The WE-I Intelligence of Ted Lasso: Part 1

coach as instrument coaches emotions life lesson newsletter ted lasso we-i intelligence Jan 30, 2024
Learning In Action, The WE-I Intelligence of Ted Lasso: Part 1


"Taking on a challenge is a lot like riding a horse, isn't it? If you're comfortable while you're doing it, you're probably doing it wrong."  Ted Lasso


A couple of weeks ago, my husband suggested that we re-watch the Ted Lasso series. Since then, we’ve been grazing our way back through it, with me laughing, cheering and tearing up all over again. I’m appreciating how, this second time around, I’m able to experience the program more observantly and can see so much more.


Back when the show was “hotter’n noon on the Fourth of July”, much was written about the leadership lessons of Ted Lasso. And there are many. I’m genuinely touched, inspired and enchanted by the warmth, grace, humility and kindness that the character of Ted regularly demonstrates. And nothing, until now, has been written about the WE Intelligence of Ted Lasso.  


What is WE Intelligence?


WE Intelligence is a term coined by Learning in Action to refer to the capacity to be fully present and mindfully in relationship when challenged.


Using simulation, Learning in Action’s WE-I Profile measures our WE Intelligence by capturing our internal experience (e.g. thoughts, emotions, instincts) in moments of friction with another person. The WE-I Profile reveals seven dimensions of our experience, including our ability to:


  1. Access to a Full Range Feelings
  2. Maintain a Degree of Practical Optimism
  3. Be Present, Not Needing Anything to Change
  4. Rely on All Aspects of our Experience
  5. Identify What Others Are Thinking, Feeling, Intending
  6. Share and Care About the Experience of Others
  7. Employ Mindful Relationship Strategies


Based upon attachment theory and developmental psychology, the WE-I Profile captures the patterns of thoughts, feelings and reactions that have been influenced by relationships over the course of a lifetime and have been shaped most by our earliest relationships.  In short, it reveals how we’ve learned to protect and defend ourselves and cope with stress in relationships over the course of our lives.


In this and future newsletters, I’ll be sharing my sense of the WE Intelligence of Ted Lasso, based upon my experience of the character and the WE-I Profile. Obviously, Ted Lasso is a fictional character so we can’t know his WE Intelligence for certain. And because WE Intelligence isn’t measured by behavior and is instead discerned from one’s internal experience, even if Ted Lasso were real, we could only guess what was going on inside him (because our behavior isn’t always reflective of what’s going on inside us.)



Ted Lasso’s WE-I Intelligence Pattern


Over 20 years, Learning in Action has been gathering data on the internal experience under stress of more than thirty thousand coaches, OD professionals and their clients across the US, Canada and beyond.  We’ve identified common patterns in response to stress.  


Ted Lasso’s response to stress reflects what we call an Unprocessed Trauma Pattern. People with patterns like Ted’s commonly report having experienced trauma, usually early in their lives, and the WE-I Profile captures how they’ve learned to cope in stressful situations. (Interestly, we see Ted's same pattern with virtually all OD consultants who’ve taken the WE-I Profile.)


As you know if you watched the series, Ted’s dad committed suicide when he was 16. Ted never processed that trauma, not going to the funeral, not working with a therapist and his pattern reflects it. Over the next few weeks, in this newsletter, I'll be sharing the details of that pattern and what it can look like in a relationship in moments of stress.


Access to a Range of Feelings


The WE-I Profile measures access to seven core emotions (five distressing and two pleasant): Anger, Anxiety, Fear, Sadness, Shame, Joy and Love. Based upon the series, Ted’s access to a range of feelings reflects:


Anger - LOW Access - Ted’s access to anger is quite low. That’s not to say he never experiences anger (most people do).  Clearly, he feels anger when Dr. Sharon Fieldstone leaves without saying goodbye.  However, what WE Intelligence reflects is our ability to notice, name and be present with each of our emotions as they are happening in a moment of stress with another person.  And Ted tends not to access anger in these moments.


When Rebecca tells him she’s been lying to him, when the team bullies Nate, when Nate bullies Will, when Nate tells Trent Crimm about his panic attacks,  when virtually everyone he meets calls him “Wanker”, Ted doesn’t access anger.  So much so that in Season 3, Rebecca (who does access anger) becomes angry because Ted isn’t angry enough.


Some of you might be thinking, “That’s good, right, that Ted isn’t angry?!”  Au contraire, mon frère!  


The Information and Gift of Anger


Emotions contain information that no other dimension of our experience provides. And each unique emotion contains unique information and a gift. And when we don’t tune into the information of an emotion, we don’t receive its gifts and it costs us in some way.


For instance, the information in anger is “My values have been violated!” or “This is not right!” or “This isn’t what I wanted!”. And when we take in that information, we can receive its gifts. When we access a healthy level of anger, we may be motivated to take a stand, to make something right. Our anger can provide us with clarity about what’s important to us. And notably, our access to anger allows us to set healthy boundaries with others of what’s ok and what’s not ok in our relationship with them.


As Robert Frost said in Mending Wall “Good fences make good neighbors”. So it is with boundaries. Better boundaries, over time, create stronger relationships. And a gift of anger is boundary setting.


This is not to say that Ted (or anyone) is choosing not to access anger. What we are referring to is our habituated, conditioned, patterned, internal response to stress and conflict. And we tend to not be conscious of many if not most of our immediate initial responses to stress . That’s why the WE-I Profile was created, to reveal what lies outside of our awareness so that we might bring more choice to our lives.


The Cost of Low Access to Anger


When we have low access to anger, we can be taken advantage of in relationships. We may tend not to set healthy boundaries. People with low access to anger will tend to believe that setting a boundary of what’s ok and what’s not ok in a relationship will hurt or end the relationship.  


Now you might be thinking, “What good really comes from acting angry anyway?” As Ted has said  "If that's a joke, I love it. If not, can't wait to unpack that with you later."


We can access a healthy degree of anger, notice it, name it, reflect on it and then choose how we want to act. Feeling anger doesn’t have to equal acting angry. That’s what WE Intelligence is about: Feeling all our feelings and then choosing to act mindfully, in relational ways.


We don’t see obvious indications of the cost to Ted of his low access to anger. However, as we’ll get to in future newsletters, his low access to his own distressing feelings would likely have been a key factor in his separation and divorce from a wife he loved. A pretty steep cost.  


Bottomline: Not accessing anger comes with a cost. We may not experience it in the moment. And it can be corrosive over time.