Office mavericks are easy to spot. They are passionate about their work, imaginative, creative, and willfully independent. They are the type of co-worker who questions everything. They stand up for what they believe in and will happily break all the rules.
Big Five personality profiling would score mavericks high on risk-taking and low on agreeableness, which, as one study from the London School of Economics suggests “might make some hiring managers quite nervous.” Combined with other traits such as openness and creativity, however, they can drive real change in an organization.
In short, mavericks are arrogant, mischievous and a royal pain in the butt. They are also among the company’s top performers. So how do you manage this brilliant loose cannon? Here are some tips.
Give Them a Goal
Mavericks are highly result-oriented. Give them an objective, and they will stop at nothing to achieve it. They are not so great at following a process they consider silly, however, so they'll do their best work when they have the freedom to develop their own rules.
One way to utilize these strengths is by giving mavericks a place to play devil’s advocate — a role where their skepticism and risk-taking can be put to good use, such as revitalizing a stagnant team. Because mavericks are not afraid to upset the apple cart, they will provoke and challenge a dormant team, helping them to think differently.
Set Clear Boundaries
Mavericks are easily frustrated by other people always trying to control them. To marshal the best in mavericks, you’re going to have to back off. The trick is to strike the right balance. If you give a maverick too much leeway, they may run with a plan that isn’t a great fit for the organization.
Avoid this by setting clear expectations. Let a maverick know, for example, that he or she can run with an idea to a specific point, but then must throw it over to the team or bounce ideas off the boss before taking the project any further.
Create a Healthy Forum For Debate
Mavericks are renowned for expressing controversial opinions. An important management responsibility is to create a safe environment where they can ask provocative questions and express disagreement without fear of reprisal.
Creating a healthy forum for debate allows mavericks to ask the “what if” and “why not” questions and explore new ways of thinking. But it also allows more detail-oriented coworkers to analyze the potential downsides and rein in any suggestions that are deemed too radical or too rebellious. The result should be a happy compromise.
Unlike a sporting event, there should be no winners and losers. Even if the team cannot reach a consensus, establishing a culture where ideas are developed, debated and tested should raise everyone’s comfort level with thinking off the edge.
Bring Them Into the Team
Mavericks are strong-willed and thick-skinned. They will stand their ground in defense of their ideas, sometimes to the point of abrasiveness. Their take-no-prisoners attitude is guaranteed to put a few noses out of joint. As such, mavericks can easily become isolated from the team.
To nurture their social intelligence, try enlisting a peer. An open-minded colleague can provide a range of help, from information on handling individual personalities and idiosyncrasies to tips on channeling the maverick's surplus energy for the greater good. The trick is to find a peer who can bring the maverick down to earth and keep them focused on the tasks that need to be done.
Managing the office maverick requires an open mind and a deft hand. But if you work with them rather than against them, they may just catapult your business to the next level. It’s definitely worth the effort!