It’s just not cricket: teamwork and mavericks

Cricket stumps and bails hit by a ball

The extent of my sporting knowledge only stretches to a presentation my team made me do once on the offside rule (how mean!). But following the extensive media coverage last week of ex-England cricketer, Kevin Pietersen’s failure to be recalled to the national team, I find myself, during an office debate, siding with the England Cricket Board.

It seems, although the issues are complex and the personalities involved are very public, the crux of the debate centres around teamwork, dynamics and trust, versus talent and self-promotion. This type of dilemma is a real issue for many of the businesses I speak to. Should one talented individual – let’s call them the ‘maverick’ – rule the roost, or should the goal always be a strong, cohesive team?

Mavericks appear to be particularly impressive. They are high performers and they get results. But, often, they can be disruptive, don’t conform to team norms and are incredibly difficult to manage. I’ve found that mavericks are incredibly common in sales teams where the highest performer is usually the one who breaks all the rules and is not a great team player. However, most people feel that they have to put up with mavericks because their results are so good!

To me, the answer is clear. Sticking with the cricket analogy; consider the long game, not the quick win. Even though they can often out-perform colleagues, mavericks suck up so much management time that it’s often to the detriment of the business as a whole. So, in the long run, business owners need to get behind their teams and do what it takes to nurture a culture of steady, consistent performance, rather than deal with the peaks and troughs that a maverick brings.

I have worked with businesses to develop strategies to help manage mavericks, but the key is good, strong leadership. As much as it will pain the Kevin Pietersen’s fans in my team, the England Cricket Board did, in my mind, exactly the right thing. They made a bold decision for the good of the overall sport, didn’t bow to pressure and have been clear about the direction they want the team to move in.

Now it’s just a case of winning some matches…

Liza Bewick

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