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Psychological Safety

A Retrospector's review of Ted Lasso: What can we learn about being a great facilitator?

Retrium Team

On March 15, 2023, AppleTV+ is releasing the third season of Ted Lasso.🎉😄⚽ If you aren’t familiar with the show, it follows a beloved American football coach as he travels to England to coach a fictional English Premier League soccer team, AFC Richmond, despite having no experience coaching soccer. It’s brilliant and hilarious and a favorite show of many of the Retrimanics. 

So in celebration of the upcoming season, we thought we’d share the lessons we’ve taken from the first seasons to help us become better facilitators. This blog is written with the assumption that you have watched or are vaguely familiar with the show. Spoilers abound. As huge fans of everything the show offers, we strongly recommend you watch it if you haven’t. 

Let’s go! 

  1. Anonymity creates safe spaces

Retrium prides itself on creating safe spaces where teams can submit ideas for discussion and vote on the topics most important to them anonymously. You can guess that we were pretty excited when we saw Ted put out the suggestion box. 

Unfortunately for Ted, that led to an evening of reading insults. And regardless of how funny they may be to us viewers, your heart ached for our friend Ted. However - always the optimist- he was able to find what was behind the insults - opportunities for improvement. What Ted understood was that by giving his players the space to be honest (even if it hurt it in the short run) he was able to build trust and space for each team member to be their authentic selves, which would lead to the adoration, respect, and loyalty later in the show.  

  1. Consider others’ perspectives

This heading might make you think of Rebecca dropping her bombshell on Ted in season 1, but remember when the team bought Sam Chin Chin for his birthday? Ted explains that he figured he was missing home. A lovely gesture that connects Ted - who is also away from home - to Sam. This moment helps Sam feel seen on a team where he often feels like an outsider and struggles with being far away from home.  But not 1 minute later, Ted gets it wrong. He shares one of his GI Joes with Sam. While this gift was profound and inundated with positive meaning and affection for Ted, Sam takes the gift from a different perspective. While Ted feels the G.I. Joe represents bravery and protection, Sam sees it as a reminder of colonialism. 

Ouch. 😬😬

And here’s where we learn empathy and understanding. Ted isn’t offended that his gift didn’t mean exactly the same thing for Sam as it means for Ted. Instead, Ted takes Sam’s perspective into account and accepts Sam’s truth.  While this is not the only example of consideration and understanding that defines the relationship between Sam and Ted, it represents the strength of the bond you can build with your team when you are open-minded to others’ perspectives. While this seems like a small moment, it takes on a greater meaning later. This kindness helped build a bond so strong that Sam would go on to pass up a great opportunity to remain training with Ted. 

While we would all love to be able to anticipate and understand everyone’s perspective all the time, that isn’t always the case. Instead, facilitators that approach each interaction with an open mindset to help build strong bonds with and between teammates become, well, great. And instead of leading with defense or judgment, they stay curious. 😉

  1. Recognize when extra help is needed (especially when it isn’t from you)

Toxic positivity is a real issue, particularly in a world that is trying to be more sensitive to each other's differences. The fact is, sometimes, beliefs are wrong -or at least a little off. How many of us fully believed that Richmond would win in the end? Sometimes, the happiest people in the room have struggles that puns, jokes, and positive energy just can’t overcome. We see this in season 1 when Ted asks Keeley and later Rebecca and Higgins for help every so often. It is hilarious when we see this growth with Roy going to the Diamond Dogs to ask for relationship advice. But the actual depth of this lesson comes when Ted finally steps into the room and asks for help from one of his only enemies - Dr. Sharon, the team therapist. 

Now, let’s be clear here - facilitators are not the team’s therapists! Nor should you be, even when you might feel compelled to fill the role. This lesson teaches us that help can come in different shapes and sizes. 

And not every kind of help is helpful for everyone. Ted is able to successfully help Sam, Jamie, and Nate (we will chat about Nate in a second). But he was unable to be the right kind of help for Danny in season 2. And, if we want to really get into a discussion of the plot and why Ted went to England to begin with, Ted isn’t even really able to help himself. (🤯🤯)

Recognizing when you or a team member needs help and putting boundaries on the ways and times you offer help will ensure that everyone involved is meeting their individual needs while maintaining a healthy, positive environment for the team. 

  1. Embrace your own style 

Despite their shared objective of building a winning soccer (oops, sorry, football) team, Ted Lasso and Coach Beard are different characters with similar values. Let that sink in. Ted can’t coach like Beard. Beard can’t coach like Ted. Jamie will never be like Roy. Roy will never be Jamie. All this seems pretty self-explanatory, right? But how often do we find ourselves trying to emulate others? This very blog is encouraging you to act more like these characters. But when we recognize the value of each individual character, we get the lesson. 

Jamie becomes a stronger footballer when he can balance being a team player with maintaining his… 🌵sharp personality and ego. Coach Beard is better for having Ted to maintain a positive and reflective perspective. Ted finds ways to learn from everyone. 

Just like a character can’t be all things, neither can you as a facilitator. Instead, be you! Learn what you can from others and use that to help you grow into the best version of yourself.


  1. Remember, it's just a game 

In season 1, we see a rare moment of friction between Ted and his mysterious assistant coach, Coach Beard. Ted holds on to the belief that even though these are professional athletes, his job is still not about winning or losing. From his perspective, Ted’s job is to help each member of the Richmond team community be the best version of themselves that they can be. 

Coach Beard disagrees. These aren’t student-athletes like they coached before, and there are serious real-world consequences that come with failure. Yet, Ted holds to his belief. 

Honestly, this moment was a bit of a hot topic around the Retrium water cooler. In those initial episodes, many were on Coach Beard’s side. But what Ted understood then, and we all have come to agree with now, is that as a facilitator and as a person, the best thing you can do for anyone is to recognize them not by their title or status but as a fellow human being. Spoiler alert, as of this article, immortality is only in fiction novels. Your title and pay won’t be your legacy. How you help people feel and grow will have a much bigger impact. So remember to have fun along the way. 

  1. Have a value system

When you have doubts -or seemingly an entire country against you- what help guides you through those moments of doubt? For Ted, it was the act of Believing and staying curious. To believe in the team members around him. To believe in the goodness of people. To believe in the power of belief. 

And it was this strong commitment to believing that guided him through confusion, derision, and sabotage. It isn’t when his beliefs are proven wrong that we see Ted suffer. He navigates through lost games, character mistakes, and countless disappointments without losing his optimism or commitment. Instead, we only see him struggle when he has doubts that he can maintain his value system. He struggles when he stops believing. 

So what are your values? What can you focus on during the hard days to ensure you Believe? Understanding your own values will help you maintain enthusiasm and confidence even on days when you are facing metaphorical relegation.

  1. Small improvements add up, and so do problems  

One of the aspects that we love most about Ted Lasso is the small moments that stay with people. A favorite snack from home. Morning biscuits. A good pun. A friendly game in a local park. A haircut. A GI Joe figurine. A sacrificed blanket. A rick roll in a funeral. Fixed shower pressure. A remembered name. Dozens of small moments compound into deep, authentic relationships that focus on removing blockers, instilling delight, and helping everyone improve. 

But as we learned with Nate, small problems can also compound. 

We often want to focus on the big wins. The large shifts. The moments of seeming perfection. But small moments count. 

As a facilitator, it’s important that you take the time to recognize the small wins and check in on the small losses. You never know who is keeping score.

  1. Believe in as many ways as possible 

The beloved Believe sign. In the show, the believe sign most strongly connects to a belief in the team’s success. But there is a deeper meaning that we love to talk about around here - belief in yourself. 

It is ironic that in an era so obsessed with everyone’s online image, that self-depreciation and feelings of inferiority run so rampant. The fact is sometimes it is hard to believe in yourself as a facilitator. 

Will this technique work? 

Why is no one talking? 

Did that go ok? 

Did anyone think that was a waste of time?

The fact is some meetings will go better than others. But true growth comes when we can believe in both our teams and ourselves, even on hard days. So you got this! 

Ted isn’t perfect. None of the characters are. And in season 2 we saw how actions done with the best intentions can still lead to loss. But if there is one thing that both of these seasons taught us, is the importance of caring about others and ourselves. Which is a lesson we could all use a reminder of from time to time. We are excited to see what lessons we can take from season 3! 

Which lessons have you learned?

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