Making the most of your Mavericks


With the instantaneous nature of today’s world, big business can no longer rely on the status quo in order to maintain market share. Here in the digital age things are changing rapidly and in order to keep up you need two things; agility and independent thinking.

See to be truly good, you need to go beyond just ‘keeping up’. You need to be setting the pace, the agenda and the outcomes and to do this you need employees that are willing to challenge conventional thinking at every opportunity.

These are your mavericks…and your biggest asset.

Over the past few months the world lost a number of mavericks including musical powerhouses David Bowie and Prince. They broke the four-piece cookie cutter mould prevalent in the industry at the time and led a generation to redefine what music truly meant.

Sir Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Elon Musk – all household names that certainly didn’t achieve their success executing against someone else’s agenda. What they share is an innate drive to break rules and challenge the concept of implausibility – attributes sadly not encouraged or celebrated in most businesses today.

The fear with maverick behaviour is that it will somehow derail the gravy train. That by taking a risk – any risk – we threaten the foundation upon which our business was built. With monthly budgets to hit and a five-year strategy to map against, that theory isn’t entirely unfounded. We leave such little room in our plans for this kind of untamed thinking that we not only remove any possibility of being able to invest in innovation, we reinforce that message to staff by linking their performance to a series of set-in-stone metrics.

Obviously business outcomes need to track back to an overarching strategy, but perhaps there’s also room to add an innovation or thought leadership metric into staff key performance indicators. This concept is supported by Muru-D Accelerator entrepreneur Mick Liubinskas who told Banjo:

“Work out how you can reward the process of innovation through financial and other rewards to make sure innovation is in the team’s blood”.

And here’s the crux. While big ideas are good, collaboration is just as important.

A recent study by Jackson and Gardiner identified low agreeableness as one of the main predictors of maverickism which can obviously be problematic in a team environment. The good news is that mavericks are also known for their openness so they are generally happy to receive input and feedback from their peers. They’re also incredibly perseverant which can pay dividends in keeping a team focussed in pursuit of an outcome. Yes, your mavericks may cause you some grief, but the pros far outweigh the cons.

Businesses need to be brave. Just because something isn’t broken, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be picked, poked at and pulled apart in search of improvements. Perhaps Sir Richard Branson said it best when he stated “Sometimes the riskiest decision you can make is to do nothing.”

To develop a truly innovative culture and to be at the top of your game, you must harness your mavericks and provide an environment in which their ideas and enthusiasm for change can thrive.

So in the famous words off the late, great Steve Jobs:

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square hole. The ones who see things differently …”


Mick Liubinskas:

Jackson and Gardiner research:

Categories: Leadership, Organisation

Tags: , , , , ,

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