Meet Jon Calvin, the CEO of a large and complicated business and dad to two boys. Somehow, Jon managed to swim for three miles this morning and compete in a triathlon last weekend. Jon shares his strategies for keeping it all together with the Muse.
How do you slay your to-do list and knock out key priorities? In this episode on work-life balance, Jon Calvin, the CEO of Lone Star Circle of Care, joins Cindi and Geoff and gets real about a balanced life. Importantly, Jon notes that everyone’s path to balance is different. What may seem unbalanced to others may enable someone to live the life they love. And sometimes, we need the help and support of others to pull off a balanced life.
To help us strike a balance, managers can periodically log their time and write down priorities. Lifetime learning and maintaining a growth mindset can also help managers keep their lives in balance and make their time more productive and meaningful.
- Jon stresses the importance of support systems and a strong team at work.
- Managers should take personal inventory of their goals, consider their schedules, and redirecting
energy towards what matters most.
- Exercise boosts productivity, energy levels, and provides long-term health and cognitive benefits.
- A supportive work environment is essential, especially during times of intense and challenging work.
“You’re always working on balance. It’s a process.” – Geoff Tumlin
“I rely heavily on my team and their areas of expertise and I try to focus on the higher-level issues I need to work on.” – Jon Calvin
“I think people have more opportunities in their schedules than they may think and they can turn some bad habits into some good habits.” – Jon Calvin
“I think if people periodically logged where their time was going and wrote down their priorities they might see where they’re out of sync.” – Cindi Baldi
“Wake up early to get ahead. It’s much easier to protect your time when most people are sleeping.” – Jon Calvin
About Jon Calvin:
Jon Calvin is the CEO of Lone Star Circle of Care and is a competitive triathlete. He moves fast and doesn’t break things.
Adam Grant (2013), Give and Take. New York: Viking.
James Clear ( 2018), Atomic Habits. New York: Avery.
Lewis Hamilton speaking about Nelson Mandela: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Av-tn2Oao_4
Texas Mamma Jamma Bike Ride: https://www.mammajammaride.org/
Q&A with Jon Calvin:
- How does the CEO of a complex and multimillion-dollar organization find the time to work, raise a family, and compete in triathlons just for kicks?
First of all, I am surrounded by an exceptional support system that allows me to manage these various areas of my life, from family and coworkers to Lone Star Circle of Care’s board of directors. At two key points of my career in moving into the CFO and then into the CEO role, there was a discussion with my wife about what it took to succeed in the role in regard to the responsibilities and expectations of the position. We both needed to commit to being on board and work together to succeed as a family considering the demanding schedule. A solid support system is the foundation.
Also, I have tried to be consistent in applying attention and time management to remain focused on priorities and productivity. I’m fairly analytical and the illustration of breaking down the hours in the day to evaluate capacity hits home for me. Seven hours of sleep works well for me, so that leaves 17 hours of waking hours a day to work with. Besides incorporating productive work, I try to protect time for exercise, my kids’ activities and games, and time with my wife.
I know some people like to compartmentalize work from life and stress the importance of work/life balance and that’s fine. I personally have a different perspective, which blends it all together. I do not view work and life as a balancing act with strict tradeoffs, and rather subscribe to the perspective of Jeff Bezos, who sees work and life as two integrated parts that should be in harmony. It’s more of a circle than a scale. I have never compartmentalized my career and personal life and I see it all as one canvas called life. I prioritize what’s important and am not overly concerned about separating the two. For example, there are times on vacation I need to stay current with work, and I’ll typically do that early in the morning before my family awakes. If I have to step away for a work call during the day, it’s no big deal. And conversely, there’s time during work that I will block an hour or two to attend my son’s special school lunch or activity, so I adjust my work schedule accordingly. I’m more concerned about being present in whatever I’m doing and ensuring I get the key priorities on the schedule. It’s a more holistic view and I believe it has served me well as I have advanced in my career.
As it pertains to you mentioning triathlons, sports and exercise have always been a staple in my life. There are wide ranging benefits of exercise and experience playing sports, which I could go on and on about. Specific to triathlon, completing an Ironman had been on my bucket list for many years. Shortly after becoming CEO of LSCC, I decided to finally pursue the long-term goal. Some people questioned how I could take on something of that magnitude with the stress of being a new CEO. It may be counterintuitive, but as life’s stresses increase, I balance it by cranking up exercise, which is the best stress reducer for me. Training for an Ironman is not only a stress reliever, but the longer endurance training sessions provide space for reflection and strategic thinking. To fit in the training in my schedule, I started going to bed a little earlier, started waking up at 4:45 am on weekdays, and replaced some bad habits with good ones.
Balance sometimes looks unbalanced externally (to others) but works internally (to self).
- Please describe a time in your life when you were out of balance.
The most pronounced moment in my life of being out of balance was going through a massive corporate and financial restructuring in 2014. There was a six-month stretch where I was working seven days a week, and there were several 18 to 20-hour workdays during that period. However, some of the biggest opportunities arise out of these sprints of imbalance. That difficult period accelerated my move to the CFO position, and I learned so much about business and life during that difficult time.
Another example is when I worked in public accounting. I would travel almost half the year and I thought having the most billable hours was a badge of honor. There is certainly something to be said about putting in the work, but there’s no way I could have sustained that pace once I started a family.
I evaluate balance over the long run, not over a short period, since there will be ups and downs due to what life throws at you. Having periods of imbalance is not necessarily a bad thing, and often you grow during these seasons.
- What recommendations would you give managers for balancing the most important things in their lives?
I would say it’s important take personal inventory to evaluate where you are currently, what’s truly important to you, and where you want to go. For the items that are most important, you need to come up with a plan or routine to ensure you are prioritizing these things. Logging your schedule and habits for a week or two can be eye opening. You may find some wasted time where you can replace bad habits with good ones or find ways to adjust your schedule achieve balance as you define it.
And I recognize it is not always that easy. There may be periods in life when you have to make sacrifices temporarily to create future opportunities or room to fit in the most important things in life.
- What are some things you’ve done to encourage balance in your company and its employees?
Because we have historically prided ourselves on achieving high marks on an efficient staffing model, it is especially important to take sufficient time off to recharge, and we try to support it with our benefits package. I saw a social media post the other day that said taking time for self-care is productive, and I wholeheartedly agree. We want our team to be energized and focused when they are here. Leading by example can also be effective if employees tend to model behavior after their supervisors or leadership.
Furthermore, balance is supported by the systems you have in place. We also try to incorporate useful management tools/systems; tweak business processes, schedules, and staffing; hold community activities; and our employee engagement team has developed opportunities for employees to connect outside of work with fun activities to further support balance. Developing a culture of speaking up when you are drowning or significantly out of balance, allows us to work as a team to provide support and identify solutions for relief. We are looking at ways we can be more flexible in our working environment. We still have work to do in this area.
We want our employees to succeed in all aspects of life, and when employees have balance it’s a win for everyone.
- What are some pitfalls you’ve experienced on your road to balanced living?
There’s been times that I have become too rigid with routines or have focused too much in one area. I still haven’t figured it all out; balance is not a destination. You are always working at it.
- Who has been a role model for you in balance?
One role model that comes to mind in this space is James Clear author of the book Atomic Habits, because habits and the systems you employ are critical in achieving balance. Clear does an incredible job of explaining the laws of habits and stressing the importance of setting up the right systems over goals that are aligned to your beliefs and values. To achieve what you personally define as balance, you must have supporting habits and systems in place. I highly recommend the book.
- What’s surprised you the most about living a balanced life?
How much capacity you really have. When people say they don’t have enough time to do something, such as exercise I am often skeptical. That might be true for some, but for the vast majority, we can accomplish much more than we think we can.
- Has your role as CEO made you more balanced, less balanced, or kept you about the same?
I would say about the same. Both the CFO and CEO positions are fairly intense and carry significant responsibility. I have felt more pressure as CEO, since the CEO is ultimately responsible for the performance and sustainability of the entire company, but any management position has its challenges. Just like you need to make work adjustments in a new role, you need to also make the other life adjustments necessary to maintain the balance that works for you.
- What other wisdom about balance can you provide for managers?
I’ll briefly touch on some items for managers to consider:
- Wake up early to get ahead – it is much easier to protect your time when most people are sleeping
- Prioritize your sleep- try to get sufficient deep and REM sleep (I struggle in this area)
- Prioritize your health – exercise and nutrition; impacts focus and energy at work; treat exercise as a priority near the level of eating
- Use daily “to do” lists – prioritizing key items
- Work on your hardest problems requiring critical thinking when you’re freshest- typically in the morning
- Don’t be afraid to delegate and/or ask for help when you are redlining
- Consistency is key (there will be good days and bad days, but being reliable and consistent in general is important)
- Take advantage of opportunities via “other duties as assigned” in the job description, especially early in your career
- Find role models for balanced living but blaze your own balanced trail
- Surround yourself with good people
- Never stop learning; maintain a growth mindset
Thoughts from Jon Calvin immediately following our podcast conversation:
On my run this morning, I reflected on the conversation and there’s a few things I wish I would have shared. Even though I missed it in the podcast, ’ll go ahead and make the points now since I enjoy discussing the topic.
- Regarding the question of moving from public accounting to LSCC, I should have expanded on what I said about starting the family and also compared it to your situation. It was evident for my wife to have balance in our relationship that level of travel (public accounting) would have a detrimental impact on our relationship. It was important for Sarahbeth for her and the kids to see me frequently. That coupled with being slightly burned out with the travel and auditing was enough for me to consider joining LSCC when the opportunity arose. For you and Cindi, it is clear you both embrace the structure and lifestyle, which is great. I’m incredibly impressed with your capacity and how you two make it all work! That’s another example of how balance can look different by individual or couple.
- A couple points I failed to mention when I mentioned when talking about habits and the underlying systems to achieve goals (Clear- Atomic Habits):
A. Example of the importance of focusing on underlying systems over goals- We utilize the Balanced Scorecard to rollout LSCC goals and we cascade them throughout the organization. Before we finalize a goal, the critical question we need to ask ourselves is: Do we have a plan and system in place to achieve the goal? If we cannot come up with a coherent action plan to achieve the goal, then it’s not a practical goal to pursue. Furthermore, it’s great to hit a goal, but in the past there were times that we would do an 11th hour extreme effort to hit the goal, and then performance on the metric had the risk of dropping subsequently. We would achieve the goal but performance would not be sustained. A consistent underlying system, where you focus on ingraining the process, inputs, or resources throughout the organization to maintain an ongoing high-level of performance is better. You’re able to hit goals and continue to perform at a high-level when you have the right underlying systems intact. A manual “dive and catch” can work at times, but you have better balance when you have consistency and the right underlying systems in place.
B. As it pertains the triathlon example, I try to focus on enjoying the process (training) and not get so hung up on the actual race to trigger the reward. It’s been a shift in mindset for me (finding satisfaction in the process). A test of success in the approach: I am not devastated that the event I just trained intensely for the last six months is canceled due to weather, because I found fulfillment in the training and plan to continue to train into the future, regardless of my event (goal). Cindi nailed it- becoming a triathlete is an identify, not a one-time goal, and I try to reinforce habits that support who I want to become. As Clear puts it “With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on what you wish to become.”
C. Another pitfall of my approach for balance. I struggle with taking time to pause and celebrate when the team or I accomplish something important. I recognize at times we’ll tick off an achievement and then quickly move onto something else. I could do better at pausing and celebrating the wins.
D. Point around capacity, productivity, habits, and a growth mindset. I like the example James Clear uses in Atomic Habits. The effects of small habits compound over time. If you can get just 1 percent better each day, you’ll end up with results that are nearly 37 times better after one year.
Key words: Work-life balance, habits, priorities, stress, burnout, resilience