MX Visionaries Forum Provides a ‘Ted Lasso’ Take on Leadership and Innovation
By W.B. King
In the view of MX’s Interim CEO and President Shane Evans, the financial services industry is at a “crossroads” and changing at “an unprecedented pace.” The goal of the 2022 virtual MX Visionaries Forum, which brought together attendees from around the world, was to share ideas and strategies to embolden leaders, organizations and individuals.
“This transformation requires that we think bigger, be bolder and do better,” said Evans. “It takes vision and leadership to dive change and to make the impact that we all want to have in our lives, with our organizations and in the world.”
The Lehi, Utah-based MX offers a financial data platform and connects more than 16,000 financial institutions and fintechs providing a reliable and secure data connectivity network.
The special guest at this year’s forum was award-winning actor, comedian, producer and writer Jason Sudeikis. He is currently starring in Ted Lasso, the Apple TV+ series he co-created with Brendan Hunt. The role earned him the 2021 Golden Globe for Best Television Actor.
“Jason has created a world-wide phenomenon in Ted Lasso, encouraging a movement on unconventional leadership and positivity,” Evans noted.
Apple describes the show as “an American football coach who is hired to manage a professional British soccer team; what he lacks in knowledge, he makes up for in optimism, determination… and biscuits.”
Bringing Optimism and Goodness Into the World
While many know Sudeikis from Ted Lasso, his credits also include a 10-year tenure at Saturday Night Live (SNL) as well as appearances in countless movies and television shows.
Sudeikis sat down for a virtual conversation with MX’s Executive Vice President of Marketing Ryan Nelsen.
Whether it’s leaders in business or leaders in entertainment, Nelsen began the talk by telling the actor that he “admires people who create and really bring optimism and goodness into the world.” Ted Lasso, complete with his signature mustache and infectious smile, is one such individual, he added.
At 46, Sudeikis’ road to Ted Lasso has been long. He was quick to thank his parents and other mentors for his inherent disposition. During the video call, he wore a Cheers baseball cap, a proud nod to his uncle, George Wendt, who made the character “Norm” a beloved, household name.
“So much of it is good fortune, good timing and being ready for it,” he said. “Getting to see someone actually do it for a living was exciting. Normally in Kansas you don’t think about those things,” he said of Wendt and his hometown of Overland Park, Kan. “I had George and George gave really good Christmas presents.”
As co-creator, writer and actor, Sudeikis wears many more hats than viewers see. As a result, he is constantly charged with making decisions that will serve the greater good of the cast, crew, financiers and the streaming audience.
“Producing is answering as a lot of questions as quickly as you can,” Sudeikis said from London where he and his team are preparing to shoot the second season of Ted Lasso.
“We try to top ourselves — beat ourselves — shake the tree and see what else falls out, maybe some big ideas. We are still truly in that process and that occurs throughout production as we are shooting the show,” he said. “The rewriting for the stuff I have to say can even happen up to the day of shooting. You can take the boy out of SNL but not the SNL out of the boy.”
Listen and Then Listen Some More
In an effort to frame the conversation in such a way that financial and fintech executives could draw parallels to their respective roles in the workplace, Nelsen asked how the dynamic is on set and what different strengths people bring to the production.
“One of the things I learned by having the opportunity to do it while working at SNL was to listen to people, the people who know what they are talking about...and 95% of the time they are right because they have thousands of hours of experience. They worked with Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Chris Farley. They have seen it all,” he said. “And that mentality has transferred into this show [Ted Lasso].”
To listen to people who know better than you, he continued, is “a compliment to yourself if you are a boss because it means you hired the right people.” Don’t hire someone to “push them around and treat them like an action figure.” This approach to innovation doesn’t mean you can’t “adjust” an employee’s idea, he said, but the “dialogue is fun because it allows them to lean in and make something of it.”
Others tenets Sudeikis adheres to in business are patience and perseverance. The concept for Ted Lasso, he shared, began in 2015 but was shelved for various reasons.
“We did a good chunk of work that led to nothing. We sat on it for a few years and did other things and here we are four years later…nope, six years later. Seven! It’s 2022,” he said catching himself in a charming math dilemma.
A Good Vibe
When Nelsen asked what characteristics best describe Ted Lasso, Sudeikis said: optimism, playfulness, enthusiasm, vulnerability and being present, among others.
“Pretty good things to have even if you’re not a leader, but just a human being,” he said.
When people are inspired and respected, Sudeikis said they want to “race to work,” rather than simply “drive to work” and go through the daily motions. And while he noted that it has been a long time since he worked in a corporate office (he did temporary work while working nights at The Second City in Chicago), he said connections at the office are critically important, regardless of the industry.
“Jim and Pam from the American Office were a great example. What if you had a crush on your boss — I don’t mean a romantic crush, I mean someone you look up to who inspires you and you feel you even inspire them — that makes [for] a good vibe.”
For a limited time, you can watch the interview on-demand here.
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