In this final installment in our “Everyday Leadership with GHPOD II” series, GHPOD II Director Bob Rice shares his thoughts on a key competency of effective leadership—supporting your most important constituency. (Spoiler alert: It’s the team you’re leading.) The GHPOD II team works around the globe, offering training and coaching on topics like those featured in this series.

When have you felt inspired by a leader—or inspired to be a better leader? Share your stories and your ideas for everyday leadership in the comments.

Illustration by Zeyna Anderson

What is a leader, aside from someone who leads a group of people? The leader is responsible for implementing the team’s strategic vision, developing business by guaranteeing high-quality delivery of the team’s products and services, and countless other activities.

But what if a client is dissatisfied with a product—be it a commodity or a training series? What does the leader do then?

Imagine this scenario:

As the leader of a high-performing team, you get a request to provide leadership training to a new client. After conversations with the client’s team, you conduct a needs assessment and survey to better define their needs. You assign experienced staff members to perform the work. Your team cuts no corners, and tailors the leadership curriculum to your audience’s specific requirements. Yet, the new client’s team leader is unhappy and critical of the results.

What would you do?

I asked myself this question, as someone who is leading the high-performing GHPOD II team. My team is respected for providing training and organizational development services to a variety of busy government clients around the world. Fortunately, I very rarely find myself with dissatisfied clients … but I have in my past.

So, what would I do in a scenario like the one above?

First of all, I would talk to the team members responsible for providing the training services—the whole team, technical providers as well as supporting staff members. I would ask how they felt about the job they had done. Because we had worked together to build trust, I would be able to expect open and honest assessments, including what they could have done better.

Next, I would interview the client, also leading with a question about what had gone well. Then, I would ask, “What did you expect to happen differently?” I would also take a close look at the evaluation the client’s participants had completed …

… and I would back my staff—unconditionally.

Unconditional Leadership

My staff members are my most important constituency, no question. If someone needs to take the blame, that falls on the leader of the team—me. Of course, I would strive to find a win-win solution for the client, and I would share the client’s feedback with involved team members.

I would also seek their advice, based on their knowledge of the client after the experience. I would ask what we, as a whole team, could do to make the client happier now, or what we might do differently in a similar activity in the future.

Planning for Change

Finally, for future work with this client, I would budget for extra time and effort. As a leader, I know my teams need to expect “zigs and zags” in implementation; there isn’t always a lean, efficient, straightforward pathway to success. It helps to follow this rule: “Know thy client!”

Whatever scenario you’re facing as the leader of a high-performing team, always invest in your team, and back them up. The dividends are respect, trust, and open, honest communication.

EnCompass implements GHPOD II for the USAID Bureau for Global Health.