Re-framing Nate’s Story - Ted Lasso

Adam Balfour

by Adam Balfour

Small spoiler alert for season 2!

Ted Lasso has many lessons of integrity, culture and leadership (as well as being an overall great and enjoyable show). The focus is often on Ted and how he is such a great leader while also showing his human flaws too (because great leaders are real people and not the perfectly polished version many would like to project).

Nate, on the other hand, is not someone who is often talked about in favorable terms. For anyone who has seen the show, you know about Nate’s rapid rise from low confidence kit caretaker, to Richmond coach and then to being portrayed as the fairly arrogant manager of West Ham – as well as his greying hair that apparently signaled his turning to the dark side followed by his fall from grace as he left Richmond.

But what if Nate’s story was seen from a different perspective? Perhaps Nate’s graying hair was less about him turning to the dark side and more a physical response to the stress and pressure he was under (including that he was being promoted too quickly and pushed too far beyond his abilities). If someone looks so physically or mentally stressed that their hair is literally turning grey overnight, maybe ask how that person is, look into the organizational culture and understand what pressure people are experiencing. A professional sports team is a high pressure environment, and Nate had been vocal that he felt discarded by Ted and that his efforts had not been recognized – there were signals that all was not well for Richmond FC’s backroom staff.

Don’t get me wrong – Nate could and should have handled many situations better and he was not very nice at times. However, portraying Nate as the villain rather than an employee who felt such a level of pressure that it impacted him physically and also his thinking and actions is not accurate or productive. Simply blaming Nate might seem (but definitely is not) beneficial to the organization in the short term, but doing so ignores the many other contributing factors at play and such an approach will only lead to bigger problems for employees and the organization in the future. Fixing organizational problems and changing the workplace culture can take time and effort, but is something that organizations need to do to help prevent other employees going down the same path as Nate.

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