Review of available literatures indicates that business leaders need to develop the skills to harness the potentials of diverse teams because they are more creative, innovative and productive as a result of their multi-dimensional perspectives (Chartered Management Institute 2012). The fast-paced global market environment underpins the imperativeness of diverse teams in organisation regardless of size and location. The benefits of diverse teams are far greater than its drawbacks. Developing the skill set to harness the full potentials of diverse teams is a must have for managers and leaders.
A team is a collection of two or more people coming together for the purpose of accomplishing one or more task (Fulk, Bell and Bodie 2011). A diverse team consist of visible and non-visible differences such as sex, age, background, race, disability, personality, work style, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, education, work experience, income etc. Harnessing these differences will create a productive environment in which every employee feels valued, talents are utilised and organisational goals met (Mullins 2010: 434). However, valuing differences are easier said than done. This is where management (Getting work done through the efforts of other people – Mullins 2010) and leadership (the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how to do it– Yukl 2010: 26) becomes imperative.
Theory and Model
Tuckman and Jensen (2012) have provided managers and leaders a model for team development which emphasizes the need for teams to go through forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning stages to enable them blend to achieve organisational goals.
Benefits of diverse teams
Companies that are able to recruit from the widest talent pool and can cater for the diverse needs of its staff is more likely to retain them, saving on knowledge loss and cost of recruiting new staff, improved morale and job satisfaction leading to greater productivity, enjoy positive public image in the community and marketplace, access to untapped market because diverse workforce would potentially be able to facilitate ideas and initiatives relating to new target markets and be seem as an ethical organisation (Chartered Management Institute 2012). Global companies are leveraging on talents and expertise of diverse virtual teams to reduce impact of time and space barrier to improve performance (Ebrahim, Ahmed, and Taha 2009).
Drawbacks of diverse teams
Despite the benefits diverse teams are prone to dysfunction because the diversity that promotes creativity and high performance can also create communication barriers. Conventional team building activities are inadequate for diverse teams because of their one-size- fits-all approach to team cohesion. This approach fails to appreciate distinct team member’s strengths and weaknesses (Polzer 2008). For virtual diverse teams, cultural, individual and personality differences create tensions and trust between team members may be difficult to build because of geographical dispersion and lack of physical interaction. Language barrier may be a major challenge which may have negative impact on interpersonal relationships and work culture within the team (Kerber and Buono 2004).
Examples of diverse teams
The leadership composition of Nokia group consists of thirteen diverse team members- three women, one non-white, six Finns, four Americans, one Canadian, one British and one Australian. Three were born in the ‘50s, one in the 70’s and the rest in the ‘60s. Their work experience covers Europe, North American and East Asia and their educational backgrounds include engineering, technology, psychology, law, economics and finance from a variety of institutions while the team members represent many functions (Financial Times 2012).
Vodafone group uses diverse virtual work streams to execute projects in its global supply chain management (GSCM) where teams focus on initiatives relevant for success, working in joint and collaborative activity in the transformation process (Ibbott and O’Keefe 2004).
The fast-paced global market environment underpins the imperativeness of diverse teams in organisation regardless of size and location. The benefits of diverse teams are far greater than its drawbacks. Developing the skill set to harness the full potentials of diverse teams is a must have for managers and leaders.
List of reference
Chartered Management Institute (2012) Embracing Diversity: Guidance for managers [online] available from [27 December 2012]
Ebrahim, N. A., Ahmed, S. and Taha, Z. (2009) Virtual Teams: a Literature Review. Australian Journal of Basic & Applied Sciences [online] 3(3), 2653-2669. Available from academic source complete database [2 December 2012]
Financial Times (2012) Diverse teams: Financial Times Lexicon [online] available from [6 December 2012]
Fulk, H. K., Bell, R.L. and Bodie, N. (2011) Team Management by Objectives: Enhancing Developing Teams’ Performance: Journal of Management Policy & Practice [online] 12(3), 17-26. Available from business source complete database [4 December 2012]
Ibbott, C. and O’Keefe, R (2004) Transforming the Vodafone/Ericsson Relationship: Long Range Planning [online] 37(3), 219-237. Available from academic source complete database [2 December 2012]
Kerber, K. W. and Buono, A. F. (2004) Leadership Challenges in Global Virtual Teams: Lessons from the Field: Sam advance management journal [online] 69(4), 4 – 10. Available from business source complete database [4 December 2012]
Mullins, L. J. (2010) Management and Organisational Behaviour. 9th edn. Harlow: Pearson Education
Polzer, J. T. (2008) Making Diverse Teams Click: Harvard Business Review [online] 86(7/8), 20 – 21. Available from business source complete database [27 December 2012]
Tuckman, B. W. and Jensen, M. A. C. (2012) Stages of Small-Group Development Revisited: Group Facilitation: A Research & Applications Journal [online] 10, 43-48. Available from business source complete database [4 December 2012]
Yukl, G. A. (2010) Leadership in Organizations, 7th edn. Harlow: Pearson Education