5 times Ted Lasso reminded us what great leadership looks like

BY GWEN MORAN

If you’re planning on watching the show, proceed with caution—there are spoilers ahead. 

One of the occupational hazards of writing about leadership for more than a decade is that you start to see lessons all around you and ascribe meaning to the actions of others. Sometimes those “others” include the main characters of eponymous television shows. Apple TV’s Ted Lasso is like a cheat sheet for being a good leader.

Good buzz about the show, starring Jason Sudeikis as an American football coach in London, resulted in the streaming service’s biggest premiere viewership to date, and a six-fold audience increase, according to a report in Variety. While the streaming service isn’t releasing hard audience data, it’s clear that the series is gaining traction. The show also racked up 20 Emmy nominations, including four in the Best Supporting Actor category.

Ask fans why they (we) love the show, and you’ll hear a familiar refrain: It’s a bright spot in a painful world. The writing is sharp and manages to be optimistic, wise, and hilarious without being cloying. Each of the characters has flaws and weaknesses that keep them from becoming caricatures. In a recent episode that paid homage to romantic comedies (funnier and cleverer than it sounds), the Lasso declared, “I believe in ‘rom-communism’”—the philosophy that everything will work out in the end, even if it’s not the way you think it would. These days, that can be hard to believe. Therein lies some of the show’s appeal.

And if you’re looking for examples of how leaders behave—or should—Ted Lasso is fertile ground. Here are five times Lasso and his cohorts reminded us of the way leaders should act:

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If Networking Makes You Feel Dirty, You’re Doing It Wrong

By Dorie Clark

How to win friends, influence people—and still feel squeaky-clean in the morning

Nearly every professional recognizes that networking is good for them. The connections! The opportunities! And yet a significant percentage simply can’t bring themselves to do it.

Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino knows why: It makes them feel dirty.

In one study she conducted, the perceived moral contamination of networking clouded people’s perceptions so much that they developed a sudden and disproportionate interest in personal-cleansing products such as soap and toothpaste.

It’s no wonder. We’ve all occasionally experienced a “favor assailant” who cozies up to us with a “getting to know you” call or coffee, and then springs a sneak attack. One colleague recently told me about someone with whom he thought he’d been building a friendship—until the other person hit him up with a request that required significant political capital. “It made me wonder,” my friend said. “Was this his plan all along? Had he been pacing it out, pretending to be interested in getting to know me, and just waiting to make his ask?”

No one wants to be like that.

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How the pandemic has created a new breed of tech worker

 

 

BY LEAH SOLIVAN

 

 

18 months in, COVID-19 has forced Silicon Valley to end its obsession with optimization.

Here we are, entering the 18th month of a pandemic that has brought constant upheaval to virtually every aspect of our lives. We’re adjusting to increased risks from a more potent variant, the omnipresent strain of a new set of restrictions, and the slow pace of vaccinations. The hope that things will return to normal has, somewhere along the way, been quietly replaced with the hope that we’ll find a new normal.

For those of us who spent most of our pre-COVID-19 hours in endless pursuit of ways to further optimize our daily hustle on behalf of technology startups, things have changed. We’ve changed. We’re not the same people we were in February 2020. We’ve each weathered the past year and a half in different ways, but many of us have come to the exact same conclusion: The old way of working won’t work anymore.

When I started TaskRabbit on the heels of the Great Recession, I quickly learned that many workers were ready to swap out their 9-to-5 jobs for a more agile, independent working life. We learned that control and flexibility were the primary drivers of people searching for a new way to work. Post-pandemic tech workers want that same control and flexibility, yes, but they’re also unapologetically in pursuit of purpose and passion.

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End your meeting with clear decisions and shared commitment

by Elizabeth Doty

By cuing the close more effectively, you can move your team from conversation to action.

Years ago, I found myself sitting at a conference table, observing a client team that had just had an aha moment. About halfway through an hour-long discussion, they figured out the root cause of a customer service issue that was plaguing the business. But then they got caught up in the excitement of their discovery and lost track of the meeting agenda. As a result, when the leader prepared to ask the group for solutions, he noticed everyone sneaking glances at their laptops and phones. Time was up, and the team members began to make their apologies and trickle out of the room without making any decisions about how to solve the issue.

In my last few posts, I have argued that leaders need to set the tone in the first five minutes of their meetings and then actively design the middle to keep people energized and productive. These steps are critical, but they are not the whole story. Leaders also need to be thoughtful and deliberate about how they end meetings to ensure the team walks away with clear decisions and shared commitment to implementing the next steps.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. In many cases, participants do the difficult, creative work of diagnosing issues, analyzing problems, and brainstorming new ideas but don’t reap the fruits of their labor because they fail to translate insights into action. Or, with the end of the meeting looming—and team members needing to get to their next meeting, pick up kids from school, catch a train, and so on—leaders rush to devise a plan. They press people into commitments they have not had time to think through—and then can’t (or won’t) keep to. Continue reading

When Authenticity Means Conflict: Towards a Truly Inclusive Organization

by Natalia Karelaia

Rightfully celebrated, authenticity in the workplace may have some limitations.

Authentic behaviour, or behaving in a way that aligns with personal values and understanding, enhances employees’ happiness at work as they act in accordance with their values and principles. Unfortunately, organisations are rarely seen as allowing individuals to be fully authentic. A 2021 Gartner survey, for example, shows that 82 percent of employees believe it’s important for their organisation to view them as a whole person, but only 45 percent believe their employer views them as more than an employee. Why is it difficult to be ourselves at work?

Perhaps part of the answer is how authentic behaviour can lead to interpersonal conflict. In a recent article in Human Relations, Laura Guillén, Hannes Leroy and I found the consequences of behaving authentically depend on how closely individuals identify with the social environment they are in. When an employee feels socially similar to their colleagues, that person can be themselves freely. If, on the other hand, an employee doesn’t feel as socially connected to their fellow workers, authentic behaviour may lead to conflict.

Our reasoning was that authentic behaviour allows other group members to clearly understand the employee’s values, attitudes and goals. Consequently, it reveals either alignment (when values match) or misalignment (when values mismatch) with the social context. In the face of misalignment, authentic behaviour may be considered conflictual. In a team where punctuality is considered the norm, the employee who consistently arrives late will annoy the others, regardless of performance. Continue reading