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Home Maverick DRIVEN Leadership™ Maverick Leadership The career strategy of a maverick - part 2

The career strategy of a maverick – part 2

The career strategy of a maverick – part 2, comparing successful surfers with struggling surfers.

It was so obvious to me when I compared and contrasted the two “surfer” types: successful and struggling. The struggling performer/surfer is so spent of energy, having invested it in a failing wave, that they become negative and start to think like a victim – “I’ve given this wave my all. I’ve been loyal and committed to making it a success. Now no one cares.”

In fact, they seek out others who sound and behave like they do. Unfortunately, this is where they get most of their advice from, which only makes things worse. Their Hubs (influential individuals in their network) are like-minded folk, and they have little energy or interest in expanding their network outside of their own beliefs. The wave they are on is fast becoming irrelevant to the organisation, so they spend lots of energy telling the organisation that it is wrong! The organisation’s response to this creates an overpowering sense of injustice in them, driving their behaviour further below the surface. They go on a crusade doing all the wrong things for the “right” reasons.

For them, at this point, in the trough of the passing wave, they start making even worse decisions (if that’s at all possible). At this point any other wave is better than the one they’re on. They are disconnected from the right Hubs, being advised by other negative people and dismissive of good advice. They try to move away from this place. Every role move they make goes hideously wrong for them, damaging themselves and their brand. The only strategy they have is an “away from” their current predicament. They have no real goal and no vision of themselves.

In contrast to this, the successful mavericks are whooping and shouting about how great life is. They attract attention because of their positivity and energy. They’re riding a brilliant wave and everyone with ambition wants to be with them. People are drawn to the wave they are on and are clamouring to join them and then … they jump to another role that no one saw coming (or may even seem like a backward step). They have left a brilliant wave just before its crest. They have joined another wave that, over time, screams past the previous wave, lifting them higher in the organisation. They do this time and time again.

How do the stellar performers achieve this?

Quite simply, they used the three steps below:

  • Fully understand their own core needs and requirements from any role and no compromises.
  • Be completely responsible, clear and consistent with their own brand, constantly honing it.
  • There absolutely is a secret network operating in their organisation – use it, use it, use it!

Let’s take a brief look at each of the three steps these successful career performers were routinely performing.

# Understand your core needs

It’s important to fully understand the needs that a role must deliver for you (note I said it must deliver for you, not the other way around). We often look at a career opportunity from the perspective of “can I do this job?” but we seldom ask ourselves “will it meet my needs?” If these needs are being properly met, then your performance will be at its peak. I found the mavericks focused not on “do I have the capability to deliver what this role requires?” but instead “will this role meet my requirements?” I initially found this position perplexing and quickly concluded that, to get on in management, you needed to be breathtakingly arrogant!

But it isn’t that simple.

Understanding your own needs from a role perspective turns out to be the most telling driver for your career decision making. Not having this understanding leads to some classic career-killing situations.

# Hone your personal brand

Personal brand is now a hackneyed and over-used phrase. This is mainly because it was pitched as a standalone quick fix to all career issues; plus, it was easy to deliver in a half-day training course, so became the poster child for HR development plans. However, my observation of the successful mavericks was that they didn’t keep mentioning their brand, however, they seemed to have a clear and consistent way to present and project it all the time.

The other thing that was clear was that they made a direct connection between reputation and brand, protecting their reputation as part of their overall brand. The interesting thing about this whole reputation and brand thing was the behaviour of so-called “high flyers”. These folks clearly utilised some of the behaviours of the successful mavericks, but always moved role before the damage they caused caught up with them. This was generally an open secret to the masses, but apparently not to senior managers.

However, karma will get you in the end and ultimately the high flyer’s reputation within the organisation got destroyed by this strategy – although they had usually moved organisation by this point. Unfortunately, for those left behind, the high flyer’s visibility and ultimate demise caused the masses to adopt them as their poster child for “why not to be ambitious”.

# Use the secret network in your own organisation

There is a secret network operating in your organisation. In fact, there are numerous secret societies working 24×7. They are constantly influencing the decisions made that impact you, and can work against you or for you. That is a definite, is provable and can be easily tested.

Now, you can throw your hands in the air, scream “I KNEW IT!!” and blame all your misfortune on this. Or, like ALL secret societies, you can learn the secret handshake.

Finally, and I cannot stress this enough, these three steps are interlinked. Stellar performers use all three together all of the time, and they don’t cherry pick the bits they fancy. So don’t try one aspect in isolation, and don’t use this approach once and turn it off after you see results. Keep using WaveMaker, and you’ll be able to keep the momentum going and achieve maximum results.

Robin Farmer
From Draughtsman in ship building to Engineer in process control to Sales and then people leadership Robin has had a varied and successful career. Focussed on high technology, in large and small organisations, Robin has worked for HP for 12 years, run start-ups and then with Microsoft UK for almost 20 years. This long career coupled to his engineer’s mind has given Robin remarkable insight into the culture and operation of Global Corporations.


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