What Ted Lasso teaches us about caring for our employees at work

March 10, 2022

I’ve been watching Ted Lasso—and holy cow is there some awesome leadership wisdom in this show.

Today I want to talk about a scene that really shows the limits of measuring your employees’ success on metrics alone.

If you’ve never seen Ted Lesso let me quickly set the scene.

The character Ted Lasso is an eccentric manager of a premier football (soccer) team.

Part of Ted’s job as the manager is to track the health of his athletes.

No doubt he times their runs, weighs them, and measures increases in their strength.

Surely, Ted has a whole sub-team of staff who carefully film and analyze every game the team plays.

But one day, one of their star players has a leg injury that keeps him from playing.

Suddenly, it doesn’t matter how fast he can run or how much he can lift.

All that matters is finding a way to help him heal as effectively as possible.

In other words, Ted Lasso’s standard metrics can’t account for outlying issues like injuries.

The metrics we use for measuring our success don’t matter when we’re broken.

In the face of dramatic change, the metrics have to change.

“How much did you lift today?” becomes “How’s your leg doing today?”

In order to get his star player back on the team, Ted Lasso had to throw out all of the careful metrics and data and shift to supporting and measuring his player’s recovery.

What does this mean at your job?

I can nearly guarantee you someone on your team is walking around with a broken leg—if not literally than metaphorically. Times are tough right now.

Mental health in the workplace has been down since COVID began, and it hasn’t rebounded.

Stress levels are through the roof—especially for managers.

Despite the pressures and the increasing cracks and fissures we’re seeing in worker health, not many businesses are pivoting to measure different things.

Have your metrics changed?

Do you tune into and track your employee engagement? How about their mental health?

Leaders everywhere need to take responsibility for their employees’ well-being.

Care for your employees’ emotional health

The default check-in question at work is something like “how’re things?”

And the default answer?

Come on… I know you know it.

“Fine.”

“Good.”

“Okay.”

Asking your people “how are things?” or “how are you?” isn’t an adequate metric for their well-being.

You need to get specific. Book 1:1s to check in with your people.

Ask them how they’re feeling in their role.

Use specific, open-ended questions like these ones–(heck, you can even steal this for your next 1 on 1 if you want):

  • What was the highlight of your week?
  • Where have you failed in the past week?
  • What’s on your mind?
  • What are the three most important things you want to get done by our next meeting?
  • What about this conversation was most and least helpful?

Only when we get specific will we find antidotes to our pain.

One helpful tool in framing these conversations around your employees’ needs is this list of basic human feelings and needs.

You can put any one of those needs in the formula below to get really insightful questions:

“What makes you feel _____?”

Send it to your employees before your 1:1s. Read through yourself and ask about what you need.

Try journaling for 10 minutes, using the specific and nuanced words from the worksheet.

Share what you find at a meeting or with a colleague.

Forward this message to your managers for them to try out.

Best of luck,

Moe