The Art Of Discernment

As I read the forecasts of what the post-pandemic world will look and feel like, what becomes clear to me is that no one really knows. Some experts are confident that working from home will continue to be an option going forward. Some people are looking forward to returning to their workplaces. The implications of mixed model workplaces are complex and unclear.

There is a tempered excitement in the air, as caution prevails during the vaccine distribution. CEOs of major financial institutions are predicting an economic boom that could last through 2023. No matter how close we are to getting the virus under control, we are still living in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) world. Many business leaders, entrepreneurs, and small business owners are wrestling with big questions.

  • How has the pandemic changed us, our business, and the needs of our customers?
  • What have we learned?
  • What truly matters to us and what is the difference we want to make in the world and our community?
  • What has become possible that we are willing to risk failure to pursue?

We must allow ourselves to experience the confusion that comes with letting go of the way things were and precedes the clarity of a new vision. There is no normal to return to, we are all forever changed by the pandemic. Our job as leaders is to guide people through the confusion. Giving the people you lead the opportunity to pause and be in conversation about these big questions will be essential to create confidence in your collective future. A pause of discernment is an act of leadership.

My life with horses has taught me the art of discernment. People often have the misperception that horses are purely a fight or flight species. I have spent countless hours observing herds respond to changes in their environment. When horses detect a change in their environment, they lift their heads, focus their eyes and ears, and pause, ever so briefly. This is a pause of discernment to decide how to respond to the change with an energy or pace that matches reality.

For example, if a herd sees smoke rising in the distance, they must assess the threat. Is this a wildfire, or a Spring barbecue on the farm? Wise herd leaders do not run at every sign of smoke. They pause to choose a response, rather than react based on fear. Herd leaders who overreact to the barbeque or under react to the wildfire, lose rank. False certainty is not decisiveness.

Special thanks to Heather McWhorter (mcwhorterh@uncw.edu) and the folks at SBTDC UNC Wilmington for their support in helping us answer our own big questions. They are a fabulous resource in the entrepreneurial ecosystem ready to support you in setting the future direction of your business.

If you would like to cultivate your discernment skills, come spend some time in the field our herd.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email