Disruptive maverick on training course

I define ‘maverick’ to mean wilful independence and it is this training characteristic which is probably the one that causes trainers the most difficulty. Mavericks have a high sense of self confidence and self esteem and believe that they are more intelligent than others. This can be a heady mix when they are faced with a trainer that has not established their credibility or is delivering a course that they consider to be boring or inappropriate for them.

The following are likely indicators that you are facing a maverick:

  • You are asked a number of questions that are disrupting and show that they believe they know more than you do on the subject
  • You are shown disrespect by the attendee (this can be on a continuum from mild to extreme)
  • They show their displeasure through body language and audio clues (eg heavy sighs and rolling of the eyes)
  • You are challenged constantly and other attendees or yourself are undermined
  • They refuse to participate in the course or the exercises

Interventions to use with the maverick on your training course

  • Establish credibility upfront and immediately
  • Discover their objectives/objections for being on the course (and build into the course)
  • Find a way to avoid making them look stupid (if you fail you are likely to make running the training course extremely difficult)
  • Ensure that you do not lose control or appear uneasy
  • Provide boundaries and structure (when you need to enforce your control, do it quickly and do not dwell on it – avoid trying to make the maverick lose face in front of their peers)
  • Be clear on the objectives of the course, and how the course will run. What are the components of the course?
  • Give them something to do – eg ensure they lead on some of the exercises
  • Recognise them (whilst ensuring that they do not dominate the course) and appeal to their intellectual ability

Training courses present the trainer with an opportunity to engage with all members of team, even those who seem to be resistant to whatever you are trying to teach them. Remember that a one size fits all approach is unlikely to be successful as is approaching resistance from a defensive position!  It can be easy to spend the majority of the course then fighting your corner, but by using some of the techniques mentioned above, you can be better placed to deliver a lively and interesting course which has benefit for all those in attendance. 

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