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Does Talent Matter? You bet.

Human talent is essential in today’s business environment and an organization’s ability to identify, develop and retain top talent can be the critical differentiator for success. Start with Strengths is an independent consulting group focused on growing individual strengths to create highly productive teams and vibrant corporate cultures. Let us help you grow.

Daily Development for All

Posted by on Dec 2, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

As a coach and consultant who works with growing organizations, I have recently been focusing on the opportunity to leverage everyone in the organization from a growth and development standpoint. Gone are the days of the “top down” only approach. What I am witnessing and emphasizing with clients more and more is the idea that everyone should have accountability and responsibility to help people, and the organization as a whole, grow and develop. This requires looking at and working on development on a daily basis rather than just an annual review — and using daily activities as a way to strengthen skills sets and mindsets.

 Here are a few keys to working on daily development:

 1.     Start with a personal vision of who you want to be.  Become aware of who you are NOW in this moment and then identify if there are areas where you want to shift.  This isn’t about beating yourself up or being defensive, instead see it as an inspirational opportunity or a way of helping set your own standards for development and ultimately helping the organization as a whole.

 2.     Teach employees that feedback is key to development. Create the mindset that it is everyone’s responsibility within the organization to provide feedback.  And, that mindset and skillset go hand and hand. What does this look like in real life?  An employee tells the boss that Susie S. isn’t following-up on her commitments.  As a development coach, I would encourage the boss or team leader to tell the employee to have this conversation directly with Susie and help that employee frame it in a way that it is two peers who are making requests of each other to create a better working environment and relationship.  Something along the lines of “Susie when you don’t follow-up on commitments, it triggers me and I just want to take it on and do it myself.  I really enjoy collaborating with others and I think as an organization, we are better for it, but I wonder if the way we do it could shift a bit?”  If a boss or team leader is the only person held responsible for setting and maintaining standards, it is energy consuming and does not encourage the type of feedback that is critical to growth and development.  When we put the responsibility on everyone in the culture to help maintain a positive working environment, the distributed ownership helps the whole organization grow.

 3.     Make peer to peer feedback an ongoing priority. On the mindset front, we have to help people to see that providing feedback to a peer is a positive interaction.  If someone is taking the time to provide feedback, it’s typically a sign that they care. If everyone can hold the thought that this will help the individual and the organization grow, we can accelerate development.  Somehow, we’ve been trained that feedback needs to come from the top down.  For organizations to grow and develop successfully, this mindset has to shift.  Getting peer to peer feedback can be very valuable to understanding perceptions and peers can also be great source of support.  For example, share an area where you are trying to develop with a peer and ask them to hold up a mirror.  Ask for their feedback on an ongoing basis as they often see a side of us that others don’t. They can be safe sources of feedback not only for areas of improvement, but also for where we’ve already made progress.

 4.     Practice daily doses of development. Development doesn’t happen overnight, but daily development allows us to create more self-awareness and understand others’ perspectives to encourage growth.  Daily development allows us to be observers of how we are showing up.  We can set a standard or goal for how we want to be seen and then work on a daily basis to strive for that.  This doesn’t mean perfection, just that we keep working towards a direction.  If you think about weight loss, it doesn’t just happen in one day. We work at exercising a little more and then eating a little less.  And some days work better than others.  The same goes for development. Development happens over time and should be practiced daily to make it a habit and to realize improvements.

 5.     Use existing structures and processes to help with daily development.  Many think development requires a lot of time or gets in the way of daily productivity. But using your existing processes and structures to reinforce development on a daily basis can actually make your organization more effective. For example, use status meetings to ask better questions or share peer to peer feedback. The approach might mean asking a different set of questions to help understand if someone has hit a development roadblock.  Questions that start with the phrase, “I notice that…” can be helpful.  If someone is getting stuck it could be because of a deeper fear or insecurity.  In this case, just being an observer may help them see why they are stuck and offer the opportunity to help them get past it and grow.

 In the book, An Everyone Culture, Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey reference Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) and how these successful organizations focus on daily development for all. “It means fashioning an organizational culture in which support of people’s development is woven into the daily fabric of working life and the company’s regular operations, daily routines, and conversations.” Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization and using the five keys outlined above can help create opportunities for growth and development for everyone in your organization and lift up the organization as a whole.

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Top 5 Talent Development Tips for Growing Organizations By Mary Kaiser

Posted by on Oct 15, 2019 in Blog | 0 comments

As a leadership coach and consultant, I have worked with both large and small organizations on talent development and growing leaders, teams and organizations.  Most of the companies I work with are financially successful – hitting targets for profitability and growth — but many struggle with building talent who will not only grow with the organization but help take it to the next level.


“Ineffective leadership caps the ability of an organization to grow,” says Anderson and Adams in their latest book, Scaling Leadership. I agree wholeheartedly and believe that investing in people development should be a top priority if the goal of your organization is to grow and develop productive individuals and teams.


Here are my top 5 key differentiators for successful talent development.


  1. View development as a variety of experiences versus a one-week training course. Leaders should look to leverage various day-to-day experiences for ongoing growth and development opportunities, including regular feedback, shadowing, internal mentors, brown-bag lunches, articles, podcasts, books and more. Many are free or low-cost so that any size organization can take advantage of them.


  1. Invest in the right people at the right time. Not all employees have the same motivation or commitment to his/her own development. Leaders who want a positive ROI on time and money for talent development, need to identify mindset readiness in addition to skill set. Both need to be there for significant progress.


  1. Create opportunities for safe, “soft” or vertical skills development within the organization. For example, a team member who is challenged to deal with conflict should be presented with opportunities to practice the skill with others. Reading articles or books is great for tips or techniques, but there is no substitute for real-life experiences in the workplace. Comprehensive development requires an understanding of what’s needed on both the “soft” technical or “hard” skills fronts and leaders should focus on improvement in both areas.


  1. Differentiate between performance and development. Performance measures how someone is doing in his/her current role. Development is focused on advancing someone’s skill set and involves understanding where the skill/mindset gaps exist and having a game plan that regularly builds for the gap areas. Development also includes ongoing/regular feedback, progress monitoring and planning as jobs/roles change or evolve or as team members scale up to new roles.


  1. Maintain a consistent development mindset. Organizations and the leaders who invest in development know that it is not an annual review or goal setting once a year. Development should be viewed as “the norm” and part of the overall culture of the organization. Successful leaders value development.  They set standards and make time for individuals to invest in themselves.  They create workloads that allow time for people to self-reflect and take stock of what is working/not working at an individual, team and organization level.  Effective leaders are the role models for this work and set the stage for all to develop.
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Three Things I Wish I Had Known in My 20’s

Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Thanks to Rebekah Epstein for featuring me on her blog — Neon Notebook. The piece imparts a bit of business and life advice.  Here are 3 Things I Wish I Had Known in My 20’s:

Do what you enjoy.
Like most people in my 20s, I was busy trying to do what I was supposed to do.  According to who?  This notion was mostly based on what I thought were the “cool careers”.  They sounded good and were “prestigious”.  But, after years of trying my hand at different things, I learned a big lesson about which careers I was and wasn’t suited for. Today, I have the pleasure of helping others discover what careers they are uniquely suited for.  One of the most meaningful pieces of professional feedback I have received was from a young woman who I worked with and shared advice on career choices based on strengths and passion.  She sent me a note letting me know that I had influenced her to choose a career path based on something she wanted to do, while her classmates chose what they thought they should do.  Understanding her strengths and passions provided her with the confidence she needed to pursue her career choice and direction.

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The Law of Attraction: Finding the Perfect Hire for Your Company Entrepreneur.com Article by Mary Kaiser

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

It is the job of the CEO or founder to define the values of the company and embody these principles. It is just as important to seek out people who share these ideals to help steer and lead the organization forward.

So when hiring, be sure to consider your goals and vision for the organization and how that may impact the type of person you need to bring in now. Make sure you define exactly what is needed in the role, where there are gaps that may need to be filled and determine what points of overlap, need synergy or where you can add to the mix. Also, be objective in your process.

As the founder of a professional consulting and coaching firm, I find that there are several key factors in play when successfully matching candidates to companies and sowing the seeds of compatibility. Read more.

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Student / Young Professional Guidance — Finding Their Strengths

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Do you have a student graduating, entering the workforce or thinking about a major or new career path? We are now offering  our proprietary strengths assessment and coaching services to assist young adults with identifying their skills and talents.

Our strengths assessments identify business strengths, beyond academics, to help the student or young professional pursue career choices that best suit their strengths, passions and intellectual abilities.

“This interview was very helpful and I think it will be great for college students who are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives as well!  Knowing the individual strengths and weaknesses was not only interesting but helpful.  It helped me to see something I could improve on to look better in my future employers eyes.” Bridget Mosher


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Calling All Women — Entrepreneurs, Professionals & Women Re-entering the Workforce

Posted by on Sep 11, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Did you know that 88% of women owned businesses are solopreneneurs?  Why? We’re good at solving challenges and getting things done, but sometimes we try to do it all on our own.  If you are a woman who owns her own business, has a career or is considering re-entering the workforce, here are a few things to consider to make your work-life balance truly steady under pressure:

1. Think it through. It’s important to know what you want to get out of your business or career and what you can handle.  My advice to women currently in the workplace or re-entering is to understand what you want to contribute to the business world and your personal life.  Most women I know want to do meaningful work, have some personal time, AND be there for their families.  Define your goals upfront and outline what being successful means to you.

2. Be flexible. Understand that you will need to be flexible in in other areas of your life (volunteering, carpooling, errands, etc.) and who/how to get additional support (sitter, spouse, friends, etc.)   I see people outsourcing cooking, cleaning, chauffeuring and other jobs to keep things running smoothly.  Keep the pieces you love, but find ways to gain support where needed.

3. Find partners.  Generally speaking, women are good collaborators. When I first started my business, I tried to do it all alone. I quickly realized it meant that I was on call 24/7 and had to do things I didn’t enjoy and wasn’t necessarily skilled in. Now I have a variety of partners — some that work directly in my business and some who I can call upon for specific expertise. Honestly, I enjoy it more because I get to work with other bright women and play in my sweet spot.

We need women in businesses as employees and entrepreneurs.  We solve a whole lot of challenges in the world — and we do it differently – especially if we’re thoughtful in our preparation and don’t’ try to go it all alone. Thinking about a new career or re-entering the workforce? Stay tuned for info on our Women in Transition Workshops coming this October & November!

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15 Signs You’re an Entrepreneur

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Pressed to describe the stereotypical entrepreneur, which words would you use? Passionate? Dedicated? Optimistic? Sure, those apply. But insecure and troublemaker are more accurate, according to ‘treps who know a success when they see one. Do the following traits, characteristics and quirks describe you? Well then, you might be an entrepreneur (at heart, if not yet in practice).

1. You take action.

Barbara Corcoran, founder of The Corcoran Group, co-star of TV’s Shark Tank and author of Shark Tales: How I Turned $1,000 into a Billion Dollar Business, says people who have a concept but not necessarily a detailed strategy are more likely to have that entrepreneurial je ne sais quoi. “I hate entrepreneurs with beautiful business plans,” she says. Check out the other 14 traits.

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3 Tips for Excelling at Work You Aren’t That Good At – Entrepreneur.com Article by Mary Kaiser

Posted by on Jul 8, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

We all have what I call a sweet spot, those areas where we excel in business. When we’re naturally good in certain spaces, we gravitate that way. The quality level of our work tends to be higher and we get those tasks done more efficiently. Knowing our strengths is key to performing at our peak.

Yet working only in only in areas of strength, or failing to recognize our weaknesses, can stagnate us and the entire organization. Here are three strategies to make the most of working outside of your comfort zone. Read more.

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New Service Offerings – Young Professionals & Women

Posted by on Jun 4, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Start with Strengths will be adding two new service offerings this fall in 1:1 and in group/workshop settings.

Students/Young Professionals

If you have a student or someone new to the workforce, we will be offering our proprietary strengths assessment and coaching services to help young professionals identify the right career path. Our strengths assessments will identify business strengths, beyond academics, to help the student or young professional pursue career choices that best suit their strengths, passions and intellectual abilities.

Women Returning to the Workplace

We are offering a variety of services to assist women who are looking to return to the workplace. Our goal is to help identify opportunities for business success and personal satisfaction. Starting with our strengths assessment, we will evaluate their skills and help develop a personal brand to re-enter the workplace with confidence and purpose. Our coaching services also entail resume building, networking recommendations, interview skills and more.

Please contact us if you are interested in learning more.

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Study Your Team Now to Make the Best Hire Later — Entrepreneur.com Article by Mary Kaiser

Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Hiring the wrong person is a potentially crippling error but is avoided by being in tune with the strengths and culture of your organization. When it comes to the hiring process, it’s crucial to identify candidates who have the necessary skill set and whose values align with the culture of your organization.

A strengths assessment of your organization is important to ensure you’re tapping into the right people. Think of it as a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities, threats) analysis of your people to identify key personality and behavioral traits and natural talents to help you best leverage that combination of talents. Read more.

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Set Your Employees Up for Success – Entrepreneur.com Article by Mary Kaiser

Posted by on Apr 7, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

For employees to excel, be productive and passionate in the workplace, there needs to be an ongoing focus on fostering an environment where they feel valued and a part of the corporate culture. Trust me I know.

Working with organizations of all shapes and sizes — from Fortune 100 companies to small startups – I have learned that placing an emphasis on developing a strong culture and an environment fueled by employee successes are two cornerstones of any high-performance organization. Read more.

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LevelUp Women’s Event April 24

LevelUp Women’s Event April 24

Posted by on Mar 21, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

The Start with Strengths and Level Up Mentoring Workshop is a one-day event for women designed to inspire.

Thursday, April 24th, 2014
9:00 am – 5:00 pm
The Gatehouse
Lafayette, Colorado

Whether you are looking to jump-start or change your career, re-enter the work force or identify what can turn an ordinary job into a passion, you won’t want to miss this event. Highlights include:

  • Hear inspiring stories from female guest panelists who have realized their talents and passions and made the most of their career choices.
  • Learn your top 5 strengths and see how they could be key to reaching your personal and professional goals.
  • Share ideas with other women about what success means and how to attain it regardless of your age, career or current job situation.
  • Develop an action plan and work with accountability partners to move your ideas forward to enhance your personal and professional path.

Click here for more info or to register. Register before April 14th for $50 off. Enter code: 50OFF.

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Top 7 Tips for Savvy Talent Selection – CoBiz Magazine Article by Mary Kaiser

Top 7 Tips for Savvy Talent Selection – CoBiz Magazine Article by Mary Kaiser

Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Hiring the wrong candidates for the sake of getting someone in place is not only costly and time-consuming, it sets a negative tone with your existing employees and your overall business. This is especially true for small companies or start-ups with fewer employees where staff additions or replacements have a seemingly larger effect on the team and on the culture of the organization.

Put simply, talent matters. Think of the hiring process as a subsector of your business — the human business — and plan accordingly. Here are a few tips on what it takes to hire well. Read more.

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Mary Kaiser Presenter for CU Women’s Symposium

Mary Kaiser Presenter for CU Women’s Symposium

Posted by on Mar 4, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Mary Kaiser was a recent presenter at the CU Women’s Success Professional Development Symposium organized by the Faculty Council Women’s Committee. Mary helped attendees identify where they excel and how to best leverage and build from their strengths. The presentation reviewed research on why and how leveraging one’s strengths is critical for success, provide practical approaches to bringing individual strengths into the workplace and ideas/resources to build on this momentum.

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Latest ColoradoBiz Magazine Article By Mary Kaiser — A New Year’s Business Challenge

Latest ColoradoBiz Magazine Article By Mary Kaiser — A New Year’s Business Challenge

Posted by on Jan 17, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

A New Year’s business challenge

Get to know yourself better

By Mary Kaiser

In addition to running my own business, and being a mom, wife and daughter, I am also an avid tennis player. Tennis has become a great analogy for the work I do with companies and the opportunity I have to help business owners, executives and teams grow.

When I first started playing tennis regularly, I was asked to partner with a woman to form a doubles team. At that time, I didn’t consider how well we’d play together as a team, but rather accepted the invitation on a whim. Looking back over 10 years of playing the sport, I lucked out. I have a partner that compliments my playing style and brings out the best in me. And, I’ve gotten to know myself more — the parts of the game where I excel — and the areas in which my partner shines. We work well together and come at the mental game of tennis from the same perspective.

Now on the tennis court, I’m often amazed at how many people play together and don’t really have a sense of their strengths or their mental game and what they need from a partner. And, as I work inside businesses, I’m surprised at how often people are unaware of their strengths and how their energy may or may not be a fit with those they work with. I watch companies hire people for their resumes and then fire them because they didn’t fit the culture. Read more.


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Entrepreneurial traits

Posted by on Jan 13, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

I recently read a fantastic article in Entrepreneur Magazine on The 7 Traits of Successful Entrepreneurs and personality traits crucial to a successful venture.

“Enter “entrepreneurial traits” into Google, and the menu of frequent searches will complete the query with “… of Steve Jobs” and “… of Bill Gates,” among others. These are the forces of nature that spring to mind for most of us when we think of entrepreneurs–iconic figures who seemed to burst from the womb with enterprise in their DNA.”

Do you have what it takes? Read more to find out.

Curious about your specific talents? Consider a strengths assessment.  Contact Mary for additional details on identifying your natural talents and how to best leverage your strengths.

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Mary Kaiser Authors Article for ColoradoBiz Magazine – Identifying and Leveraging Strengths

Mary Kaiser Authors Article for ColoradoBiz Magazine – Identifying and Leveraging Strengths

Posted by on Dec 10, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Put the right person in the right seat

Tips to identify and leverage strengths

By Mary Kaiser

I work with companies across the U.S., including many in Colorado – helping to grow and develop individuals and teams. What I find fascinating in my line of work is that most business owners and executives have a very limited understanding of their own strengths and/or the strengths of others within their organization. And they have even less of an understanding of what those skills mean and how to embrace them.

We are inundated by articles, reports and experts telling us that human talent is critical for business success. So why the lack of understanding and focus on our own talents and those of our co-workers, employees or partners? Read more.

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Prepping for the New Year – Are your employees in the best position to succeed?

Posted by on Dec 4, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

I recently interviewed a handful of my clients and heard a common theme over and over with regard to goals for the new year. The majority of my clients – from Fortune 500 companies to small non-profits — all mentioned focusing on employee development and retention and defining or improving their corporate culture. Of course, I was thrilled about this shared vision and the emphasis they are placing on talent and culture.

This year, we’ll take a look at these and other components that impact both individual and organizational success. The Harvard Business Review notes six components of a great corporate culture: vision, values, practices, people, narrative and place. We’ll also look at the power of strengths, leadership and team development. As we close out 2013 and look toward a new year of possibilities, ask yourself this: Are your employees in the best position to succeed? Stay tuned here for ongoing resources and insights…

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