Adaptability: The key to Managing your Manager

Prior to going to grad school, I spent a year working as a business analyst in one of the multinational management consulting firms in Nigeria. As a 25-year old, fresh out of college, I had thought of pursuing a career in management consulting. During the first two weeks of orientation, I was both excited and overwhelmed. Lots of materials and information were presented by the company’s top and middle management folks who also took time to share their own experience and secrets to success in the firm. “You need to develop skills to manage your manager’s expectations” was a common thread in the advice they all gave. Managing your manager” quickly became a slogan among the junior analysts we started together in the firm. I soon realized that my success and growth in this firm is closely tied to my ability to meet/exceed my immediate supervisor’s evaluation/perception of my performance and adapt to a fast-paced environment. About six month later, I had my first performance review with my direct supervisor.

Ever since then, this phrase has become an important watch word as I pursue career success while working with several leaders/managers across multiple organizations. Adaptability is an important people skill you need to master as you grow your career. Your ability to understand and manage expectations and personalities makes it easy for you to work with different types of leaders/managers that comes your way. Daniel was an administrator who started his career in the ancient Babylonian empire (Daniel 1). His excellence and ability to adapt to different leaderships ensured his relevance in six other political administrations, including the Persian civilization. In your career, you will meet and work with different supervisors/managers with different personalities, styles of leadership/management (bureaucratic, autocratic, transformational, Laissez-Faire, strategic, to name a few), and requirements for success. Your ability to adapt will determine the types opportunities for growth and advancement that comes your way. Knowledge, skills, and certifications can get your feet in the door, but adaptability will ensure your relevance in the market place for years to come.

Hmmm….and about that first performance evaluation with the firm…. I received “exceeding expectations” rating on all aspects of the evaluation. But while discussing the evaluation, my manager gave an unsolicited and off-the-record advice: Tolu, you are smart and your research skills are off the charts…you should consider applying to grad schools in North America! – That story is for another day.