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Motivating/Managing the Maverick Mind

by Cole H. Baker

The maverick mind type of employees can be very frustrating for their managers to handle. A "maverick" literally means, "an unbranded cow or calf". Within an organization it is someone who strongly resists being controlled, directed or in a sense "branded" or owned by anyone.

Their very nature of being their own person often results in their high degree of self-reliance and often creativity, or uniqueness, in their approach, appearance and/or communication style. On the other hand, they may appear to their managers and peers as rebellious, difficult to direct, hard to manage and not a team player. They may "bad mouth" their own company, products or management. At times they may inappropriately share company inside information with customers. These difficult characteristics are often balanced by the fact that many of them are technically good to excellent at their jobs.

Mavericks frequently seek positions where they have a degree of freedom in their jobs. Examples range from creative positions such as research and development, software and marketing to travel jobs in field service or sales. Any position where there is lots of choice in how you do your job is desirable to them. Their profile is well suited to their being an entrepreneur, consultant or artist. Of course, they also, through circumstances, can be found in any kind of job while looking for the "ideal" position.

Even the borderline cases can be spotted by their unique interests, opinions, attitudes and manner of dress.

Managing and motivating the maverick employee successfully can be improved upon through a three step approach:

Step 1- When dealing with them about a behavioral or attitudinal problem they are exhibiting, be sure that you are not over reacting to their defiant style. Ask yourself this Question, "If I were not upset about this what would I say or do". This will allow you to access the rational (not upset) part of your mind and aid you in seeing things in more proper perspective.

Step 2- Don't come on too strong. Always deal with them in a "face saving" manner, Never paint them into a corner. Be aware that they are easily triggered into a fight/flight response mode. Ask relevant but face saving questions. Listen and acknowledge their response.

Step 3- Stay aware of the fact that they require and are best motivated by positive reinforcement. Use the One Minute Manager approach; "catch them doing something right and tell them". They work best and will often feel best when acknowledged for achieving a good outcome as a result of an enormous effort, or where nobody else could have done it.

What if nothing works? What if they are so disruptive and require so much management time that it is just not worth it? There are still at least two possible solutions. You could allow them flexible working hours, assignments, or work locations. For example, let them work at home. Another possibility that many have used with great success is to terminate them while encouraging them to become an entrepreneur or consultant, Offer them some number of hours of consulting work. Often the maverick employee who was disrupting the team operation becomes a wonderful consultant.

A recent innovative solution for helping employees to successfully function in their business behavior and communications is the combining of communication skills training, along with both self-awareness and stress "inoculation" training in a single integrated program. This new type of training is being used by major corporations including Eaton, Varian and Applied Materials and has been shown to be effective in reducing burnout, improving employee loyalty and creating extraordinary customer (internal and external) relationships, and helps tame the Mavericks.

About the Author...

Cole H. Baker is president of The Compo Group, Westport, Conn., a training company built around the concept of the "hidden agenda factor" in human communications in business.

Key Programs:

Winning Customer Satisfaction

Advanced Sales Workshop


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