He is abrasive, disruptive and a total individualist. He will not fit in with any one group. His is to challenge and push others to think differently.
She marches to her own beat, is irreverent of organizational control and cannot work as a team.
Fire them, say the bosses!
Welcome to the maverick at work, and every manager’s nightmare.
Risk taking, pundits say, is a leadership skill to be celebrated. As are independent thinking, creative problem solving, quick decision making, goal-oriented focus and execution and, yes courage under fire.
Whoa, wait a minute…Aren’t these the same traits mavericks display? So why do we slap them with unflattering labels such as unbridled indiscipline, disrespectful of team spirit or dysfunctional aggression? And where does that place people like Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Ricardo Semmler et al?
I read an interesting association of mavericks to the Pareto’s Principle – mavericks tend to be 20 per cent of the most talented employees, causing 80 per cent of the organization’s problems. Which means, if companies do not harness this talent they are likely to lose productivity and increase their liabilities.
So how do we manage a maverick?
The fundamental trick is to rewrite the rulebook – yes, sometimes individuals are more important than the team.
We need to acknowledge that it is mutual respect and not formal authority that will create rapport. We need to be a guide to them, willing to listen and have a dialog, letting them know that we respect them. Once this is achieved, they will be more than willing to be reminded that there are organizational limits and goals that define them
Mavericks do not set out to be obstructive or obnoxious – they simply are not aware of the ripples they cause. They need to hear feedback, and will take it with the import it deserves as long as they feel that it focuses on how they are doing. And it is not just about bad behavior – keep them appreciated and valued too
The maverick is vulnerable – he does not belong to any one group, and hence is bereft of group support. As a manager, champion and support his contributions, not his bad behavior.
The essence of true talent management is to walk the tightrope of encouragement and positive restraint of wild independence to keep the employees engaged and productive. The maverick’s contribution to an organization can be in multiples of what a conventional “Exceeds Expectations” performer can! We need to have the discretionary wisdom to sift the “difficult low performer” from the “maverick high performer”. Do not exclude the maverick from talent programs because of his behavior; do not pass her up for promotion despite her expertise and ability only because she is seen to be unpredictable.
In the current climate where businesses ask their employees to do more with less, three unique traits of mavericks will be the game changers – high self esteem, confidence and dislike for failure.
S/he is willing to take the risk. Are you?