Guilty pleasure admission: I actually liked both Maverick movies. It’s hard not to like, possibly admire, the skill and confidence of the character of Maverick, of all the fighter pilots and not to forget Kelly McGillis’ character. Do you have a favourite from the movies?

They certainly prove their skill.  And who wouldn’t want highly skilled and confident pilots. Yet it’s that level of confidence, meshed with capability, that contributes to making it challenging to lead and manage.

Have you got a Maverick in your team? I’m currently dealing with one and so I thought I would explore this with you. I’d love to know your thoughts on this. How have you handled your Maverick? What worked, what didn’t?

Image Source: Foxtel

Within every organisation, leaders aspire to construct high-performing teams that collaborate seamlessly to achieve shared objectives. Nevertheless, the equilibrium of a team can be disrupted when a high-achieving employee stands out as a lone wolf, often referred to as the “maverick high performer.” These individuals bring undeniable advantages to the table, but their absence of teamwork, of being a team player, generates both positive and negative implications. Let’s explore some of the pros and cons of having a high-performing employee who is not a team player and tips for how to effectively manage them.


Heightened Productivity: 

The most conspicuous advantage of having a maverick high performer is the significant boost in productivity they bring. These individuals usually possess exceptional skills and are propelled by an unwavering pursuit of excellence in their work. Their capacity to yield results can lead to enhanced output and often (but not always) efficiency within the organisation.

Innovation and Problem Solving: 

Maverick high performers are generally innovative thinkers who approach challenges from distinct angles. Their independent disposition can yield groundbreaking innovations and solutions that might not have materialised in a more conventional team setting. Their determination to excel can incite the entire team to think beyond established boundaries.

Motivation for Others: 

A high-performing employee can act as a role model for the team, motivating others to elevate their performance. Observing someone consistently excel can inspire team members to stretch their own limits and attain more, ultimately benefiting the entire organisation.

Faster Decision-Making: 

Maverick high performers are often known for their decisiveness. Their ability to take quick and informed decisions can be a significant asset, especially in situations where a swift response is essential. This agility can give the organisation a competitive edge and help it adapt to rapidly changing circumstances.

Efficient Resource Allocation: 

These individuals tend to be efficient resource managers. They focus on what truly matters, optimising their time and efforts to achieve exceptional results. This efficiency can lead to cost savings and better resource allocation within the organisation.

Exposure to Best Practices: 

Maverick high performers often stay updated with the latest industry trends and best practices. Their pursuit of excellence drives them to seek out and adopt innovative approaches. This exposure can bring fresh ideas and methodologies to the organisation, enhancing its overall competitiveness.

All those positives are contextual because there are some downsides to the impact of the Maverick on the work, team and organisation… 


Disruption of Team Dynamics: 

One of the most significant drawbacks of a maverick high performer is the disruption they can cause to team dynamics. Their reluctance to collaborate and share knowledge can breed resentment among colleagues. A cohesive team can rapidly dissolve into a collection of individuals working in isolation, impeding the overall effectiveness of the team.

Communication Challenges: 

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful team. When a high performer declines to engage with their teammates, it can result in misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and a lack of unity. This can lead to frustration, decreased morale, and even project failures.

Retention Issues: 

The negative impact of a maverick high performer can extend to talent retention. Colleagues who feel undervalued or overlooked due to the spotlight on the individual may become disengaged and seek opportunities elsewhere. This can result in a revolving door of talent, which is costly and disruptive for the organisation.

Ego Clashes: 

The independent nature of maverick high performers can sometimes lead to clashes of egos within the team. Their strong desire to lead or dominate discussions can create tension and hinder effective collaboration. This can negatively impact team morale and cohesion.

Risk of Burnout: 

In their quest for excellence, maverick high performers may push themselves too hard. Their relentless pursuit of perfection can lead to burnout, which can ultimately result in decreased productivity, increased absenteeism, and even health issues. This can be a significant concern for both the individual and the organisation.

Limited Succession Planning: 

When a maverick high performer operates in isolation, they may not invest time in developing a succession plan or grooming potential successors. This lack of mentorship and knowledge transfer can become a critical issue if the individual decides to leave the organisation, leaving a knowledge and skills gap that’s challenging to fill.

Now let’s look at ways leaders can handle their Maverick

Establish Clear Expectations: 

To manage a maverick high performer, it is crucial to establish clear expectations for teamwork and collaboration. Make it known that while individual contributions are valued, teamwork is equally vital. Encourage regular communication and the sharing of knowledge to nurture a more cooperative atmosphere.

Provide Constructive Feedback: 

Offer constructive feedback that emphasises the importance of teamwork without undermining the individual’s high-performance abilities. Concentrate on how their skills can be harnessed to benefit the team and organisation as a whole. Encourage them to mentor or support their colleagues in areas where they excel.

Cultivate a Collaborative Culture: 

Cultivate a culture that prizes collaboration and recognises the significance of teamwork. Implement team-building activities, cross-functional projects, and recognition programmes that promote collective achievements. Encourage open dialogue and ensure that all team members feel heard and valued.

Provide Autonomy Within Boundaries: 

Recognise and respect the maverick employee’s need for autonomy and independence. However, establish clear boundaries and guidelines to ensure their actions align with the organisation’s values and goals. Encourage them to use their creativity and problem-solving skills within these parameters. This approach allows them to thrive while maintaining consistency with the team’s objectives.

Regular Check-Ins: 

Schedule regular one-on-one check-in meetings with the maverick high performer. Use these meetings to discuss their goals, challenges, and concerns. Listen actively to their feedback and address any issues they raise. These check-ins not only help you stay informed about their progress but also demonstrate your commitment to their development and success.

Promote Peer Collaboration: 

Encourage the maverick employee to collaborate with their peers on specific projects or initiatives. Pairing them with team members who possess complementary skills or perspectives can foster a more cooperative environment. Emphasise the benefits of collective brainstorming and problem-solving, showing how teamwork can enhance their individual contributions and overall results.

Having a high-performing employee who is not a team player can be a two-edged sword for organisations. While their exceptional abilities can propel productivity and innovation, their absence of collaboration can disrupt team dynamics and lead to a range of challenges. Effective leadership is pivotal in harnessing the advantages of maverick high performers while mitigating their negative impact. By establishing clear expectations, providing feedback, and fostering a collaborative culture, leaders can cultivate an environment where both individual excellence and teamwork can flourish, ultimately leading to greater success for the organisation as a whole.

I’d love to know your thoughts…