“How was your first week in the new job?”  I was eager to hear how Carl’s week went.

“Pretty good.  I actually did more than I thought I’d do,” he said.  I heard a sense of pride and satisfaction in his voice.

“I expected to observe during my first week, and then slowly work up to interacting with clients.  But, my mentor insisted I jump in.  I didn’t think I was ready, but I did it.  I actually enjoyed the challenge after I got over being nervous,” he explained.

“My mentor,” he hesitated, “is pretty tough.  He’s a really hard worker.  He’s serious about the business.  He starts early and stays late.  Since he’s training me, I had to change my schedule to coincide with his.  He wants me to do everything the job involves.”

This conversation took me back in time. Suddenly, there they were, the two most difficult managers I ever worked for.  They seemed impossible to please.  Unreasonable. Inhumane.  I thought they didn’t respect or trust me. I was certain they were determined to make my life miserable.  They pushed me hard.  

I loved my job, but I did NOT love either of them. For a long time, whenever I heard either of their names, I cringed and felt angry and wronged.  Then, one day a former colleague mentioned them and I noticed something miraculous:  I felt no negative emotional charge.  My anger and resentment were gone.  Instead, I was able to talk about what these two challenging bosses taught me. 

It took a long while, but I got there.  I had moved to a good place where I was free of toxic negativity and able to openly acknowledge the contributions these two very challenging men made to my development. 

Each manager, in his own way, helped me become a more competent professional; one who completes her work with care and a mind for excellence.  And each of them helped me see how important it is to understand what your boss wants and needs from you.  And, as long as it’s legal and moral, how much better it makes your life if you give it to them.  Why? Because helping your boss feel comfortable with your competence increases her confidence and trust in you.  With high confidence and trust as the foundation for your relationship, good things happen.  People promote and support those they trust and believe in.  

Do you have a challenging boss?  Or, maybe your challenge is with a colleague or a client?  Whoever it is, whatever the relationship, that person is in your life for a very good reason.  What can you learn from this teacher?  Though not initially recognized as such, rest assured, your teachers always come bearing valuable gifts that will serve you well.