Employees are not robots. They might be twenty years from now, but they’re not right now. Everyone who works for you is a living, breathing human being with thoughts, feelings, and emotions. They also have unique personalities. They might be introverts or extroverts. Some of them will be natural-born leaders who will progress up the ranks during their time with your company. Others will excel within their role, but feel quite happy to stay there because they’re happy at their level.
Outside of those normal parameters, you’ll find the mavericks, and they’re the most difficult types of employees to deal with. They can be moody and mercurial. They can be wildly unpredictable, too. On their best day, they can be the single best employee anywhere within your organization, but at their worst, they can be disruptive and downright disobedient. Having a maverick working for you is a little bit like having a mobile slots game in your office. Some days you’ll give your mobile slots game money, and it will give you absolutely nothing in return. On other days you’ll put the bare minimum into your mobile slots game, and it will pay out far more than you put into it. That’s frustrating for the exact same reasons that it’s exciting when you’re playing online slots, but it doesn’t mean they’re unmanageable.
Getting the best out of your maverick employees requires nuance, nous, and understanding from you as their leader, but it’s rewarding when you get it right. Both Steve Jobs and Richard Branson match the standard definition of a maverick, and you’d be thrilled if you discovered anyone in their mold within your organization! Here are a few principles to work with if you want to make the most of their talents.
Listen To Their Feedback
It’s important that your authority should be respected and maintained, but that doesn’t mean you should shut yourself off to feedback when someone gives it to you. Mavericks are more outspoken than most, and they’re also more likely to recognize when something’s a bad idea long before anyone else does. If you know you have a maverick on their hands, listen to their objections and ideas about projects, and give them the time to explore their own vision on how a task should be done. You don’t have to agree with them or bow to the way they want to do things every time, but just allowing them to feel that they’re being heard is generally enough to keep them onside. A maverick might be able to see an obstacle that you’ve missed, or visualize a faster way of achieving the same goal. It’s in your interests to hear that feedback.
Build Them A Role
We’ve already accepted that mavericks aren’t the same as the rest of your employees. They don’t think the same way, and they may not work the same way within a pre-ordained structure. Instead of seeing that as an issue, consider that the maverick way of thinking is often a route to success in business. It’s very common for a maverick to excel in one particular aspect of a job – usually the element that interests or excites them most – but underperform in other areas. If it’s possible to do so, create a role for them that involves more of the work they enjoy, and less of the work they hate. They’re not always great team players, but they can work wonders if they’re put in a position to deliver the things that they are great at.
Deal In Aspirations
This comes back to the point that employees are not robots, and mavericks are less like robots than any of your other employees. In their minds, if you give them not only an end goal to work to but also a set of instructions on how to get there and a series of checkpoints to hit along the way, you might as well do the work yourself. The maverick mind is a creative one, and they relish devising their own solutions to problems. The best way to manage a maverick is to give them an end goal to work toward, and then leave it up to them to decide how to get there. Tell them you want to be kept informed of their progress, and stress that your door is open to them if they want ideas or feedback, but aside from that, leave them in control of their own destiny. Often, they’ll come up with a way to succeed at the task in hand that you hadn’t even considered.
Be Patient With Them
Your maverick employee is likely to be in your office more often than an average employee is, and it won’t always be for a good reason. Mavericks can rub other employees up the wrong way, and get into conflicts. They can also become frustrated far more quickly than the average worker. There will probably be times when it feels like they’re more trouble than they’re worth, but it’s up to you to recognize whether or not that’s the case. If they’re effective, and the work they do benefits the company, then they’re worth keeping hold of. It therefore falls on you to exercise patient leadership with them when you’re dealing with them. It may not even occur to a maverick that their behavior might be abrasive or upsetting to their colleagues. A patient explanation delivered in a way that a maverick can rationalize is usually enough to help them change their ways. Don’t just tell them what the rules are, tell them why the rules exist. Mavericks don’t accept authority without questioning it, but they’ll generally accept it once they’re questions have been answered. It’s not that they can’t work inside a structure – they just need to understand why the structure is there in the first place.
Sometimes, your maverick employee will simply be too disruptive to keep hold of, and you’ll have to let them go. Most of the time, though, it’s just a matter of adapting your approach to their individual mindset and harnessing their unique talents. Don’t forget that it’s often hard for a maverick to find a job that they love and feel valued within. If you can provide that to them, you’ll find they’re generally extremely loyal and committed.