Port Vale boss Andy Crosby says his side is still evolving and remains in its infancy - as is his management.
Crosby is in his first manager's job having replaced Darrell Clarke permanently in May following an spell in interim charge.
After suffering a 7-0 defeat in their first game of the League One season, Vale are 17th, three points clear of the relegation zone.
"I think we've evolved a bit as we've gone along," Crosby, 50, said.
Although this season marks his first as a senior manager, Crosby has had a taste of taking charge in the dugout with Vale during an interim spell when Clarke took a three-month break following the death of his daughter in 2022.
Clarke returned to build on Crosby's work and guide the side to promotion via the play-offs.
When Clarke was sacked in April, Crosby was given the job permanently at the end of last term.
Oakwell was a 'freak'
But a sobering introduction to life in League One as a boss followed on the opening day of this season as his side were thrashed at Oakwell.
Looking back on that result, Crosby told BBC Radio Stoke, it was a real wake-up call.
"It was a bit of a freak. But they were ruthless and we certainly didn't defend to the level that was required - it was a 'welcome to League One' for everyone," he said.
"There were pleasing things about that game but it's very hard to come out and say that when you've been pumped 7-0.
"It was important to park it, take notes, and review it honestly. If you want to improve you have to be honest and there were things in that game that we didn't get right.
"We had a really good conversation on that Monday and moved on. We had to, we were playing 24 hours later - that's the good thing, there's always another game."
The fall-out from the Barnsley result also showed Crosby the sense of togetherness in the squad and club.
"The support for us throughout the whole group and club was immense," he said.
"For me, whether it was from [co-owner] Carol [Shanahan] or [director of football] Dave [David Flitcroft] or the players contacting me on the night of that game apologizing to me for what had happened, we had to support each other.
"It said a lot about the group that they were really disappointed and shell-shocked.
"For some it was their first game for the club and others their first game in professional football. It was almost welcome to real world. It tests you and see if you can come back."
Crosby sees 'shoots' of recovery and growth
Vale did come back from that defeat with a nine-match unbeaten run and, although they have not won a league game since mid-September, the club have won through to the quarter-final of the EFL Cup for the first time.
Crosby knows his side have a long way still to go but is encouraged by what he has sees as "green shoots" of development.
"I think we're still at the shoots stage now," he said.
"We're still in that infancy. Were there shoots in that first part of the season? Of course and there's still only shoots now but hopefully the grass is longer now and the turf's a bit thicker."
Crosby says that assessment also applies to him.
"I've been an assistant manager for a long time. You prepare yourself for what you think the ups and downs of this job are," he said.
"You're tying to find that balance between not getting too high or too low with a win or loss.
"My message to the players when I first took over was that I was going to be 100% honest.
"How I deliver that and how they accept that are two different things but I want them to be able to say the gaffer was always honest with me, whether I liked it or not.
"I want them to be the best they possibly can. If we can improve all the players and grow as a club it probably means I'm being a more successful manager."