Executive vice-president and managing director of Sage Canada
As the year came to a close, we were reminded of all that our military men and women do for our country.
They risk their lives so that we can enjoy freedom. They know what it takes to work hard, to take risks, to be self sufficient and resilient. They are true heroes, and we have an obligation and a duty to thank them for keeping us safe by making sure their transition back into civilian life is as easy as possible.
Following the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, I caught up with a few of the veterans involved in the games – either as athletes, mentors or sponsors – to hear about the leadership lessons they gained from serving in the military, their perspectives on what it's like re-entering civilian life and starting a business or entering the work force.
I also had a chance to learn about their opinions on what companies and government officials can do to better serve veteran men and women following their military careers. It was through such conversations that I've come to realize the exceptional leadership and business skills the military teaches are being underutilized in today's business world. It's up to organizations to figure out how to best bring out these qualities in their veteran employees to achieve success.
For example, veterans are taught to stay calm and focused under duress and to lead while still being a team player. Think about it: If you are equipped to deal with the challenges of battle, then surely you are equipped for the hurdles that you may encounter in a business environment. Military personnel are also very mission-driven, masters in navigating risk and agile in decision-making. These are all attributes company leaders should look for when hiring people to help run their business.
This is not to say there aren't ever challenges to address with employing vets. We must recognize they require a transitional process in order to integrate back into civilian life and work. And because of post-traumatic injuries, not all can work a traditional five-day workweek.
Take Joel Guindon for example. He's a retired Corporal and Team Canada athlete in the 2017 Invictus Games. After being released from the military, he struggled to find a job that was flexible enough to fit his medical needs. He may not be able to work as many hours or consecutive days as the required norm owing to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but that doesn't mean he's not an incredible asset to the business world.
As a member of a reconnaissance unit, Mr. Guindon was taught to always place great value on leading by example and committing himself 100 per cent at all times. He was taught to lead with uncompromising integrity and to be a good listener. He was taught to encourage all team members' input, to work effectively with people from diverse backgrounds and to take care of his teammates. He was taught the importance of punctuality. With patience, flexibility and training, Mr. Guindon will be an asset to any organization.
Veterans are incredibly productive and highly efficient in helping businesses achieve goals – something I learned firsthand from working with Vicky Gosling, director of the Sage Foundation's Military Program, Sage Serving Heroes. Ms. Gosling is a retired OBE and group captain and one of the most hard-working and determined people I've ever met.
She told me that a big part of her own success in business could be traced back to those who helped her early on in her career. In order to ensure a successful transition for veterans, it is critical that organizations consider putting into practice a program that includes providing suitable training, appropriate mentorship, empowerment and a sense of belonging for veterans joining their organization. These are undoubtedly key ingredients to guaranteeing the best outcome for the business and the individual.
But that's not all companies can do. It's also important to promote positive mental and physical health through offering benefits such as therapy and fitness reimbursements – or solutions to help budding entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground. Fitness is precisely what gave new meaning to Bruno Guevremont, a retired Royal Canadian Navy diver and Canada's captain for the 2016 Invictus Games. After being medically released from the armed forces in 2014, he turned to fitness as a form of therapy. Recognizing how it helped him with his own recovery process, he was inspired to open a CrossFit gym and personal-training business in order to give others a new outlook on life through fitness and life coaching. Through enrolling in the Sage Serving Heroes Program, he's now able to follow his next dream of supporting the health and well-being of veterans and the emergency services community.
Mr. Guevremont stresses that military men and women have all the right skill sets to prevail in business – employers and investors just need to show patience and understanding to help them get there.
Executives, educators and human resources experts contribute to the continuing Leadership Lab series.