“A team is not a bunch of people with job titles, but a congregation of individuals, each of whom has a role which is understood by other members. Members of a team seek out certain roles and they perform most effectively in the ones that are most natural to them.” – Dr. R. M. Belbin
Leadership comes with various tasks. It is one of those occupations where people expect you to almost always do things right. Leaders are constantly sharpening their skills, helping others help themselves and the leader also helping him/her. Because we live in a rapidly changing world today, a leader is expected to also be versatile enough to keep at par with developments of change. This is also because with rapid technological developments the world is quickly becoming a global village; people are able to communicate and travel faster than ever before. Teams are made in organisations so that goals are achieved faster and better. Organisations are going global. As a result, organisations are now depending on having diverse teams in their environments so as to develop innovative products, improve efficiency and assist in informed decision-making (Dahlin et al, 2005).
What are diverse teams? According to CMI, diversity is defined as differences between individuals such as age, gender, ethnic origin, disability, family status, education, sociocultural backgrounds, attitudes, personality, values, etc. That diversity is anything that may affect workplace relationships and the achievement of objectives (CMI, 2008). In essence, diversity focuses on differences in individuals as this creates variety (Mullins, 2010). A diverse team is therefore a group of individuals who have different backgrounds in age, gender, ethnicity, personality, sociocultural backgrounds, nationality, etc. who come together to work towards the achievement of a common goal(s) (Financial Times, 2013; Hill 2000 cited in Mullins 2010).
Belbin (2012) identified nine roles of team members that he developed to manage diverse teams: the planter, the implementer, the completer-finisher, the coordinator, the monitor-evaluator, the resource investigator, the team workers, the shaper and the specialist. He stated that diverse teams needed to create balance among the strengths and weaknesses of each team member in order to work in the best way possible through bringing different types of behaviour together. These team roles were created in order to derive advantages from diverse teams.
Advantages of Diverse Teams
- Diversity promotes sustainable development and business advantage;
- Allow for a wider base of creativity, flexibility and innovation (Mullins, 2010; Forstenlechner, 2010);
- Promotes good customer relations;
- Cost effective employment relations (Mullins, 2010);
- More skills and competences to draw on (Forstenlechner, 2010);
- Wider source of information (Dahlin et al, 2005); thus increased knowledge base and source of expertise (Wegge et al, 2012).
Disadvantages of Diverse Teams
- Financial support to support flexibility;
- Sometimes a tense work environment that may affect harmony;
- Conflict due to bias and discrimination between people with similar characteristics (Wegge et al, 2012; Dahlin et al, 2005);
- Reduced cultural relatedness (Mullins, 2010);
- Communication barriers (Financial Times, 2013).
How a leader will achieve successful diverse teams
A leader will achieve results through having successful teams. In order to achieve this, he/she will have to build leadership capability; in that he/she needs to understand that building diverse teams comes with the greater complexity in leading. This means that the leader needs to be able to have the right support mechanisms for the team in order to reap benefits from it. This includes promotions, rewards and recognition, etc.
Before a leader can lead a successful diverse team, he/she needs to know that diversity in teams is not just about diversity in demographics. Diversity also refers to different personalities, different trains of thought and points of view. Once a leader understands this, then he/she will be able to reward, recognise, motivate his employees accordingly (Deloitte, 2011).
A leader must also anticipate differences of individuals within teams so as to be emotionally and mentally prepared (Gwynne, 2009). Once a leader is in touch with their values, attitudes and beliefs, then he/she will be in a better position to manage a diverse team (Mullins, 2010).
Chubb is a group of insurance companies that has been in operation since 1882. It is now one of the largest US-based corporations according to Fortune magazine (Chubb, 2013). Chubb is an organisation that has embraced diversity and been successful at it. Chubb accepts individual differences in women, race sexual orientation, bisexual and transgender employees and at the same time has seen excellent financial performance (Chubb, 2013).
Another example is from the Buckingham case whereby a manager at Walgreen’s- Michelle- was able to successfully integrate the individual differences in her employees’ teams in such a way that she was able to delegate tasks to them based on their idiosyncrasies. Through this, her employees’ performance levels were better and their output increased. This also goes to support the author’s view that diverse teams produce better results (Buckingham, 2005).
The fact that diverse teams are priorities for leaders to develop and use to leverage an organisation is a skill that is most essential for today’s leader. Diversity is not just having different individuals in a team just to show that an organisation is changing with the times (Liswood 2008 cited in Deloitte 2011). Diversity is about bringing together different individuals based on their demographic and external characteristics as well as their individual abilities and strengths, and using this to enable an organisation perform and achieve goals (Deloitte, 2011). Coupling the diversity in teams plus motivating them well leads to improved business outcomes (Deloitte 2011; Miller and Katz 2002).
In the fashion industry, diversity has been recognised for years. It manifests itself in so many ways- models from different cultures, ethnicities, working with gays, lesbians, etc. This shows how the fashion industry has embraced diversity in the workplace in order to produce better results (British Fashion Council, 2013; Fibre2Fashion, 2013). Other skills looked for are interpersonal skills, communication skills, ability to motivate the team members well so as to reduce turnover and achieve better performance, ability to reduce diversity barriers and encourage team cohesion and harmony (Deloitte, 2011).
All in all, we see that the ability to create and lead a diverse team should be a priority for leaders. Research suggests that homogenous teams are not as productive as heterogenous teams (Kamal and Ferdousi, 2009). As previously mentioned, diversity + inclusion (motivation through intrinsic and extrinsic motivation) = improved business outcomes. This means that leaders should be able to create a diverse team and motivate accordingly so as to gain better business performance. Diversity has its advantages in more knowledge, creativity and innovation and this helps give wider views and ways to achieve business goals. Diversity in teams therefore is essential in creating and sustaining competitive advantage in business.
Belbin (2012) Belbin Team Roles [online] available from <http://www.belbin.com/rte.asp?id=8> [22 June 2013]
British Fashion Council (2013) Models of Diversity [online] available from < http://modelsofdiversity.org/q/> [08 June 2013]
Buckingham, M. (2005) ‘What Do Great Managers Do?’ Harvard Business Review, 1-11.
Chubb (2013) About Us [online] available from < http://chubb.com/corporate/chubb11884.html> [08 June 2013]
Chubb (2013) Chubb’s Diversity Vision [online] available from < http://chubb.com/diversity/chubb4519.html> [08 June 2013]
Dahlin, K. B., Weingart, L. R. and Hinds, P. J. (2005) Team Diversity and Information Use [online] available at <http://www.stanford.edu/group/WTO/cgi-bin/uploads/Dahlin_et_al_AMJ05.pdf> [07 June 2013]
Deloitte (2011) Only Skin Deep ? Re-examining the Business Case for Diversity [online] available at <http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-Australia/Local%20Assets/Documents/Services/Consulting/Human%20Capital/Diversity/Deloitte_Only_skin_deep_12_September_2011.pdf> [08 June 2013]
Fibre2Fashion (2013) JC Penney teams up INROADS to promote leadership diversity [2 June 2013] [online] available from < http://www.fashionindustrynetwork.com/profiles/blogs/jc-penney-teams-up-inroads-to-promote-leadership-diversity> [08 June 2013]
Financial Times Lexicon (2013) Diverse Teams [online] available at <http://lexicon.ft.com/Term?term=diverse-teams> [07 June 2013]
Forstenlechner, I. (2010) ‘When Arab-expatriate relations work well’. Team Performance Management, 5/6 (16) [online] available at <http://site.ebrary.com/lib/coventry/docDetail.action?docID=10440320> [07 June 2013]
Gwynne, P. (2009) ‘Managing Culturally Diverse Teams’. Research Technology Management (1) 52, 68-69. [online] available from <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail?sid=b00ae583-62d5-4540-997e-1ed1e7e8597e%40sessionmgr104&vid=1&hid=108&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=bth&AN=36382258> [08 June 2013]
Kamal, Y. And Ferdousi, M. M. (2009) Managing Diversity at Workplace: A Case Study of HP [online] available from <http://www.asaub.edu.bd/data/asaubreview/v3n2sl13.pdf> [08 June 2013]
Liswood, L. (2010) The Loudest Duck. John Wiley & Sons Inc., New Jersey USA cited in Deloitte (2011) Only Skin Deep? Re-examining the Business Case for Diversity [online] available at <http://www.deloitte.com/assets/Dcom-Australia/Local%20Assets/Documents/Services/Consulting/Human%20Capital/Diversity/Deloitte_Only_skin_deep_12_September_2011.pdf> [08 June 2013]
Miller, F.A. & Katz, J.H. (2002) The Inclusion Breakthrough. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, CA USA.
Montes, P. (2003) Managing diversity: Learning Guide [online] available from <http://www.ab7asy.com/Library/Management/Courses/Managing%20diversity.pdf> [08 June 2013] Ashridge
Wegge, J., Jungmann, F., Liebermann, S., Shemla, M., Ries, B. C., Diestel, S. and Schmidt, K. (2012) ‘What makes age diverse teams effective? Results from a six-year research program’. <http://web.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=9cb4f483-3a98-42d0-98df-cd37195e8ceb%40sessionmgr14&vid=2&hid=20> [07 June 2013]