To fully understand the roles and responsibilities of team managers, it is vital to first understand the difference between a team and work group. Not all groups of workers who inhabit the same work space are teams. A team can be identified by the existence of a common goal with members working toward meeting that goal. Team managers, who are commonly referred to as team leaders, must act as facilitators asking for and implementing feedback from all team members.
A team consists of a group of people who works together to achieve a common goal. For example, an organization might develop a team whose purpose is to identify and close communication gaps within the organization. One of the roles of a team manager is to ensure its members are aware of and committed to this common goal. It is the responsibility of the team manager to ensure there is unity among team members to keep team members from working at cross purposes.
Team managers typically lead the team rather than managing it. Leaders lead by example rather than using their management status to compel workers to participate in team activities. Team managers or leaders have the responsibility of balancing the need to complete tasks with allowing team members the opportunity to make their own decisions regarding what work should be done and how. It is the role of the team manager to keep team members on task without becoming an autocratic leader who simply tells workers what to do.
Team managers are also responsible for obtaining and maintaining the necessary resources, including human contribution, for team members to reach their common goal. An individual who manages a true team, as opposed to a simple work group, will typically involve team members in the selection and development of new members. Team managers are also responsible for obtaining operational resources including making arrangements for meeting and work space and ensuring any necessary office supplies are available for the team members.
Perhaps the most essential role of the team manager is to combat the most common team destroyers. Elements such as jealousy, cynicism and a lack of confidence in the team or organization as a whole can undermine the unity of purpose which is necessary for a team to be effective. Team managers must ensure all workers perceive themselves as integral to the success of the team. This may sometimes include managing the behaviors of difficult team members to ensure they do not have a negative impact on the team collectively.