Monday, October 5, 2015

I Give Leaders a Needed "Time Out"

by Nancy E. Parsons
President, CDR Assessment Group, Inc.

As a blogger since 2009, being able to share nuggets of learning and experiences is something I enjoy. Writing about leadership, assessments, and executive coaching comes fairly easy. Writing concisely and articulately about why I do what I do is another matter all together.

There are a lot of jobs out there that are fascinating, complex, challenging and rewarding. I am one of the lucky ones who can say mine is all of that and more. One of my primary roles is coaching executives and coaching executive coaches as part of their training to use our assessments. On a rare occasion, I will assess and coach, as a favor to a friend or family member, a college student to help them sort out what major and career might be best for them. I break it down to two simple things: 1) find what you are really good at; and, 2) find what you love.

So, that is generally what we do - we help leaders and professionals find their true talent and their personal calling to joyful and rewarding work. However, we add another crucial factor to the mix to assure that this job fit and joyride blend does not fall off of their intended tracks. In our coaching debrief, we also pinpoint one's vulnerabilities or inherent risk factors that can undermine, or even derail, their success.

I'll take it down one notch further for clarity. Years ago, I presented at a Career Day for second graders. What we do, I explained, is help people understand their sunshine, stormy days and what is in their hearts. (Of course, I used pictures and gave out heart-shaped Charm suckers to assure success.) Once people clarify or re-discover these things about themselves, I explained with more pictures, they can then drive their personal careers to the best, most prosperous, and happy places.

Getting back to my real job... My rewards are the "aha" moments, the shifts in thinking, and the radiant energy (glow) people have as they leave a coaching debriefing session. Rediscovering their strengths, facing and preparing to conquer their risks, and by embracing what makes them happy is powerful and life changing. It is nearly impossible to accurately identify these traits, facets and key themes without a skilled coach and well constructed assessments. Further, people work so hard or have such busy schedules that there is typically no time left for their own career soul searching, fine tuning, and focus.

Our 2.5 hour coaching debrief session is that time out for a leader to take a deep dive into exploring what makes them tick and what matters most. It is refreshing, invigorating and highly productive for them from a development and performance standpoint. For me, no matter how tired or busy I may be, conducting a coaching feedback session is the best way to put a skip back in my step.

Excerpted from my LinkedIn blog posts.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Do You Know Your Intrinsic Motivators?

Retaining top talent is about rewarding people based on their individual needs and wants.  Equally important is that your people should be doing work that they find meaningful and enriching inasmuch as possible.   We measure one's intrinsic motivators with the CDR Drivers & Rewards Assessment.  If you were to take this, the results would reveal:

Ø  what really motivates you to excel,
Ø  those aspects of your work or career that provide you with a sense of enrichment and accomplishment,
Ø  the type of environment in which you will best perform (as well as describing those that would make you uneasy),
Ø  the types and quantities of people you enjoy working with,
Ø  how you want to be rewarded,
Ø  what level and kind of feedback and recognition is important to you,
Ø  the beliefs and philosophies you try to live by; and
Ø  the types of activities that you should involve yourself in to stay satisfied with your work and life.

The CDR Drivers & Rewards Assessment defines and measures ten primary personal motivators (with 50 sub-facets) and provides important information about job function and work environment fit.  Drivers & Rewards scales measure degree of need for or interest in:

·       Fame & Feedback
·       Power & Competition
·       Amusement & Hedonism
·       Humanitarian Efforts
·       Companionship & Affiliation
·       Moral Platform
·       Safety & Security
·       Business & Finance
·       Artistic Endeavors
·       Scientific Reasoning

With this data in hand, we help leaders identify “tactics” to honor and reward their people in the ways that will correspond with their individual driver and reward needs.  In this way, people are enriched, fulfilled and more productive.  When individual motivators are ignored or not reinforced, that is when retention and lackluster performance occurs.  Also, if a leader tries to reward the wrong Drivers, this can backfire.  For example, if someone has very low Fame & Feedback, and you bring them center stage in front of many people, they will be mortified.    The Drivers & Reward facets are the key levers to retention and fulfillment.   

This assessment is part of our CDR 3-D Suite and can be purchased as a stand alone.  It is a great tool to use for group/classroom debriefs and activities.   For more info or to request a sample report, go to:

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Moving From "Funny Bones" to "Darks Sides" of Leaders

The switch from my last post "Do You Have a Funny Bone?" to the topic of the "Dark Sides of Leaders" may seem out of kilter.  Maybe it is a leap although we work with all dimensions of leadership -- strengths/character traits, risks -- the dark sides, and with drivers and motivational needs.  So, please stay with us -- people and leaders are complex.  Leader strengths, risks and needs are all over the human map so to speak.  

I love the humor -- Amusement + Hedonism -- but getting to the fun parts or the rewarding stuff is not doable in organizations if leaders are destroying the culture with bad, untrustworthy or bullying behaviors.  We deal with the whole range of authentic leader behaviors in our assessment and coaching practice.  

Back to the article --  dysfunctional leader behaviors damage performance and the bottom line suffers.  I hope that sharing our intervention process insights and  experience helps your organization.                                                                                                           
Cheers, Nancy

Do you have any Executives or Leaders whose "Dark Sides" Show Too Much? 

Inappropriate leader behaviors can lead to high costs, low morale, and poor performance.  Classic executive coaching is not designed to tackle this problem effectively.  In fact, many coaches prefer to avoid these very tough cases.  Intervention coaching is the solution.  Here is an excerpt of an article that explains the best approach we have found in coaching these difficult leader cases:

Mixing Magic and Coaching For Leadership Derailment Interventions
"Intervention coaching is tough duty. When a leader is derailing or in free fall, we get the call. When bad behaviors have gone past the threshold of tolerance, or when a team is falling apart with no plausible solutions in sight, we are contacted at this eleventh hour moment. We come in to perform our magic. Since these cases can be a can of worms, we are fortunate they are a small percentage of our overall coaching practice. The upside is that while these are often rocky and emotionally draining for all involved, if done well, interventions can be remarkably rewarding.
Magic may sound over-the-top. But, the term is not too much of a stretch given that the solutions we reveal tend to amaze our clients. Even more striking is that the derailing leaders themselves are the ones who frequently seem the most pleased and relieved. Because we are able to reveal correct and logical options that are otherwise elusive to clients, it does seem to them that we are performing magic..."

For the full article and actual case studies of intervention coaching, go to:

Article Source:

Feel free to email: with comments or questions!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Do You Have A Funny Bone?

Do you remember the game of “Operation” growing up?  The game buzzed and the patient’s nose lit up in red alert if your surgical procedure went off track using tweezers.  As a child, one thing that I always found most appealing about the game was the “funny bone”.

Naturally, I assumed everyone had a funny bone.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t in the right arm (humerus) – but I was certain that everyone had a sense of humor and loved to laugh.   I was wrong.

One of the most intriguing instruments we use in our consulting practice today is the CDR Drivers & Rewards Assessment that identifies 10 facets of intrinsic motivation or deeply imbedded life interests.  One’s need, or appreciation, for Amusement & Hedonism is one of these facets measured on a scale of 0% to 100%.  Amusement & Hedonism measures one’s needs for fun, personal indulgence, a zest for good times, and an overall philosophy of enjoying life to the fullest.  People with high scores seek a fun work environment, are usually light hearted or even jolly, may relish entertaining, maximize their vacation time, tend to be less formal, and enjoy other fun-loving types.”

People with low scores prefer a serious work environment.  Their sober approach can be effective when the tasks at hand are extremely precise or engrossing or when there is no room for interruption of thought or progress.  Surgeons, auditors, inspectors, and judges are examples of those who benefit from having a serious, poker face determination.  Frequently, rule enforcers and stewards of standards benefit from the straight-faced or solemn demeanor. 

From a leadership and work culture perspective, the gap between having a high or low Amusement & Hedonism score matters greatly. 

For example, in the financial and banking sector, successful leaders and professionals alike tend to have very low Amusement & Hedonism scores on average.  Their organizations tend to be more formal, button down, no nonsense and quite serious about the business at hand.  In fact, they can be quite task focused so that if you worked there and told a funny joke or story, this would not be a welcomed intrusion into the workspace.  Occasionally, you may encounter individuals with a dry, Bob Newhart sense of humor, but you would be hard pressed to find a fun loving jokester on display.

We had a corporate banking client in NYC who decided to go to casual business dress code rather than keeping the full dark suit attire.  This new dress code policy only lasted one week!  It made everyone too uncomfortable because it didn’t connect with the low Amusement & Hedonism scores or their need for a formal work atmosphere.  Additionally, going casual was out of kilter with their client’s expectations of a “banker.”

I once worked with a Director of Training & Development of a mid-west energy company, Ed, who had a very low score and his company, too, went to casual business dress.  I noticed during a visit that the men were wearing golf shirts and khaki slacks. Ed was not going with the flow.  He was wearing a long sleeved, stiffly starched plaid shirt, buttoned to the top, and it was over 90 degrees outside.  I asked him where his golf shirt was and he replied sternly, “Nancy it took me three weeks just to take my tie off!”  He really was not comfortable with the change.

Another VP of Leadership Development at a major medical device corporate headquarters in New Jersey scolded one of our senior consultants, Kim, who was onsite for laughing and talking with a couple employees in a fun spirited way by the water cooler near her office.  
This VP chastised, “You know, we have work around here that needs to get done.”  Kim poked her head in the VP’s office and said “And what was your Amusement & Hedonism score?”  Her score was under 5%.  Kim reminded her that spirited discussions in the workplace frequently enhance productivity for many employees.

So culturally, the Drivers & Reward needs of the employees and leaders become the living values and social environment and are the welcomed code of behaviors. 

Clearly, Southwest Airlines has had a bias in hiring flight attendants and service personnel who have an abundance of Amusement & Hedonism.  From the beginning, ...  (go here for full article)

Note:  Image of Operation Game used with written permission by Hasbro.

Women Image courtesy of Ambro at

Monday, July 13, 2015

Parallels Between "Extreme Narcissism" & The Egotist Leader

By Nancy E. Parsons
With keen interest, I read Kathy Caprino’s Forbes article, How Extreme Narcissism Wreaks Havoc On Your Life And What To Do About It (7/06/15)  Ms. Caprino offers great insights and resources on dealing with the Extreme Narcissist person at work and home. For her article, she interviewed expert Dr. Joseph Burgo, a psychotherapist of 30 years.
During the interview, Dr. Burgo identified 5 different types of Extreme Narcissism, and below are four of the five that hit home in the executive coaching and assessment work we do:
“The Bullying Narcissist - Builds up his or her self-image by persecuting you and making you feel like a loser.
The Seductive Narcissist - Makes you feel good about yourself, as if you’re a winner, in order to secure your admiration … then dumps you.
The Know-It-All Narcissist - Constantly demonstrates superior knowledge in order to make others feel ignorant, uninformed, and inferior. 
The Vindictive Narcissist - When challenged or wounded, will do everything possible to destroy the perceived cause of shame.”
From a leadership context, our firm, CDR Assessment Group, Inc., has measured the inherent Risk Factor of “Egotist” which is a trait that reflects egocentric or narcissistic type behaviors since 1998 for thousands of leaders around the globe in all sectors. While our instrument does not measure personality disorders (as  Narcissism is categorized), the CDR Risk Assessment measures 11 leadership risk factors for those considered having “normal” personality. What this means is our database is comprised of working adults (or working eligible), not clinical patients.
When used for coaching leaders and executives, the complete CDR 3-D Suite of assessments is used to reveal their full authentic talent, capability, inherent risks and motivational needs. The Suite includes the CDR Character Assessment, CDR Risk Assessment and CDR Drivers & Rewards Assessment.
Reflecting on Dr. Burgo’s 4 types of Extreme Narcissism above, we can see a parallel in the workplace with Egotists using our measures.
 The Bullying Egotist 
One who demonstrates these traits is typically in a position of power or influence. Key scores from our CDR 3D Suite:
  • Character Assessment: would likely identify a person who:
    • does not have empathy or concern for others (low Interpersonal Sensitivity)
    • who is intense, has insecurities, and who may be emotionally volatile (low Adjustment)
    • who is extraverted and outspoken (high Sociability)
    • is driven, competitive, and enjoys taking charge (high Leadership Energy) 
  • Risk Assessment: The Bullying Egotist would likely have high scores as an: Egotist, Cynic, Rule Breaker, Upstager, and Hyper-Moody – this is what we call a “moving against profile” so when dealing with conflict or a perceived threat, they go into attack mode and can be condescending, mean, hostile and very self serving.
  • Drivers & Rewards:   High Power & Competition, High Fame & Feedback are common drivers or needs that impacts the Bullying Egotist because of their undaunted thirst for power, attention, and positive recognition.   So, if the Bullying Egotist perceives a threat to his or her status or persona, their moving against Risks often go into high gear. 
The result is a bully or abrasive leader who uses belittling behaviors and who treats others with a lack of respect or dignity. Below are actual excerpts of verbatim comments from Bullying Egotists’ 360° feedback:
  • Too often, people feel as though they are his "minions" doing the dirty work while he takes the credit.
  • She tends to belittle the people that interact with her by appearing to be flawless in her execution of assignments and shifting blame when mistakes are made
  • Takes credit for work done by an entire team of workers and does not acknowledge others for their extra effort.
  • Low level of self-awareness in terms of how his approach negatively impacts others
  • Has a hard time working with others on the team as equals. She lets it be known that she has "arrived," while they still have a long way to go.
  • Has a hard time managing people "underneath" him. Often demeans and is condescending. Doesn't show the proper respect to people around him.
  • Demands rather than delegates.
The Seductive Egotist 
This Seductive type Egotist would have higher Interpersonal Sensitivity than the Bully and appear outwardly warm along with high Sociability exercising great charm and wit. They, too, would have a high Risk Factor for Egotist. The Seductive Egotist pulls you in with their charisma, care and charm and then suddenly pounce or “dump you” when you think the relationship is going just fine. This is also what we have experienced with leaders we have coached and refer to as the “Jekyll & Hyde” profile. Suddenly, the Seductive Egotist turn against colleagues or staff without warning and transforms into a person who is not recognizable from the warm and seemingly caring person they thought they knew. 
The Know-It-All Egotist
By definition of this Risk trait, the Egotist is a know it all. They are smarter, brighter, more capable than those around them – or so they think. Here is the definition from the CDR Leadership Risk Assessment:
Egotist - This scale reveals the leader who: is self-centered, has a sense of entitlement, takes credit for others' accomplishments, is viewed as a hard-nosed competitor, has a sense of superiority, and expects to be looked up to. Egotists betray trust by stealing credit, create dysfunctional work environments because of their self-obsession; and lack objectivity in decision making. Examples: Putting personal agenda ahead of the needs team; refusing to admit mistakes or pay attention to feedback; and, behaving like a dictator or as a pompous member of royalty.
The Vindictive Egotist
Egotists of all stripes can become vindictive when crossed. By the nature of the risk factor, they reject feedback and criticism. After all, they see themselves as flawless and they are often very thin skinned. However, the most dangerous Vindictive Egotists tend to also have Risks as a “False Advocate” and “Rule Breaker.” The False Advocate operates behind the scenes and undermines others without their knowing until it is too late. So, revenge behind the scenes is common with the False Advocate/Egotist/Rule Breaker. Next, having the Rule Breaking Risk equips the Vindictive Egotist to ignore rules, limits or code of ethics so that they can do whatever feels right to them for self-preservation or to get back at perceived threats. So, when someone outshines or goes against the Vindictive Egotist – watch out. Keep in mind, a perceived threat could be as simple as disagreeing in public (or at a meeting) with the Vindictive Egotist.   Vengeful acts may well be brewing behind the scenes with attacks, negativity and even scheming to get back at the perceived threat or offender.
In how to deal with Egotists, a good starting place to read Kathy Caprino’s article in Forbes about Extreme Narcissists. Also, you may want to order Dr. Burgo’s book to be released on September 12, 2015, The Narcissist You Know: Defending Yourself Against Extreme Narcissists in an All-About-Me World and see his blog,
With Egotists in leadership roles, the key is holding them accountable for their behaviors.   It is important to identify the Egotist behaviors through comprehensive, well constructed assessments (that measure personality-based Risks) and also with 360 feedback. When hiring executive coaches, be sure that that they have the tenacity, directness, and courage to deal directly and appropriately. Egotists will pick up on any lack of confidence or overdone kindness and this would be like blood in the water for their shark-like instincts to begin manipulating the coaching process.
Recently, we published a blog post titled: “3 Traps & Tips for Coaching Egotist Leaders” which may be helpful. Also, we will be publishing a follow up article with suggestions to deal effectively with Egotist Leaders.
 One last piece of advice is that for those who are highly caring, warm and sensitive and who may possibly have a Risk Factor as a “Pleaser”. Do not work for an Egotist. This would quickly become a dysfunctional relationship that is akin to the sycophant-narcissist duo. The problem with individuals with extremely high Interpersonal Sensitivity and the Pleaser risk is that they have difficulty setting boundaries, saying no, or in being frank and candid. These traits make the person vulnerable to the ardent Egotist who may use and abuse them.
Note: The 5th Extreme Narcissist type described by Dr. Burgo is the “Addicted Narcissist” and this is not a characteristic that we measure or identify in our assessment tools.

©2015, CDR Assessment Group, Inc., Tulsa, OK, All rights reserved.
Nancy Parsons is President and Co-founder of CDR Assessment Group, Inc. (CDR) providing break-through assessments and consulting services for global client to enhance their leader development and talent management initiatives.   Nancy provides coaching services for C-Suite executives and key leaders from global organizations across all sectors.  She facilitates strategic executive team development and custom authentic leadership workshops for clients.  Nancy also devotes significant time to coaching/mentoring, training and certifying executive coaches.  She is also a member of The Alexcel Group, an elite international group of executive coaching and leadership experts.