I’m not much of a sports person, but I do know that what make a truly great team is more than just a handful of big-name star players.
What Makes a Team a GREAT Team
Sure, a great team may have a few high-profile stars, but those stars need to be backed up by skilled and consistent supporting players to keep up a winning record. Both the stars and supporting players rely on coaches who are experts in both the mechanics of the game and the strengths of each player. And all of the above rely on a broad community of trainers, equipment managers, physical therapists, marketing and operations pros, and on and on.
The greatest teams value the contributions that come from every level, recognizing that a wide range of skills is essential, and have leaders who actively seeking out diverse (and even conflicting) perspectives.
I’ve never seen this philosophy showcased more clearly (or more hilariously) then on the brilliant Apple TV+ show Ted Lasso.
On its surface, Ted Lasso is a fish-out-of-water comedy about a US college football coach hired to manage a UK football (er, soccer) team, despite not knowing anything about neither the sport nor British football culture. But the show is really about how a great leader builds a great team, both on and off the field.
A Radical Take on Leadership
I could (and may very well) write a whole series about examples of extraordinary leadership and exemplary team culture from the show, but for now I’m going to talk about one that really illustrates Ted’s radical approach.
The first episode shows Ted getting the lay of the land at his new gig. Everyone is expecting him to be a typical arrogant and hyper-competitive buffoon who only pays attention to the power brokers of the club. Ted surprises them by making a point to introduce himself not only to the owners and players, but also the less glamorous behind-the-scenes staff.
When Ted introduces himself to the team’s equipment manager Nate, acknowledging him by name, Nate’s face registers total shock. Nate is used to either fading into the background or being the butt of jokes by the players. He’s never, in years with the team, been recognized as a valuable contributor to the club, but that’s not Ted’s style.
There Are No Small Parts, Only Small Players
Ted sees Nate not only as a human being worthy of respect, but also as a tremendous asset to the team: Nate is a lifelong fan whose job puts him in the locker room with players before and after matches, as well as on the sidelines of the pitch watching practices as he manages the water station. He knows the players personalities and skills inside and out, warts and all.
Within days, Ted is seeking out Nate’s insights on how to manage problematic players and ideas for building team trust. And you know what? Nate’s advice is spot on.
One of Ted’s superpowers as a leader is making everyone feel like a respected and valuable contributor to the team, not just because it is a right thing to do, but because he knows that the whole team is better off when everyone can contribute his/her best.
Have you watched the show? Let me know what you think!