Leadership Lessons: Ted Lasso — You Will Never Be The Best At Everything

Season One saw the ever-optimist deal with new challenges and win everyone over with his charm, but there’s already a hitch in season two.

Enter Someone Better Than You

In the Season Two Premiere, the staff at AFC Richmond decides to bring in a sports psychologist after Dani Rojas goes through an on-the-field tragedy. Ted is skeptical about the whole thing, citing his “healthy midwestern skepticism,” but also because of his previous experience with therapists. While those are the outward forces he mentions, there’s likely underlying insecurity that has him on the ropes.

Ted Lasso is infamous for being incompetent in the sport he is coaching. He rests his laurels on his ability to bring teams together and bring out the best in each individual. In other words, he works the psychological side of the metaphorical pitch and from what Season One led us to believe, he’s pretty good at it. With Dani Rojas mentally unable to play the game he loves, Ted is at a loss of how to get him out of his funk. This is the first time we’ve seen Ted unable to break through with someone.

That makes it all the more horrifying for Ted when sports psychologist Dr. Sharon Fieldstone arrives at AFC Richmond. From the first interaction, the discomfort from Ted is palpable and further accentuated when she matter-of-factly asks him “are you good at your job?” It’s the first direct question around his skills in quite some time and Ted is taken aback, unsure of what to say. She tells him that as good as he is at his job, she’s twice as good at hers. It’s direct, and clear, that she is there to do her job and do it well (personally I’m a big fan of her personality).

In just their first session, Dr. Fieldstone is able to cure Dani of “the yips” by reminding him that football is not only life and not only death but both. While it’s a small tweak of perspective for Dani, Ted wasn’t able to provide that help and is slack-jawed when he finds out it was something “so small.” Someone is better than Ted Lasso at helping Ted Lasso’s players.

It’s Okay To Not Be The Best, But You Better Learn Something From It

Ted Lasso had yet to shy away from not being the best when it came to his coaching position. For all we know he still has no clue what “offsides” means in football. Instead, he surrounds himself with folks that are better at those things than he is, instead taking a generalist approach with a focus on improvement of locker room and general team dynamics.

Several scenes make it abundantly clear that not only is Dr. Fieldstone good at her job, she’s incredible at immediately connecting with players. She’s done her research and knows the preferred language of each players she is meeting with, something that seemingly never occurred to Ted. That one small gesture, of meeting the players at their comfort level, helps Dr. Fieldstone disarm the players and get to the root of their troubles.

Whether Ted wants to admit it or not, he’s been working on the players on his own terms. Likely thoughts going through Ted’s head at this point are “am I going to need to learn all these gosh-darn languages? What sort of witchcraft is she using to help my team?” The first is a more important question, because it points at an interesting problem. Does the team expect Ted to learn all of their native languages? Or are they okay with him speaking the general language of the team? A generalist manager will never be great at everything and may not even be the best in one area, but that doesn’t discount their ability to do their job well.

For Ted, he needs to take a hard look at himself and re-learn what has made him successful to date from a coaching perspective. Looking at his experience in DII football and his first season at AFC Richmond, what successes did he have and how did he get there? It’s easy to dismiss successes when you see someone new performing a part of your role more successfully, but you must learn why you think that way. Is it simply insecurity? Or do you truly feel you’ve not been performing your duties at the level you should.

Not An Enemy, But A Peer

To look at someone better than you and see them as a threat is common. If this person is better than me, what’s to say they won’t take my position? How do I stay relevant? Spiraling is easy, but it takes someone with grit to see the positive and change the perspective to see the person as an ally. Ted Lasso is only one episode into Season Two, but I suspect this is a relationship we’ll continue to watch in the episodes to come. There is clearly a lot Ted can learn from Dr. Fieldstone, but he can’t begin to learn from her until he gets past the initial confrontational thoughts of “how/why is she better than me?”

Another thing that Ted will have to grapple with is not every peer needs to be a friend. I’m sure you’ve experienced an event of working with someone, being productive, but not necessarily being buddy-buddy. And you know what? That’s perfectly acceptable. Constructive conflict is a part of success and I imagine we’ll see that tension play out throughout the rest of Season Two. From what we know of Ted, deep down he likely wants everyone to like him as evidenced by his growing group of folks he makes biscuits for. Getting over this need to be liked to work further with Dr. Fieldstone will become increasingly important and if he can’t break through, it could lead to some difficult situations further down the road.

Final Thoughts

Dr. Fieldstone’s presence in the premiere is uncomfortable and Sarah Niles plays the role of “serious newcomer” extremely well. In all of our roles, we should look at any new addition as an ally. After all, we’re all on the same team, targeting the same goal, so internal turmoil helps no one. If you find yourself worrying about your own Dr. Fieldstone being better than you, remember how you got to where you are. To close, a few questions to ask yourself in these situations:

  1. Why do I feel this way?
  2. What can I learn from this person?
  3. What can I do to help this person?
  4. What role are they filling that I was unable to fill?
  5. How do we work together to achieve the team’s goals?

Let me know below if you’ve felt this way and the past and how you moved forward!

Random aside: Even the body language is completely different for Ted with Dr. Fieldstone. In the two photos above, both are in his office, but the one with Dani is more relaxed (feet on the table) and the one with Dr. Fieldstone is much more focused (sitting up straight). Intentional or not, the feels are very different between the two.

Note: It’s possible you’re wondering why I’m focusing this heavily on a TV show’s management dynamics. Truth is, there aren’t a lot of books or resources on improvisational management, so I find myself analyzing movies and TV shows and asking myself “how would I react if that were me.” Hopefully the above is helpful for you, but let me know your thoughts in the comments below or if you’d like me to analyze any other on-screen styles.

If you enjoyed this, be sure to check out another Ted Lasso-based post “Examining New Manager Nate.”

Engineering leader with a passion for building and growing teams. Writing mostly about leadership, onboarding, interviewing, and management in the tech industry