How to Protect Your Company’s Nonconformists

They may seem like obstacles to group harmony, but every team needs at least one maverick to do great work.

Mavericks. Activists. Nonconformists. We all know one of these types. They’re the people who question everything and chime in during meetings with the opposite point of view when the rest of the team agrees. They may seem like obstacles to group harmony, but every team needs at least one, says M. Carl Johnson, executive vice president of marketing and chief growth officer at Big Heart Pet Brands.

“On some of my leadership teams, there’s a natural critic who always speaks the truth, which can be extremely annoying to other people,” he says. “But it’s an incredibly valuable role. It’s up to the leader to protect and support that person—and let the other team members know you’re supporting that person and to encourage them to value his or her ideas and views.

Too often in the competitive corporate world, mavericks, whose divergent points of view often lead to innovation, get shut down—silenced by social pressure from peers and even managers, Johnson says. But unlike many senior executives, Johnson goes out of his way to ensure that such nonconformists get to speak their minds. This also encourages others to voice disagreement and be more candid.

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Keith Ferrazzi

Keith Ferrazzi


New York Times best-selling author, speaker

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