*Mavericks can come in many shapes and sizes but if you have spent enough time in the workplace, it is difficult to avoid bumping into one at some point. Your view of the maverick may be decided by the first time you encounter one and they roast your sacred cow over a spit. In which case, you may form a fairly negative opinion of them and their ilk for some time to come. Or, perhaps you have always felt a certain way about something but never dared put it into words. Along comes the maverick who says the unspoken and you have a friend for life.
Being a maverick takes energy – a lot of it. If you are going to manage one, it means you are going to match that energy or figure out ways to co-exist with them productively. Most management lecturers speak of mavericks in terms of “harness”, or “control” or “limit the damage”. These terms seem fairly negative and suggest mavericks are like tornado’s – buy insurance and keep a cellar close by. I think mavericks are among the most valuable of teammates because they are a living conscience that always asks questions, make suggestions, and challenges the status quo.
Managing mavericks means that if your preferred method of communication is subliminal messaging, you are going to get run over in no time. Mavericks force managers to communicate much better and explain why things are the way they are, which is good for everyone. Mavericks are also not too impressed by rank. Good managers who don’t wear that on their sleeve and have their ego’s dialed in should be able to pass that test easily.
Believe it or not, mavericks need defending. Since they don’t often resemble the rest of the crew in thought or deed, they can quickly be targeted as being “different”, which can be a death sentence in an organization. Their contribution is in their willingness to contribute, something many teammates will never have.
Mavericks can be blunt, tough to love, and expect high standards from everyone. The biggest drawback to mavericks is their tendency to be viewed as a bully or “harassing” to their teammates, depending on your ability to deal with them. Judith German of “Troublesome Talent” noted that while many leaders use influence and reputation to get things done, mavericks tend to use their own determination and their own expertise. They can be jealous hoarders of their own skills and care little for the hurts and inconveniences of others.
The list of accomplishments for the mavericks and dissenters in the world is long and illustrious. Change sometimes only comes when someone has the drive to break away from the comfort of the herd and forge a new direction. Above all, show your mavericks respect by not ignoring them. Acknowledge all their behaviors, good and bad, and make sure that they are a part of every team you put together. They will speak the truth.
*The “Real” Maverick, James Garner, passed away July 19, 2014, at the age of 86. Mr. Garner served in Korea, where at the age of 23, he was wounded twice, receiving two Purple Hearts and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge.