May 25, 2021

The Zen of Ted Lasso

When I was music director at K101 in San Francisco in 1996, my program director Casey Keating said something that stuck with me: “The station that wins in the hallways wins on the air.”

When I interviewed for my current position at Coleman Insights, I was taken to lunch three times to ensure I wasn’t just a good fit for the job, but also a good fit for the culture. Turns out lunches are an integral part of Coleman DNA­–regular out of office lunches are strongly encouraged because that’s where some of the best thinking happens. Some of our best strategic planning has taken place between courses at Chili’s! It’s also an opportunity to talk about non-work stuff, which can be just as valuable.

We often share our favorite new TV shows, but since the pandemic halted the regular lunches, I often rely on friends on my social media feed.  Enough of them have raved about Ted Lasso on Apple TV that I started watching.

Lasso is a football coach from Kansas who takes a job coaching a Premier League soccer team in England, even though he has no experience coaching or playing soccer. It’s a truly wonderful, charming show…and it’s a clinic in management style.

Much as Casey Keating realized winning the numbers game starts with a winning culture, Ted Lasso wins over his team’s players and upper management by getting to know them as people. He gives the players novels that feature characters that remind him of them. He bakes cookies (biscuits!) for the new owner. He knows when to get involved and knows when the players need to figure out issues on their own. He takes the feared journalist who writes negative things about him out to dinner. He makes it difficult to root against him.

There’s a moment when Lasso is embarrassingly laughed at by the press when he says “it isn’t about wins and losses.” I couldn’t help but be reminded of my first day as a program director at Curtis Media Group, when I told the entire sales team, “Ratings don’t matter.”

The custodian would have many jaws to pick off the floor that night.

Of course ratings do matter, but I led with the bold statement to sink the point in that it is the selling of the brand, the value of the brand, and the best ideas that would fill their bank accounts. If they banked on the wobbles of each ratings book, I told them, they would not succeed.

The culture principle, the winning in the hallways principle, guided me as a PD, from posting motivational quotes on the studio door to gathering the jocks to paint the studio together as a team building exercise to watching episodes of WKRP in the conference room.

At Coleman Insights, we interpret data and offer strategic insights but at the end of the day, it is the implementation of the strategy that makes or breaks it. There’s no doubt that we’ve seen winning cultures very often lead to some of the greatest implementations.

My top three Ted Lasso quotes:

“When it comes to locker rooms, I like ’em just like my mother’s bathing suits. I only wanna see ’em in one piece.”

“Hey, takin’ on a challenge is a lot like ridin’ a horse. If you’re comfortable while you’re doin’ it, you’re probably doin’ it wrong.”

“I want you to know, I value each of your opinions, even when you’re wrong.”


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