Managing Diverse Teams


Gregersen, Merrison and Black (2009) asserted that “today’s executives have the challenge to lead organisations into new, unmapped outposts of the global marketplace”. Consequently, global business leaders need to explore more and face the uncertainty that arises in an untapped marketplace in order to lead an organisation that span with diverse countries, cultures and background.

Advantages of Diverse Teams


I strongly agree to the statement by Ibarra and Hansen (2011) that in today’s dynamic business environment, teamwork is a key component to gain competitive advantage in achieving strategic goals (Ray 2015). Besides that, diverse teams enhanced the communication skills in dealing with domestic and foreign customers, thereby improve customer satisfaction. Diverse teams could also improve decision-making and problem-solving skills thus improving an organisation’s effectiveness. They can easily adapt to the dynamic environment thus reduce the cost of employee turnover (Barak 2016).

Challenges of Managing Diverse Teams

Diverse teams consist of members from diverse culture and country. Leaders may face challenges when leading diverse teams as disparate cultural perspectives exist in heterogeneous teams (Janssens and Brett 2006). A significant challenge for leader is to lead and treat diverse workforce in an equitable manner. Therefore, diversity needs to be managed effectively to avoid adverse implications. Some of the implications include engage in conflict, miscommunication due to language barrier and higher staff turnover due to different perspectives and distinct cultural background (Agrawal 2012). These challenges may leads to poor organisation’s performance as it is difficult to achieve consensus among team members.

Examples of Diverse Teams in Organisation

One of the organisations which successfully adopt cultural diversity is Johnson & Johnson (J&J). They have a vision of ‘Global Diversity and Inclusion’ where they believed a successful business hinges on a team of diverse employees (Figure 1) in the same organisation. J&J has over 125,000 employees in 60 countries, their leaders foster a common language to aid communication between diverse team members. J&J diversifying their workforce and see its implementation as a norm and continuously strive to improve diversity management. Hence, diverse team with cross-functional and cross-regional experiences would facilitate global operations around the world (Johnson & Johnson 2017).

Figure 1: Diverse Teams in J&J (J&J 2017)

Video 1: Johnson & Johnson Accept Award | 2015 GLSEN Respect Awards – New York (Youtube)

Another example of an organisation that adopts diversify team is McKinsey & Company (Figure 2). As shown in Figure 3, they know intuitively that ‘diversity matters’. In their latest report, Diversity Matters (Hunt 2015), it shows that the company which demonstrates gender and ethnically diverse workforce would more likely to outperform than other company in the same industry. The benefits of diverse perspectives, ideas and background leads to diverse teams will make them move faster, increase innovation and creativity (Gupta 2016). Undoubtedly, this will improve competitive advantage for companies and eventually leads to a virtuous cycle of increasing returns.

Figure 2: Cover page of McKinsey & Company’s report, Diversity Matters (Hunt 2015)


Figure 3: Outcome of diverse team in McKinsey & Company (2015)

Recommended Approach to Manage Diverse Team

People with distinct background and culture tend to have different perspectives and point of view. Developing a diverse team is seen as a difficult task for leader or manager. Hence, a theory for team development, known as ‘Tuckman’s Team Development Model‘ is responding the importance of teams in workplace (The Salvation Army Australia Eastern territory n.d.). There are four stages in the model. The stages are shown in figure 4 and the steps are well-explained in table 1.


Figure 4: Steps in Tuckman’s Team Development Model (Tuckman 1965)

Steps 1

“Forming” to “Storming”


Leader provides directions to diverse team to work on common tasks. Every member is distributed with power and responsibilities to complete the mission assigned by leader. Reward will be structured if the idea is accepted by majority of members.

Steps 2

“Storming” to “Norming”


Leader meets with members and listening to each others’ feedback and opinion. Members work in an active environment by accepting criticism and reply from leader. Commitment is honoured to every member.

Steps 3

“Norming” to “Performing”


Leader should praise and flatter team members. Each of the members must self-evaluate and delegate themselves to the team. Trust and commitment within the group is emerged. Rewards and successes are shared within members.

Table 1: Action Steps Involving in Tuckman’s Stages of Team Development(Tuckman 1965)

Limitations of Tuckman Theory

The theory was carried out in limited number of small group. This does not represent all of the team can be developed in the same way. It has to be precise to a certain extent that large group of diverse members are evaluated for a longer period. Moreover, this theory was done in 1965 and might not be applicable in future due to dynamically changing in business environment. Thus, limitations would be addressed for future research (Bonebright 2010).

Recommendations for Managing Diverse Teams and Conclusion

In conclusion, besides learning how to become an ethical leader, a leader should well-equip with the ability to coordinate with diverse workforce in dynamic work context. Leading a diverse team encompasses people from variety backgrounds, using different languages for communication and indifferent of ideas produced during meeting and cause difficulty in reaching consensus. Thus, as a leader of a team, I would suggest open-door policy to discuss the issues involving the participation of members to come out with a mutually acceptable solution to solve the issues . Diverse teams have its pros and cons and leader must establish a comprehensive way to deal for the sake of reaching organisational’s goals. Therefore, I strongly believe that throughout many years of working experiences, a leader has would unwittingly hit upon a particularly effective approach to manage a diverse team.

(663 words)


Agrawal, V. (2012) ‘Managing the Diversified Team: Challenges and Strategies for Improving Performance’. Team Performance Management: An International Journal 18(7/8), 384-400

Barak, M.E.M. (2016) Managing Diversity: Toward A Globally Inclusive Workplace. United States of America: Sage

Bonebright, D.A.  (2010) ’40 Years of Storming: A Historical Review of Tuckman’s Model of Small group Development’. Human Development International 13(1), 111-120

Gregersen, H.B., Morrison, A.J. and Black, J.S. (1998) ‘Developing Leader for the Global Frontier’. Sloan Management Review 40(1), 21

Gupta, M. (2016) Suite Talk: Sajith Sivanandan, regional MD of Google [online] available from <> [15 February 2017]

Hunt, V., Layton, D. and Prince, S. (2015) ‘Why Diversity matters’. McKinsey & Company [online] January. available from> [18 February 2017]

Ibarra, H. and Hansen, M.T. (2011) ‘Are You A Collaborative Leader?’ Harvard Business Review 89(7/8), 68-74

Janssens, M. and Brett, J.M. (2006) ‘Cultural Intellie in Global Teams: A Fusion Model of Collaboration’ Group and Organisation Management 31(1), 124-153

Johnson and Johnson (2017) Diversity and Inclusion [online] available from < about-jnj/diversity> [15 February 2017]

McKinsey & Company (2015) Why Diversity Matters [online] available from <> [18 February 2017]

Ray, S. (2015) ‘Unity in Diversity – Managing Diverse Teams’. Human Capital Online Library [online] November 2015. available from < > [10 February 2017]

The Salvation Army Australia Eastern Territory (n.d.) Tuckman’s team Development Model [online] available from <; [13 February 2017]

Tuckman, B.W. (1965) ‘Developmental Sequence in Small Groups’. Psychological Bulletin 63(6), 384-399