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5 Things I’ve Learned as a Civilian Working with Military Personnel

By December 12, 2019December 17th, 2019One Comment

I work for The Gasparotto Group, a leadership development firm that specializes in military-inspired experiential learning. 

Our company was founded by Mark Gasparotto, who served for over 20 years in the Canadian Military. Mark served in key leadership roles in international hotspots such as Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Haiti. He was recognized for his leadership skills with two Meritorious Service Medals and a Brazilian Army Medal. The other members of our team are military veterans with tremendous operational and educational backgrounds. 

It takes a special person to choose to enlist and serve our country and I believe that civilians can learn a lot from the people who have made that sacrifice. 

We offer clients a unique learning opportunity. Our fieldwork is based on the lessons that highly respected Canadian Military personnel learned in combat, disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations around the world.

These are the people who don’t use radical candour as a buzzword, it is their nature. 

I knew that I would have an incredible opportunity to learn and grow in my role, as a direct result of being surrounded by our team of brave and accomplished associates.

Here are 5 key things that I have learned as a civilian working with military personnel:

  1. Discipline:

    Above and beyond any group of people I have worked with before, our team is incredibly disciplined. Their level of commitment in every aspect of life is exceptional. Our team is quick to accept, orient to, think about, plan, execute, and learn from a task.  They are always ready to adapt and take on more. For me, this has meant showing up and leaning into experiences. If you commit to something, give it your all. In combat, being half-in can mean you lose everything.                                       

  2. Planning:

    When making decisions, our associates reason through alternatives at lightning speed. They do this using a common, structured process and by fostering a culture that elicits diverse perspectives. Scenarios I never would have thought of, they have already planned for. In combat, having this foresight can be the difference between life and death. In business, it can be the difference between a successful IPO and bankruptcy. I have learned the importance of creating and rehearsing an effective contingency plan. As a result, my increased agility and ability to strategically plan has improved my confidence to execute tasks.                                                                                

  3. Trust:

    As combat veterans, our associates have lived through experiences where trust was absolutely critical. They put their lives in their teammate’s hands and trusted that those people had their back. This is why at Gasparotto Group we believe that trust is the #1 determinant of team effectiveness. I work remotely and not once have I been micromanaged. I am trusted to work with intent towards our company goals. The results are that everyone has more time to focus on what they are doing to propel the organization forward and I have more drive to deliver exceptional results in return.

  4. After Action Reviews:

    Our company uses a military technique called “After action reviews” (AARs). We follow a process of review that contrasts what was supposed to happen with what actually did and the reasons why. It highlights what worked, what didn’t, and what needs updating. Each issue is then tracked in an action learning plan. The AAR has provides us with a highly effective way to change processes. Recently, I received a message that said: “Need to AAR x”. In doing this, my boss gave me the time to think about what I thought worked, what didn’t, and why. AARs call people in, not out. This method prevents defensive behaviour because it is an inclusive way to ask for improvement. This has built a foundation of psychological safety that allows our team to be accountable and learn from our plans and actions. 

  5. Accountability:

    In the military, you don’t have time to shift blame during a crisis. For this reason, I have noticed our team is extremely accountable. They own their responsibilities and when something goes wrong they are ready to take ownership swiftly. They practice productive accountability by not dwelling on mistakes. Using tools like the AAR, they acknowledge the wrong action, clearly state what would have prevented it, and then make an action plan to move forward with. It is hard to admit that you are wrong and it is hard to face your failures head-on. I greatly admire how the extreme circumstances of the military taught my colleagues to be champions of accountability. 


My time working at The Gasparotto Group has taught me invaluable lessons that have helped me develop not only a professional but a personal level. 

Many companies such as Bell Canada, Via Rail, and Accenture have taken the initiative to seek out veteran employees because they see the value in the transferable skills and work ethic that the military instilled in them. Working with our team has made me an advocate of that initiative.

If you believe that your team could benefit from a first-hand experience learning from military veterans you can ENLIST now at

About the Author

Jess Orchin is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Gasparotto Group. Jess is an Honours in Business Administration Candidate at the Richard Ivey School of Business. At Ivey she is working towards a Certificate in Sustainability and currently holds the position of Chief Financial Officer for Enactus Western. At Gasparotto Group she leverages her experience in sales, business development, and business planning to accomplish company goals. Outside of work Jess is an outdoor enthusiast and can be found in the mountains hiking, biking, climbing and skiing.



The Gasparotto Group helps organizations create cultures that develop highly effective leaders and build strong, resilient teams. 

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