Nancy Parsons: Revolutionizing Leadership and Talent Development

Finance Monthly speaks to author and President of CDR Assessment Group – Nancy Parsons about her company and their coaching tools, her philanthropic initiatives and the passion that drives her.   Tell us about CDR Assessment Group, your career path prior to co-founding the company and your books. Twenty years ago, I co-founded CDR Assessment […]

Finance Monthly speaks to author and President of CDR Assessment Group – Nancy Parsons about her company and their coaching tools, her philanthropic initiatives and the passion that drives her.


Tell us about CDR Assessment Group, your career path prior to co-founding the company and your books.

Twenty years ago, I co-founded CDR Assessment Group, along with my business partner Kimberly R. Leveridge, Ph.D. CDR is recognized as one of the top firms for combining the science of assessments with the art of developing people. We provide our proprietary assessments for leadership development and talent management for global clients.

Kim and I developed the CDR 3-Dimensional Assessment Suite® in 1998. The Suite digs deep beneath the surface to help each leaders’ self-awareness move to a whole new level to improve their performance, work relationships, success and satisfaction. Our coaching tools have helped leaders accurately measure their character traits and strengths, risks for derailment; and drivers & reward needs. The Suite is available in five languages (Spanish, French, Italian, German and English.) We have built a global team of certified CDR executive coaches and consultants who provide services for CDR clients.

In late 2017, I published a research-based book, Fresh Insights to End the Glass Ceiling and since publishing, I’ve been interviewed by over 50 radio hosts and a national television show. The book sheds new light on why the glass ceiling exists – and it is not what most people think. The personality-based research shared in the book reveals why so few women make it to the top, and the staggering costs of not promoting more women to senior leadership positions. My book is packed with practical solutions to end the glass ceiling for good.

I enjoy writing and have authored more than 30 articles and have had a blog since 2009. My second book, titled Transforming Leaderocrity is scheduled for release in late 2018. I have enjoyed presenting at international, national and regional industry conferences and am an NSA member. As a speaker, I have been described by others as being “refreshingly frank, gutsy, funny, wicked smart and passionate.”   When presenting to groups, I enjoy shedding new light on why people do what they do, both the good and the bad.

In 2016, I founded the Vets Coaching Vets philanthropic initiative and since then, our team has worked with six different veteran organizations to coach more than 50 transitioning veterans to accelerate their career success. Since 2000, CDR Assessment Group has been a women-owned WBENC certified business and is now affiliated with WBEA.

I am delighted to be married to the love of my life and have four grown children, three grandchildren, and three very spoiled dogs.


Can you detail the key services that CDR Assessment Group offers?

We provide consulting, executive coaching and training services that wrap around our unmatched assessment tools. We train executive coaches (both internal and external consultants) to use the assessment tools with their clients.

While most of my actual client work centers around coaching senior executives and executive coaches, CDR Assessment Group is able to reach and develop thousands of leaders and professionals each year. Of course, a good portion of my time is devoted to running and growing the business. We have a network of globally dispersed executive coaches who utilize our tools with their clients and who participate to serve as consultants and coaches for our projects as well.

One differentiator for us is that our assessments are like the Swiss Army Knife of the assessment world. In addition to using these tools for executive coaching, we use these scientifically validated measures as an integral part of our consulting and training services to help clients with:

  • Employee selection;
  • Succession planning decisions;
  • Strategic executive team development;
  • Custom Authentic Leadership learning programs combining assessments, coaching and custom workshops based on the data of the leader participants;
  • Executive performance forecasts;
  • Leadership capability analysis;
  • Research and validity study projects.

Why would you say experienced corporate executives need the services of an external management consultant/coach?

Corporate executives need our propriety assessments and coaching so that they can gain an acute sense of self-awareness that they otherwise cannot achieve, even with the best soul-searching techniques. By completing their initial coaching debrief session with the CDR 3-D Suite (about 2.5 to 3 hours), they can hit the ground running with new, deeper insights to help them better understand their strengths, risks, vulnerabilities and motivation to a nuanced level. Equipped with this new level of self-understanding, they can improve their leadership capability well beyond their current effectiveness level. They can also begin to see what makes others tick and how to be more effective with their teams and stakeholders.

How important is it to have first-hand experience of running a business in order to provide valuable insight to other business leaders?

I think having experience as a CEO is extremely valuable as a coach because one has then walked in the shoes of strategy, operations and P&L. However, experience alone is not enough because one then only scratches the surface. By adding scientifically validated assessment tools into the coaching process, we accelerate impactful, usable real-world dialogue from the first coaching session. We don’t hold hands wasting valuable time getting to know our executive clients, we are able to dig deep and accelerate results from the first coaching session.

We then link executive team data to business strategy to be sure that the actual profiles of team members are well aligned to achieve strategic objectives.

Here’s recent feedback of a COO who is a Ph.D. in the pharmaceutical industry:

“I gained valuable insights into my leadership style and I particularly enjoyed her session on how stress impacts me as a leader. That part of our session is something I use almost every day. As a scientist, the data-based assessment was very appealing and gave me some good data to rely on when discussing my role at the company with the board and my CEO. In addition, while the assessments were very thorough, what I enjoyed most was my one-on-one coaching session with Nancy. Her advice, opinion, and experiential knowledge gave me some good perspective on my current job and also my future career. So much so that I wish I had done this years ago!”


What makes your job rewarding?

I am rewarded by knowing that we are revolutionizing leadership and talent development by identifying true talent to a level not done before. That will help us increase leadership effectiveness which has suffered to this point. I love helping people become self-aware to a whole new level. Most executives say they wish they had done this 20 or 30 years ago. Those “aha” moments and the sheer joy people have, despite acknowledging their risks and vulnerabilities, in going through the assessment debrief is my performance fuel.

Another area that brings me a high level of satisfaction is helping individuals get onto the right career path. So many leaders, veterans and others are off track but do not quite know how to identify what is the best career for them. We are able to help these individuals find clarity of their best course forward.

I also really enjoy facilitating executive team development sessions (that are custom designed based on the CDR data) once all team members have had individual coaching debriefs with their assessments. This transforms team dynamics, effectiveness and ability to convert conflict into positive performance.


What differentiates CDR Assessment from its competitors?

  • The scope, accuracy and individualized, detailed level of assessment results and proprietary coaching debrief session.
  • We accelerate success. One client in the medical device industry wrote an article reporting that using our assessments shaved up to 2 years from their leadership development cycle time.
  • The value added due to the multiple uses of the assessments without ever having to retest.
  • Our services are boutique-like. You talk to experts, not sales people. Some of our clients have been with us for two decades so we build sustained relationships based on trust, support and service. We jump through hoops for our clients.


What do you hope to achieve with your philanthropic organization Vets Coaching Vets?

I am passionate about our philanthropic effort. We hope to build this program through building partnerships with corporations who benefit from hiring Veterans and who want to make sure they are hiring them and developing them in a way that taps into their inherent strengths and satisfies their motivational needs.

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