Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Vivamus convallis sem tellus, vitae egestas felis vestibule ut.

Error message details.

Reuse Permissions

Request permission to republish or redistribute SHRM content and materials.

A 'Ted Lasso' Self-Audit for Your HR Department

Ask these five questions to determine if your organization is following the leadership principles modeled by AFC Richmond’s fictional (but eternally wise) coach.

Jason Sudeikis

In the four years since it arrived like a ray of sunshine during the pandemic’s darkest days, “Ted Lasso” has been more than a TV show for many people. The three-season Apple TV+ comedy about an American college football coach hired to lead an English professional soccer team has become a cultural touchstone—and an unlikely source for lessons in business leadership, management, and team building.

On June 23, the Emmy-winning star of the show, Jason Sudeikis, will discuss “The Ted Lasso Effect” on the Main Stage of the SHRM Annual Conference & Expo 2024 in Chicago. Sudeikis will explore the show’s core themes of positive leadership and personal empowerment, drawing from the perspectives of characters he’s played on screen and his personal life.

In anticipation of the event, Jeff Harry, an international trainer and co-host of the “What Would Ted Lasso Do?” podcast, joined SHRM’s Honest HR podcast to discuss the show’s lessons on relationship building, leadership styles, and more. From that discussion, here are five “Ted Lasso” self-audit questions that HR leaders can ask to determine whether their organization is following Lasso’s leadership principles.


1. What’s Your ‘Water Pressure’ Issue?

In his first days at the AFC Richmond soccer stadium, Ted drops a suggestion box in the middle of the locker room and asks the team what needs to be improved. The box is met with scathing cynicism and collects only one legitimate suggestion: “The shower pressure is rubbish.” When the team hits the showers after practice the next day, water shoots out of the showerheads like a fire hose.

“It’s something so small, but it shows right at the beginning that, ‘I’m willing to change the culture and I’m willing to listen to what you have to say to do that,’ ” said Harry. He suggested that every HR leader—particularly those new to an organization—look around their organization and ask this question: What is your “water pressure” issue?  

“What is a small step you can take that you know would add a significant amount of value to so many workers’ lives? Because that will send a message that, ‘Oh, they’re actually listening to us and they’re willing to take action on what we share,’ ” he said.


2. What Is Your Employees’ Language of Appreciation?

Lasso’s leadership isn’t one-size-fits-all. Throughout the show, Ted tailors his style of teaching, critiques, and recognition specifically to each person in an effort to build authentic relationships and respect. He’s intentional about getting to know people on a personal level, which builds a foundation for trust, a core element of high-performing teams.  

For example, Rebecca, the tough-as-nails team owner, doesn’t have time for connections with most people. Ted creates a way to visit her each morning by bringing her a small box of homemade shortbread cookies.  

“After a few weeks, she expects him to show up with the shortbread every single time, and then they have time to actually connect with one another,” said Harry. This informal “Biscuits with the Boss” time speaks in her language and helps build a bridge of connection.  

“That is something that I feel HR staff can take from this: What is your staff’s language of appreciation?” said Harry. “How are you communicating to them in that way? And how are you doing it in a playful, experimental way so that it feels not so serious and you’re able to build that psychological safety?”


3. Have You Built a Psychologically Safe Culture?

A great manager, like a great coach, instills a sense of optimism, curiosity, inclusion, learning, and support—even in tough situations. Coach Lasso does that by creating a culture where every person is seen, valued, and heard.

“What’s interesting, and I think why this relates so much to HR, is that Ted is truly HR,” said Harry. “He’s truly the human. He’s about the connection. He’s about building psychological safety, so that not only the team but anyone that works for AFC Richmond feels comfortable enough to show up more as who they are.

“What he’s able to do with each and every team member is he’s able to help them feel seen, heard, appreciated, and valued. Feeling seen as, ‘Do you see me not as just like a cog in the machine, but as a human being?’ Appreciated like, ‘Are you giving to me in my language of appreciation?’ And then valued: ‘Are you compensating me and recognizing me?’ And also feeling heard: ‘Are you giving me the platform where if I share something with you, it doesn’t fall into a black hole never to be seen again?’ ”


4. Do You Make Perfection the Goal?

Lasso eventually finds success on the scoreboard, but not by making winning and perfection the ultimate goal. “For me, success is not about wins and losses,” he says in one episode. “It’s about helping these young fellas be the best versions of themselves on and off the field.”  

Pursuing perfection, said Harry, will only lead to disappointment and crush employees’ spirit.

“I think burnout comes from perfection,” he said. “Perfection is rooted in ego, shame, and trying to constantly be right. But play is the opposite of perfection. Play is rooted in curiosity and a sense of wonder. Because Ted is in that play-oriented perspective, because he’s staying curious and not judgmental, he’s able to get rejected and just roll with it.”

Ted Lasso readily admits he doesn’t have all the answers about soccer, but he does have all the questions. He’s never coached soccer, but he learns by asking questions and trusting in the wisdom of the experts around him.

“Being curious, which Ted is, gives freedom for people to show up in many different ways,” said Harry. “And that also creates psychological safety, and people start feeling comfortable enough to start to share with him.”


5. Do Your Leaders Bring Hope … or Harm?

The word “Believe” is now synonymous with the show. That one word was scrawled on a sign above Coach Lasso’s office door. As Ted himself says, “I think it’s the lack of hope that comes and gets you. See, I believe in hope. I believe in belief.”

Managers and leaders can either bring that sense of hope and optimism or, as they often do, try to lead by intimidation, fear, and the heavy hand. Harry noted that a 2023 report found that managers have a greater influence on employees’ mental health than their doctor or therapist.

“The theme underneath all of this is, how do you bring humanity back to work?” said Harry. “How do you see people as human beings? How do you not lose your soul when you come to work? And, because of this, why would we not only create a space where people could play, where people could show up more as themselves … and feel hope?

“When he comes there and changes the culture, all of a sudden you see members of the community become more confident, take more risks, start doing more of the things they believe in. And that’s so joyful to watch,” said Harry.

He believes the TV show has persuaded some people to leave their jobs by showing them that toxic work situations don’t have to be tolerated. And it has motivated some managers to lead the Ted Lasso way.

“Watching ‘Ted Lasso’ gave us hope,” said Harry. “It gave us hope that there could be an alternative, and that we could be the Ted Lasso in our own organizations that brings that hope.”



​An organization run by AI is not a futuristic concept. Such technology is already a part of many workplaces and will continue to shape the labor market and HR. Here's how employers and employees can successfully manage generative AI and other AI-powered systems.