CMOS Cooking with Leadership and High Performing Teams – Enterprise Security

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Stuart Seymour, Global Head of Cyber Defence and Cyber Security Operations, BAT

Stuart Seymour, Global Head of Cyber Defence and Cyber Security Operations, BAT

Throughout my career in the Army, as an Under 12 Rugby Coach and now in cyber security, I have formed, been part of and led high performing teams. I am also a keen cook. Often, I have burnt the meal or added to much chili to the sauce. Looking at these three parts of my life, I wanted to share some of the extra ingredients that have made the difference for me and enabled the genesis of a high performing team.

In building a high performing team, I value attitude over skill. The former is hard to change and mould, the latter with investment in the individual, can be taught. Attitude is driven out of internal values and if these are not aligned within the team derailment often ensues.

Values are formed from diversity and experience. I specifically treasure diversity of thought – this diversity being brought about by multiple factors, age, race, gender and so many others. However, in the diversity conversation, I often find that neuro diversity as a component is often missed. I am dyslexic and proudly so. I am incredibly grateful for MS Words spell check feature. Neuro diverse members of my team look at problems differently – sometimes backwards, more often than not, arriving at the root cause of a cyber security incident quicker than anyone else.

Expanding; a critical part of the recipe is to understand the root of diverse thinking as in my experience this is linked to work preferences or styles. Typically, and simplistically, there are four which are often symbolised by flavours – Red (direct, action orientated) Blue (analytical) Yellow (innovative and creative) and Green (caring). As someone who is red, I have often charged over a cliff’s edge and endured the punch in the face that ensued. Now, I consciously surround myself with blues in order to provide me with the check and balance. More broadly within the team however, a balance of all flavours or colours, all with equal importance help to build the foundations of a highperformance team.

However, to arrive at these shared values, at a meaningful level, you have to jump in at the deep end, personally and collectively. The strongest bonds in my experience are built through adversity. This is still why I am very close to my friends in the Army based on difficult times we have been through or the ones I have spent sleepless weeks alongside in cyber incidents. But how do you recreate this without going on Operations or suffering a major incident?

“Once you have the foundation – what next? critical is a common vision, mission, and purpose”

About 5 years ago I was put on a leadership course and noticed that on the first day, four hours were dedicated to introductions. Really? The facilitator went first, she toldus about herself, normal stuff, and then her son who was paralysed in a rugby accident, the impact this had on her family, marriage. She then expanded on how her son worked for 6 months in his physiotherapy just so he could surprise her and briefly raise a bottle of beer and cheers her on her birthday. You can imagine the room as the standard introduction suddenly took a very unexpected dimension. Then, the next person in the team jumped in the deep end, then the next and the next. Four hours later, after divorce, infertility, suicide, bullying at school and other deeply personal matters we all finished emotionally drained but with a bond I had not seen outside the Army. It takes courage to jump in, especially if we are conditioned notto swim. Since then, I have done this with all my teams.

Once you have the foundation – what next? Critical are a common vision, mission and purpose. Without this the 11 year old winger would never tackle the 13 stone, already well into puberty, 6 foot forward willingly. Bought in, they will not let their team mates down. Cyber security is no different, especially in the middle of a major incident having worked 20 hours plus straight each day.

Finally, and again through being punched in the face, I now work on the heart as well as the head. This aspect is critical in cyber security. Policy, regulations, directives say we must do x. It is logical. It is the head. Any typically this is where we stop. And then complain why ourcolleagues in IT won’t cooperate. Yet we don’t invest in the heart. Why is it important to the individual we are asking? What stresses within their own competing does this create. How can we alleviate this?

So to put it together as a recipe. Start with quality organic attitude. Cultivate this in a safe oven with values being careful to add diverse thinking and a blend of work styles or flavours which compliment and balance each other. Commit to these fully and jump in at the deep end – however uncomfortable this might be. As bonds form, nurture these adding a common vision, mission and purpose with both head and heart in equal measure. Finally, if you burn the recipe, or get punched in the face, learn and start again

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