Why Mavericks can be Star Players
Be bowled over by Martin on Why Mavericks can be Star Players, part two of the Optamor Sporting Series
I am sure we have all worked with people at some time in our careers that might be regarded as maverick. That person who is not seen as the greatest team player, doesn’t adhere strictly to the rules and has an annoying habit of rubbing more orthodox team members up the wrong way. I am not going to name names!
Of course, if these people are not up to the job then chances are they won’t last very long in their role. But, what if they are (or have the potential to be) your star performers, the people you can count on every quarter to hit the number, create the marketing strategy that gives the business the edge over your competitors, or engineer the next must have product? As Bruce Feirstein said: “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success”.
It was the recent headlines surrounding the omission of batsman, Kevin Pietersen, from the England cricket team, as the ECB (English Cricket Board) makes its preparations for The Ashes that got me thinking about how every manager will be faced with a similar dilemma at some point. What do you do with a maverick?
In the case of Kevin Pietersen, he is undoubtedly a world-class cricketer who would be the first name picked to play for most teams if going on pure talent, but the selectors at the ECB decided that his presence could potentially disrupt the team away from the field. This is not limited to one sport and similarly, as England Rugby team Head Coach, Stuart Lancaster has faced a similar issue recently with players such as Danny Cipriani, Manu Tuilagi and Dylan Hartley, as he selects his squad for the Rugby World Cup later this year. Ultimately, in sport as in business, you are judged on results, so time will tell if taking the ‘safe’ route pays off.
Of course, harmony on and off the pitch, in and out of the office or shop-floor, is a vital element to success, and sometimes a person and a position are just not meant to be, especially if their behaviour brings the name of the team or company into disrepute. But, if you are discounting the game-changers in exchange for a quiet life, then there is a good chance you are also limiting your organisations potential for success. After all, how would Wisden read if ECB selectors in the past had not chosen mavericks such as Ian Botham, Andrew Flintoff, or Kevin Pieterson?
In my experience of helping organisations to nurture and grow their talent alongside managing teams throughout my career (as well as playing a lot of cricket), it is so important to have an individual or two within a team that are prepared to challenge convention, think outside the box, or take the occasional risk (within reason of course!). It is also important that leaders see the importance of having individuals that challenge them and their team to rethink an approach or see things differently to be able to find the best solution.
Similarly, strong leadership is also about establishing the boundaries (and the penalties for crossing them). Knowing this will give your talent the freedom and support they need in their working life to express themselves, explore and achieve their potential and in doing so help your organisation reach its goals. Take the time to understand exactly what it is that motivates them and listen, challenge and debate their perspectives, and don’t be afraid to adapt and change – that is strong leadership.
As a huge cricket fan I will be avidly watching how England perform against Australia in the forthcoming Ashes series. However, I can’t help thinking that when the time comes, they might just miss that little magical touch and spark of genius, and the management may just wish that they had a maverick talent on their team.
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