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  • Writer's pictureJohn Swallow

Learning from the Boss

Updated: Feb 4, 2018

I wonder what you have learned from your Boss to enable you to achieve more?

My guess is, quite a bit!

I have seen a few posts recently around the subject of choosing a great Boss as a priority over finding a great company to work for. I completely agree and wish to write about some personal experience of this.

Whether it be valuable knowledge, skills and behaviours that you can use to progress your own development, or perhaps the opposite when they are negative. All are useful. You may pick these up consciously or unconsciously. They may be the result of coaching sessions, observations or maybe just tips that you pick up along the way.

There are 3 main ways in which the people I have worked for over the years have supported me:

1. Provided me with the freedom to succeed or fail.

2. Supported me with coaching when I asked for guidance.

3. Trust that the job would always be done.

Of course, we all know that our learning is a big mix of training courses, reading, on-line materials, videos, newspapers and magazines, observation, on-the-job and the rest of it, however, it is also quite interesting how much of it is picked up from the Boss and other strong influencers that you have worked with. From my experience, it is something that shapes your life in such a strong way (your life, not just your career) that I can wholeheartedly recommend searching out great people to work for.

I am sure I am not the only person to have been extraordinary lucky to have experienced a wide range of visionaries, leaders, entrepreneurs and people who, well, just generally get some stuff done. On reflection, it is quite remarkable how many of my current behaviours were picked up from my various Managers and Leaders over the years.

"Do not underestimate the impact that these people will have on your experience in your life."

When I consider all the books that I have read, courses I have attended, on-line materials I have watched and the various other ways of learning that have rounded my leadership style, I don’t think that there is anything as powerful as the various people that I have had the privilege to work for. I wish I had been able to sit in a room with these people early on in my career and absorbed everything that I know now but I guess that is part of the fun of gaining the experience.

Of course, I am not going to write a list of these people here, merely tell you about some of my experiences which were made possible through them. If some of my previous Manager are reading know who you are! Although I am referring to my direct experience in my field, I believe that is relevant to any business.

Let’s start with my early career, when I was working for a nationwide chain and fairly quickly had a direct report to the Area Manager. He taught me how a store should be presented, with every detail being in place and how the key elements of the business worked. He also provided me with experience at other stores.

When I moved to a small independently owned chain, the owner gave me the space to manage a couple of stores and gave me the freedom and support to find new ways of expanding the business, including B2B, promotions, product selection and event marketing.

Sensing an opportunity, I then joined a small but rapidly growing superstore concept, where I learned from several Managers, all about merchandising, volume management, team leadership and customer service. It was here where I learned that the customer is everything and to do whatever is necessary to achieve an ambassador for the brand. My career was fast tracked and I was able to work in several overseas markets, including diverse ones such as Argentina and Latvia, with some great experiences and challenges.

Following a merger, my new Manager took my understanding of customer service to a whole new level. He also provided me with experience in business development, strategy and store design. His business mentoring meant that I was able to get into even more great challenges around Europe. This was one of the most significant influencers in my career to whom I will always be grateful.

Having decided to return to the UK, I was fortunate to be able to enter into a joint venture partnership with another company, whereby all of the experience learned over the years was combined with great support from some senior managers and my business partners to achieve an extremely successful business.

Some years later, looking for a new challenge, I decided to venture overseas again, with the same brand. Over the years, I have had some very supportive Managers who have provided me with the freedom and trust to get things done and the guidance and support when needed. The learning journey this time has been nothing short of fantastic! This is where I still am today, with a job that has great variety and involves working across several countries in Northern Europe. I am still learning from senior leaders every day!

And there it is, I hope that my managers throughout my career feel good about the fact that they have shaped my life into an incredible experience (as they will have done for many other individuals). Over the years they have provided me with some great career and life experiences, together with many stories to tell, (although not all of them would be believed today).

The moral of this story…make sure you find a selection of brilliant managers to work for over the years. You will learn a lot, achieve more results and have a great time throughout your life. Then, I hope that you will take your experience to support, guide and coach others to have a great career and life experience.


"I love coaching"

John Swallow


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