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August 26, 2019 Robert Rice 2 Comments

Everyday Leadership with GHPOD II, Part IV – Who Is Your Most Important Constituency?

Written by: Robert Rice, Program Director, GHPOD II

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.

Robert Rice

Program Director, GHPOD II

Robert (Bob) Rice is an experienced program manager and project director with over 20 years of management experience in the fields of professional and organizational development and over 30 years of international development work. With extensive USAID Global Health experience domestically and internationally, he is well versed in USAID and other USG/interagency rules and regulations, and commands extensive knowledge of strategic planning and performance management as they relate to international development assistance. Mr. Rice is an expert professional and organizational development specialist who has developed, delivered, and managed participant-centered learning opportunities. He has developed, implemented, and evaluated health-specific courses as a trainer-of-trainers, facilitator, and curriculum developer. The majority of his OD and PO facilitation is in the health sector, for clients such as USAID world-wide (including work with over 20 USAID Missions), the International Red Cross Red Crescent, WHO, and local Ministries of Health. Mr. Rice believes that adults learn best when their capacity development opportunities are:
  • based on needs identified in the workplace or Team
  • applicable soon after the conclusion of the training
  • fun


  • Jim Fremming
    August 26, 2019

    Excellent observations and advice, Bob. It’s not every leader who is able and willing to “step up” and support the team unconditionally. Feedback to the team or members can be fine, especially within the trust environment you describe. When the leader starts pointing fingers at members of the team for some failing, then the trust deteriorates, and (contradictorily) technical performance suffers.

    • Bob Rice
      August 28, 2019

      Jim, first of all, great to hear from you. I was just asking some of my EnCompass colleagues about you. I hear that you are faring well, and thriving in Amman– excellent news.

      Here at GHPOD II we have an exceptional group. Our philosophy–which seems almost common sensical, but I have rarely experienced it in the many teams I have worked on–is to play to each individual’s strengths. It takes the team members time to get to know new members, but once we do we can mix and match skill/experience sets among the diverse members when we plan and implement activities. Not only does that help bond team members to each other, but it keeps the work place evolving as we add to the different sets of experiences among the staff.

      It also helps to work for an appreciative employer such as EnCompass and its carefully tended strengths-based appreciative culture.


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