The Maverick as Coach

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The Maverick as coach. “It takes all sorts to make a world” is often used to explain away difference, even to excuse someone behaving in a way which is outside narrow social norms. For Mavericks, this can sometimes mean someone doesn’t get the point of that difference. The definition of a Maverick is a ‘wilfully independent person’ [1]. So when someone is excusing that wilful independence in some way, they are denying the purposefulness, the opportunities and the very variance which makes Mavericks so valuable.

The difference is the point for Mavericks.

Never more so than with Maverick coaches. Coaching has been proven to contribute to personal, team and organisational performance improvement. Its benefits reach way beyond the business workplace, however. I have seen it work its magic with families in crisis, teenagers at risk of becoming criminalised, medical professionals at the top of their field, academics at one of the loftiest universities in the world … coaching has infinite possibilities to help people, because there is an infinite range of different people both to be coached and to coach.

So Maverick coaches, just by their difference, actually belong at the heart of the coaching community. This in and of itself makes Maverick coaching an interesting concept.

Allow me to share an example of how this has worked for me. Recently, I was commissioned for a coaching contract with a large organisation, where they needed a “challenging” coach. The description pleased me. Once the contract had begun, I asked precisely what the commissioner had meant. “Well,” he said, with increasing discomfort and shifting in his seat, “you know, strong, and not taking any prisoners and, well, you do think differently, don’t you?”.

And that’s the point.

I think differently, and I coach differently. I may use good old tried-and-tested coaching methodologies, but “it’s the way I tell ‘em” as the late Irish comic Frank Carson used to say.

I am “other”.

I have come to the Maverick definition late in life, but it feels like home. I choose to be “other”, purely because it’s the easiest way to be, for me. My partner thinks it must be exhausting, thinking the way I do, doing things the way I do them.

It isn’t.

I know no other way. I know no other way to do everything that I do, so it isn’t a (self) conscious effort.

It simply is how it is.

I work hard to be the best coach that I possibly can. The trick is, I don’t do that best, the way others do theirs. So I will bring something odd, weird-and-wonderful, unusual or downright funky into the mix. It’s that which has made me successful in a variety of careers over 30 years. It’s that which makes the difference for me now as a Maverick Coach.

In the coaching relationship, a client needs to feel comfortable enough to take risks. Often, I find people are choosing a coach because they are “lovely” or “really supportive”. The emphasis is on the coach’s personality, rather than the efficacy of their coaching and the purposeful rapport they build with the client. I am unsure what flavour of Maverick I am, but I genuinely don’t mind whether my clients like me. The point is, they need to trust me, so that they can work with me to embark on their personal change journey safe in the knowledge I won’t let them fall back into old ways or harmful behaviours. At my complimentary intake session, I am always open about the fact I am what they see and will always be so, so there’s no use expecting bland.

I am happy to refer to less unusual coaches.

As a Maverick Coach, I will be challenging, focused and grounded, as all good coaches are. I will, however, also be brave for my client, idiosyncratic in my questioning style (enabling the client to think very differently) and oddly enthusiastic about some elements of the client’s success which the client themselves may consider minor or even random. However, as their Maverick coach, I will understand this success holds the key to a whole new world of opportunities, previously locked away by the client’s conventional thinking habits.

When a client achieves their coaching goals by following a route which was unexpected, it makes the change they achieve embed all the more. Workplaces which adopt coaching thrive and are more healthy, productive and innovative. When you throw Maverick coaching into the mix, you add in unexpected perspectives, which result in exciting new consequences.

Whether clients use this Maverick-influenced approach in their strategic planning, their project delivery or their basic operational task execution, they yield benefits which go far beyond the bottom line. Leaders and their teams display greater engagement, enthusiasm for the shared vision, and creativity in how they deliver it.

This is where the magic happens.

As a result of this creativity, bold leaps can be taken by traditional organisations, because their people have been inspired by a touch of the Maverick mindset. Those people want to stay and create this brave new world (lowering turnover costs and related “brain drain” expertise loss). A whole new workplace ecology can be created, simply by adopting new ways of thinking, which are sometimes seen as just a bit “other”.

So I would argue that being “other” is a splendid advantage as a coach. Being odd, different, or that good old chestnut of a backhanded compliment, “unique”, actually enrich the coaching process for client and coach alike. When the client discovers how to think in different ways, to get unexpected but welcome results, that’s when I know the Maverick mindset has rubbed off. Another bit of otherness in the world.

And that’s very good thing in my book.

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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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