Ted Lasso Executive Producer Bill Wrubel on Culture and Ethics [Podcast]


Post By: Adam Turteltaub

Ted Lasso has been a pandemic streaming success story. The show stars Jason Sudeikis as an American college football coach hired to lead a troubled English soccer (football) club.

Unlike the typically-portrayed coach, barking out orders and all about winning, Ted is an empathetic person, who wears his heart on his sleeve, looks for the best in people, and does his best to bring it out of everyone. That’s not always easy given the personalities that surround him. The team’s owner is engaged in a personal vendetta. One star player is self-obsessed, another is arguably the angriest person in the world.

The show has been a runaway success, with the public, critics and the press. It has earned 20 Emmy nominations, including Outstanding Comedy Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series, and two nominations for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series.

For those of us working in compliance and ethics, the show is a great watch, not just for its entertainment value. It contains several lessons on creating the right organizational culture, and how to engage people in discussions of right and wrong.

In this podcast I sit down with Bill Wrubel, Executive Producer of the series who, not surprisingly for a show about working as a team, gives the credit to others including Brendan Hunt, Joe Kelly, Bill Lawrence, and, of course, Jason Sudeikis, who wanted the show to have meaning and be something beyond laughter. Fittingly, when Bill interviewed for the job, Sudeikis asked him if he had any mentors in his career and to tell him about them.

Sudeikis drew heavily from his own experiences in the entertainment industry, Bill shares. From his years working in improv he learned that success is the product of team work. You are as dependent upon what others are doing as what you are doing. From writing for SNL, under Tina Fey’s leadership, he had learned from her habit of listening to all the voices in the room, not just the loud ones, and to recognize that everyone had a contribution to make.

You can see that in the show, when Coach Lasso encourages the players to speak their mind, and also, notably, when he chooses to listen, not escalate confrontations, and be forgiving.

What may surprise many is that the writers regularly talked about and read books on leadership. They saw that not everything flows from the top and that great leadership comes from openness. “Be curious not judgmental” is an oft-quoted line from the show.

Listen in to the podcast, and then enjoy Ted Lasso. Then watch it one more time (if you haven’t watched it already) for the lessons about how to create a culture that encourages growth and openness. The setting is an English football club, but the lessons can apply to compliance and ethics program everywhere.