8 Priceless Lessons My First Boss Taught Me

As I send my oldest son into the workforce, I’ve been reflecting on those who shaped my professional journey. Most people, if they’re lucky, have at least one boss that becomes more than a manager; they become a mentor.

For me, that boss was Bob Brown, who took an interest in me when I began my first job. This year, as Bob prepares for retirement after 35 years of guiding other young professionals, it’s easy to look back on the lessons he taught me and recognize how those lessons have prepared me for every job I’ve held since that first one.

While some of these lessons are straightforward, practical tips for being a good employee, others are helpful guidance on how to be a good person outside the workplace, too. Whether you are starting your first job now or you have been in the professional world for decades, I hope these lessons I learned from Bob can help you as much as they’ve helped me.

  1. Always do your best. Even if you fail at something, if you’ve tried your hardest, you can still take pride in your efforts. After years in your industry, it’s easy to become lackadaisical or complacent. Don’t let your experience tempt you to give your job anything but your best efforts.
  1. Be prepared. Whether you’re stepping into a client meeting or just teaming up with a coworker on a project, being prepared will always give you a leg up in a professional environment. When you invest effort beforehand, you’re sure to earn a positive outcome. 
  1. Get to work early. Getting to work early might seem like an inconvenience, but in reality, it’s a chance to jump start your day and increase your productivity. Not only will you benefit from the silence of a pre-workday office, you’ll also make a great impression on those around you.
  1. Listen, listen, listen. More often than not, it’s easier to talk than it is to effectively listen. Whether you’re at home or in the workplace, listening to others is the cornerstone of healthy communication. Always invest effort into listening to others.
  1. Make it personal. A productive team is a team with a bond. When you invest time into your coworkers, you’ll strengthen both your professional relationships and your personal friendships. Be sure to spend time together as a team and create memories. Don’t let the stress and responsibilities of a modern office keep you from connecting with the people you sit next to.
  1. Give thoughtful feedback. Giving feedback that is both positive and constructive is no easy task to master, but with the right strategy, you can give feedback that demonstrates that you want others to succeed. Make sure the feedback you give is both timely and well thought out. Consider how the other person will receive it, and convey that you only want to be supportive. 
  1. Learn from your mistakes. Feedback is a two-way street. Not only should you be able to give feedback, you should also be able to receive criticism and learn from it. Every mistake provides you with an opportunity to learn, but you must be willing to invest effort to find the lesson. 
  1. Celebrate successes. Show that you truly value your leaders, your peers, and yourself by celebrating the successes that are earned in the workplace. Don’t be stingy with praise. Recognize others when they’ve truly done a great job, and they’ll be the first in line to do the same for you.

These ideas may seem basic, but each one has helped me immensely on my professional journey. And I’m more thankful than ever for the mentor that taught me so much. Today I celebrate you, Bob Brown, for being an exceptional boss, mentor, leader, and friend.

Happy retirement!



Lisa Hilburn, CPA is a Principal in AC Lordi’s Accounting Services practice. She has provided audit and business advisory services for private, start-up companies and Fortune 100 multinational corporations with industry experience that includes manufacturing, healthcare, pharmaceutical, and not-for-profit companies. She has held key accounting roles for clients, including Consolidation Manager, Director of Accounting & Finance, and Assistant Controller. She also has seven years of Big 4 experience as an Audit Manager for Price Waterhouse. She can be reached at lhilburn@aclordi.com or 610-738-0100.


One thought on “8 Priceless Lessons My First Boss Taught Me

  1. Lisa,

    You are much too kind in your reflections. I know I learned as much from you over the years as you might have from me.


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