7 lessons I never forgot from the best bosses I ever had

Vitaliy Moon/Sterlka Institute/Attribution Licence/FlickrGood bosses inspire you to achieve your goals.
  • A good boss shows you the ropes of your industry and guides you in achieving your long-term goals.
  • Though you may have had both good and bad bosses, you’ve most likely walked away with valuable lessons that have stuck with you from a memorable boss.
  • Natalia Lusinski had bosses who taught her meaningful lessons – like that it’s OK to say no and to follow her passions – that helped her get to where she is today.

Chances are that through your career, you’ve had both good bosses and not-so-good ones. Either way, you probably walked away from each experience with valuable lessons.

“The relationship you have with your boss or supervisor can have an impact on your career – and life – for years to come,”Teague Simoncic, a career coach with Ama La Vida, told Business Insider. “On a day-to-day basis, the way your boss handles conflict or difficulty can teach you a lot about how to handle similar situations in the future.”

Simoncic said that all in all, the best bosses are role models and sources of inspiration who may have helpful input on how you can achieve your long-term goals.

“Taking time to develop a meaningful connection to your boss can help lead to lifelong career growth and opportunities,” she said.

Here are seven lessons I learned from the best bosses I’ve ever had – lessons that continue to help me in both my work and my personal life.


1. I learned effective time-management skills.

fizkes/ShutterstockI have a colour-coded Excel chart for my writing deadlines and keep a handwritten to-do list next to my laptop.

I used to work as a writers’ assistant and script coordinator on TV shows, doing everything from taking notes in the writers’ room and keeping track of storylines to creating episode outlines and proofreading scripts.

I was usually the last person to glance over the final script and would then email it to a crew of about 100 to 200 people. (No pressure!)

At one of my first jobs, my supervisor was a time-management superstar, fielding more than 100 phone calls and countless emails each day. I happened to sit next to him and started emulating the way he prioritised tasks.

For instance, in addition to using an online calendar and to-do list, he had a master handwritten one next to his computer, with tasks organised by most to least important. As he completed tasks, he highlighted them, colour-coding them by subject – some in yellow, some in green, and so on.

Today, I still use his time-management and prioritisation system. Though I have a colour-coded Excel chart for my writing deadlines, I still keep a master handwritten to-do list next to my laptop.


2. You can ask for help if you need it.

Mikhail Goldenkov/Strelka Institute/Attribution Licence/FlickrIt can help you complete your tasks more effectively.

I used to hate asking people for help. I believed that I could figure everything out myself.

But when I saw one boss asking her boss for help (I previously thought she knew everything) I realised that asking for help isn’t a weakness – it’s necessary and can help you complete your tasks more efficiently.


3. It’s OK to say no if you cannot do everything yourself.

Stock-Asso/ShutterstockSay no if it’s taking away from your ability to produce quality work.

Sometimes bosses will give you a seemingly endless number of to-dos because in the past you’ve proved that you can do it all – why wouldn’t they pile on more responsibilities? However, if you focus on quantity more than quality, the latter may suffer.

At one TV-production job, I felt bad about saying no to any request and was completely burned out as a result. When my boss learned I was the last person in the office each night, she told me to delegate tasks to a coworker if I had too many things on my plate.

Saying no is critical if you want the quality of your work to speak for itself.


4. Follow your passions and create your own opportunities.

WOCinTech Chat/Flickr/AttributionOne of my former bosses inspired me to follow my dreams of travelling and working remotely.

Most people, at some point or another, will have a job they don’t love. But I think every job can help you figure out what you’re truly passionate about. In one case, it was my boss’ drive that helped me discover what I wanted to do.

A TV writer I worked with went on to executive produce, direct, and run a show himself. He’d verbally tell me and others that he was going to do X, Y, and Z in his career, such as adapt a book into a musical. Then he would make it happen – even when he had to deal with a lot of naysayers along the way.

He was a perfect example of creating your own opportunities to make your dreams come true. I took the message to heart – I’d always wanted to live and work remotely while travelling, and now I’m doing it.


5. It’s important to make time to bond with your coworkers outside the office.

Daniel M Ernst/ShutterstockShare a meal outside the office with your coworkers.

When I worked as a script coordinator on the HBO show “Hung,” the showrunner took us all to dinner every Wednesday night, no matter how busy we were rewriting the script.

When you work on a TV show, eating dinner together – as well as breakfast and lunch, oftentimes – is usually a given, but leaving the production office or TV studio and venturing out to a restaurant is different.

When you share a meal outside the office with your team, you get to know your coworkers better, without work or work reminders around.


6. You should strive for a healthy work-life balance.

Aleksandar Karanov/ShutterstockTime to rest and reset is important for productivity.

I worked in TV production for several years, and the hours are often long, averaging 60 to 80 or more per week.

One boss refused to let us work on a script more than eight or 10 hours a day, something we were all used to. He said that he wanted a healthy work-life balance so he could be home for dinner each night with his family and that we should have one too.

The more we practiced his work-life-balance method, the more efficiently we worked, since we had to complete a certain amount of writing every day. We were more productive not only in the office, but in our personal lives as well.

We had more time for not just ourselves, but our friends, families, and significant others, and we didn’t have to miss post-work social events either.

With other jobs, it seemed we’d work all night only to return to the office a few hours later, with a bit of time to sleep in between.


7. Thank-you notes go a long way.

wavebreakmedia/ShutterstockHandwritten letters are meaningful.

I was raised writing thank-you notes to people for everything from gifts to dinner-party invitations, but one boss in particular reinstilled in me the importance of showing gratitude with a handwritten message.

No matter how busy she was at her job as a TV executive, she always took the time to write people thank-you notes by hand – whether she was thanking someone in her network for an introduction or thanking a coworker for lunch.

It takes only a few moments to write a thank-you note to someone – and just think about how much you appreciate receiving one! Plus, in the digital age we live in, it sets you apart from people who email thank-you notes.

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