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How Ted Lasso Uses Curiosity to Create Connection

November 2, 2021 • Coaching

Does anyone deal with difficult people in their life, maybe at work, personally or in your daily routine? Dealing with difficult people can leave us feeling frustrated and angry. It’s hard not to respond to difficult people by going right back at them. Maybe it’s time to take a note out of Ted Lasso’s playbook.

I’ll admit I’m late to the Ted Lasso bandwagon

For an upcoming episode of my Game Changers with Molly Fletcher Podcast, I interviewed the Director of Basketball Operations for the Celtics, Brad Stevens. While interviewing him, I asked him what shows he’s been watching. I often ask guests this question. He tells me he’s loving this show Ted Lasso, and I’m thinking, “Huh? What is this Ted Lasso?” I know what you’re thinking, “Wow, she’s late to the game here.” In the spirit of transparency, I have to admit I have no interest in fiction. I’m passionate about non-fiction, can’t get enough, but I don’t read fiction. I don’t watch fiction. Good or bad, right or wrong, I know there’s probably an opportunity for me to improve there, but I don’t really watch a lot of TV outside of live sports.

However, I have a lot of respect for Brad Stevens, and I decided I’m going to check out Ted Lasso. Instead of working like I normally do on a flight home from a keynote, I start watching it, and let me tell you, I cannot get enough of this show! The woman who doesn’t care for fiction is hooked! I absolutely love it, there are so many amazing layers to it that make it awesome. There are so many great things we can learn from Coach Ted Lasso.

In case you’re also living under a rock

For those who are also living under a rock, Coach Ted Lasso is an American football coach whose brought to England to coach a soccer team. He knows nothing about soccer. From the minute he gets there, he’s totally set up to fail. The owner, Rebecca, hired him because she wants the team to fail in order to get back at her ex-husband who loves this team. The media is crushing him out of the gates because he doesn’t know a lot about soccer. He’s got a couple of pretty difficult players on the team with big egos. He’s just set up to fail.

Ted Lasso knows the secret to connect with difficult people

Here’s the thing, a lot of times when we deal with tough people and difficult situations, we shut down. We get defensive. We lose focus on what really matters most. What I love about Coach Lasso is that instead of shutting down he opens up. Coach Lasso makes the effort to walk into tough situations and get curious about how to make a connection to bridge the differences between him and difficult people. How great is that!

Take for example the owner Rebecca. She is determined not to like Ted, yet instead of letting her door slam in his face, he keeps pushing day after day to win her over. After realizing she enjoys biscuits, Ted responds to her negative attitude by cheerfully bringing her homemade biscuits every morning. Eventually, his thoughtfulness and positivity wear her down. And then there is Jamie, one of the guys on the team who’s got a huge ego. Ted is constantly trying to figure out, “How can I connect to this guy? How can I get through to him?” He’s asking other players, “What drives this guy?” He wants to find a way to connect. Even the equipment manager, he sees potential in this young man, and so he pours into him. He lifts him up. He leans into him for advice and support and takes it.

The best way to deal with difficult people is to stay curious. Curiosity creates commenction.

Ted Lasso knows it’s about serving his players not himself

Here’s what I love is that Ted never makes it about Ted. He knows that as a coach it’s never about him. It’s always about the people that play for him. About the people that he leads. About the people that he serves.

I saw this first hand with Bobby Cox, a former client from my sports agent days, the former manager of the Atlanta Braves. A guy who you may know has been ejected as a manager more than any other big-league manager. Bobby’s been ejected from a game 158 times. This is a Hall of Fame manager, a guy that players would stay in Atlanta just to play for, and he loved being ejected from games.

I remember a game that was a 1-1 tie. It was the bottom of the sixth inning, his number three or four hitter slides into second, he thinks he’s safe, but the ump calls him out. The player jumps up, starts lighting up the ump, really going at him. Bobby’s watching from the dugout. Bobby knows it’s a 1-1 game. It’s the bottom of the sixth. He knows he needs this guy to keep playing. He needs him for the rest of the game on the field and at the plate. What did Bobby do? What did Bobby do 158 times? He walks out, and he put himself between the player and the ump and Bobby took the ejection. The reason that Bobby’s been ejected 158 times is because knew it was never about Bobby. It was always about the guys he led, about the guys he served, about the guys that played for Bobby.

Curiosity drives connection

So what can we learn from Coach Ted Lasso? Sometimes difficult people, maybe they’re just different. In tough situations, take a moment to reflect about how you’re showing up.  How can you stay curious about how to connect with difficult people, and not get defensive? And remember, curiosity, it drives connection. You best BELIEVE it.

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The Molly Fletcher Company inspires leaders, teams, and organizations to kick-start growth. A keynote speaker and author, Molly draws on her decades of experiences working as a sports agent. The Energized Leader Training helps you and your team align your energy with the important and avoid costly burnout. Game Changer Negotiation Training workshops teach business people the framework for successful negotiating so that you can close more deals while building stronger relationships. Her Leadership Huddles are a monthly group coaching community to guide you towards your full potential. Sign up here to receive our weekly newsletter and subscribe to the Game Changers with Molly Fletcher podcast on iTunes. 



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