CDR Assessment Group's CDR-U platform is taking executive training to help grow and develop talent at every level. Photo courtesy of CDR

What if executive training and professional development didn't just reach the C-suite? A business management company is tapping into tech to bring quality leadership assessments and coaching to all levels with its latest product.

CDR Assessment Group plans to help employees grow at their work, overcome stressors, and increase diversity in management within the workplace with its recently launched CDR-U platform.

"The vision was to extend a deep level of self awareness to all employees," explains Nancy Parsons, president of CDR Assessment Group.

For more than 20 years, the company has developed in-depth assessments and coaching. CDR Assessment Group has now adapted its existing three-pronged CDR 3-D Assessment Suite into CDR-U, a program available to employees throughout an entire company.

According to the company, entry-level employees and mid-level managers make up 85 percent of the workforce. Employers who solely focus on C-suite executives leave behind a majority of their workforce. CDR-U targets these individuals with personalized, AI-style coaching that can be accessed at any time of the day.

"It's really exciting because through this process, now people can really get in touch with their strengths and gifts to a nuanced level. It's not like a Myers Briggs or a DISC, it goes way deeper than that," explains Parsons.

CDR-U features three assessments that ask a series of questions to determine the character, drivers and rewards, as well as the risks of each employee. Rather than a simple report, the program will then offer a personalized debriefing using an AI avatar the employee can choose, which explains the results and coaches the employee through an individualized process.

"The graphics are from your actual results. It's not some generic thing up on the screen," shares Parsons, "We just wanted it to feel like they were being talked to by something that's as close to human as we could get."

After the debrief, employees can access CDR-U's Developmental Action Planning Module to help employees assess their risks "on a deeper level" and "formulate a plan," explains Parsons.

Nancy Parsons is the president of CDR Assessment Group. Photo courtesy of CDR

To Parsons, self awareness is key. "You would be shocked at how often people are not really in touch with some of their best strengths. They certainly don't know the risks and careers go off track quickly," she says, "It's so important that people really know themselves at this level so that they're not under-utilizing strengths."

Understanding themselves also helps employees to "do what they love so they can really enjoy their work," she explains.

At a time when the American workforce has been relegated to a work-from-home model, Parsons feels that the coronavirus pandemic has employees feeling detached. "We're often more stressed or our risks are probably showing more and we feel detachedwe feel cut off from our team," she shares, "It's a way to give people some real reassurance."

If team members are feeling especially down, companies can share CDR-U data and create team debriefs to help them through.

"I think it's more important now because people are stressed, they are kind of depressed and this is a way to pull them back," says Parsons.

Aside from a health pandemic, the United States is also experiencing increased racial tensions around the country. Business Insider reports that as companies are speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, some have poor records of diversity and inclusion in their own workplaces. Corporations like Adidas, Estée Lauder Companies, Facebook, and PepsiCo are just a few of the many organizations making actionable pledges to hire and promote BIPOC within its organization, according to the New York Times.

Women have also been historically marginalized in the workplace, with McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2019 report showing that "women continue to be underrepresented at every level."

When using data from CDR-U, racial and gender biases are no longer in the picture. "This is the best diversity tool out there because the data is race and gender-neutral. This way we can stop screening out so many women and minorities because their true talent will shine through," explains Parsons. As a scientifically-validated and neutral assessment, businesses have the ability to identify potential leaders who may be overlooked due to human biases.

"It's an objective measure against the rest of the population. It is a self-questionnaire—nobody is rating you. It's a snapshot or a fingerprint of who you are," she shares.

Parsons hopes to help people identify their strengths, stay engaged, and find the path that is best for them.

"When people are able to work in harmony congruently with what's best about them, it's going to change the dynamics of organizations and leadership. . .That's why I'm doing this," she says.

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Innovative Texas-based ride-share rolls into Houston with new cars and delivery service

Alto is a go

Houstonians who are interested in an alternative to Uber — and don't mind giving a Dallas-based company a shot — can now look for a new ride. Alto, the ride-share and delivery company based in Big D, has announced its expansion plans to Houston. The company is now offering pre-scheduled rides; Houston residents will be able to book on-demand rides starting October 1, according to a press release.

As CultureMap previously reported, Alto touts itself as a safer, more consistent approach to hailing a ride. Founded in 2018, Alto brands itself as "the first employee-based, on-demand ride-share company." Employees receive salaries and benefits, each company-owned car is branded with the Alto logo (so riders can be sure they're stepping into the right vehicle), and cloud-based cameras capture both interior and exterior videos of the ride.

The company offers ride memberships and also shops, purchases, and delivers from local brands directly to consumers with same-day delivery available.

For safety during the pandemic, all Alto drivers wear masks and gloves during every trip and each Alto vehicle is fitted with a HEPA cabin air filter which removes 99.9 percent of airborne particles, the company claims. Car interiors are also treated with PermaSafe, an EPA-registered hospital-grade sanitizing mist that is said to kill pathogens like COVID-19.

"Alto is thrilled to announce our expansion plans to Houston and offer the same clean, safe ride-share experience that's revolutionizing the industry to this new market," said Will Coleman, founder and CEO of Alto. "We're confident Houston residents will find Alto to be unlike any other ride-share experiences they've had to date, and find comfort in Alto's leading safety and health precautions, as well as elevated rider experience."

Locals who are interested in more information and getting on the Houston launch waitlist can the official site. The Alto app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

3 crisis management tips for Houston business leaders

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The great pandemic of 2020 has brought to the surface the issue of crisis management. Especially with nationwide business shut downs in the last eight months, many companies are on a rocky road of uncertainty. Entrepreneurs are unsure of what the future holds after seeing revenues slow or halt in some cases. Layoffs, RIFs, budget cuts, departmental downsizing; all inevitable.

Way too many startup founders aren't equipped or experienced when it comes to crisis management. "In order to keep your startup going, you have to know how to identify a crisis before it spreads like a cancer and how to make big changes and big decisions fast and often," says Gael O'Brien, the ethics coach for Entrepreneur.com.

"Any time in which the world stops functioning in a way we're used to, a deviation from the norm, that might be the biggest early sign of a crisis about to rear its head," she continued.

Admitting you have a problem

O'Brien stresses that a leader should create an easy process whereby one can identify a crisis in its infancy. The key here, she says, is to make sure to recognize a crisis before it starts to consume your company. You'll have to learn how to contain the crisis by leading the charge in rapid decision making. Many entrepreneurs simply refuse to admit there's a problem at hand. Many times, admitting there's a crisis means admitting one was wrong. It also means they may have been wrong for years.

These entrepreneurs that refuse admitting there's a crisis often do so with common refrains like "I didn't want to scare anyone" or "if I admit I was wrong this whole time I'll lose respect."

"Great leaders aren't afraid to put their company first, even if it means a blow to the ego. These leaders are not afraid to inform everyone that might be affected know there is a crisis," O'Brien explained.

"They contain the problem and prevent it from becoming unmanageable. Good leaders don't opt for a temporary Band-Aid-like fix either. They aim for a permanent solution."

Casting for a crisis management team

There are two common mistakes startup leaders make when it comes to crisis management. The first is that they can miscast a crisis management team. Meaning, they put the wrong people in decision-making roles. You want people on your crisis management team who are not going to feel they will be blamed for a crisis or for controversial decisions.

When one is afraid of being blamed for something, they are more likely to obstruct and lie so that the team's focus is diverted. "These are people that will omit objective and relevant information if it means saving their own reputation or job. You want people that put the team first," said O'Brien.

Communication during a crisis

The second common mistake startup leaders make during a crisis is that they tend to under-communicate. It becomes habitual to keep things close to the chest. To become secretive during a crisis. Managers might feel that the less people know, the less chance there is of panic. However, doing this opens your company up to wild speculation among employees. Assumptions. And these assumptions are never good.

"You have to be forthright. It's not just that people have a right to know what's going on in their own company. It's also that if you leave yourself up to speculation, people will grow frustrated and worse, scared. Scared people make crises worse," said O'Brien.

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This article originally appeared on the University of Houston's The Big Idea. Rene Cantu, the author of this piece, is the writer and editor at UH Division of Research.

Cleantech incubator announces location in Houston, names newest partners

Greentown's moving in

After announcing its plans to expand to Houston in June, Boston-based Greentown Labs has selected its site for its cleantech startup and tech incubator.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Greater Houston Partnership announced that Greentown Houston will be opening in the Innovation District, being developed by Rice Management Co. and home to The Ion. The site is located at 4200 San Jacinto St., which was Houston's last remaining Fiesta grocery story before it closed in July.

The facility is expected to open this coming spring and will feature 40,000 square feet of prototyping lab, office, and community space that can house about 50 startups, totaling 200 to 300 employees.

"We are thrilled to announce the selection of Greentown Labs' inaugural location in partnership with RMC, the City of Houston, the Partnership, and leading global energy and climate impact-focused companies," says Emily Reichert, CEO of Greentown Labs, in a press release. "In order to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, we must engage the talent and assets of major ecosystems around the country. We look forward to catalyzing the Houston ecosystem's support for climatetech startups as we work together toward a sustainable future for all."

Emily Reichert is the CEO of Greentown Labs. Photo courtesy of Greentown Labs

Greentown Labs launched in 2011 as community of climatetech and cleantech innovators bringing together startups, corporates, investors, policymakers, and more to focus on scaling climate solutions. Greentown Labs' first location is 100,000 square feet and located just outside of Boston in Somerville, Massachusetts. Currently, it's home to more than 100 startups and has supported more than 280 startups since the incubator's founding. According to the release, these startups have created more than 6,500 jobs and raised over $850 million in funding

"We are so pleased that Greentown Houston will locate in the heart of the Innovation District, where they will seamlessly integrate into the region's robust energy innovation ecosystem of major corporate energy R&D centers, corporate venture arms, VC-backed energy startups, and other startup development organizations supporting energy technology," says Susan Davenport, chief economic development officer at the Greater Houston Partnership, in the release. "Houston truly is the hub of the global energy industry, and Greentown Houston will ensure we continue to attract the next generation of energy leaders who will create and scale innovations that will change the world."

Greentown Houston, which previously announced several founding partners in June, has just named new partners, including: RMC, Microsoft, Saint-Gobain, and Direct Energy. According to the release, Greentown Houston is also looking for Grand Opening Partners. Naturgy and and FCC Environmental Services (FCC) are the first to join on as a grand opening partners, and startups and prospective partners can reach out for more information via this form.

Reichert previously told InnovationMap that it was looking for an existing industrial-type building that could be retrofitted to meet the needs of industrial startups that need lab space. She also said that this approach is very similar to how they opened their first location.

Rice Management Company is developing the Innovation District in the center of Houston. Screenshot via ionhouston.com

The new location will be in the 16-acre Innovation District that's being developed by RMC, which will be anchored by The Ion, a 270,000-square-foot hub that is being renovated from the former Sears building.

"What we love about Greentown Labs as much as its commitment to helping Houston become a leader in energy transition and climate change action is its proven track record of job creation through the support of local visionaries and entrepreneurs," says Ryan LeVasseur, managing director of Direct Real Estate at RMC, in the release. "Greentown Houston, like The Ion, is a great catalyst for growing the Innovation District and expanding economic opportunities for all Houstonians. We're thrilled Greentown Labs selected Houston for its first expansion and are honored it will be such a big part of the Innovation District moving forward."

Acquiring the new Greentown location is a big win for the mayor, who released the city's Climate Action Plan earlier this year. The plan lays out a goal to make Houston carbon neutral by 2050.

"We are proud to welcome Greentown Labs to Houston, and we are excited about the new possibilities this expansion will bring to our City's growing innovation ecosystem," says Turner in the release. "Organizations and partners like Greentown Labs will play a vital role in helping our City meet the goals outlined in the Climate Action Plan and will put us on the right track for becoming a leader in the global energy transition. The City of Houston looks forward to witnessing the innovation, growth, and prosperity Greentown Labs will bring to the Energy Capital of the World."

Greentown Labs will host a celebratory networking event on September 24 at 4 p.m. Registration for the EnergyBar is open here.