The Future Is Now: “A Tech Tool That Can Help Identify Hidden Talents” with Nancy Parsons of CDR Assessment Group

Fotis Georgiadis
Sep 21, 2020 · 15 min read

My hope is that it will change the world by helping individuals who are working age, including college students and veterans assimilating back to civilian life, to fully understand their own gifts, innate capabilities, talent, intrinsic motivators and inherent risk factors that can undermine their success. CDR-U Coach is also ideal for helping people find hidden talents and strengths that have been underutilized that can be developed to make positive career changes. What we have found too often, is that many people are unclear about the best career or education path for themselves, so frequently they pursue the wrong type of jobs and majors. This is not only frustrating for them, but it is costly. We can prevent these career and college major missteps by helping people gain a keen sense of self-awareness to make sure they are steering their careers onto the best path congruent with their inherent strengths, gifts and motivational needs. Also, when people are in the best-fit job roles, they are highly productive, successful and happy.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Parsons.

Nancy Parsons is one of today’s foremost experts in combining the science of assessments with the art of developing people. She is the CEO/President of CDR Assessment Group, Inc. that she co-founded with Kimberly R. Leveridge, Ph.D. In 1998, together they authored the break-through CDR 3-Dimensional Assessment Suite® an ideal coaching tool translated to five languages for global clients. With over 33 years of experience, Nancy has published two books and more than 70 articles on leadership and development. She works with global leaders to accelerate success by helping them identify and develop their true talent at the launching point of a coaching engagement.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Absolutely, thank you for taking the time to chat with me. Once I moved into HR in the energy sector as a generalist that also handled labor relations, I started to gravitate more to leadership development and talent development. By the late 80s, I was designing 360 performance feedback instruments for an energy pipeline company where I was the HR director. I figured out that the best way to solve “people” problems in the workforce was to get ahead of them by helping leaders to be more effective. I grew weary of the fire fighting in HR, and shifted my focus to leadership development. In the ’90s, I moved into training leaders in coaching skills, and then became an executive coach. Once I was introduced to personality and motivational measures, I was hooked and saw this as the best way to revolutionize leader performance and development. In 1998, my business partner and I started CDR Assessment Group, Inc. and haven’t deviated from that vision since.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Years ago, we did a large redeployment project for an energy company. They were laying off employees on one side of the business yet had a few openings, and one was for systems analysts. We were hired to find, through our assessment, those who had the innate capabilities for these jobs that could be successfully trained.

Candidates who applied for these opportunities were screened solely based upon their CDR assessment test scores. Less than 20% of applicants made it past these test score hurdles. Keep in mind, our assessments are objective, diversity neutral with no adverse impact. Interviews of the screened through candidates were then conducted and whether candidates were successful or not, all were afforded coaching with their own assessment results.

Becky Warberg was one of the chosen candidates. I interviewed her about a year after being hired and she said: “This was personally the best thing I have ever done… The most impressive part of the redeploy selection process itself was the coaching feedback I received with my assessment results. It is something I recommend to everyone. I feel extremely fortunate that I was part of this initial group.”

Curious to see how she was doing 16 years later, I checked Becky’s LinkedIn profile and was thrilled to see how her career had soared within the technology field and in leadership. I sent her a message and she replied: “The value of your work has impacted my life tremendously in such a positive way. When I applied for the program, I was thrilled at the prospect but honestly questioned whether I would be a good match, and then your assessments boosted my confidence so much. Thank you. Thank you. THANK YOU!”

It is so rewarding and encouraging to see these stories unfold from the hard work we have put into building and growing our business, and to be able to see how our work has positively impacted the lives of our clients over the years.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

CDR-U Coach is a revolutionary product in the learning and development technology space combining existing technologies and creative technical programming while using personalized assessment data in a different way. CDR-U Coach provides an online, personalized avatar debrief to individuals based on the full results of the CDR 3-D Suite assessments. Because of the rich data source and complex algorithms, no two users have the same feedback. It is that personalized! CDR-U Coach offers a more comprehensive assessment that is completely personalized and connects results across three modules. CDR-U Coach gives users clear and candid language, providing examples and developmental suggestions along the way. It provides an AI-type experience for users because of the analytics involved. CDR-U Coach is completely virtual which is especially ideal today with so many employees working at home. This means it is available 24/7 to users. This is the first of its kind!

How do you think this might change the world?

My hope is that it will change the world by helping individuals who are working age, including college students and veterans assimilating back to civilian life, to fully understand their own gifts, innate capabilities, talent, intrinsic motivators and inherent risk factors that can undermine their success. CDR-U Coach is also ideal for helping people find hidden talents and strengths that have been underutilized that can be developed to make positive career changes. What we have found too often, is that many people are unclear about the best career or education path for themselves, so frequently they pursue the wrong type of jobs and majors. This is not only frustrating for them, but it is costly. We can prevent these career and college major missteps by helping people gain a keen sense of self-awareness to make sure they are steering their careers onto the best path congruent with their inherent strengths, gifts and motivational needs. Also, when people are in the best-fit job roles, they are highly productive, successful and happy.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Of course, there are aspects of this that could pose drawbacks that we are constantly testing, making improvements, and continuing to think about. Over the last 3 months, we have completed beta testing to gather specific feedback from users. Keep in mind, our assessments go very deep and are extremely comprehensive. They are nothing like the popular Myers Briggs or DiSC, which are tests that match you to a particular set of types. Our CDR 3-D Suite is more serious and far more personally insightful and useful. The virtual CDR-U Coach provides a debrief in three modules: CDR Character Assessment (40 minutes), CDR Risk Assessment (20 minutes); and, CDR Drivers & Rewards (20 minutes.). At the front end, it also takes the user about 45 minutes to complete the assessments. So, the first drawback is the time involved by the participant. We know from research that most people’s attention span for e-learning is about 5 minutes or so. However, our hypothesis was that users would stay engaged because it was “all about them.” Thankfully, our hypothesis has been proven true in our pilot testing phase.

The other potential drawback can be based on someone’s scoring configuration on the assessments used by CDR-U Coach. Without having a live coach to conduct the initial debrief, we wanted to be sure that there are language safeguards or reassurances for those prone to negative reactions. For example, if an individual has a very low “Adjustment” score, this means that they lack self-confidence, are hard on themselves and others, and are not resilient to stress. On the positive side, they often push themselves quite hard and are intense about getting things done. However, this individual tends to look at all their personal flaws and negatives rather than focusing on their strengths and gifts. So, our challenge is for CDR-U Coach to help them really get clear on their strengths and accomplishments, and to stop beating themselves up. They will always be tough on themselves, but often it is to their own detriment. So, we try to help them appreciate the positives and to find ways to look at these each day, rather than only seeing the negatives.

There are a number of personality-based CDR Risks that we identify that also need careful coaching and developmental analysis and suggestions that we provide or facilitate through CDR-U Coach. Last, we are providing a safety net option of three, one-hour “live” coaching sessions at a discounted fee so that those who might need it can talk to a live CDR Certified Executive or Career Coach. Longer term live coaching packages and team development are available too.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Clients regularly tell us that the CDR 3-D Suite accelerates success, drills deeper, uses candid language, and offers more relevant insights than other instruments. The problem has been, however, that delivery or coaching is very manpower intensive, expensive and not scalable. This meant that only the top executives and leaders were afforded their assessments with a coaching debrief, which made our sales and marketing limited within the tight, highly competitive assessment space. The tipping point happened a few years ago after some eye-opening client feedback from The US Army Civilian University’s CLO. She mentioned how wonderful, though not feasible, it would be for the organization’s 10,0000 employees to take the assessments and receive in-depth feedback. She wanted to know if we could come up with some kind of online multimedia debrief. I said, “Yes, I think we can.” So here we are today, thrilled to present the solution to this dilemma. Now, with CDR-U Coach, all levels of an organization can share in assessment and coaching feedback previously reserved exclusively for executives. The data can then be used for succession planning, custom training, capability analysis and more. It is great for both the employees and the enterprise.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need more visibility in the marketplace. We need our new sales representatives to sell to prospective clients. We have hired two marketing firms, one for strategy and one for digital marketing and our website. We have also retained the services of a PR firm to publicize our launch and CDR-U Coach. We need articles, media interviews, and, mostly, opportunities to showcase CDR-U Coach and the benefits for both employees and their organizations. We need every opportunity for positive exposure that we can get.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We are working with a PR firm to execute a thoughtful and strategic media and social media plan for the launch of CDR-U Coach in a way that will both highlight the features and advantages of the product. In addition to widespread distribution of our press release announcing the launch, our PR team will be focusing on trade publications so that HR directors, employers and other leadership can be made aware of CDR-U Coach for their employees and staff. While strategic social media use is not typical for an assessment product such as this, we have planned a very social media-forward launch campaign that we hope will make CDR-U Coach more accessible to the new generation of leaders and innovators.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Goodness, I’ve had many great managers and mentors on my journey. I think it is a blessing that early in my career in Human Resources and Labor Relations, hiring managers seemed willing to take a risk on me. I originally believed that I was an unconventional candidate, as it took me 10 years to earn my college degree. When I was first promoted into HR from a purchasing administrative role, I was selected over nearly a dozen college graduates at the time.

I had several bosses along the way who trusted me and helped me develop (Bob Howey, Rick Taylor, and Joe Swift) and I am thankful for their guidance. On psychological and motivational assessments, I was personally mentored in the mid 90s by Bob Hogan, Ph.D. and even assisted him on coaching projects. Last, my husband has been my rock and supporter too and no matter the ups and downs of my entrepreneurial challenges, he’s been nothing but supportive. Even with CDR-U Coach, where I invested heavily from our personal funds to form a new LLC, he has been all in with support. I am very lucky for my past bosses, mentors, and Bill, my husband. There are others, of course, but I save that for a book!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

What I get to do by working in the leadership field is help people see what makes them shine. For 22 years, it has been so exciting to help clients realize and truly understand what is so good about themselves. We’ve helped a lot of coaches, nonprofits and churches to build strong leadership and workplace foundations. One of my favorite projects, that brought me joy, is our work with veterans to get their careers back on track. Through “Vets Coaching Vets,” which I founded, we’ve trained veterans to become successful coaches to other veterans looking to re-enter the workforce. What we do is help people find their own riches. Even before CDR, when I was in HR, I would always fight for fairness. Through my success with CDR Assessment Group, we were able to create CDR-U Coach, which makes it possible for us to reach and help all, not just the top of companies. That is by far the most exciting and rewarding part of it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Since I have been an entrepreneur for more than 22 years, I have developed “business sea legs.” Fortunately, I took many classes on running a small business as I ventured away from corporate HR roles.

  1. Going into business is hard, takes a lot of work, and is not for everybody. You have to be flexible enough that when you get knocked down, you are able to get right back up and try again. Coming from a corporate workplace, my first business venture on my own was jarring, as I was used to being provided with all of the resources I needed, but now was having to play every role and anticipate all business needs.
  2. The second thing I wished someone had warned me of is starting your own company can oftentimes be lonely. Because it was just me, I found that I had to constantly reach out to stay connected — this was before social media days. I missed being part of a team and large organization
  3. The third, is that marketing your business requires a multitude of ongoing efforts, not just one, and you must be persistent.
  4. Fourth, you must protect intellectual property by filing for certified trademarks, copyrights, and patents as appropriate. In 1999 to 2000, CDR had to protect our copyrights in Federal Court. A couple of consultants used our copyrighted materials in their published book without permission, claiming rights to them. We prevailed in court because I had registered the certified copyrights with the government. If you do not formally register your copyrights, you cannot protect your intellectual property in court and receive damages. Had I not done this, I would not be here today, and CDR-U Coach would not exist.
  5. Fifth, purchase good business insurance.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

If I could inspire a movement, I would it to be centered around making sure that others were keenly self-aware of their strengths, capabilities and talent. I want them to be clear about what they enjoy and love to do. Last, I want them to know their personality-based risk factors so that these traits that show up under stress and adversity do not undermine their success. I want people to find careers that tap into what is best about them and to do the kind of work they are passionate about and are happy to do. In 1998 when we founded CDR, we used this quote and it is still why we do what we do:

“ The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches,

but to reveal to him, or her, their own.”

- Benjamin Disraeli

(edited 2017 by CDR for gender notation)

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The question isn’t who is going to let me;

it is who is going to stop me?”

Ayn Rand

Early in my career, I always sought to stand up for what I believed in and to speak with candor. I remember once holding a position that was many levels below the president of the company when we wanted to fire someone. These terminations had to be approved by the president. We had completed a full investigation on this employee and the president questioned whether it was the right decision. To the shock of my bosses and colleagues, I pushed back and was confidently assertive about the matter with the president. I always thought, “I’ll just do the right thing and if they fire me, I’ll get a job somewhere else tomorrow.” Turned out that after standing up for what we found were the facts at hand, the president respected me more for speaking my mind and standing up for the truth.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

We are shaking up the world of talent development. On July 15th, 2020, we launched the first of its kind — an online approach to transform how organizations develop talent, top to bottom. This virtual approach is ideal for post-COVID work flexibility. In addition, we’re proud of how this solution can accelerate diversity and inclusion efforts by getting past human biases and systems that too often do not let true talent shine through.

In-depth assessments and coaching are provided to top executives in organizations, leaving mid and lower levels without because it is considered too time and cost prohibitive. This means that more than two-thirds of an organization’s talent is left with only generic training resources that do not individualize learning or develop talent effectively. Our new scalable product, CDR-U Coach, offers personalized, always available, coaching feedback based on the results of the most in-depth assessments available on the market today. Driven by complex algorithms leveraging rich data and delivering predictive results, CDR-U Coach provides an A/I type experience for users with no two individuals receiving the same feedback — it is that personalized. CDR-U Coach is backed by 22 years of data history through CDR Assessment Group, Inc., who provides assessments and personal coaching feedback to the leaders of some of America’s best companies.

CDR has hired two marketing firms: one to develop the marketing strategy, pitch decks, and tactics; and the other to handle digital media and the website. We have also hired a publicity firm to support the launch, press events, articles and social media. We have hired one inside sales representative and two outside sales representatives with strong books of business in our industry.

Our five-year revenue projections are (confidential but terrific) and the market potential for CDR-U Coach is in the billions of dollars. Currently, companies are spending between two and four billion dollars per year on assessments globally. The talent development and leadership development dollars spent are 169 billion in the US and 370 billion dollars globally. Our target market companies spend $1,544 per employee annually. CDR-U Coach is priced at $650 per user with extra fees of $50 each for the action planning modules. The margins are exceptional on this scalable digital in-depth assessment and coaching feedback solution.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My linked in profile is at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nancyeparsons/

Our company website is: www.cdr-u.com and www.cdrassessmentgroup.com and my speaker website is www.nancyparsonsspeaks.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cdruassessmentgroup

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cdrugroup/

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Fotis Georgiadis

Written by

Passionate about bringing emerging technologies to the market

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Pop Culture, Wellness, Social Impact, and Tech. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.