Managing heterogeneous teams

Michel Rothgaenger
Michel Rothgaenger

Whether you are an experienced manager or an absolute novice, leading a team is not easy. Every person is different and has different needs in terms of how to guide him or her to achieve the best possible results and maintain a comfortable working environment. A team often consists of a variety of personalities with different preferences and communication styles.

What can managers do to better lead a heterogeneous team - without feeling like they are being pulled in twenty different directions?

1. Develop emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence - your ability to recognize, understand and classify your own and other people's feelings - is an important skill in your professional life. It is even more important when you are in charge of a team. Especially then is it vital that you perceive the nuances in your team’s behavior.

Your employees may not always be completely open with their questions, concerns and problems. Not everyone is a straightforward communicator, and approaching a boss can be uncomfortable - which drives many people to keep things to themselves.

As a manager, you will be a much stronger leader (and a role model for your other team members) if you are able to read between the lines and perceive cues - instead of waiting for everything to be made explicit.

2. Try to understand your team

It is important that you work on understanding your team members' different abilities, weaknesses and things that motivate them. Knowing your team on a deeper level will help you develop a suitable management style. When you know these things, you will be able to delegate tasks to the ones who would enjoy them the most, be the most productive with them and find the best solution.

3. Have holistic conversations and feedback

You know how important frequent one-on-one meetings are, and that they are an effective strategy to stay up to date and keep the relationship with the employee active. They provide an opportunity to talk about current workloads, career goals and any other job-related issues you need to be aware of. Have you ever considered adding a personal element to these regular sessions? Our professional and personal lives are more intertwined than ever, and knowing a little about your employees' lives outside the office can have a pretty big impact on how you interact and communicate with them during working hours. Not only does this help you be more sensitive (or, if necessary, accommodating) to your employees, it also gives you an additional explanation of why your team members may be behaving in a certain way.

4. Be a mediator

You should serve as a source of activation and encouragement. As your direct leader, it is important that you recognize and reward the valuable contributions of your employees. This is especially important for your employees, who are more cautious and analyze what is being said in team meetings rather than constantly speaking out for themselves.
If a more introverted employee comes to you with an idea or suggestion after a meeting, it's important that you encourage this as his or her contribution. It's a way to give recognition where recognition is due, while reminding the rest of your team that just because someone doesn't speak up in a meeting doesn't mean he or she is negligent. It is important that once you have gained an understanding of the team members you transfer this knowledge to the team so that you can mediate personal differences and misunderstandings between employees.

Ultimately managing your team is about taking the time to understand your people. With this foundation, you will find it much easier to manage your various team members in a way that best suits you and your individual preferences.

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