Lessons in Empathy From ‘Ted Lasso’

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Oxford Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” The last few years have shed light on the importance of experiencing empathy and appreciating those who show it to us.

There are numerous examples of leading with empathy, but leave it to an episode of the award-winning television series “Ted Lasso” to deliver a fantastic piece of empathic leadership advice and its positive impact on our mental well-being.

“Ted Lasso,” a comedy-drama show about an American football coach who overnight becomes a manager of a Premier League soccer team in England, touches on leadership in a surprising way for such a show steeped in laughs.   

One example is when the club’s marketing and PR manager (Keeley) is nervous to tell her boss (Rebecca) she is leaving the organization to start her own firm. Throughout the show, Rebecca gave Keeley more responsibilities, which ultimately led to going out independently. 

Before telling Rebecca this news, Keeley spoke with a trusted adviser and another senior member of the organization (Leslie). When Keeley mentioned how nervous she was to tell Rebecca, Leslie shared a valuable lesson. 

“A good mentor hopes you will move on,” Leslie said. “A great mentor knows you will.”

And when Keeley ultimately told Rebecca she was leaving, Rebecca couldn’t have been more excited for her. She knew it was time for Keeley to move on. 

Seeing the perspectives of others

Great leaders know that great employees will move on to different challenges at some point and are mentally prepared to handle the news. They can understand and share their feelings about how and why their employees made that decision. 

This is a sign of empathy and one of many examples we see from “Ted Lasso” on the importance of seeing the perspectives of others. 

According to recent research, “possessing empathy is crucial for good mental health as being able to connect with others and share enough of yourself to feel connected in return adds immeasurably to relationship happiness.”

Today, employees are showing more confidence in how they want to advance in their careers. Leaders, despite all your best efforts, your best employees will at some point hand in their notice. How you respond and how your company responds and treats your employees when they leave is the impression THEY will have of your company and YOU. And for the remainder of their career, they will only remember how they felt when they left.

Empathy enables us to give and receive grace, have honest conversations with our employees (and our bosses) about our human experience at work, and encourage improvement and growth. Demonstrating empathy will have a lasting impact and help shape your relationships for years to come. 

As I say to employees who leave, I give the same advice to employers and leaders: Take the high road. Your employees will never forget how they were treated when they left. 

By the way: Watch “Ted Lasso” on Apple TV. It’s truly worth your time. 

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