Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Family Day

Stephanie and the kids are on spring break, and Tuesdays are my day off, so we had Family Day today. It was a blast.

We started with Happy Meals and some time at the McDonald's play land. After that we went to Target in Bloomington to checkout their remodel progress and to get some snacks for our next event. After Target we went to watch How To Train Your Dragon at the AMC Theater in Edina. And to cap off the day we got some chips n' guacamole from Chipotle.

Everyone had fun today. I like Family Day. A lot.

Great Friends

I was reminded again on Saturday night the great joy that comes from long lasting friendships.

The family and I enjoyed a meal and some fun with our friends in Bloomington. After eating, the boys all went to the elementary school park to play baseball and get dirty in the rocks while the ladies chatted away and cleaned up the dinner. Then we all re-congregated for a dance party with the kids in the living room.

Whenever we leave we all acknowledge that we don't get together enough. On one hand it's sad, but it may be what keeps our times together so sweet.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Systems Make You Look Smart

"The talent myth assumes that people make organizations smart. More often than not, it's the other way around."
- Malcolm Gladwell, What the Dog Saw, The Talent Myth
Great systems make people look good.

You see this in sports all the time. When playing in the right system, otherwise ordinary players look good, and good players look great. Take those players out of the system and put them on a dysfunctional team and their performance drops substantially.

Talent is important of course, but 'blue chip' recruits aren't enough. You have to have great systems to support them and maximize their potential.

So as a leader you need to ask yourself, "What am I doing to create better systems that can make those who operate inside of them shine?"

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Up late tonight finishing some year end work reviews.

Don't you just love reviews? That should be read in a voice that is a a bit sarcastic, but reviews do have their benefits. They force us to stop and remember, and evaluate what has happened. They can also provide a platform for change and growth in the future. Another positive outcome of reviews is that good ones force us to be honest about ourselves and our achievements. And they can be a catalyst for future growth and improvements.

Have you ever done a personal review? Maybe everyone should set aside one day a year where they evaluate where they've come from and where they're going. Here's some things I think you could include:
- How have you been as a husband in the last year? A father? A friend?
- What areas have you grown in during the last year? What areas still need developing?
- Are you closer or farther from Jesus?
- What is holding you back from being and doing everything you dream of?
- What do you need to start doing this year to make a difference? What needs to stop?
- What positives/accomplishments deserve remembering and celebrating?
What questions would you put on your 'life review'?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I'm Getting Old: A Poem

I am getting old. And my body is wearing out.
My thighs are burning from a three mile jog.

My shoulder hurts from throwing a baseball with my neighbor.

My chest is tired from bench pressing.

My hip flexer shoots me with pain when I stand after sitting.
And I'm supposed to pray for another 50 years.

I might be in trouble.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Northfield Girl's Hoops

Yesterday I did something I had previously thought I would never do. I went to the MN Girl's High School Basketball State Tournament. My wife Stephanie is the assistant coach of the Northfield Raiders, who made it to state for the first time in 31 years!

It has been an exciting season and I have really developed an enjoyment for going to the games and watching the girls play. It was difficult sitting in the stands after the game (which they lost to an undefeated and likely state champion team from Lakeville North) yesterday and seeing all the seniors wave goodbye to the fans. I'll missing watching them play, but I'm pumped to watch the team grow and develop in the next few seasons.

Congratulations to the Northfield Girl's basketball team on your outstanding season!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Respond, Don't React

My wife has a great saying that uses when she can tell I'm about to 'freak out' on my kids behavior. She calmly says, "Respond don't react." By this she means, "Address the wrong behavior in an appropriate way. Don't let your emotions ruin a teachable moment."
- Reacting rarely leads to a successful parent/child encounter where lessons are learned and everyone feels loved.

- Responding addresses the problem rationally, taking into account all relevant information, and communicates expected behavior going forward with clarity and compassion.
Remember, the primary goal of parenting is to teach your children what their heavenly Father is like, and to raise them to be responsible, respectful adults.

And when you blow it...because we ALL DO...admit it to your children, and ask for their forgiveness. It goes a long way.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Family Trip: Hockey Expo

Yesterday our family went to the Let's Play Hockey Expo in Saint Paul, MN. It was a lot of fun. Going to the expo was one of my favorite parts of State Tournament weekend when I was a kid. There are hundreds of exhibits and activities. I was really surprised how much the kids engaged and enjoyed it all. Next year we'll have to plan on being there longer because we didn't even make it all the way around the expo floor before I had to go to work.

Friday, March 12, 2010

10 Steps for a Smooth Job Transition

Jason Young is a leader who I got to know last year at the STORY conference. He's a great guy with unbridled passion and enthusiasm for life. He recently blogged 10 lessons he's learned on how to make a smooth transition into a new job. There's some great stuff for me to think about here as I start my new role with Target.
  1. Learn the organization: the culture, the values, the processes, the politics, the people.
  2. Be patient and do not exceed the speed limit, but do not move to slowly.
  3. Prioritize your to-do and to-know list.
  4. Construct a strategic plan to include a clear vision and communicate it frequently.
  5. Build a healthy team to include both current team members and those possibly outside the organization.
  6. Establish what needs to happen right now that is foundational for future construction.
  7. Secure early wins to generate momentum and establish credibility.
  8. Build alliances with other team members who can help be a voice for your plan.
  9. Enter with sustained humility.
  10. Add value to what other team members are currently doing.

Change Happens: Stephanie's New Job

The most constant thing in this Balvin family's life is change, and last week brought us another major change moment.

Last Tuesday Stephanie was offered a long term substitute teaching position at a small private school near our home. The timing was the Lord's as Stephanie's basketball season was nearing its end and we were beginning to wonder where the extra income would come from, but they wanted her to start ASAP which threw us into the difficult task of lining up quality, affordable child care for our three kids in just 3 days time..

Again, Jesus' hand was with us. I was able to reach out to a friend from an old Target store I worked in who is starting an exciting child care center in her home and had openings a few days each week. (Also really cool is the fact that she "happens" to live just miles from the Target store in Eagan I was transferred two just two weeks earlier!) Next, we have amazing neighbors who graciously said they could help us a couple days a week. And our in-laws have been very supportive in picking Jacob up from his half day kindergarten and watching him a couple afternoons a week.

Going back to work has been exhausting for Stephanie, but we both know that God has brought this opportunity our way and that we will see us through to where he wants us to go.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

5 Keys to Tough Conversations

One leadership characteristic that I need to continually work on is my ability to give critical feedback when people don't perform at a high level. There are multiple reasons I struggle with this (which will not be included in this post), and I know that I will never be an 'axe man' brought in to trim the organizational fat, but there are a few things I've learned that have helped me to develop in this area.
1. Have clear expectations - make sure you repeatedly articulate your expectations in all sorts of situations so there is no excuse or misunderstanding on the other parties part

2. Have facts documented - you want to go into a conversation like this with a crystal clear picture of the problem, and with clear documentation of the unmet expectation

3. Take partners - it is wise to take partners with others and get their perspective on the performance of another party, it also helps to have outside documentation so you can't be accused of have a vendetta

4. Take action quickly - prolonging a hard conversation only increases your anticipation/dread, and give the other party the false idea that they are doing ok

5. Change your perspective - keeping a poorly performing party around is only hurting them, if you know they are not a good fit and never will be, yet you refuse to act, you are doing them more harm than good ans wasting their valuable time

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jacob Loses a Tooth for the First Time

We reached another parenting milestone tonight. Our oldest son Jacob lost a tooth. It had been quite loose for a week or two, and tonight while his sister was busy with gymnastics he finally yanked it out. He was so happy with himself that he called all his grandparents to share the good news. It is fun to observe all this and watch the kids get bigger and bigger each day! I only wish I could have been the one to give it a yank.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Building a Foundation to Suffer Well

I am continually on the look out for resources that will help me prepare and build a foundation for the inevitable sufferings that I shall be faced with at some point during my life. Here is an excerpt from a recent blog post by John Piper,

Why do little children suffer and die? We ask it with the awareness that it is happening this very moment by the hundreds, and we ask it through tears of personal experience and empathy. Here is one biblical answer: "Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—" (Romans 5:12).

Death came into the world through sin.

That is the fundamental biblical answer for where all suffering and death came from. Or to use the words of Romans 8:20, "The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope."

In other words, because of sin, God subjected the entire creation to the futility of mortality with all its suffering and death. The whole creation groans under the judgment.

When I suffer I don't want to look heavenward, shake my fist at my all-loving divine Father, and cast curses and blame on him. I want to praise his name that I am counted worthy to be called his child despite my iniquity and animosity towards righteousness. And I want to call on His graces for mercy, comfort and help that I may persevere for His glory.