No Mavericks, no martyrs

No Mavericks, no martyrs

This is one of the best talks on leading and setting expectations on a creative, collaborative production group that I have ever run across. It was given during GDC 2022 by a director at Obsidian Entertainment who clearly came with years of likely painful learning. I loved this quote:

We must bust the myths that equate ‘passion’ with overwork and aggressive ownership, and we must normalize collaborative, sustainable habits.

As she described the work situations and the martyr and maverick worker types, I found myself finally hearing in words many things I experienced but didn’t know how to express. I have personally seen the destruction of many extremely talented teams by just a few divisive elements. They could even be rockstars, but they end up cratering the whole production and driving people away from those teams. Carrie Patel does an amazing job describing how even well intentioned mavericks/martyrs damage the team. This is true to the point that hiring less technically good people that are good teamworkers produces consistently better results than extremely talented people that can’t work with others.

Are mavericks and martyrs inherently bad? No, but they absolutely can be if they are not managed properly. That requires being aware of how their behaviors affect the long-term success of the team.

As it turns out, this is not new learning. Other organizations have learned these lessons long ago.

Special forces teams as well as Mark Cuban point out these same learnings for business and sports teams. People who work more collaboratively and think of the entire team’s impact when making individual choices produce far more productive teams than rockstars/martyrs do. Special forces teams often do not look for the absolute best person – they look for who works in the team. This doesn’t mean you can’t have rockstars or martyr types, but what you want to find and reward is behaviors and an environment that encourages sustainable and truly collaborative teamwork.

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