We often discuss leadership within associations and need not look far for leaders that set a good example. There are many leaders within our partner associations that we can learn from. However, it is also useful to internalize lessons we learn from leaders in media and entertainment. One fictional leader in media that we can learn a lot from is Ted Lasso, the kind and charming coach who never gives up.
The Apple TV series Ted Lasso follows an American football coach recruited to coach a struggling English Premier Soccer team, despite his lack of experience in the sport. The odds are stacked against Coach Ted Lasso as saboteur team owner Rebecca hires the inexperienced Lasso to fail to get revenge on her cheating, ex-husband. Recognizing her pain, Lasso chisels away at Rebecca’s tough shell through acts of kindness that brighten her day. Ted uses his positive, wholesome charm to connect with Rebecca, his team, the staff, and fans.
Lasso Lesson #1: BELIEVE in Your Product, Your Self, and Your Team
A simple, now iconic, BELIEVE sign, made by Lasso with yellow paper and blue paint, was hung awkwardly above the locker room door. It was visible from every vantage point within the locker room serving as a constant reminder that the coach believed in his team and challenged them to believe that something different was possible.
While the yellow sign was almost free, the act of believing will require effort and discipline to change the narrative in your head into something new. It begins within and moves outward. You must believe in who you are as an association and what you offer your membership, and the world. Association leaders who care deeply about each person within their organization will help them recognize the greatness in front of them. Daring to believe despite your current circumstances, the odds being stacked against you, and the mounting expectations can lead to new realities and revolutionize the culture of your association and possibly, your profession. The art of “Believe” is infectiousness.
Caution: While belief is contagious it is no guarantee against disappointment. Things like Covid-19 or recession can occur and divert your association’s path. Sometimes, a board of directors can make the wrong call. However, you should never give up. Instead, get up! Dust yourself and your association off and start fresh. Give yourself some time to accept what has happened, find out what went wrong, learn from your mistake, and get curious enough to ask others what they are doing then get started.
Lasso Lesson #2: The Power of Positivity
When Ted Lasso’s team is on an undefeated streak with no wins or losses – only ties, the entire franchise is focused on one thing: the obvious path back to promotion by winning the championship. Everyone is firing on all cylinders. The team’s management, coaching staff, and players are all working to help the others. After eight straight ties the team experiences a loss. Instead of moping, the team celebrates the loss at the end of a long streak of ties because at least it was not another tie.
While there are limitations to positive thinking, there is always something to celebrate. Even in the face of a loss the tireless efforts of the entire team focused on how to work together and the breaking of a “tie streak” provided an opportunity to celebrate. There is always something to be learned from a loss. If your association doesn’t reach a desired outcome, it is fair to be disappointed – just don’t dwell on it for too long. Discuss with your board what can be learned from the mistake and move forward with that knowledge. The board’s next decision will carry the wisdom of the experience, win or loss!
Lasso Lessons #3: Win Others Over
Despite their relationship’s saboteur beginnings, Ted wins over Rebecca Welton, who initially hired Ted to torpedo the team, by creating moments that matter. Daily, Ted pops by Rebecca’s office for “biscuits with the boss” – the simple delivery of delicious homemade shortbread, creating opportunity to connect. Ted makes the effort to get to know Rebecca and share more about himself.
“Biscuits with the boss” reminds us of the importance of learning peoples’ names and really getting to know them. It shows that in your association, you see each member as an individual with contributions. Display your interest in and respect for that individual. It can make a difference in how that person feels about you and the association in general. Secondly, investing in relationships and leveraging rituals helps to build strong relationships with members. The same goes for sharing your time and efforts. Like making biscuits, show your genuine desire to be closer to another person.
Thirdly, making others look and feel good recognizes the value of each person, not based on what they can do but, rather on who they are and can be. The best thing you can do for a member is make them feel valued for their contribution to the association. Finally, practicing gratitude and giving voice to that gratitude benefits of everyone around you – board members, staff, and the general membership.
Read my colleague’s article on leadership to learn more about leading by listening.
Lasso Lesson #4: Drown Out the Critics – let your products, services and best drown out the critics.
The opening credits for the show begin in a soccer stadium filled with blue seats vandalised with criticisms against the team and staff. Brimming with positivity and belief that things will get better, Ted Lasso takes his seat in the stands, and as he does the blue vandalised seats start turning red, out to the entire stadium – covering the criticisms and ushering in the new reality.
Critics are everywhere. They are usually loud, but loud does not mean right. Instead, pay attention to the small voice inside you, sometimes referred to as “your gut”, or your association’s collective ideas, to determine new directions and goals to see your products or services from a new vantage point. Ted uses his positivity and belief in his team, staff, and skills to drown out the voice of critics. Similarly, leaders in associations can employ their belief in their products, services, team, and personal best to drown out the critics and amplify their brand and message.
Ted Lasso’s enthusiasm, positivity, and “can-do” attitude are over-the-top. It is exactly this that creates a soft spot for him. You can follow in Ted’s footsteps to find success for yourself and your association. Each member is important, even if they don’t know it. Having the courage to show kindness at every opportunity is a sign of a true leader. Lead your association to success with kindness and determination, just like Ted Lasso!
Read Lessons From 20 Years of Association Leadership for more wisdom from association leaders.