Traits of a maverick? Being kNowledgeable is the fourth attribute we will look at. There are 6 traits or attributes of a maverick, which is best remembered by the acronym WHINES™. (If you want to browse some information on Mavericks – take a look at our sister site: maverickparadox.com).
Here is a short video that briefly highlights the attributes of a maverick:
We’ve looked at the Wilful Intention, Honest Belief and Being Influential. If you want a reminder of the first three articles, click below.
Traits of a Maverick? Being kNowledgeable … Here’s an excerpt from The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders …
“N is for kNowledgeable
It is an obvious fact that your ability to influence others is hindered if you are not knowledgeable in your chosen field. Another essential fact is that without exception, all mavericks are concerned with getting their own way (regardless of how open or covert they are with this intention), so they are always considering what tools they need, to become more influential than they already are.
David was 17 years old and had just begun his first real job in an insurance company. He had been hired as an administrator (a job that he found enjoyable although pathetically easy and not at all intellectually stimulating); even though he knew he would tire of the job within a few months. There was a lot of potential within the company and the career path was a good one. David knew that he was not prepared to wait years to have a position of authority or influence in the company, so he considered his options.
Firstly, he considered the Section Managers in the department. He contemplated their various strengths and weaknesses.
Some of the things that he considered were as follows:
- Which managers were good at their jobs, and respected in them?
- Which specialisms were they good at?
- Which were helpful and willing to teach him the ropes?
- Which employees were likely to get jealous or obstructive as his knowledge grew?
- Whether his Section Manager would get upset (and if so, how to handle this), when he sought other people’s advice or knowledge.
David then considered his administrator role. What was its function and dependencies? Which people, or departments, were affected by his work output? What was the composition of the role?
By deliberating on his role, David realised that there was an aspect of the role that had an unmovable 2-week task that the whole office depended on. This task happened mid-month every month. The other 2 weeks were spent completing his other tasks.
David was blessed with three things. The first was that his Department Manager was a Socialised Maverick, who was prepared to ignore convention and allow David to step outside his role and move into or learn other areas as an exercise of potential opportunities and perhaps future successes. The Socialised Maverick manager took a calculated risk on him.
The previous incumbent of the role was considered very good in her job, but David could see that she was inefficient. She dragged out many aspects of the role so that she could work at an extremely leisurely pace. The third thing about the role was that the tasks were not an intellectual challenge for him. It would not take him long before he was considered extremely knowledgeable.
By his third month, David knew all aspects of his role and could be relied on to complete it accurately. David then moved towards making it ‘lean’. He removed any processes that were no longer necessary or were long winded, reducing them only to essential parts. He mapped the tasks’ dependencies and where possible moved them around in the month to make the task more efficient. (For example, during his mid-month task he was very busy and the other 2 weeks he had hardly anything to do. He moved some of the non-essential tasks from mid-month to other times in the month).
David also got to know the people in the other departments who had an impact on his role. He became friends with them and learned how their jobs worked and how he could make it easier for them. He nurtured and developed strong networks across the office, understanding that these networks would become essential as his own career progressed.
By month four David was deliberately completing his administrator role early leaving him with lots of empty days to fill. He approached Marcus, one of the other Section Managers that he had identified as good at and respected in their role. Marcus was keen and friendly and David asked Marcus to teach him, Marcus’ own role. (David avoided his own Section Manager, who wanted to fill David’s day with filing and photocopying).
David’s attentions flattered Marcus and he readily agreed to teach him how to underwrite. Soon David was learning the different aspects of underwriting and needed very little supervision. David approached his contacts in the Claims department and began learning how to process and decide a claim. He realised that if you knew the things that a claim handler considered when deciding a claim, then it would make you a better underwriter. He was surprised that no one had exploited this obvious connection before.
David did two more things. He began studying for the Insurance exams so that he could gain some academic knowledge, and he developed close links with the Insurance Agents and Claims Handlers that worked directly with the customer. He developed a good understanding of their roles and the impact that it had on the office staff. David continued to work with different Section Managers to learn different aspects and specialisms of the role. He continued to complete his administrator role diligently and efficiently.
In a relatively short time David moved from being a very knowledgeable underwriter to an expert in underwriting. By the time, he was 18 he had been given the underwriting authority of a Section Manager and had lost all his administrator responsibilities.
In the above example, David wanted to move away from a basic administrator role into one with more responsibility. He quickly surmised that he needed to rapidly increase his knowledge in an area that was considered (by others), complex and difficult to learn. His age would be against him, as well as the industry’s culture. In the insurance culture having Section Manager underwriting authority would normally take at least 5 years to achieve. This knowledge activated his wilful intention, making him determined to achieve the influence and authority he desired. David perceived that this would give him the challenge that he needed to truly enjoy his job and stay with the company.
David was not just knowledgeable in his subject area he was also aware of the experience and touch points that he needed to know and experience to be better at his job.
Therefore, being extremely knowledgeable was an essential first step to success. Mavericks are usually uncannily knowledgeable in their area of expertise, and therefore speak with authority on the subject. When they state an opinion based on this knowledge they are rarely wrong, and the method that they use to articulate their knowledge is often interpreted as arrogant behaviour (especially if the maverick is still learning how to become a Socialised Maverick). This misinterpretation can lead to the maverick feeling frustrated or angry; which has its own consequences.
Mavericks need to be intellectually challenged (or they will, over time, literally feel that they are dying), so will naturally seek to improve their knowledge in an area of interest. It is also fair to say that mavericks have an almost pathological issue with being considered stupid. (In fact, Extreme Mavericks will ‘go to war’ if they even suspect that you consider them stupid”.
Traits of a maverick? Being kNowledgeable …
There are many people who claim to be experts in what they do, however, it would be more accurate to say that these individuals are specialists. Often with a very narrow focus on their subject area. This can often lead to a silo mentality and a reduced capacity for creativity. Creativity often comes from being exposed to many things and having a curiosity that is almost pathological.
The effective Maverick Leader ensures that they are kNowledgeable in many areas, as they believe that being a specialist in the role they have been hired for is only the foundational step to their success. Effective Maverick Leaders who run their own businesses already know that they need to be kNowledgeable over being a specialist.
For more information on the key attributes or traits of a maverick then take a look at my book; The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders.