Practice Flexibility to Keep You From Striking Out in the Meeting Room

by | Jul 21, 2021

Jill Mueller is a trainer, coach, and learning experience designer dedicated to helping people teams become high performing by being Thoughtfully Fit.

If there’s one thing I’ve really missed since COVID took the world hostage, it’s attending baseball games. I’m so excited to be back in the stands with a hot dog in my hand. And it was fantastic to follow the Brewers to Denver this summer to catch a Rockies game with our newest team member, Kara Barnes, along with our husbands!

As much as I love watching baseball in person again, one thing that seems to be more prevalent this season is bogus calls by the umpires. Hearing an ump call a strike—when the ball was clearly outside of the strike zone—is maddening. I can tell from the fourth deck of the stadium that it wasn’t a strike! Okay. Maybe the umpire has a better view, but everyone knows they get it wrong sometimes. However, there’s not much the batters can do but accept the calls as they’re made on the field (at least not without getting thrown out of the game).

The same is true during meetings.

When leaders of diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and personalities come together, odds are there will be behaviors, opinions, and final calls that not everyone agrees with. It can be frustrating, especially with the added pressure of being well into the third quarter.

And while it may be tempting to argue over past budget decisions or spiral into unsportsmanlike thoughts over a colleague’s behavior, doing so can make us lose focus on what we need to do next—or even get us booted off the field. So, what do we do?

We make Flexibility our play and practice accepting the ump’s calls.

Learn how Team Coaching helps our team access Flexibility.

Full Transcript

Jill Mueller (00:00):
Hi, everyone, and welcome to Thoughtfully Fit Thursday. I have the entire team here! Kara, Darcy, hello!

Darcy Luoma (00:07):

Kara Barnes (00:08):

Jill Mueller (00:09):
And we are so thrilled to welcome our team coach, Nancy Clark, to the conversation.

Nancy Clark (00:17):

Jill Mueller (00:17):
Hello, Nancy!

Nancy Clark (00:18):
Hello. Exciting to be here with you guys!

Jill Mueller (00:23):
We are so excited to have you here. We are talking today about team coaching, and so we thought it would be helpful to have our team coach to be part of that conversation as well. So, Nancy, I’m going to turn it over to you first. Give us a little bit of an overview of what team coaching is and how it’s different from individual coaching.

Nancy Clark (00:47):
Well, so the biggest difference between the two is that really, when you think about team coaching, you’re really coaching the relationship that exists between the team members. So, I always say it’s like you’re trying to figure out what’s that personality of the team. And you’re really trying to coach to that, as opposed to any one individual person. So, it’s really about the team relationship. That’s the client [inaudible 00:01:11] any one of you. So, that’s really the biggest difference between team coaching and individual coaching.

Jill Mueller (01:18):
I’m going to nerd out with you Nancy because- [crosstalk 00:01:20].

Nancy Clark (01:20):
Oh, perfect. Love it.

Jill Mueller (01:22):
That’s full disclosure. Nancy and I have went through the same team coaching program as Darcy did as well. And there really is that idea of the team is its own system, is its own entity. I think when people hear about team coaching, it’s like, okay, well you’re mediating, or you’re going to decide which side is better. And it really is about looking at the team as a whole and assessing the energy of the group as opposed to each of the individuals.

Nancy Clark (01:52):
Yes. Absolutely.

Darcy Luoma (01:53):
One of the things I’ll highlight is that in individual coaching, the client is the expert. And as the coach, you ask questions, and work to create new awareness, and help them identify what they need to do to move forward. It’s the same thing with the team, but the team is the expert, right? They’re the ones that hold wisdom and the answer. So, it’s very different than facilitation, or consulting, or training in that way.

Nancy Clark (02:18):
Yeah. And I always say really, the thing that the coach brings is that sometimes, we have a tool that might help that agenda that you want to bring forward, just help to reveal something or help to move it forward. But it’s really about what the team wants to work on because they know. So, that makes it very exciting that way.

Jill Mueller (02:43):
Darcy, I want to have you speak to why you decided to bring Nancy in to work with our team for team coaching. One might say you’re a team coach, Darcy. You’re the owner of the business. You coach other teams. Why the heck would our team need a team coach?

Darcy Luoma (03:03):
It’s such a great question, and for a couple of reasons. One is because I am a team coach. I see that it works. When I come into an organization and work with a team in a coaching capacity, there is a safe space created for things to be said that otherwise, oftentimes, aren’t said. And I see that, and I see the value of how it helps that team to be more effective and high high-performing. So, I wanted that for us. And Kara is newer to our team. She’s joined our team in the last six months. And so, for us to design our alliance and how we’re going to work together.

Darcy Luoma (03:39):
In addition, it helps me to be in the client’s seat. And it gives me greater access to empathy for how it can be hard to talk about what you want to be different in the team, and what’s not working, and what is working. And a lot of times, we do a great job in our team of strategic planning. We’ve got our weekly meeting every week, and we focus on execution and our goals. This is an intentional space with Nancy to look at who we are as people, and how we’re interacting and communicating with each other as we’re doing the work of our company.

Jill Mueller (04:22):
And Kara, let me turn to you. When Darcy shared with us that she was looking to do team coaching, what did you think?

Kara Barnes (04:32):
Yeah, a couple of thoughts. This has been an extremely busy year, and there’s lots of things happening all the time. So, my first thought was we don’t have time for coaching and I was thinking, well, things are good enough. And it’s not like there’s anything wrong on the team, so why are we taking time, we’ve got so much to do? So, that was one thought. The second thought was more focused on, man, there must be… Maybe there’s things nobody’s saying. Maybe this is where we’re going to go in and really dig into all the pain points of our team. And this is going to be really hard and heavy.

Kara Barnes (05:06):
And I think I expected that team coaching was always about fixing problems, and it’s always going to be focused on conflict. And I couldn’t have been… Maybe that’s relevant sometimes, but it’s really more about creating awareness for the current state, whatever it may be. So, for example, there’s been a number of neutral things that have come up that just reflect the way that Darcy is or thinks. Or the way that Jill approaches this particular task we have. And when I hear them speak about it, it gives me so much more awareness to how I can better collaborate and partner.

Kara Barnes (05:41):
And none of it has to do with conflict. It doesn’t have to do with digging into, I don’t know, underlying things. It’s not heavy, and there’s just been so much good awareness that was just as a result of getting to know each other better and creating space for that instead of being like from project to project. And when things are busy, it’s so easy to gloss over the relationship building. And this is very intentional time built for that, that I just see the benefits constantly now that we’ve done it.

Jill Mueller (06:14):
Go ahead, Darcy.

Darcy Luoma (06:15):
Can I blend that with a story? I think it might’ve been our second team coaching session. We have sessions with Nancy every month. And I don’t remember exactly how the details, so I’m going to say it wrong. But the gist of it was that I came in, we’ve had an intense year, we published the book. There’s a lot of things happening, and I made a comment about how I was just feeling, oh, just overwhelmed, and the pace is really intense, but I really want to work hard because you guys are working hard. And so, I need to make sure that I’m working hard, and don’t shut the computer down at five, and don’t work on weekends. And then, it was like this new awareness, because I think it might’ve been Kara, that first jumped in and said, “Oh my gosh, well, I’m working hard because I see you working so hard, and I don’t want to let you down.” And it was this, oh my gosh.

Jill Mueller (07:12):
It’s such a good example of that wisdom in the system, that it wasn’t one individual, but by finding that time for team coaching, there’s no conflict here. But I remember that meeting, that session, and it was a huge shift after that of, okay… I don’t think anybody could have named on the team that we’re having this feeling like everybody needs to outwork everybody, or everybody needs to meet up. And after that, we were just able to put language to it of, oh, okay, we can take a breath here. It’s okay.

Nancy Clark (07:48):
Yeah. I agree. In fact, I remember that, Darcy, and I remember thinking what I loved about this team is one, you’ve found the humor in it. Two, that it’s during the super intense time you were like, “Oh my God, we’re creating our own hurricane, and ha, ha, ha, and wow.” So, what do we do different? How do we clue each other in as to when that’s happening? So, it was such a great and fun reveal. And it’s not like I knew that coming in. It’s not like I know exactly how to… So, that was fun.

Darcy Luoma (08:23):
That’s a good point, Nancy, because your role as a team coach is hard because you’re not coming in with an agenda and a curriculum. You coach what shows up and create that space for that awareness. That was so powerful. And again, I don’t think had we not hit the pause button to be in this team coaching that that would have come up. I just got back from a week vacation. I’ve gone with my family to this family camp for every year, for 12 years. And this is the first year that I unplugged and didn’t work. I’ve never not worked on vacation. I don’t think I would have… I don’t think. I would not have done that had we not had this realization in the team coaching and had I not seen I’m setting the standard in the culture. And if I want them to go unplug and recharge, and Jill, really pushed me before I left when I said, “I’ll check email twice a day.” And she really pushed me. And she said, “Darcy, our team is better when you’re recharged.”

Darcy Luoma (09:21):
And so, we designed our [inaudible 00:09:25] alliance, Jill, and Kara, and I, that I will check my texts, and if something needs addressing, that you’ll text me. And in the entire seven days I was gone, I got one text. It was heaven.

Nancy Clark (09:37):
That’s awesome.

Jill Mueller (09:38):
And we’re all still here.

Darcy Luoma (09:40):
Yeah, we didn’t shut down. We didn’t go bankrupt.

Speaker 5 (09:43):
Imagine that.

Nancy Clark (09:44):
The world’s still spinning.

Jill Mueller (09:47):
Nancy, I have to ask you, because I know as a coach, it’s always different when you are coaching coaches. And it’s always a little bit different, as I know this team coaching experience has been different ever since I got my team certification, I know people out there are going to be curious. What’s it like to coach, Darcy Luoma and Darcy Luoma’s team?

Nancy Clark (10:09):
Oh, well. So, I could probably be quippy, right, [Darce 00:10:15], because we’ve been friends for a while-

Darcy Luoma (10:17):
That’s what I love about you.

Nancy Clark (10:22):
But honestly, it’s awesome. Because like you had said before, what I absolutely cherish about you is that you will walk the talk. And so, it’s both refreshing, it’s challenging, always a little intimidating because you’re like, “Oh gosh. Is Jill thinking back to that third session that I know that she knows what that tool is? Am I doing the tool right?” But what when we entered our contract with our Alliance, what I loved is that I’d said, “Darce, I will also want to be able to learn from you and your team and that experience.” So, to me, it’s just been awesome. It’s a great learning experience. It’s a great way to contribute to you putting out your great [inaudible 00:11:15] in the world. So, it’s fun to be a part of that.

Darcy Luoma (11:19):
And it’s a long time since we were sitting at the coffee shop on [Monroe 00:11:23] Street, studying for our… We were both in a Master of Science of Organization Development program at the same time in like what? 2004?

Nancy Clark (11:32):
2004, yes.

Darcy Luoma (11:34):
Yeah. And so, it’s fun to be… We obviously have been friends for a long time, but also, sharing the professional, what’s the word? Stage or learning and [crosstalk 00:11:51].

Nancy Clark (11:51):
Yeah, learning the craft together. Yeah. And I think what’s fun is because you always came more from that coaching side. Like in organizational development, you can really be system focused. You can be coaching individual focused. So, it’s really been fun for us to come together where our two worlds meet, that system piece and the coaching piece, and see how does it all work together. So, that’s been pretty exciting stuff. Great learning.

Jill Mueller (12:18):
Nancy, I want to thank you for being here today. Kara and Darcy, always great to hang out with you on Thoughtfully Fit Thursday. And for all of you watching, I invite you to consider what might be possible for your team if your team hit the pause button and noticed what came up during team coaching. We love team coaching. We could spend all day talking about team coaching. So, if you’re curious about what it might look like for your team, don’t hesitate to reach out and give us a call. Darcy, anything you want to add there?

Darcy Luoma (12:50):
I’ll just say that, to build on what you’re saying, Jill, if you are curious, email us. You can email us at or go on our website. You can get our phone number. You can call. You can ping us on social media to have a conversation. Even if you’re curious, would this be right for our team based on what you’re saying? I’m not sure. Maybe, maybe not. We do those exploratory calls all the time to help people understand, and ask questions, and to learn if it might be the right fit. So, don’t hesitate even if you’re not certain, that’s the perfect time to call and chat with us.

Jill Mueller (13:29):
Excellent. Well, thank you so much for everybody for joining us for Thoughtfully Fit Thursday. We’ll see you next week.

Darcy Luoma (13:34):
Thank you. Thank you, Nancy.

Nancy Clark (13:36):
[crosstalk 00:13:36]

Accepting Bogus Calls

While players can’t control the calls made by umpires, there are at least two things they can control: how they react and their next swing. 

In meetings, we also control how we react and our next swing. And stretching to accept might be the best thing we can do at that moment.

It can be hard to practice Flexibility and stretch for acceptance when we’re faced with a ridiculous opinion, behavior, or call from a colleague. I get it. They can make us think, Why does so-and-so have to make things so difficult? When are they going to change?

But by taking the time to engage our Thoughtfully Fit core, we can keep clear of the dugout and stay focused by identifying what’s in our control and spending our time and energy on the choices we do have.

The next time one of your team members shows up late to a meeting, makes a call you don’t agree with, or simply won’t stop clicking their pen, it’s time for Flexibility. Practice stretching to accept what is, so you can focus on what you do best—instead of crying about what happened. After all, there’s no crying in baseball!

Don’t get it twisted. Acceptance isn’t approval. It simply means accepting the opinion or behavior in the moment, so we can put our energy and focus on the bigger game.

Playing the Bigger Game

Bad umpire calls are a part of baseball. As a fan, if I get hung up on bad calls, I’m not going to enjoy the rest of the game. And the players? They train to move on so they can stay focused on the game—not the bad calls. It’s a choice. And it takes practice to truly accept and move on.

When a diverse work team—with different perspectives, communication styles, and pen-clicking habits— comes together, there’s always a potential for conflict and people problems. It can be enough to make teams lose sight of their end goal and take thoughtless actions. 

But by engaging our core and practicing Flexibility, we can put our focus back on the bigger game we’re playing as a team: knocking the challenges we’re facing out of the park to accomplish the organization’s mission.

One-Minute Core Workout

The next time your team meeting has you saying, “You’re killing me, Smalls,” engage your core.

Pause. When you find yourself striking out in a meeting or getting bad calls, take a moment to Pause.

Think. Ask yourself, What do I have control over? What choices do I have? How can I stretch to fully accept this situation so I can move forward and focus on what’s most important?

Act. Limber up and stretch for acceptance.

Thoughtfully Fit One-Minute Workout inside the Thoughtfully Fit Wheel

Remember, before you can be a star player, you might first have to practice playing ball in the sandlot. Find moments in your workday to practice swinging at your challenges with Flexibility, so you can bring those skills into any room and help your team hit a homerun!


Looking for some extra ideas on how you can start clearing the bases in the meeting room? Check out Priya Parker’s TED Talk, Three Steps to Turn Everyday Get-Togethers into Transformative Gatherings. Conflict Mediator and author Priya Parker shares how we can engage with family, friends, and colleagues in more effective and meaningful ways by reimagining how we interact. Her example of the office cage match (while hilarious) was brilliant. Her TED Talk is seriously a must watch.