When Mavericks come to blows

When Mavericks come to blows

When Mavericks come to blows. If you’re a regular reader of this online magazine (and if you’re not, welcome … and where have you BEEN?!) you will be able to spot Maverick behaviour. Hopefully you’ll have picked up some top tips for working with them.

So what happens when you’re a Maverick, hired by a Maverick, working for a Maverick … and the relationships above you start to fragment?  Read on … because it happened to me.

I was working as a consultant in an organisation, having been hired by a Socialised Maverick [1] who was working 19-to-the-dozen to drag their employing organisation into the 21st century. It was a slow, tough and thankless role, requiring them to use all their Maverick traits (flexibility, adaptability, innovation, energy, resilience) in tight rotation, all day, every day. Tiring, that’s for sure.  

The other half of the tussle was my Socialised Maverick’s boss, the CEO. He was a Socialised Maverick on good days, but his behaviour could deteriorate into the random, self-absorption and control-freakery of the Extreme Maverick [2] when he didn’t get his own way.  

Although he had hired my boss to make changes he wanted to see in his organisation, he found their socialised, engaging, energetic approach hard work. It was clear he was starting to regret his decision but could not do anything about it because my boss was delivering hand over fist. The issue was that the CEO was massively introverted and it clearly took a huge amount of effort to behave in an outgoing way – the bravura way he obviously thought leadership required. So when my bubbly boss needed to talk with him regularly, several times a day, he found it overwhelming.  

His knee-jerk response was to become angrier and more distant, putting physical space and, ultimately, interim line management, between himself and my boss. He simply couldn’t cope and the frustration of his situation made him angrier and more resentful. This translated in the office as rude, arrogant behaviour, even turning his back on my boss when they spoke to him in public.

I found myself caught in the middle, helping my boss to deliver their objectives, but their need to report back frequently on my progress, when queries arose, was causing an ever-widening rift between the two Mavericks.

The issue was communication. Normally in organisations, relationships flounder on a lack of communication. In this case, it felt like it was too much, or at least the wrong sort of communication. Perhaps too much energy in the exchanges. Perhaps too many check-ins that the introverted Extreme Maverick began to resent as they invaded his private thinking and planning time.  

The CEO became so desperate that he stopped making any social effort. And this started to have an impact on the entire management team. The rudeness, controlling behaviour and increasing isolation of the CEO started to attract comment. In time, it began to split the senior team.

What was the learning I took from this grim scenario? First, I decided I didn’t want to work in a client management chain that features an Extreme Maverick. Although no real problem in and of themselves, the nature of some of the consultancy I do means I need to check back in frequently and that clearly doesn’t work for clients like the CEO.

Second, I decided to flex my own Socialised Maverick proclivities much more in such instances. What does this mean? I decided to be more proactive. I would not rely on a boss again, instead ensuring that everyone who needed to know, DID know about my project. I also decided to develop different briefing documents, to cater for different clients’ information needs (or their lack of them).

So when you notice Maverick tendencies in the workplace, and it has the potential to go really pear-shaped, maybe look at the way the communication’s working – or not. It might just be too much of a good thing.