Posted by: vallonllc | April 4, 2011

Gearing Up and Staying Flexible

The economy is growing again. There are new opportunities for businesses, but they are coming from unexpected directions and in unexpected ways. It’s important to be ready for the opportunities and stay flexible to make the most of them. 

The new economy demands new thinking. Change is accelerating and placing more demands on business models. It’s becoming tougher and tougher to create a sustainable competitive advantage. In many cases, speed and flexibility are the only constants in beating the competition. 

It’s critical to engage new tactics. The Internet can be used to gather new information. Social platforms can build community. Personal networking marshals the necessary resources to reach every possible goal. It’s time to combine information in new ways and use that information to execute through new channels. 

The new ways all mean creating a nimble organization. People and skills are always critical to any success. It’s critical to have the right talent in the right place at the right time. That used to be much easier when targets remain stationary and markets were stable. Now in this time of change, we need to look at things in a new way. 

One way is by using a new tool called a Longitudinal Job Description. We all use job descriptions to determine the skills necessary to fill any given position. In a stable world, that’s sufficient to set a staff. In changing conditions, it’s important to use a Longitudinal Job Description to measure needed changes in those skills. Take the traditional job description, anticipate needs one year from now, and compare the difference between the two. If they are similar, traditional hiring may be the answer for an open position. If they are different, the situation calls for a different approach. 

Interim talent can help in those situations. The right partner finds the right people – right now! It also allows organizations to adjust skills as needed to meet evolving challenges. Talent matches the immediate needs. 

Vallon delivers the necessary talent in the Twin Cities. We are focused on this market, conducting more than 3,500 face-to-face interviews with executives who want to be in our database. We are fast. In most cases, we can find the right talent in around 48 hours. Finally, all of our Principals have held C-level positions in companies of their own. We are ready to help you! 

Let’s make great things happen in this growing economy!





Posted by: vallonllc | March 20, 2011

Improve Performance: Engage a Thought Partner!

We still face difficult times. The economy is struggling to find its legs. It’s becoming more difficult to create and sustain meaningful competitive advantage. Change is accelerating and making it essential to stay flexible and constantly adapt to new conditions. 

In these times, it’s essential to have all possible help. All of our employees should be fully engaged in helping the organization reach its goals. The Internet provides resources we only dreamed about. There are any number of experts that can be engaged to help us understand these new conditions. Effective leaders make use of all these resources. 

I also like using thought partners to help me make the most of situations. Thought partners are diverse, experienced people who help me think in new ways. These conversations help me to work complicated issues without much downside. They help me put ideas into action. It’s a huge value to be able to engage other minds to solve big problems. 

We play that role for our clients. All of us are experienced businesspeople from a variety of backgrounds. We have run companies in dozens of industries. We understand what translates and what doesn’t. Our crew enjoys helping companies find new solutions to difficult problems. Multiple perspectives put us in a great position to help. 

We can serve as your thought partners. We can also help you get the most out of your teams by facilitating their efforts – keeping them on track and helping them reach their goals. We can also give you the opportunity to engage with your team in a new way. Our facilitation can allow you to be a full participant with your team, leading them from within and allowing them to attack issues in new ways. 

If you’re ready to try a new way to get the most out of your teams, give us a call!





Posted by: vallonllc | March 13, 2011

Stay Flexible in an Uncertain Economy

We’re beginning to see some early strength in the economy. Unemployment continues to trend down, manufacturing optimism is up, and consumer spending is growing. The signs are still pointing toward a “sneaky good” year in 2011. 

Are you ready to take advantage of the growth we are seeing? Have you identified the opportunities that are in your wheelhouse and put together a strategy to attack those items worthy of your attention? It’s time to have actions in place that will move your organization forward. 

Our clients are making the most of the new economy. They are finding reasons to move ahead and grow their operations, pulling out of their defensive positions and causing pain for their competition. They are on the attack and ready to make the most of the new economy. Most of these opportunities involve a change in direction and the uncertainty that comes with that change makes it critical to stay flexible and move quickly. 

Are you using super talent?

Interim talent changes the game and plays a major part of these initiatives. Vallon provides the perfect talent to make opportunities come to fruition. There is no need to compromise with our candidates. You can match the skills to immediate needs; and when those needs change, to those new needs. When your needs change, you can change the skills engaged. The flexibility of interim talent in key positions minimizes risk and improves performance. 

Take advantage of the opportunities the new economy presents. Stay focus and flexible, going on attack with interim talent. You can move before your competition and gain the advantage.  

Or you can wait…



Posted by: vallonllc | February 27, 2011

Lead From the Back!!!

Think for a minute about a strong leader and the qualities s/he brings to bear on difficult situations. For me, the person I always think about is George Patton. The images of him shooting at attacking enemy planes with his pistol, or plowing through the snow at the Battle of the Bulge often inspire me to be bolder and more assertive than I naturally would be. These images always show him leading from the front and it’s hard to imagine him leading from anywhere else. 

General Patton was a great leader; but from a different time. His time was simpler: there were fewer elements to consider in any situation. There was less data available for leaders to process. In many cases, much of the data remained static and the leader could operate effectively by focusing on the changes at the margins. Finally, followers had fewer options and were more willing to commit to one individual. 

Our times require more from our leaders. The great leaders need all of the traditional skills of a George Patton; plus the ability to react effectively to dynamic situations, absorb massive amounts of data, and engage committed followers with multiple opportunities to join worthy causes. 

These changes require current leaders to develop the skill of leading from the back as well as the front. The “Great Man” model of leadership rarely succeeds in these times. Instead, we see leaders who are just as comfortable leading their teams as a peer. This ability allows them to process information and evaluate situations by using the entire team’s abilities, instead of just their own. The effect is to pull the entire team up to the level of the leader, so that everyone is more effective. 

This new approach is delegation on steroids. It’s where divide and conquer meets the Three Musketeers. Great managers have effectively delegated tasks for centuries, deciding who will do what, when; and then following up on the results. Individuals would be accountable to the leader for their own tasks. The process helped the leader lead from the front. 

New complexities add the Three Musketeers dimension to the process – team decisions and accountability – all for one and one for all. Modern leadership requires the ability to unite teams around ambiguous scenarios with mountains of changing data, in order to synthesize effective strategies. It requires the leader to coordinate, engage, and follow up in a much different way. It’s a difficult balance between leading and following: Leading from the front and leading from the back. 

One of the tools that can make this process much easier is a facilitator. A good facilitator can serve as a thought partner to the leader, helping him or her lead from both positions. The facilitator can monitor the process to ensure that everyone is participating and staying on-track while the leader leads from the front. When the leader moves to the back, the facilitator can fill the void at the front, keeping momentum moving forward. Finally, the facilitator can be another resource to the team, enabling them to take initiative, engage, and coordinate in ways the leader alone would find impossible to do. 

Leading from the back is a new skill required of today’s leaders. A facilitator can make the process easier. Vallon can find those facilitators!

Posted by: vallonllc | February 13, 2011

Networking is a Contact Sport

New York Times Best Selling Author Joe Sweeney visited Minneapolis this past week. He wrote the book Networking is a Contact Sport. Joe also went to Edgewood High School in Madison, so it was great to have a mini-reunion and to hear Harvey Mackay’s introduction.

Sweeney is a master networker and both reminded us of the spirit behind great networking and have us four steps to make it come alive for each of us. Joe reminded us that networking is about who you can help, not what you can get. The best networkers constantly and consistently ask themselves how they can help. 

Effective networking is becoming more critical in these difficult times. The natural response in difficult times is to pull back and become more defensive and careful. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and times of crisis give us the opportunity to reach out and expand into places that need us. People will rarely remember what you did to them. They will always remember how you made them feel. 

Joe outlined a four-step process that any of us can use to improve our networking capabilities. Following the steps and practicing on a regular basis can create great results. 

The first step is to ask with a spirit of giving. The question is always how can I help? Reaching out, connecting with people, and discovering how to help is the way to get the networking magic started. 

Step two is to listen. All great networkers are terrific listeners. They not only hear the words that are being spoken; they understand the non-verbal signals and the true meaning behind the words. That puts the networker in the position to meet the true needs being expressed. 

After asking and listening comes step three: Acting. Most people ask. Many people listen. Very few people ask, listen, and act. Most people get to that third step and freeze. They freeze out of uncertainty or they freeze out of fear. In either case, they never have the desired impact because they never take action. Take action and move forward with courage. Watch what happens! 

Finally, step for is to believe and receive. If you are following the steps and taking action to help people reach their goals, that energy and action will return itself to you. Make sure you are giving, giving, and giving a bit more. That posture puts you in position to receive the returns from that giving. Stop too soon – or stop believing – and you may not reach your goals. 

Remember networking is all about the other person. Give generously. Never keep score. Continuously try to help. Always be appreciative. Networking is a contact sport. Get in the game and make good things happen! 



Posted by: vallonllc | February 6, 2011

The Longitudinal Job Description

I hate job descriptions. They outline static, basic requirements for role and tend to limit expectations. In language from my union days, they encourage a “work-to-rule” mentality. Even if they are perfectly written, most job descriptions are obsolete moments after they are published.  

A client showed me another dimension to the job description two weeks ago. This company is growing quickly, adding over 30% to their workforce this year. They have big challenges and changing conditions throughout their business. Like many organizations, they are using job descriptions to understand roles and realign their workforce. 

Unlike most organizations, they are adding a longitudinal dimension to their job descriptions. The traditional job description looks at the skills and requirements needed in a particular role right now. The Longitudinal Job Description looks at those same skills and requirements a year from now as well. Traditional job descriptions do a good job of setting the roles, identifying the holes, and creating needed alignment. In addition, Longitudinal Job Descriptions do that and anticipate the future needs. 

Need a Sword Swallower...

Longitudinal Job Descriptions are more difficult to use. Sometimes it’s difficult to know what you will need next week. Now, you must anticipate what you will need a year from now. That’s two assessments instead of one and can set up a more difficult talent decision: Do I match the current talent need, or the one in the future? 

In these situations, using interim talent is a great solution. It allows you to bring in the right talent, for the right time, right now. You can match your immediate needs and still maintain your flexibility for future needs. Interim talent bridges those difficult situations where present and future needs call for very different skills. 

...or a Fire Eater?


The Longitudinal Job Descriptions can identify these critical situations – situations that remain hidden using traditional job descriptions. Heck, they could even get me to like job descriptions!








The dual assessment can highlight two problems. First, it can show where talent needs are changing and will change in the future. Second, it can show where skills are only needed for a limited amount of time. In both of these situations, making a permanent hire can have disastrous results, adding extra costs and unneeded layers. 

Posted by: vallonllc | January 23, 2011

Learning to Keep Up with Accelerating Change

Change continues to accelerate. We’ve talked in this space many times about the need to keep up with that change and continually upgrade and update our skills and knowledge. That process follows a repeating cycle:

  • Engage in catalytic learning;
  • Practice and make the changes your own;
  • Measure yourself against the best; and
  • Adjust and repeat.

The cycle facilitates continuous learning and keeping up with change. 

All of this hit home again last week when I attended a National Speakers Association workshop. Now I’m a pretty good speaker and can hold my own at the podium, but these people are among the best in the country at what they do. Watching them do their magic made me ready to learn. 

Learn we did. Pros sharing their time and talent is a rare opportunity. I was focused on the material and drove to master the key concepts. Practice made the new skills my own. 

Then came the measuring… 

It’s one thing to measure against your peers. It’s entirely different to measure against world-class talent. It was clear where I needed to improve and the gaps motivated me to go through the cycle once again. Working with the professionals also provided great examples to emulate in the future. 

It was a terrific Saturday for me. Sometimes it’s too easy to just claim to be good and not do the hard work necessary to actually be the best and keep up with change. Measure yourself against the best and keep up with accelerating change.



Posted by: vallonllc | January 16, 2011

Change Paradigms! Move Fast or Go Home!

There are three traditional responses to business problems:

  • Do nothing – when the issue will solve itself or you don’t have the resources to do anything else.
  • Bring in a consultant – when you need an outside opinion to verify a strategy or need someone to study a particular market condition.
  • Retain a recruiter – when you have a stable, long-term personnel need and can wait three to six months for help.

All of the responses apply in certain circumstances, but all of them have serious shortcomings. 

Vallon provides a fourth option: Interim Executives. Our alternative provides the right talent at the right place at the right time. We provide the talent fast: usually within 48 hours. The new alternative is possible because we invest 40% of our time understanding the available talent in our market. We do our homework in advance so that we can move quickly when the phone rings. 

This new approach creates a huge advantage for organizations that can change their paradigm for handling key issues. Problems are solved quickly and efficiently without increasing overhead or permanent headcount. Opportunities can be attacked because the right talent is available and fully under the organization’s control. It’s a new way to attack issues. 

Interim help changes the game because it increases speed and reduces risk. Bringing new people into an organization usually slows it down and increases risk. The right partner makes it possible to quickly find fit talent and eliminate hiring risk.  

Engaging Vallon makes both a reality. We have held more than 3,500 face-to-face interviews with executives who want to be in our talent pool. We know the Twin Cities market and move fast. In addition, we stand behind the talent we deliver. If one of our executives doesn’t deliver, we remove them immediately. That guarantee has been in place for the entire five years we have been in business and has never been used. 

It’s time to change mindsets about the way to address difficult problems. Interim talent can address critical issues and enable organizations to take full advantage of new opportunities. Vallon takes the risk and hassle out of the engagement process.

Make your move! Increase your speed! Exploit your opportunities! 









Posted by: vallonllc | January 8, 2011

It’s Not Just the “What” – It’s also the “Why”

We talk a lot about personal branding in this spot: the need to be clear about what you do and how it’s different from anyone else. It’s critical to specifically understand what it is that separates you from the rest of the crowd and makes you unique. 

Contrasting that is a great podcast that focuses on understanding the “Why” of what you do. Simon Sinek, on Koren Motekartis’ radio show, talked about how it’s that “Why” that frees us to reach our potential. Defining the “Why” enables us to become positive and proactive in the way we attack life. It truly taps into our core. 

The “Why” is extremely difficult to define. There’s a physiological reason for this; as the part of our brain that controls logic and emotion is separate from the part that handles language. Think about when you try to describe something that moves you: a beautiful piece of music, a touching story, or an intense movie. Think about how hard those things are to describe. 

It’s just as difficult to describe our “Why,” but being able to connect with it unleashes incredible power. Knowing “Why” frees our passion and brings focus to our activities. That focus allows us to be positive and proactive. We know what needs to be done and we have the passion to get it done. 

The power and passion enables us to focus on the positive. No matter the situation, our attention works on what we can influence and implement. When we stay positive, we avoid all of the energy drain involved around getting angry about things we can’t control. Instead, we stay positive, focused, and enjoy the ride. 

Part of that ride is sharing the “Why” with others. It provides power for us. It provides power for those around us. It does that in two ways. First, it focuses our efforts in a way to improve the world. Second, it helps others to find their “Why” and make their own impact. Those two elements make numerous small changes possible. Many small changes can make a huge difference. 

It’s time to unleash that positive energy. Let’s take time to find our own “Why.” Then, let’s help others find the same thing. Those two things can make a huge difference in the world!



Posted by: vallonllc | January 1, 2011

A Sneaky Good Year…

Happy New Year! 

The start of the New Year is a great time to reset ourselves – both personally and professionally. It’s a great time to prepare for what the coming months have in store for us. We spent the last three years preparing for tough times. Do we know how to be ready for good times? 

The economic signs are improving. It’s been so rough for so long it can be tough to see good things happening. There are concrete, positive signs. Housing sales made another improvement this month and unemployment claims fell again. They are now below 400,000, the level most economists say we need to spur real growth. We are also seeing more people making and closing deals.  

It could be a sneaky good year. Little moves – all made in the same direction – can make a huge difference. All of us making small gains…sneaky good. 

Are you poised to take advantage? The past two years taught us how to do much more with less. We are all very leveraged, having cut our overhead to the bone while maintaining our core operations. This leverage got us through the tough times, but it leaves us ill-prepared to handle future growth. 

It’s time to position for possibilities. It was painful to reduce costs. We cut and squeezed every penny out of our operations; sometimes by cutting our friends’ jobs or eliminating promising operations. We don’t want to return to where we were, so we need to find new ways to expand without adding overhead or complication. 

Talent will be key in these new solutions – finding and engaging the right talent at the right time. Traditional methods will not provide the speed or flexibility necessary to meet future challenges. Hiring permanent talent adds to structural costs, takes extended time, and carries significant hiring risks. Consultants can come in quickly, but it can be difficult to assess whether a particular person or firm truly has the expertise you need.  

Interim talent, delivered by a trusted partner, provides the specific skills needed in the situation quickly enough to take advantage of any opportunity. We at Vallon invest over 40% of our time knowing the Twin Cities talent market. We use those hours to identify the best talent, so that we can respond – usually within 48 hours – when our clients have needs. In addition, we take the risk out of every engagement. 

It’s time to be ready for a sneaky good year. All of us at Vallon are ready to help! 

Happy New Year!



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