, The best advice I ever got from the worst manager I ever had

The best advice I ever got from the worst manager I ever had

November 26th, 2017 Posted by Leadership Coaching, Life Coaching

I was a very junior software developer and I absolutely sucked. Not only was I learning the trade I’d recently made the transition from the gym environment to the office environment and knew very little about office etiquette. To say that I was struggling was an understatement but I was too full of determination to succeed that no matter how embarrassing the mistakes I made (including deleting thousands of credit card dispute records from one of Ireland’s biggest banks!) I kept coming back. The company I was working for was pretty much an IT start up and, like most start-ups, resources for training, etc. were scarce and in this instance non-existent. So I had no support and very little guidance, unless you call being shouted at and constantly criticised guidance!

So you can imagine the relationship I had with the IT manager wasn’t exactly filled with laughter and high-fives. I was too inexperienced to recognise that he was too inexperienced to be in his role and he was under considerable stress which is a terrible combination. However I’ll never forget a piece of advice he gave me on a short walk back from the gent’s one afternoon. “You should look to get into management, Cillin,” he said. Interpreting it as, “You’ll never make it as a software developer.” I smiled politely and asked, “Why?” He went on to tell me that software will continue to change and you’ll spend your whole life trying to keep up, constantly studying and learning new coding languages. “And besides,” he threw over his shoulder as we went our separate ways, “you’ll never make it as a software developer.” I heard him chuckle and at the time I hoped he didn’t hear my impolite utterances as I reddened with anger.

The best career advice I’ve gotten is to stay focused, keep moving forward ~ Tyga.

I was determined to prove him wrong and prove him wrong I did. I completed my BSc in Computer Science with honours and went onto make good money as a software consultant before immigrating to New Zealand. All that time his comment lay dormant in the back of my mind and I often wondered how I could make the transition into management. Although making the transition into management and eventually leadership wasn’t half as difficult as transitioning from the fitness industry to the IT industry it was still fraught with lessons…it was still the best decision I ever made. I often wonder if would ever have made the leap if he planted the seed all those years before.

This memory is an important one for me because it reminds me of two important points. The first is that advice can come from even the most unexpected places. Just because the person you’re getting the advice from is a jack-ass it doesn’t mean the advice isn’t worth considering. Your worst enemy can send you down a dark path that can ultimately lead you on an exciting adventure and open up new life changing opportunities. Equally, your best friend can unknowingly lead you down a path that could lead to heart-ache and regret. It would be foolish to disregard advice just because the source doesn’t come from someone you like or respect.

I often wonder if I liked and respected this manager might I have acted on his advice sooner. It’s likely I would have. This leads me to my second point, before you can effectively influence someone or become a person of influence you must first become a person of character. You must develop the traits that other people admire; trust, respect, honesty, caring, and integrity are just a few that spring to mind. If you demonstrate these traits day in and day out I’ve no doubt that others will be drawn to you for your advice and guidance.

A mentor enables a person to achieve. A hero shows what achievement looks like. ~ John C. Mather

On the flip side, no one is perfect. If you’re looking for a mentor in life or your career I would suggest following the advice of the great Jim Rohn. Rohn talks about his old mentor, Earl Shoaff, as being hugely influential in his life. However, there were many aspects to how Shoaff lived his life that Rohn didn’t agree with; for example, Shoaff drank a lot and smoked heavily. Both of which Rohn found off putting. However, he was wise enough to ‘not throw the baby out with the bath water’. He recognised the immense value he could gain by having Shoaff as a mentor and he focused on the positive aspects of Shoaff’s character, of which there were many. Don’t pass up on an opportunity to learn from someone who is great at doing something you want to be better at because they don’t fit ‘your’ perfect mould…focus, not only what you can learn from them, but also on what they might learn from you.


If you’d like to know more about mentorship and how this can change your life, or if you’d like to explore how coaching can help you become a better leader (of others or yourself!), or even if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.


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