Friday, February 24, 2006

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part II: “Impeccability” by Drew Clarke

Chapter Two of “Take Command” by Kelly Perdew discusses “Impeccability: If Something Is Worth Doing, Then It Is Worth Doing Right.” Kelly closes the chapter with this quotation:

“Make sure the first – and last – impression you make is your best. Maintain impeccable standards for all your work,, you never know who is going to see it or what it will be used for. What you deliver, and how you deliver it, is who you are. Be the best you can be.” (Page 48)

As I was thinking through the list of individuals I would invite to contribute their thoughts to this series, I went through my mental Rolodex of people I know who have made successful transitions from military leadership to leadership in the business world. Drew Clarke came immediately to mind as I scrolled through the “C’s” in my mental address book. I first met Drew three years ago when he and I served together on a panel at a Career Day event sponsored by the Armed Forces Alumni Association at Harvard Business School. We have had subsequent chances to deepen our relationship in one-on-one meetings, e-mail and phone conversations and at luncheons of the Service Academy Business Network of Boston – a networking group of West Point, Annapolis, Air Force Academy and Coast Guard Academy graduates who live and work in the Greater Boston area. (I have very graciously been “adopted” by this group as a “Permanent Guest Member”!)

Andrew "Drew" Clarke is a 1992 graduate of the United State Military Academy at West Point, where he was a member of the three-time National Championship Orienteering team. He holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. After a successful career as a marketing executive with Siebel Systems, Drew currently serves as Vice President of Global Marketing Operations at PTC, a $700 million enterprise software company.

I am pleased to share Drew’s thoughts on IMPECCABILITY

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Kelly has a quote about: “you never know when you have the opportunity to impress somebody.” This statement could be construed as just looking out for when your manager or potential employer could be around and check on your work. I believe it is a lot more than that – it is doing your job right – down to the details – regardless of who may be looking. This is even more important if you are in a leadership position – the most important audience is the people who work for you.

Similar to Bill from last weeks posting, I am not good at official definitions therefore I will share my perspective on “Impeccability” through a couple of situations that I experienced in the Army and the business world.

As a new officer, I had the fortune of being assigned directly to a scout platoon in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. While I have many life lessons from the 2 years as a scout platoon leader, one jumps out at me in this discussion of impeccability.

About 8 months into my assignment, my platoon was getting ready for our gunnery exercises. These exercises are very competitive - with each unit striving to be the top ranked platoon. In gunnery, we test everything from the smallest unit fundamentals (can each scout, crew and team do their job with their weapon systems?) to platoon and troop combat tactics. For the weeks leading up to the gunnery exercises, I focused our time and resources on ensuring that each scout and crew could accomplish each task, practiced those tasks and that our equipment was working at 100%. At the time it seemed almost mundane, and especially when I compared myself to the other scout platoon leaders who paid lip service to those fundamentals and focused on ensuring their equipment looked great.

Suffice to say, during the pre-gunnery inspections, my scout platoon looked a bit shabby. Our Bradley Fighting Vehicles still had the scratches and marks from the first Gulf War, the paint was worn, our combat vehicle helmets were not painted with flashy Cavalry symbols…. When my Squadron Commander commented on the paint jobs (or lack of them) he asked me if I wanted my platoon to look good at the gunnery range. I told him “No, I don’t. I want to finish as the top platoon in the regiment.” He chuckled and moved on to the next platoon that was considerably “prettier”. In the end, not only did my platoon finish as first, we went on to represent the Regiment (a total 36 teams) at a national level competition – finishing second overall.

The above story may seem counter to the definition of impeccability, but I think it is an important distinction and is a lesson that stays with me. I did not go for the “Show” but focused on the right details – skill attainment, practice, and my equipment working 100%. In the end – focusing on the right things and making sure they are done correctly will help you and your organization overachieve your goals.

Flash forward 10 years and I am now in the business world working in Silicon Valley. In 2002, I was asked by my company to help build a field marketing organization. We were an enterprise software company – marketing and selling our solutions to major corporations. At $1.5B in revenues, we were a large software company but hadn’t focused on building a robust demand generation marketing organization. Building this group wasn’t going to be easy as there wasn’t any institutional knowledge to draw upon.

As we built the field marketing organization, I focused on the fundamentals of demand generation – which requires a lot of attention to detail. For example, what is the process for executing a marketing program, how do you hand the new leads to sales, what programs are effective, how do you measure it, where do you spend the precious marketing resources? By breaking the process into pieces and focusing on the details, we built a great organization with strong fundamentals that not only weathered the storm but improved while the resources became more constrained as the tech bubble burst.

In business, when an organization is making money it is often given more resources (money, people) to make even more money. This was the case for our group. Even when the company was downsizing, we were growing – from a team of 15 to over 50 by the end of 2004. The internal recognition was great but I wanted to do more for the team and to show them that they were unique and "best of class," so we applied for some best practice awards from external organizations and we won 2 – one from IDC and one from ITSMA – two research oriented organizations.

In conclusion – it is my opinion that “impeccability” is more than looking good. It is being good at what you do – down to the details that makes you “impeccable”.


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Thank you, Drew, for your commitment to excellence and your willingness to share your story with us.

This series will continue next week with . . . .

10 Leaders Share Their Views On Leadership – Part III: “Passion” by Scott St. Germain

I encourage you to share this series with others you feel would benefit from the insights of these leaders.

If you have not yet taken the time to read Kelly Perdew’s “Take Command,” this would be a good time to log onto to order it. It is the foundation stone upon which this series is built.


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