Most people love the idea of a maverick.
There are the maverick companies who buck tradition in the face of great odds. They disrupt markets and industries. They introduce new products and make us rethink the norms. Maverick companies are also celebrated and admired when they succeed.
There are also individual mavericks within an organization. They are the people who seem to operate on a different agenda. They look at the rules and shrug with indifference. They seem to answer to only a select few, if anyone. Structure and policy don’t apply to them and the way they work.
Maverick employees can bring value to an organization. A maverick looks for new and better ways to get the job done. Mavericks don’t settle for the usual. They are ambitious, have a strong desire to excel, and are results focused.
The idea of the maverick employee makes a great storyline, but are they good for a company?
In my experience, being a maverick can be a risky venture, and in most cases can do more harm than good. A few of the ways I have seen mavericks damage a company is when they:
- Ignore or refuse to follow policies and procedures, causing chaos within the structure of an organization.
- Show a disregard for authority, thus losing the respect of their bosses and co-workers.
- Give the impression that work and success are more about them, and less about the company.
- Refuse to accept or conform to a company’s culture, which creates a difficult and uncertain work environment for others.
When a maverick employee starts exhibiting these behaviors, they will ultimately fail. This will cost the company both money and customers.
Before I started my own business, I worked for a very large global organization. Most thought that I was a maverick.
- I pursued clients and market sectors that were outside the company norm.
- I took on certain risks that were not typically tolerated.
- I developed and utilized procedures that were not standard.
Yet, I made sure to always respect the existing policy and procedure. I kept my bosses well informed and aware of the work I was doing, the risks I was taking, and how my team was operating. I always provided well-developed plans when I pursued paths outside of company norms. And on many levels, I succeeded with my teams, coworkers, and customers while producing financial results for the company.
What I’ve learned is that if you want to be a maverick within an organization, it’s important to follow these 5 methods:
Maintain a high level of self-awareness. Understand how you are being perceived, know what’s working, and what is being resented.
- Respect the company’s structure, its leaders, and their desire for the company to succeed.
- Respect your co-workers. Remember that most people prefer established structures and resist doing things differently.
- Know what lines to cross, and what lines not to cross. Don’t break rules that should not be broken.
- Communicate openly and frequently. Keep others aware of what you are doing, how you are working, and why you are doing things differently.
Being a maverick employee within a company can be a risky game. You can be successful, but only with communication, respect, and self-awareness. If you decide to be a maverick in your company, then be prepared to meet the above requirements. Otherwise, be prepared to accept the consequences when you fail.
Brian T. King is the founder and owner of multiple firms encompassing design, construction, real estate, and manufacturing, and currently president of the integrated Design-Build firm A M King. Brian shares his passion for mentoring young professionals, rising managers and entrepreneurs at speaking engagements around the country, on podcasts and via his blog.