Veteran follows passion to create Outside the Wire: A leadership development and team dynamics program

Mark Gasparotto, partner in Cognascent Inc., teamed up with Reticle Ventures to create a program to develop leadership and team dynamics.

The six-week program brings together teams of people to work on their leadership skills, work together as a team, and even overcome their own fears.

He developed the program four years ago when he was the Commanding Officer of 2 Combat Engineer Regiment (2CER) in Petawawa, ON. Having participated in an Army event called Collaborative Spirit. They brought in participants of various backgrounds to experience what it was like to be a soldier for a day.

“I replicated that at my unit and then started to layer on leadership development as part of that because that is my passion. At 2 CER it was called Exercise Stronghold and what I’ve done now is commercialize that idea in what’s now known as Outside the Wire,” said Gasparotto.

The very first Outside the Wire leadership camp held in June 2018, brought together three teams for a total of 18 participants. The three teams were formed by three Canadian companies, 44 North Digital Marketing, owned by Veteran Corey Shelson, from London, ON; Amacon from Vancouver, BC; and ADGA, an Ottawa based company that supports the hiring of Veterans.

The six-week program begins with three weeks of online learning. The participants log in at their leisure and go through six different modules.

“Those modules are leadership, so the theory of leadership; adult learning because that adult learning approach and process underpins everything we do in the program; emotional intelligence; personal resilience, specifically tactical breathing or resilience breathing; accountability; and finally, we delve into team dynamics, what makes for an effective team,” said Gasparotto.

Each participant identifies what personal skills they’d like to work on before arriving at Zero4-North in Brockville, ON.

“We can provide targeted feedback based on what each individual participant wants us to develop. We can also shape the peer feedback in terms of those specific competencies,” said Gasparotto.

Once on site, participants checked in and prepared for the two-and-a-half day/three-night field training camp. On day one, participants discussed their intentions for developments further, delve further into team dynamics, and bring forward the theories they learned online.

“There are some classes that intersperse throughout the day’s activities, but those classes could be in a normal classroom, outside or around the fire. We were very purposeful about that,” said Gasparotto. “That’s how humans have passed knowledge for thousands and thousands of years, and we wanted to recreate that primal environment.”

Teams continued with a series of military skills activities to take them out of their comfort zone and help them face some of their fears.

“We have them do some shooting on a state of the art indoor range with one on one coaching from ex-special forces operators. That just gives them confidence using a weapon system they may have been fearful of,” said Gasparotto.

Gasparotto adds that when participants see they can shoot a target, it builds their confidence. It also puts the breathing exercises they learned, to good practice, calming their bodies in order to shoot their target. Other activities include repelling off a 30-foot roof (the primal height of fear) and off-roading in Humvees.

The next day and a half of the program participants learn trust exercises, and they complete a competition phase, where participants will take the skills they’ve learned and put them into real-life situations.

Upon completion of the program, the participants were treated to a Mess dinner and given a copy of Gasparotto’s book and a collector’s coin. They then conducted peer evaluations based on their personal development and how each participated within the team environment, marking each skill off with either a red or green dot for performance.

When participants arrived home, they completed their two-week online course to help them transition back and put their newly developed skills into their everyday life.

This was the inaugural Outside the Wire training camp, but Gasparotto said it was a success and have opened registration for a Fall camp. Previous teams have even committed to a 2019 Spring camp.

For more information on how you can register a team for the next training camp, visit their website here.


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Miranda Brumwell

Miranda attended Niagara College in 2014, completing the two-year Journalism program. She currently resides in London, ON with her boyfriend and baby boy. In her spare time, Miranda enjoys reading, cooking, photography, watercolour painting and spending time with family and friends.

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