There should be room for mavericks
I’D PICK PIETERSEN FOR SURE
The League Managers Association produce an excellent publication called The Manager and in a recent issue, the subject of managing mavericks was discussed.
I thought of that this week as the Kevin Pietersen furore unfolded. The big point that came out of that magazine piece for me was the importance of communicating proactively with your mavericks.
The need to express strong opinions is in their persoanlity, so it is always best to ensure you anticipate those opinions.
It isn’t a question of bowing down to these characters, it is a question of engaging them.
The extreme individuality of the maverick can be disruptive and destructive to the team environment. There may be no ‘I’ in team. But there is a ‘me’ so there has to be room for great talent.
Mike Phelan told me about the pressure that Cristiano Ronaldo brought onto him at Manchester United.
“What have you got for me,” was his morning mantra. Mick told me he felt challenged every day to have a training idea that could make a difference to Ronaldo.
I wouldn’t call him a maverick in the Eric Cantona sense of the word but his desire to succeed was an intense aspect of working with him that created a special individual need and demand.
Roy Keane leaving the Irish camp at the World Cup due to poor organisation and what he saw as a lack of serious intention is another example of the maverick at work.
Here was a man obsessed by winning who just wanted things done ‘right’. He believed strongly he was being a team player by demanding the highest standards for and from the squad. The maverick in him took steps that the normal person doesn’t take.
Mavericks aren’t normal; they are phenomenally strong characters. A great example of the maverick being harnessed is at Liverpool in the way Brendan Rodgers seems to have harmonised with Luis Suarez. By working to build understanding, club and player appear to have joined together.
Pietersen apparently spoke out against the manager and captain in a team meeting because he believed the team could burn out by over-training. His ‘undermining’ was seen as a final straw.
However, there is strong medical evidence that he is right. If people are taken beyond their point of personal resilience, through a pressure to work harder, performance can nose dive.
Enhancing performance may well involve taking a foot off the pedal and working smarter, not harder.
For me, it is healthy for a team to be an environment in which everybody can be honest and express strong opinion. It is important that the man at the helm is willing to be wrong or to recognise that there may be more than one way of achieving an outcome.
I am sure there will be people who see me as a maverick. I am capable of being outspoken. I won’t sit back if I know there is more that could be done to succeed. But my intentions aren’t about ‘me’ they are about collective success.
If I managed England, I would want to pick Pietersen. For sure.