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Thursday, 7 December, 2023

Knowing your Maverick self

Knowing your Maverick self – how we show up with profiling tools.

How well do you know yourself? We all like to think we know ourselves really well. We might also know a lot of our own strengths, foibles and development areas. 

That might not actually be true. And that’s hard for some of us to face … others might actually know us better than we know ourselves.

Sometimes it might be our family. Maybe it’s our friends. On other occasions, it might be our colleagues and co-workers. They probably actually see us for longer each day than our friends and family!  

That’s something to think about.

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you believe yourself to be a Maverick in some way (or someone else does and has pointed you in the right direction!). We Mavericks are marked out by our wilful independence [1] of thought and action. That can be inspiring for some and maddening for others.  

For Extreme Mavericks, that will never be their problem – people can take them or leave them.  However, for Socialised Mavericks, it matters to us that we get along with folk, so that we can see our plans come to fruition. We need to know that people have valued what we have to say, because it’s different and adds that extra something to the team endeavour.

The difficult truth is, however, that Mavericks can be really irritating to some people in the workplace. The folk we really tick off are the theorists, the people who have a real inbuilt need to follow the rules. We also can irritate the pants off people who like to follow a set process.  

Even in the transparency of the Maverick world, where everything is spelled out for clarity, perceptions can lay the foundation for misunderstandings. And if there’s misunderstandings, there may be miscommunication. Poor workplace communication is often at the root of low morale, poor motivation and ultimately poor productivity.

Tried asking?

Knowing your Maverick self, and to know others around you, you could ask the people around you what they think of how you behave. They may well want the best for you and therefore be helpful with their feedback. They may also feel awkward about giving you feedback about things you do that you ought to either do better, do less, or indeed stop altogether! This may not be easy for them, or welcome for you as a wilfully independent thinker. Why should you fit their template, after all?

So asking for direct feedback may well be a Maverick trait, because we’re always curious and want to improve things … including ourselves. However, that doesn’t mean it is a trait which actually benefits us – or the people giving the feedback

There is a better way to know yourself.

How would it be if you could ask for objective feedback in a way that is anonymous, easy to do, and which explains the implications of the feedback to you. Sounds good, right? Well, that means you might like to consider taking a behavioural profile assessment.  

There are a wide range out there on the market, but most of them focus on psychology-based descriptions of tendencies, preferences or “styles” as they are often known. Most are structured as some form of online questionnaire.

After the online questionnaire is completed, you should receive a report, generated by highly complex algorithms to match your answers against the preferences, tendencies or “styles” of the particular profiling tool you’re using. This report will give you feedback on how you are likely to behave in given situations. The report is likely to give you feedback on how others might see you, particularly if they have a different “style” from yours. What’s more, the report can give you priceless new insights into how you do what you do, and why others react to you as they do.

Following on from this, you might well think that, if everyone in your team had this profile, the level of mutual understanding and clarity of communication would skyrocket. And you might well be right.  

How might this be?

Well, for one thing, everyone having the same profiling assessment applied to them would give you all a common language with which to describe one another’s actions and behaviours. In addition, you would all have reports which offer an independent, objective lens through which to view yourselves. Finally, you would all have a way to understand the impact of your actions on one another.

And for most people in the workplace, this is where it stops. They buy a profile for themselves, probably for their team, possibly for a wider group or the whole organisation. They build a common language. They create new ways to understand old behaviours.  

Can you spot the problem? It can homogenise your team understanding, where everything goes from the old-school “grey” to a new, inoffensive “vanilla”. It may contain truths, but it doesn’t help Mavericks, because of the affinity bias potentially at play. Affinity bias is the source of the “he’s one of us” mentality that results in firms recruiting people who appear all the same. This lack of diversity stifles innovation and, ultimately, productivity. This is why Mavericks are so crucial to the workplace. It is also why sometimes Mavericks struggle with profiling tools.  

This is because Mavericks may well show up with extreme answers, showing high or intense preferences for particular behaviours. The algorithms used to create these reports are not ready for some of our wilfulness! Mavericks can, in my experience, tend to try to “game” profiling tools. We will either try to moderate or dial-down our more extreme preferences or we will try to focus on something particularly important to us. This may skew all the findings and make the report hard to understand and apply.

Knowing your Maverick self

So, does this mean Mavericks can’t be assessed using the standard profiling tools? I would argue No.  

Mavericks’ independence is their strength, so that is the lens through which their contribution should be viewed. Focusing on the strengths and impact evaluations is going to be far more profitable and meaningful for Mavericks than it will be if they take the whole report purely at face value. Mavericks’ unique thought processes and approaches make us a real asset to any team. Any coach interpreting a Maverick’s profile should ensure that the profile reinforces that.  

If they don’t, change your coach!

Astrid Davies
Astrid Davieshttps://astriddaviesconsulting.com/
Astrid Davies MA is an Executive Coach and change consultant who uses her 30 years of leadership experience to help her clients make positive changes which last. She is a mentor and guest lecturer at the University of Southampton, including supporting their Enactus chapter for social entrepreneurs. She also runs a series of successful leadership training networking events across the South of England, where she helps young professionals to build an ethical and effective leadership career alongside their professional development. A passionate champion of diverse and sustainable workplaces, Astrid integrates several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals into her client projects. If you would like to find out more, please go to www.astriddaviesconsulting.com.

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