A lack of team cohesion makes you wannacry

Team failure is like the matrix system failure
Posted on: Saturday 03, June 2017
Category: Leadership Development

The latest ‘wannacry’ cyber-attack and negative mindset have a lot in common – they both act like a virus that attacks your business. If your team is infected, here's what to do about it.

Wannacry and negative mindset

At the beginning of May 2017, around a quarter of a million organisations worldwide were hit with a cyber-attack that quickly brought computer systems to a standstill. In the UK the NHS (National Health Service) was particularly hard hit with operations halted and appointments cancelled because clinicians couldn’t access patient records.

The problem traced back to a piece of malicious computer code called ‘wannacry’, which takes control of computers and blocks their use until the user pays a ransom. This so-called ‘ransomware’ gets onto people’s computers because it tricks them into clicking links in emails or on webpages. 

That resulted in the wannacry code downloading onto peoples' computer. Wannacry had an impact on organisations like the NHS because many of its computers were running old versions of the Microsoft Windows operating system, which had not had updated to latest security patches.

So, what has this got to do with your leadership teams, management or your staff?

Well, your people are subject to virtual mental cyber-like-attacks on almost a daily basis too. It only takes one member of your team to bring in negative thoughts or attitudes (a personal grudge, disappointment about a lack of promotion or dislike of another person, or even the new coffee machine) to start the infection process going.

Infected by the negativity bug

Negativity is contagious. It’s a bug that spreads very quickly like a nasty virus in a work environment. A hushed agreement in the corridor with a co-worker’s gripe about the boss can be the first step in catching it, for instance.

Negativity can easily trigger people’s baser instincts or their ‘shadow side’ (read more about this in my blog ‘Leadership – what is pulling your strings’). Instead of harmony, motivation and teamwork we get, anxiety, unease, and selfishness - clearly not traits and qualities of effective teamwork and high performing teams.

For leaders and managers, one of the problems of virtual mental cyber-like-attacks, as opposed to the ransomware kind, is that the effects can be insidious. Your team probably won’t mirror the locked-out computer systems by completely downing tools one morning. Instead, performance will deteriorate slowly.

Perhaps it'll turn up in some of the hard business metrics. For example, growth won’t be as fast as expected, project milestones go by the wayside or sales targets get missed. Or perhaps the effect is more subtle - like lethargy. 

Worse still, symptoms might show up in an increase in sick days, less interaction in the office, mediocracy or, even formal complaints to Human Resources. These are then harder to resolve.

If you recognise any of these negative traits contaminating your team, then it's time to act. Moreover, as a leader, you have a responsibility to your people to change this. Read on to find out how.

Emotional intelligence is the vaccine

Poor performance in KPIs, as seen on graphs, charts and balance sheets will eventually show the symptoms of poor performance. However, dealing wth a deterioration of mood, behaviour and attitude, though, requires greater personal acuity and leadership courage.

The development of empathy, listening skills and social awareness (more succinctly described as ‘emotional intelligence’) is essential for leaders. Emotional intelligence is the key to give leaders the insights needed to spot symptoms of a virtual mental cyber-like-attack going on in the midst of a team.

But what’s required to stop such attacks in the first place?

Let’s use the language of the techies to explore a couple of options.

The wannacry attack was preventable, had users implemented a software patch – an additional piece of computer code. That would have stopped the ransomware taking control of their machines.

If your team has a track record of high performance, then the human equivalent of the software patch might be a clear-the-air briefing, a team workshop or day of training or even something as simple as an impromptu curry night. 

However, if your team requires a bit more work, such as a spark to reboot motivation or, get to the next development level, then, investing in a high performance team development programme provides an excellent antidote. 

(See below for my upcoming book).

You are looking for activities that reinforce the group’s positive values such as, compassion, hope and trust, and help individuals become resistant to the nasty negatives.

Upgrade your teamwork approach

Computers running the latest version of Windows (or completely different software like Apple’s IOS) weren’t troubled by the ransomware attack. That’s because the new software was designed to eliminate loopholes and provide better defenses against the bad stuff.

In the same way, if you are concerned that your team is susceptible to the negativity bug or, is already infected, then perhaps the answer is to upgrade the team's ‘operating system.

What do I mean by that?

Yes, I am suggesting a complete change in teamwork and your leadership approach!
One that sweeps away the closed, traditional thinking (that encourages aggression, manipulation and political games) and replaces it with openness and positivity. It’s an approach I like to refer to it as a ‘high performance team mindset.’

High performance in this context isn’t just about meeting the numbers. It’s also about effectively addressing the emotional needs of individuals, creating a powerful sense of team spirit and enabling an intense clarity of purpose.

In this environment, people are both individually immunised against mental cyber-like-attacks and benefit from a shared resistance to toxic talk.

Practical suggestions

Obviously, installing this new approach is not quite as simple as downloading a program from a server. However, there is a clear, logical process to making it happen and it all starts with a shared commitment to developing together as a team.

First off, get a skilled facilitator to help you and your team to develop (I can help you here).

Tools like the leadership team charter will help you to instill the core, positive values upon which you can build a strong working culture.

Another practical solution is to introduce a high performance team development programme that will encourage collaboration, courage, personal empowerment, and trust. (See my blog on high performance teams - fact or fantasy?)

Leaders listen up and step up

Today's leadership is no longer about the blind pursuit of profit as a means to an end. New leaders have a very different agenda. They want to shape their people into cohesive teams that want to make a difference to peoples' lives. Business today should be more about investing profits to make the world a better place. Ethics, integrity and a belief that everybody matters is part of that.

In short, 'we need awesome teams and great leaders in this world'. (Graham Wilson)

I may not be a doctor, but I do have lots of experience in spotting the symptoms of negativity, sorting out the aftermath of mental cyber-like-attacks and helping teams to reboot to be the best they can be at work.

If your team has a problem or you want your team to step up then let’s discuss a course of treatment today.


[1,100 words)

In honour of:

As per my last blog, I dedicate this blog too, to honour the victims of hatred, outrage and extremism in all its ugly forms in all cultures that perpetrate around the world. We must all stand up and fight for human freedom, equality, justice and democracy to make the world a better place for everyone everywhere through mutual understanding, celebrate diversity, collaboration and compassion.

My services

Senior management coaching

I am a skilled leadership and team facilitator and development consultant. Please contact me today to discuss how you and your organisation can benefit from developing your team in emotional intelligence development or high performance team programmes. Call 07795 182 860 or email andrew@pdx-consulting.com to arrange an informal discussion.

Sneak peek at my latest book

Click on the image above to head over to order it now. It's getting useful reviews too.

For other books in The Authority Guide Series, click on the following graphic:

See my website for more information on developing successful teams or for developing a team charter

Further reading and resources

Frederic Laloux and Ken Wilber - Reinventing Organizations: A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness

The New Leadership Paradigm. Barrett, Richard - Routledge 2013

(My first book - helps you create personal change and how to overcome your conditioning to reach your true authentic self.)

Download my detailed FREE questionnaire too. It measures where you are on an authenticity scale. It includes tips on advancing towards your authentic self. 

Other Leadership Blogs

High Performance Teams Fact or Fantasy - Blog Post

Leadership - Who is Pulling Your Strings -Leadership development blog from Andrew Jenkins Leadership Development Consultant and Coach

Click here for Further blogs

Other contact details:


Graphics used in the article

Header - adapted from www.telegraph.co.uk 

Embedded matrix graphic - adapted from www.wikileaks-forum.com

Internal graphics- catching a cold, hypodermic and teamwork - Buffer.com


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