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Why Mavericks are not trouble makers

Why Mavericks are not trouble makers. You know that person, the one who speaks up in meetings, throwing in provocative questions, which in turn restarts the discussion? The one that suddenly brings in an idea that is tentatively relevant at best? The one that always seems contrarian? 

Is that person a trouble maker or a Maverick? Well, I can’t answer for your case, but I can remind you that Mavericks are wilfully independent [1], not wilfully malevolent! They might not know the best way to express themselves, but luckily, that can be fixed by some coaching and self-development.

Executives I work with often ask me to help them select the best people for their key initiatives, which inadvertently leads to a conversation about “that” person. Actually, here are five reasons I’ve given to one executive why one of his reports is not a trouble maker:

  • They push the boundaries. A good Maverick pushes the boundaries out of curiosity and desire to challenge the status quo. Natural organisms decay over time, and require constant agitation and work to remain healthy and prosper. The same applies to our businesses. You can’t keep doing the same old and expect anything but stagnation – at best. 
  • They raise the average. Continuing with the above thread, Mavericks are often driven by desire to do better. Yes, you might’ve had great results last year, but how about we do even better this year? As the average performance raises, you set new standards, which in turn helps you maintain great results.
  • They say the unsaid. Our brains our wonderful, but alas, they aren’t perfect. Everyone is susceptible to cognitive biases and logical fallacies. I guarantee you that every leader has suffered at least once from the halo effect, or sunk cost fallacy, or survivor bias. That’s why it’s important to have a Maverick at hand, who won’t be afraid to speak up when they hear something that doesn’t seem right.
  • They are energetic. You know the old adage “skills can be trained, attitude can’t?” Well, it’s tough to find a more energetic employee than your Maverick! Tough initiatives are tough. At one moment the team working on them ought to hit a slump. That’s where an energetic Maverick will be the key for snapping them out of it.
  • They inspire action. And last, but not least, let me remind you that action inspires action. If your Maverick has your backing, then others in the company start seeing how boundaries can be stretched, and in turn try to do so themselves. That’s how cultures are built – by example!

Above was enough to change that executive’s mind. I hope it is enough for you to see the value of Mavericks in your organisation, and that in fact, they aren’t trouble makers. It’s always healthy to assume good intentions from people, even when they express themselves clumsily or inappropriately.

We come from different backgrounds, and sometimes a little bit of understanding can get us quite far – as long as we are genuinely trying to understand each other.


[1] Judith Germain defined Maverick to mean ‘wilfully independent’ in 2005.

Bruno Pesec
Bruno Pesechttp://www.pesec.no/
Bruno Pešec helps business leaders innovate profitably. He is the rare innovator who can claim that he's worked on a regulation-defying freight train and an award-winning board game. In addition to his corporate experience with brands like DNV, DNB, and Kongsberg Group, Bruno runs a community of entrepreneurs of several thousand members. He is currently undertaking a doctorate in organisational change, with a specific focus on the issues with innovation in large enterprises.

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