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Floccinaucinihilipilification: The Hidden Principle For Increasing Engagement And Performance For Virtual Teams

By Jedidiah Alex Koh

Date Published: Dec 14, 2020

Floccinaucinihilipilification!

"Huh?! What?" That’s probably what you might say just by looking at the title of this article. Is this even a proper word? What on earth is that word?

I'll get to that, but first, now that I have gotten your attention, notice how the sea of information in the virtual space is trying to grab our attention. And with the proliferation of virtual communication and engagement among teams, our attention is becoming diluted with the myriad of information trying to draw our attention.

Leaders face an increasing challenge of engaging teams virtually, and they have to embrace it as we enter into the "new normal." The future of teamwork is one that requires more asynchronous engagement, and the team leader will have to team coach their team members to overcome technological gaps, unknown obstacles, future threats and performance growths. To do that in the midst of this new, more virtual environment demands greater trust, ownership and accountability.

The big question, as I see it, is how organizations partner with internal and external coaches to create greater engagement and asynchronous performance. To do that, organizations must embrace coaching culture; this is the key to enhance learning and growth in teams, and it also promotes greater levels of accountability and self-initiated performance levels. The key outcome is sustainable progress without an exhaustion of resources and micromanagement.

 

One of the greatest pitfalls in a virtual team is that team members focus on areas that add little value to the overall progress of the team and organization. Often, we get enraptured by buzzwords and new trends that distract rather than add value to team performance. As such, coaches and leaders have to work with teams to help them stay on course and not get distracted by shiny objects and expend their resources and energy on events that add little value.

The word "floccinaucinihilipilification" is the very action or habitual pattern of attributing something as worthless or of no value. In building peak-performing teams, often leaders and coaches overlook the quintessential element for what makes a team high-performing, which is trust — nothing more, nothing less. Performance and trust are synergistic in nature, and the aspect of trust is often seen as being of little importance or value, even as an organization spends more resources and time on the next training model or the next advanced performance training but never quite focuses on the key thing in building a performing team, which is trust. As such, organizations and leaders need to understand the floccinaucinihilipilification principle to bring to conscious awareness actions or habits in the systemic structures that have been overlooked and devalued.

The floccinaucinihilipilification principle is the requisite awareness of information that grabs attention but adds little or no value to the overall outcome — and the responsiveness and wit to pivot and stay on course when everything seems to grab our attention. Yet, it also serves as a mechanism to refresh the attention of the team, especially when they are too absorbed in the daily grind and forget the destination.

To practically refocus and align with desired outcomes, virtual teams can apply these five strategies of the floccinaucinihilipilification principle to increase focused engagement. These strategies can be employed at any stage of the virtual team and should be revisited to keep the teams engaged. 

1. Hook. Identify captivating ways that draw the focus of the team. To hook their attention and focus on desired outcomes when team members are distracted, try out and actively experiment with fresh ways of communicating to bring about new, creative ways to inspire and foster engagement. One practical way to do this includes doing mundane meetings in a fresh, new way to hook the attention and engagement of the teams.

2. Mood. Set the mood of the virtual team by being the thermostat. The mood of the team is contagious, and setting and increasing the energy of the team is infectious. It increases the engagement and alertness of the members, doubling on the energy you exert, especially while doing virtual calls.

3. Look. Pointing the team in the right direction and periodically checking in will allow the team to evaluate for themselves if they are on the right pathway. Leaders and coaches can also point toward areas the teams might have missed out on or areas that have yet to be explored. Create new levels of awareness by drawing the attention of the team toward an expanded way of thinking and outlook of their situation.

4. Loop. This sequence allows the team to create momentum toward greater levels of performance and productivity. In virtual teams, there will be many loops across subgroups and asynchronous workflow. As such, the loop effect of feedback and feedforwarding will be essential to drive the organizational outcome.

5. Took. Learning and active experimentation are key for overall organizational development. Without these reflections and implementation of insights, the knowledge that is acquired through the events and projects will be lost. Knowledge management and retention are key for the long-term sustainability of the organization’s leverage.

The sequence of hook — mood — look — loop — took is an engagement cycle that will enable greater ownership and responsibility in an asynchronous workspace. The future of work will require virtual teams to work with deeper levels of trust, and the ability to tap into the floccinaucinihilipilification principle will allow team leaders and coaches to deepen engagement to align teams toward organizational outcomes.

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