Image credit to Apple TV+

In the land of leadership, decisions can make or break a team’s success. Communication and influence takes center stage. This is not at all unlike improv comedy. Ted Lasso, the popular Apple TV series, was produced by actors and writers trained in comedy and improv.

As the series progresses (and delights their audience!), it is evident that the elements of communication that Ted Lasso uses to create a powerful team culture are similar to those of improv comedy. Much like Ted Lasso and Coach Beard, great leaders (of board rooms, locker rooms and living rooms) understand the nuances of communication, turning each interaction into an opportunity for growth and cohesion.

In the leadership book The Culture Code, author Daniel Coyle outlines several of these elements including:

  1. “yes, and…”
  2. collaboration
  3. adaptability
  4. risk tasking
  5. trust and vulnerability

“Yes, and…”

Improvisation (improv) is all about being present in the moment and responding organically. It’s about saying “yes, and…” rather than shutting down ideas. In the realm of leadership, this translates to active listening and open-mindedness. It’s about validating others’ perspectives and building upon them. As Ted often quips, “You know what the happiest animal on Earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? Got a 10-second memory. Be a goldfish, Sam.” This simple advice highlights the power of staying present and attentive.

Collaboration

Just as an improv scene thrives on collaboration, so does effective leadership. Coach Beard’s intuitive understanding of Ted’s coaching philosophy exemplifies this. Beard seamlessly complements Ted’s positivity with his pragmatic wisdom, creating a dynamic duo that empowers the team. Leaders who can play off each other’s strengths and adapt to different styles foster an environment of trust and support. After all, as Coach Beard would say, “Trust – baby!.” (Diamond dogs for the win!)

Adaptability

Improv and leadership converge on the stage of adaptability. In both realms, quick thinking and flexibility are invaluable assets. The ability to pivot in the face of uncertainty or respond gracefully to unexpected challenges defines a leader’s mettle. Ted’s cheerful adaptability in the face of adversity and Beard’s calm, collected demeanor in any situation exemplify this crucial trait. It’s a reminder that in leadership, as in improv, being in the moment and rolling with the punches can lead to some of the most remarkable performances.

Risk Taking

In both improvisational comedy and leadership, the willingness to take risks is a cornerstone of success. In the world of improv, actors must step onto the stage with no script, relying solely on their quick thinking and creativity. This demands a fearless approach to trying new things, embracing uncertainty, and trusting in the process. Similarly, in leadership, effective communication often requires leaders to step outside of their comfort zones.

Ted was way outside his comfort zone in London on a soccer pitch! But he had confidence in his ability as a coach to take that risk. Whether it’s presenting a bold idea to a team or making a crucial decision, taking calculated risks is essential for growth and innovation. By embracing risk, leaders can foster an environment of trust, openness, and adaptability, ultimately leading to more dynamic and successful outcomes in both comedy and leadership scenarios. It worked swimmingly for Ted and Beard.

Trust and Vulnerability

In Lead It Like Lasso, we talk about the importance of vulnerability when it comes to communication.

Improvisation and communication in real life share a fundamental aspect in building trust and embracing vulnerability. In improv, trust among performers is crucial; participants must have confidence that their fellow actors will support and contribute to the scene. This trust is built through a willingness to be vulnerable, as performers must be open to whatever comes their way, even if it deviates from their initial expectations. Similarly, in business communication, trust is fostered when team members feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas, knowing they will be heard and respected.

Vulnerability is also a key element in both contexts. In improv, actors must be willing to let go of preconceived notions and allow themselves to be fully present in the moment, responding authentically to their fellow performers. This vulnerability creates a space for genuine connection and creativity. Likewise, in business, leaders who are open about their challenges, uncertainties, and aspirations foster a culture of authenticity. This transparency not only builds trust but also encourages team members to share their own thoughts and concerns, ultimately leading to more effective and collaborative outcomes. Overall, whether in improv or business communication, trust and vulnerability go hand-in-hand, creating a foundation for successful collaboration and innovation. A great read for Coach Beard on this topic is Dr. Brene Brown’s work Dare to Lead.

As you reflect on your communication strategies, consider the elements of improv! Embrace the power of “yes, and…” in your interactions, build on the ideas of others, and be present in every moment. Draw inspiration from Ted Lasso and Coach Beard, whose witty banter and seamless collaboration exemplify the dance of leadership. After all, in both improv and leadership, the magic happens when you trust the process and trust your team.

Interested in continuing this conversation around communication (or any other leadership topic), engage with us on social. We love to hear about folks learning to Lead It Like Lasso!

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