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Friday, 30 July, 2021
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Purpose and the Maverick

Purpose and the Maverick. I was working with a client, exploring his Why?”. We’ve heard about Simon Sinek’s bestseller, Start with Why. A sense of purpose is a core tenet of strong, positive leadership. So what were we exploring, beyond his focus on why he does what he does? We were exploring why he does what he does THE WAY HE DOES IT.  

My client is a Socialised Maverick, [1] and so am I. He chose me as his coach because he wanted to work on his leadership behaviours with someone who “got” him.

Mavericks share some key behavioural traits, the most immediately apparent being our “wilful independence” [2]. There are other elements of common ground, which can act as a shortcut when working with another Maverick. There can be shared assumptions, common approaches, even words we use the same.  

That makes it OK, then, doesn’t it? Coaching a fellow Maverick to find his purpose must be a cinch, right?

No.

It is a professional basic that a coach NEVER assumes anything about their client. It’s a coach’s duty to keep challenging, testing and helping the client to explore their thoughts and decisions. It is therefore way harder work to coach a client as a fellow Maverick than a non-Maverick client. This takes great concentration, not just to be present and courageous for your client. It also takes a huge amount of concentration, to focus on everything your Maverick client says and does in the coaching session, and to examine and evaluate everything you do, in response.

This is never more important than when your client is discussing their purpose. Just because you share a lot of shorthand with that client, their purpose or “Why?” will be very different from yours. This became a very pressing challenge in some of the coaching conversations with this particular client.

With this young entrepreneur, his issue wasn’t his lack of purpose. He has purpose in abundance and, happily, so much of it is focused on sustainability and mitigating the environmental crisis that faces us all right now. The problem we discussed, however, related to how he manifests that purpose – his behaviours.

Even Socialised Mavericks can overcook it sometimes. In my client’s case, he was getting really frustrated about his customers and their lack of sustainability awareness. It had led to some tense exchanges, and my client was worried that he may have overstepped the courtesy boundaries. He had lapsed into Extreme Maverick [3], driven by frustration that polite entreaties were not having any impact on the customer’s fondness for foreign travel and airmiles. Pointing that out, in heated terms, appeared to have endangered their business relationship.

As someone who has been working to support environmental campaigns for over 30 years, I found this understandable, even acceptable. It would have been so easy to sympathise and agree with the client that his customers were behaving in an entitled and negligent way, jetting off to the sun at the drop of a hat. Why weren’t they giving some of that holiday fund to environmental charities, instead of creating their own CO2 cloud!?

You see the problem? We could have had a chat, agreeing violently and ranting and railing against his customer. Cathartic, maybe, but utterly unprofessional and not morally great either, given I was charging him for the coaching.

So my task was to challenge my client on his behaviour. Specifically, I had to help him to understand how to dial up and down his Maverick behaviours, so he could understand his trigger points and understand when he could safely use all his Maverick skills and attributes to serve his customers, and even help them to educate themselves, and still keep back from the brink of hectoring them. 

It’s a happy ending. Through some probing questions, some relentless challenge, and a lot of honesty, this client now has a set of techniques he can use.  We got him to a place where he can balance passion for his purpose, and his Maverick behaviours and how they help him manifest that passion. And his customer? Lockdown has limited their carbon emissions for a year now, so hopefully they will have a think about what my client’s been saying … now he has ways of saying it in a way which won’t offend.

This has been a good bit of learning about my Maverick coaching style. “All lovely learning”, as my tutor used to say. Being a Maverick is a joy and a privilege – but as a coach, it’s bloomin’ hard work sometimes!

Footnote

[1], [3] Socialised and Extreme Maverick – Judith Germain – The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders PublishNation 2017

[2] Wilful Independence – Judith Germain’s definition of a Maverick since 2005

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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