Leadership Lessons on Supporting Military Veterans in Business
As we commemorated
Remembrance Day in November, we were reminded of all that 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 this yearís Invictus Games in Toronto, I caught up with a few of the veterans involved in the gamesó either as athletes, mentors or sponsors óto hear about the leadership lessons they gained from serving in the military, their perspectives on what itís like re-entering civilian life, starting a business or entering the workforce. 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. Hereís what they had to say.
Paul Struthers: Can you tell me a little about yourself and how you started your business?
Joel Guindon, Retired Corporal and Team Canada athlete in the 2017 Invictus Games:
After being released from the military, I struggled to find a job that was flexible enough to fit my medical needs. Thatís why I decided to launch a business around motivating and inspiring veterans and other individuals to overcome the most challenging times in their life. I am now a motivational speaker on such topics as mental health, transitioning from the Armed Forces to civilian jobs and post-traumatic stress injuries. It brings me tremendous joy to know that I can help veterans and people experiencing similar struggles, and give them hope to believe they are not alone and that tomorrow will be a better day.
Bruno Guevremont, Retired Royal Canadian Navy Diver and Team Canada Captain for the 2016 Invictus Games:
After being medically released from the CAF in 2014, I turned to fitness as a form of therapy. Recognizing how it helped me with my own recovery process, I 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 my business, as well as my experience with the Invictus Games, Iíve been dedicated to supporting the health and wellbeing of veterans and the emergency services community.
Vicky Gosling OBE, Group Captain and CEO of the 2016 Invictus Games:
I am currently the Director of the Sage Foundationís Military Program Ė Sage Serving Heroes. Having introduced Sage to the Invictus Games as a corporate sponsor, my subsequent employment with them was a fortunate opportunity; in particular I have enjoyed the challenge of creating the strategy for their robust and enduring Serving Heroes Programme.
PS: What did the military teach you about leadership thatís transferrable to the business world?
JG: Coming from a Reconnaissance unit, we always put great value on leading by example and committing ourselves 100%t at all times. We have been trained to lead with uncompromised integrity, effective and efficient logistics planning, decisive implementation while remaining calm under pressure. Furthermore, my experience with the Reconnaissance unit has taught me how to be a good listener and encourage all team membersí input, work effectively with teammates from diverse backgrounds to broaden the range of assessments, take great care of my teammates, and value the importance of punctuality.
VG: Through the Military you are privileged to receive first-class leadership training. If you are equipped to deal with the challenges of battle, you are more than equipped for the hurdles that you may encounter in a business environment. Military personnel are mission-orientated, masters in navigating risk, and agile in thought processes, all of which are fundamental skills for a successful business.
PS: What was it like assimilating back into the workforce, and what support have you had along this journey?
JG: It has not been an easy process for a few reasons. First, I am currently unable to work 5 consecutive days due to post-traumatic injuries, and itís hard to find an employer that can accommodate my medical requirements with regards to job attendance. Secondly, with the military having trained me to be mission and goal-driven, Ďdoing what is necessary to get the job doneí has always been an instinctive path to follow and also one that Iíve become good at, but now as a civilian working in a unionized environment, the goal is no longer so overt or easily quantified. Many veterans like me require a transitional process in order to integrate back into civilian life.
Most of the support Iíve received has come from Veterans Affairs Canada. Iím enrolled in their vocational rehabilitation program, which aims to send me back to school once Iíve completely recovered from my injuries. For the business, Iíve dived into researching the topics I speak about so I can really understand the kind of battles people are going through, and reflect on how my story can help them get through it. Naturally, in my talks I draw a lot from my own experience in the military, the hard lessons I learned along the way and how it made me who I am today.
BG: It was hard at first. I find that civilians do things at the last minute possible, which is the complete opposite of how the military operates. Time management was a challenge because of this. Luckily for me, I found True Patriot Love. Their mentors have really helped me transition emotionally.
From a business perspective, Sage has played an integral part in helping me transition to the corporate world. Their solutions are designed to help small business owners come off the ground, and theyíve placed emphasis on supporting veterans like myself through their sponsorship of the Invictus Games and the Sage Serving Heroes program.
PS: What are some of the biggest challenges facing veterans as they embark on their civilian business journeys today, and how can employers and policymakers better support them in this process?
BG: Once enlisted, the military becomes your identity. That was what weíve been conditioned for, so it can be hard to find life after the military. Communicating skillsets can be particularly challenging for veterans. The corporate world is looking for our skills; we just need to communicate that more effectively. We hope employers will show patience and understanding in that process.
JG: Having policies aimed at accommodating veterans with PTSI and OSI and understanding that these veterans are mission-driven will allow employers to better capitalize on their expertise and leadership skills. Being mission-driven allows veterans to focus on what needs to be done to effectively and efficiently reach goals (i.e. working under stress). Education for employers on how to work with mission-orientated and goal-driven veterans with disabilities will also help empower veterans to thrive. More employers should realize that despite not being able to work as many consecutive days as the required norm, veterans are incredibly productive and highly efficient in helping businesses achieve goals.
VG: It is imperative that organisations are aware of the exceptional qualities and skills that a veteran can bring to their organisation. The combination of a veteranís ability to lead whilst being a team player and thriving under pressure, are attributes corporations should aspire to have in their business. In order to ensure a successful transition for the veteran, it is critical that organisations consider the requirement to provide suitable training, appropriate mentorship, empowerment and a sense of belonging; these are undoubtedly key ingredients to guaranteeing the best outcome for both the business and the individual.
Paul Struthers is Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Sage Canada. Mr. Struthers is responsible for Sageís > overall business in Canada, working alongside Sageís cherished network of customers, partners, and accountants.