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Leadership Lessons from Ted Lasso (Vol. 1)

"Be curious, not judgmental."

Leaders: as widespread burnout continues to emerge, we can look to our favorite coach Ted Lasso: "Be curious, not judgmental."

Awhile ago, a client shared a situation where feedback was given at a team's executive level that employees were burnt out and struggling.

The response: "We're not all burnt out. Where's the data for that? This is just the way it is. Everyone just needs to be positive."

While it was certainly unintended, this is an example of a subtle connection killer: a small action in a small moment that culminates in widespread distrust when performed over time.

This moment might seem small, but it was an opportunity to get really curious about what's happening on the ground (and, I don't suggest "data blackmailing" people's feelings).

After all, being in the game is different than being in the press box.

This small moment of disconnection has the power to communicate to your struggling team members: "We're not all burnt out, so why are you?"

Which might spiral into: "We're not all burnt out, so it's not valid or real that you are burnt out."

Which can create a space that does not normalize the discussion of mental health struggles.

Which can dehumanize employees that are struggling and doesn't get their needs met.

Which can create environments where employees don't feel valued.

Which can advance phenomena like the Great Resignation where more than 50% of people are quitting because they don't feel valued by their organization (McKinsey & Company). Research shows that care and support are leading retention strategies, especially post-pandemic.

Leaders, be aware of the vulnerability blind spot--it is so vulnerable for employee's to share they are struggling. True struggle is so close to the heart, so difficult to put words to.

When teams and employees work up the courage to speak their struggles in what might seem like a small moment: listen and ask questions more. Talk and assume less.

Create the space for your team to be seen and heard.

This is the connection that can create cultures where employees feel valued and supported.

Which can create the conditions for them to do their best work and navigate struggles with resilience.

Which can retain and recruit top talent and advance your bottom line.

Ted Lasso is on to something: small moments of curiosity can significantly grow team belonging, brainpower and bottom line over time.

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