The Rhythm of a Great Place to Work: Drew Clancy

The Rhythm of a Great Place to Work: Drew Clancy

The Rhythm of a Great Place to Work:  Drew Clancy, President of PCI

Drew Clancy, President of Publishing Concepts (PCI), is a self-proclaimed ‘cultural enthusiast’.  His commitment to the core elements of culture has resulted in year-over-year growth and consistent recognition as a Best Place to Work.  As a third-generation leader, he has brought this near 100year-old family business solidly into the 21st Century through innovation and servant leadership. 

Season 1   |   Episode 09   |   November 12, 2019

Show Notes


We inspire dreams and transform lives

PCI’s Purpose


A Successful Third-Generation Family Business

Drew Clancy is President of PCI, a midsize, third-generation family business headquartered in Dallas, Texas.  In 2021 they will celebrate 100 years in operation, and like any company that has weathered that much time, they’ve experienced iterations and evolutions. In 1982, Jack Clancy, Drew’s father, breathed new life into the company and gave it a new name: Publishing Concepts, now best known as PCI.  They’re in the business of “helping college, university, and association clients engage their alumni and membership and raise money in order to fulfill their mission of educating our nation’s future leaders”.

Jack Clancy was a ‘dynamo’, as Drew describes in the interview and embodied many first-generation and founder qualities: charisma, high energy, generosity and a preponderance for making all the decisions, and generally keeping tight reigns on the business. These characteristics are needed at start-up but will cripple the business over the long-term.  Note:  PwC has published a very interesting survey on family businesses.  A short video summary can be found here.  

Drew entered the picture in 1995 after his father suffered a heart attack and could no longer bring his formidable energy and presence to the business.  Drew recognized the talent and capacity of the team and brought his own unique approach to leading and managing to PCI.  Essentially, he navigated the company past the ‘founder’s trap’ as described by Dr. Ichak Adizes, creator of the Adizes Corporate Lifecycle, and steered PCI toward sustainability.  And it’s working – PCI continues excellent financial performance, targeting $50M in revenue this year, doubling 2016’s performance. As you hear in the interview, Drew is a self-described “workplace culture enthusiast” and is so passionate about this that he invites anyone to reach out to him for a conversation.

Organizational Culture as a Business Strategy

We spent the bulk of our time discussing Drew’s passion: workplace culture.  He is a strong believer in Servant Leadership and sees creating a thriving workplace as a foundational business strategy.  His orientation is paying off:  PCI has appeared on both Dallas Morning News 100 Best Places to Work and Best Companies to Work for in Texas, nabbing first place in 2015 & 2016.  Even with these accolades, he doesn’t take culture for granted, claiming “you have to work for it every day”.

They have a term for the central elements of their culture, theFIVE:

  • 5 Elements of the core ideology: Purpose, Values, Vision, Goals, Commitment
  • 5 Values: Excellence, Unlock Human Potential, Act with Integrity, Innovate a Culture of Relationships & Fun, Lead with a Servant’s Heart

Structure Will Set You Free:  Rhythms, Rigor and Ritual

A best-place-to-work culture will not happen by wishing for it.  It won’t even happen if you articulate your core ideology (Jim Collins’ term for Purpose, Vision and Values) and hang posters throughout the workspace.  You have to take action.

Drew is keen on the idea that “structure sets you free”. Liberating structures are created to channel individual or group energy toward a specific goal.  James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, guides individuals to make tiny shifts in daily behaviors that will lead to big results.

At the organizational level,  leaders use liberating structures by setting rhythmic meetings with appropriate agendas to guide actions and increase engagement. Drew outlines the meeting rhythm at PCI that has helped create their award-winning cultural.

Drew’s morning ritual:

Like many successful leaders, Drew has a rigorous morning ritual that he’s been practicing for seven or eight years now.  Last year, he led a book discussion at PCI on The Morning Miracle by Hal Elrod, which helped him fine-tune his own routine (this is also an example of his commitment to Unlocking Human Potential as an organizational value). Here’s his practice:

  • Wake at 5:45a or 6:00a
  • Exercise – push-ups or sit-ups
  • Meditate for 10 – 20 minutes
  • Read the Bible & pray
  • Journal – writing about the 10 personal goals he sets each year

PCI’s Organizational Rhythm:

“Try a lot of things and keep what works”.  This is the advice Drew gleaned from Jim Collins’ epic book, Built to Last.  Here’s what is working for PCI now:

  • Annual Planning – Yearly
  • Monthly Extended Leadership Meeting – Trail Blazers meeting for anyone leading a team, project, product, client relationship, etc. This meeting is focused on growth and learning.
  • Weekly – CEO Council.  This is an L-10 meeting (Level 10 from EOS)
  • Daily Huddle – 10 minutes at 8:30a, called the 10@8:30. See PCI’s agenda here

These meetings share critical information such as metrics (transparency is key), updates, and progress and also keep team members focused on ‘theFIVE’

Helpful Articles:  Discipline Sets You Free; The Right Meeting Rhythm Will Set You Free; CEO’s Roadmap to Alignment

Book:  The Power of Liberating Structures

Courage:  The Final Element

Courage is the third element for creating an enduring culture.  There are times in the life of a leader when decisions aren’t just tough, they may even have a short term negative impact – financially or otherwise.  The leader has to choose whether to take the high road and stay true to the stated values of the company or let something slip by.  These are known as leadership moments and they are opportunities to embody the values that have been espoused.  Actions speak much louder than words.  Which reminds me of the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:  Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.

Drew Clancy’s actions SHOUT his commitment to the culture at PCI.

After listening to the interview and reading the notes, I wonder what your takeaway is?

Thanks for tuning in!



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Leader or Follower? A Bogus Choice

Leader or Follower? A Bogus Choice

Leader or Follower? A Bogus Choice

team paceline_cascade cyclist_cc


The weekend following my solo outing, my husband and I went out again. He’s a more experienced cyclist than I am and is also much better at navigating our route, so pretty quickly I fall back and he rides out front. Considering our goal is fitness-focused and having an activity we do together, this arrangement works. That said, we do pay attention to our times and feel good when we see improvement. We also push ourselves to ride further as the riding season progresses. Speed is less important than distance. This day we planned to ride 25 miles.

About five miles out I realized I had zoned out – that my level and type of engagement on this trip was very different from the previous weekend. Not only was last weekend’s ride the first on my own,  I had also been caught in a storm which added an element of adventure. While I was enjoying this ride, it lacked the almost hyper-awareness of the previous one.

In Gallup terms I was somewhere between Engaged and Disengaged. Was being a ‘follower’ the cause for this? In a way, yes. Today I had the energy and outlook of ‘being along for the ride’.  I was not connected to any outcome or my role in achieving it. I had been much more invested when I was solely responsible for reaching my destination the prior weekend.  Interesting.

My mind jumped to considering the roles and mindsets of leaders, teams and team members who are focused on achieving organizational goals (or not). Experts tell us that in the near future, organizational success will rely more on the collaborative efforts seen in self-managing teams. As the shape of how work gets done changes, leaders and followers will become less distinct. Leaders will need to fall back and team members will need to step up.  A more intentional level of engagement will be required by both.

The Onus is On Us

Frederic Laloux, author of Reinventing Organizations, writes about a new type of management that is emerging in a few forward thinking companies.   These organizations are finding better ways of working together that produce sustainable results for all stakeholders:  employees, communities, vendors , shareholders, and the environment.  They are defined as Teal organizations (seeThe Future of Management is Teal). Self-managed teams are a key characteristic of Teal organizations and will require more trust, humility, integrity, passion and connection with purpose.

“Teal Organizations operate effectively, even at a large scale, with a system based on peer relationships. They set up structures and practices in which people have high autonomy in their domain, and are accountable for coordinating with others. Power and control are deeply embedded throughout the organizations, no longer tied to the specific positions of a few top leaders.” – Frederic Laloux

The transition to Teal will be easier for some than others. Team members who prefer to work for an authoritative leader, with clear hierarchies and prescribed roles may find this arrangement challenging. The processes and rules will be different; work will be more organic and solutions emergent.

Nick Petrie from the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) also writes about “the rise of collective leadership” in his white paper, Future Trends in Leadership Development.

“…a future made up of complex, chaotic environments is less suited to the problem solving of lone, decisive authority figures than it is to the distributed efforts of smart, flexible leadership networks” – Nick Petrie

Falling Back as a Key Leadership Capability

In group- and team-cycling, the paceline is central. Cyclists ride in a line, taking turns at the front ‘pulling’, which allows others to ‘draft’, or take advantage of the wind being blocked by the leader. Each person leads for a short time and then falls back so that another can step up. The group is able to maintain a faster pace and higher collective energy.   This is a beautiful example of distributed leadership.

As an executive coach I have given clients the assignment to ‘fall back’ – to trust others’ ability to lead. Some people find it difficult, even uncomfortable to not be in charge. They’re concerned things won’t be done ‘right’, or that no one else is prepared to take on the challenge. As in the cycling analogy, not only would this be exhausting but it also impedes the building of trust, the development of others and ultimately the success of the team.

I also appreciate the paceline metaphor because each person has to train,  to prepare themselves to take the lead in order to be a part of the team. In the world of cycling, as I believe it will be in organizational life, individuals choose if they want to train or not, and that will determine the contribution they are able to make to the larger team and how they will be invited to participate.

The roles of ‘leaders’ and ‘followers’ have changed over the thousands of years that we humans have been organizing ourselves for reasons from survival to commerce to connection.  We are on the cusp of a new rendering of these definitions which many of us will welcome.  Every transition brings expected and unexpected consequences; self-awareness and conscious choosing will support our collective efforts during this transformation. Being ‘along for the ride’ won’t be an effective long term strategy for success in the future.

Note:  Thanks to my good friend and serious cyclist, Bob for the lessons on pacelines and team cycling!