What the insurance industry can learn from the leadership of Ted Lasso (part 3)

Thanks to everyone who has come back to my series on the coaching and leadership genius of Ted Lasso, and what the insurance industry can learn from it. If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two parts, you can find them here:

This article focuses on episodes 7-10 of Ted Lasso season one, so be sure to watch those episodes before diving in.  

Like many of us in the insurance industry and life in general, Ted has been underestimated at varying times in his life. He realized that bullies have a tendency to think only about themselves and rarely consider their impact on, or the needs of, others. 

When former team owner Rupert Mannion challenges Ted to a game of darts, Rupert is overconfident in his own ability and doesn’t ask whether Ted has played before. Rupert simply assumes he’s a better player than him. However, Ted is curious about almost everything and took the time to watch Rupert play. He also understands Rupert well enough to place an attractive and meaningful wager. 

Being curious, not judgmental, is a great mindset for every leader to have. Ted asks a lot of questions, observes everything, and tries to understand who people are without making any quick judgments about what he thinks they know, or are able to do. In the insurance industry and in life, success is much more likely when you’re curious and ask questions before rushing to judgment.  

Surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth  

You may notice that some folks, as they become more successful, close the circle of people they interact with. Surrounding themselves with “yes men,” creating an echo chamber where only one opinion is repeated and amplified to the point that all believe the same thing, is detrimental to any leader and their organization. 

Ted likes to surround himself with people who have different views than his to make sure that multiple perspectives are seen and heard, and people are empowered to tell the truth. Ted allows Nate to share his thoughts on the team’s performance with the entire team. While his commentary may have been harsh at times, it was true, and the team needed to hear it. It lit a spark in them and they went on to rally.

Allow for brutal honesty

Surrounding yourself with the right people is not enough. It’s also important to develop a culture where people can be brutally honest when the situation calls for it. In some teams and organizations, people are so worried about getting along that they’re uncomfortable bringing up things that need to be heard in a way that will resonate. Keeping the peace is more important in these cultures than having conversations that need to be had.

Later in the season, Nate and Coach Beard were trying to get Ted to accept that Roy wasn’t playing as well as they needed him to. Although it took some time for Ted to accept the fact that Roy had “lost a step,” Ted finally did, partly because Coach Beard and Nate were able to tell Ted their opinion even though he didn’t agree with it. In many insurance organizations, there are senior leaders who create a culture where they don’t want to hear anything they don’t agree with. People are fearful of telling their boss the truth and as a result, these organizations never fully realize their potential for success. 

To further follow the lesson, after Ted realized that Roy had to move out of the starting lineup, he had to be brutally honest with Roy about it. Ted handled these discussions with grace and kindness while also noting that it was a conversation that needed to be had.

Surround yourself with people who are different than you

The best teams are made up of people who are very different. Ted’s inner circle reflects this. While Ted and Coach Beard have a shared philosophy on coaching, their interests outside of work are very different. Nate, Higgins, Keeley, and Rebecca all bring different perspectives to the team. If leaders only hire people exactly like themselves, even if they create a culture where people can tell them the truth and be brutally honest, similar people will still see things the same way. People who see the world like you may agree with the decisions you’ve made because you all have the same blindspot.

It’s not just allowing for differences in perspective that can enhance the overall performance of a team. Making your teams diverse and inclusive of different races, ethnicities, ages and genders will significantly improve your results. Numerous studies have verified this. McKinsey found that public companies that were in the top quartile for ethnic and racial diversity in management were 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry means, and those in the top quartile for gender diversity were 15% more likely to have returns above the industry mean. Having a team that’s diverse makes good business sense.

Forgive

One of the most powerful things anyone can do is forgive. As the season progresses, Rebecca realizes just how horribly she’s treated Ted, worries that he’ll never forgive her and puts off apologizing to him. When she finally does apologize, he simply forgives her. If someone is truly sorry for what they’ve done, the best thing you can do as a leader is forgive them and hope they’ve learned from the experience. If you’re able to do that, your team will respect you because they won’t feel beholden to their mistakes, or worried about ever making another one.

Believe

Early in the series, Ted puts a simple word on the wall: believe. He knows that belief in yourself, your teammates and your coaches leads to so much more. Little changes eventually become big changes as momentum builds, and the more you believe in yourself and your teammates, the better your performance will be.

Ted uses the word “believe” to counter a local saying that had been attributed to the team: “it’s the hope that will kill you.” Studies show that optimists lead longer lives and are happier and more successful than pessimists. Part of this is because if you focus on bad things, they’ll begin to compound. When Ted replaces the old saying with “believe,” the team truly starts to believe in themselves. They experience little wins, and these build into more wins. The team realizes that, despite some bumps and hurdles, the work they’re doing is paying off. By the end of the season, every player has more faith in their abilities as well as more faith in their teammates and coaches.

Even though the team lost their final match and were relegated, they still believe, perhaps even more so, and will go into the next season more determined. I, for one, am excited to see what new lessons the team learns, and more leadership lessons the insurance industry can take from the show, during season 2.

UP NEXT: Catch up with Part 1 and Part 2 of the Leadership Lessons from Ted Lasso series.

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