Feb 08 2017
Managing the maverick

Guest blog by David Goodman. 

Last year the Harvard Business Review ran an article, ‘The Unmanageable Star Performer’. The title says it all.

The article is about a maverick manager who is running a department in a large multi-national company. The team is producing outstanding results but some members of the team are unhappy with their manager’s very assertive style of leadership. HBR invited comments from four seasoned managers. Three out of four suggested there was no positive way to manage this manager. In their opinion, good management is more important than good results. You’ve just let your star performer go!

Is there another way to deal with this? Don’t despair, there is, but it does require an answer to one particular question. Does everything have to be done your way?

If the way you lead is that everyone must ‘follow the leader’, then you may benefit from reflecting on your leadership style. You may be losing out on rich talent. I’m not suggesting that you should accept havoc from a member of staff, but it’s our job as the leader to find ways to effectively support all our staff. Greenleaf writes about Servant Leadership, a concept where the leader sees their primary purpose as facilitating greatness from each individual member of their team. The focus is on the team, not the leader.

Not everyone finds it equally easy to follow the rules. Some years ago, I line-managed a young man who had Asperger syndrome a form of autism. He had certain rituals he followed and would speak his mind with complete disregard for another person’s feelings. He was however a very valuable member of the team. Suffice it to say we found ways to accommodate his behaviours for the benefit of everyone.

So how should one approach managing a maverick? 

HUG them... 

H - Hear what they have to tell you. Give them time. They need it, sometimes more than others.

U - Understand what they say. Show empathy and willingness to be flexible. They in turn will be more willing to listen to you.

G - Guide them in order that their behaviour becomes more acceptable to the team.

Who are you going to HUG today?

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