We have all seen them. In all walks of life. The top performer, naturally talented, who brings in all the business, outperforms all his colleagues but can be immensely difficult to manage. Causing untold friction in his team and the wider business as a whole. It seems that sooner or later the only course of action is to dispense with them for good before they destroy the whole business. "No person is bigger than the team" is the mantra we tell ourselves to justify suppressing and ultimately parting company with these mavericks. But is this the right thing to do for your business and is the maverick the one at fault?
Ultimately, if we take that mantra to its fullest extent, all that we are left with is a bland, unimaginative team of people, with little natural flair or ambition. The manager is surrounded by "yes people". As a consequence, the standard of performance drops. The decline can be immediate but more usually stays as a steady decline until you have course corrected and the new poor performance has become the accepted norm, with the continual tale of "we had one of those types working here once.." endlessly paraded around the office or in the changing room, more as a justification for dispensing with your greatest asset, than an admission of failure.
In truth the blame lies at the hands of poor man-management. The most successful leaders that we have in either business or sport are the ones that empower their team to express themselves and have a seemingly natural ability to harness those mavericks in their team and bring the very best out of them. For sure, they will always pose challenges for their colleagues and management. But that is what we employ managers for. To be able to harness the great talent and manage expectations and the interactions with colleagues to ensure that the team as whole over performs. And over perform it can, with the maverick able to express themselves and show off their talents.
It has always struck me over the last 30 years in business, quite how poor we can be at managing people in so many businesses. I have seen everything from the over bearing micro manager with severe control issues, with their team sufficating around them, petrified of work, of making a mistake and wanting to leave every day but likely too frightened to do it; to the manager who is everyone's friend, everybody loves but essentially has no control of his business and ultimately, nobody respects. Neither team performs. The maverick will leave the first and will flourish in the latter but to the detriment of everyone else.
I am often reminded of what Richard Branson says when it comes to his philosophy on treating his employees:
"Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don't want to."
The great managers in life are the ones that empower all of their team to be exceptional. Training them so they have the greatest array of skills and giving them the freedom to express those skills. With recognition, a passion to perform and an environment of honesty and mutual respect, you will undoubtedly have an exceptional team that will embrace the maverick.
In truth a successful business should welcome the maverick and reap the rewards that they bring not just for themselves but the inspiration and transference of skills with the rest of the team.
Its time not to take the easy route and blame the maverick for all your woes, but to take a close look at the managers. Have they been given the freedom to manage their own team? Do they have the required skill sets or do they need more management training? Do you have the right managers in the right positions? Is it time to bring in the best managers from outside to enhance your business?