People who constantly challenge the status quo and refuse to follow the rules can be a headache for managers. They can disrupt teams, cause conflict and block progress with important projects.
Maverick employees are, however, often among the most creative and talented people on the team. So what do managers need to do to channel the energies of these unconventional people and maximise their contribution to the business?
1. Don’t try and make them fit the mould
You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Trying to make a maverick conform will only make them more determined to flout convention and sidestep the system. Recognise that they are different and that the alternative perspective they bring can be valuable. It can be a challenge, but it is possible to find ways to manage mavericks in a way that meets their needs and preserves the sanity of the people who have to work with them
2. Harness their energy
The key to getting the most out of your maverick employee is to direct their energy in a positive way. Find out what they are really passionate and excited about and give them projects to pursue in those areas. Make it clear that you welcome their ‘out of the box’ ideas and views on how things might be done differently. Sometimes, just giving ‘airtime’ to their ideas is enough to make them feel their contribution is valued.
3. Listen to them
Maverick employees often break rules or ignore processes because they simply don’t see the point of them. This can be very irritating and disruptive for everyone else, but look carefully at what they are fighting against. Often, they are the first people to see why a process is unnecessary or not working in the way it should. If they think you’re wasting time or heading in the wrong direction, they may well be right.
4. Give feedback
If a maverick employee is behaving really badly, you can’t leave them unchallenged. But rather than tear them off a strip for disruptive behaviour, take a coaching approach. Often, people don’t realise that others find their behaviour annoying or difficult or that their actions are seriously hampering progress. Carefully constructed feedback and guidance can help them find ways to temper their behaviour and get their point across in a non-confrontational manner.
5. Be in their corner
Maverick employees are often forceful in their arguments and their challenging behaviour can often result in them being ostracised by the rest of the team. If they become isolated, bored or feel their contribution is not noticed, they will probably take their talents elsewhere, and although you may give a sigh of relief, it will be a loss to the business. So stand up for their ideas when you can and try and help others see how their contribution is making a real difference. If they feel you are on their side, they are less likely to make your life unnecessarily difficult.
Maverick employees can be a blessing and a curse – but if you can develop good rapport and work with their strengths, you will be able to reap the benefits of their creative talents and boundless energy.