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Fundraising Is Life: Leadership Lessons From Ted Lasso

By Lynne Wester

Ted Lasso is ending this year and many of us are heartbroken. Along the way we have learned and laughed, but we also have some key takeaways we can all embrace:

  1. Believe: Even on your worst days, under the most difficult of situations you must believe, in our industry, in the work you do, in your mission and in donors. Positive change doesn’t appear out of nowhere—it takes work from us all, and sometimes when we lose our spark—our ‘why’—we need to reinvest in our belief!

  2. Be Curious: Ted specifically talks about the importance of being curious and not judgmental. Ted doesn’t have all the answers, but he has all the questions. He’s never coached soccer and he’s never lived in England, but he learns through questions and the wisdom of his assistant coach. He also recognizes that people who aren’t curious underestimate him, to their detriment. Having a "Lasso” mindset—being curious and asking questions—enables us to understand more, assume less, learn more, judge less, build stronger relationships and help others learn.

  3. Self Care: In season 2, Ted sees a psychologist and gets real help for his panic attacks and loneliness. The man with all these friends feels empty on the inside. He shows us its ok to not be perfect and to take care of yourself first, no matter how hard. At times we all struggle, and remember, you can’t pour from an empty cup. This happens a great deal in our field when it comes to empathy fatigue, so we all need to take the time to fill our cups.

  4. Being Sad is Ok—you’re not alone: In one of the most poignant moments after a devastating loss Ted gives his team this realization—that it's ok to be sad. You are not alone in the sadness, and you have your community to support you. If you are struggling or feeling sad, you too, have a community of fundraisers and nonprofit professionals as your teammates, near or far. Reach out anytime.

  5. Unlock the Potential in Others: Whether bringing out the leader in the team captain, Roy, giving valuable life lessons to a young player, Sam, or letting kit man, Nathan deliver his ideas and feedback to the team, Ted sees the potential in others and gives them the chance to develop and excel. The best thing a leader can do for others is to believe in them. What would it look like to start with the assumption that people are smart enough, resilient enough, capable enough, competent enough, brave enough, and good enough?

  6. Be a Goldfish: When something less than ideal happens, don’t let it get you down for long, have the memory of a goldfish and wipe it away. Of course, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn from our mistakes, address misunderstandings, or stand up for ourselves when necessary. But rather to not hold onto (or for some of us nurture?) the emotions that come with tough events. Moreover, we shouldn’t try to “not feel” emotions such as embarrassment, anger, confusion, or sadness. Feel those emotions and know that they are okay, and normal, but then let them go, and move forward!

Are you a Ted Lasso fan? Do you have a favorite episode? Are there other takeaways you have learned from the show? One of my favorite things about the show is that everyone can identify with at LEAST one character. If you haven’t watched yet—I recommend giving it a spin! Let me know what you think—and if you would like I offer this as a keynote or conference session. Reach out to our team to learn more.

If you're looking for more lessons in leadership, I encourage you to apply for our new Leadership Experience (LX)! The Leadership Experience is a professional development program that offers a unique opportunity for donor relations professionals to enhance their leadership skills and accelerate their career growth.

The program consists of two cohorts: one for distinguished leaders with extensive experience and proven track records of success, and one for rising stars who are early in their careers and poised for growth. Each cohort will participate in a tailored program that meets their unique needs and challenges. Click here to learn more and apply before the May 31 application deadline.


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