what makes your team special. You have to move beyond the scope set by others.
Your foundational goal can’t be to win, it doesn’t work. Instead, we see Ted strive to establish trust and a sense of belonging. These are what drive people to show up for their team, to be their best. So some of Ted’s methods may seem unconventional, but he isn’t working to win, he is working to succeed.
More Than Just Athletes
In order for Ted to help the team succeed, he needs them to see themselves as more than just athletes.
The most heartwarming moments of the team aren’t of them playing. It might be the haircut scene, Issac telling the boys they have to wear dress shoes or karaoke. Ted creates a culture where the players know their worth doesn’t come from how good they play, but from their character.
Sam covers the logo on his jersey in protest of Dubai Air. Sam had to somewhat feel that he would be supported by Ted or at least not punished. Issac and Jamie step up at this crucial moment to get the rest of the team to cover their jerseys in solidarity.
After the game, Sam courageously faces the press and says “I’m not here to talk about football.” You have to think the show wants us to evaluate how we think about and treat athletes, especially during a controversial time surrounding what athletes owe us.
Between athletes being told to “shut up and dribble” or the abuse Simone Biles faced for choosing not to compete at the Olympics. I have to think there is a bigger reason the show included the Allen Iverson tribute. (This is beyond the extent of this article, but it makes me think about the private battles we face and the lack of empathy we can have for others. The pressure we put on athletes can be unhealthy, especially for younger athletes. Like the harassment E.J. Liddell faced after a disappointing loss.)
The Power of “Believe”
One of the most heartbreaking moments in the show is Ted saying “It ain’t easy, but neither is growing up without someone believing in you.” For many of us, we strive to help others because we know the life-changing impact of just one person believing in us.
For me, it’s my mom who helped me go from having 60 missing homework assignments in one class to being a straight-A student. The power of a mentor can be transformative. That’s why we take others under our wing, to pass it on.
Few things feel better than truly believing in a mentee and seeing them succeed. But on the other hand, it can hurt when you have to watch them fail. Hope can hurt and we can feel stupid for getting our hopes up.
Whether that’s in ourselves, people we care about, or society. We learn early on to never get our hopes up because it makes being let down hurt so much more.
Ted Lasso taught us to believe again. Even though it can hurt, we find that believing in something bigger than ourselves is what makes life and teamwork so special. I ask myself, what does the popularity of a show that teaches us to believe suggest about us? I think we have become cynical to protect ourselves, but we are thirsty to hope.
We’ve always prepared for the worst, we don’t let ourselves hope for the best. So I ask you, when is the last time you let yourself fully get your hopes up? To truly believe in something?