I found myself in a conversation the other day with a leader I respect immensely. He has always shown me both wisdom and a unique perspective on most issues. I had asked him for guidance with respect to a problem where I was looking for success but didn’t have the answer. He asked me a number of great questions, all of which we’re met by my answers about why that approach probably wouldn’t work. After a bit of a pause the next question surprised me. I hadn’t ever expected it to appear in a business context.
The question was: “What if you just trust the universe on this one?”
As you can imagine. I didn’t really have a good answer for it at the time! I probably mumbled something like “maybe that’s a good idea”, said thank you and drifted off thinking about what it would mean to “trust the universe”.
It turns out that this might be one of the more powerful questions I’ve ever been asked! The first thing I realized in answering this question for myself is how self-limiting we can be when we engage in significant decisions. We’re afraid of getting them wrong so we can engage in “analysis paralysis”, we can let our anxieties get us locked into a single solution that blocks us from seeing other solutions (that was what was at work for me) or any number of other alternatives that do not allow the true power of teams and possibility to work their magic. Whether consciously or not, we actually engage in mistrust!
In thinking this through, I came up with a few entities I would be best served to trust:
- Myself – rather than over-working a decision, or being too invested in a particular outcome, what would happen if I just trusted in me? What would that mean? That I would respect that I am valued for what I have to contribute? That I am a resourceful person who trusts himself to show up in a critical conversation without a predetermined outcome and listen for great ideas from others and then work to create a solution that really works for all involved? That I’m an adaptable person that can be completely happy with any number of outcomes?
- Others – rather than worrying about how others might affect me, what would happen if I trusted that others involved in the decision authentically want the best outcome as well? That they are also resourceful and have a unique perspective that may actually have a solution that works better for all (including me) than I do? That in allowing others to influence a particular decision that we create new possibilities to grow that were never before contemplated? That others always show up trying to do the right thing?
- The Process – how would things go for me if I trusted that we follow processes for a reason? That these processes are designed to help us tackle the right problem at the right time? That processes and systems are designed in a way that should lead to effective deployment of resources, including what my role in the system will be? That systems within organizations are designed to support success?
But what about trusting the universe? That’s the big question that got me thinking. What does it mean to trust the universe? I think we all have our own interpretation of what this might mean, but for me I think it comes down to trusting in humanity, which means trusting in myself, trusting in others and trusting in how we all want to interact. What would happen if I did? I’m inclined to believe that if I trust at this level, things will unfold as they should. As long as I truly trust in others and in the process, it will be evident to everyone that I am engaged with that I seek only the best solution for all of us, and we will find it. Even if this situation doesn’t result in an outcome that was on my radar coming in, other possibilities will be available to me that I hadn’t even thought of coming in. By having a certain amount of faith in myself, in others and in the process I allow for the greatest number of possible outcomes.
If we expand this concept to the teams we lead, how much more effective would we be if we all had that trust in each other? And how much more successful would we be as we venture out beyond our team’s boundaries with that same trust in plain view to influence others? As leaders, I think it is our role to coach our team members to have that confidence in “the universe”, which really means faith and confidence in themselves and their own capabilities. When we reward people for this approach, and support them when things don’t turn out perfectly I think we will see our teams arrive at the next level of performance.
A big shout out to my colleague that asked me that powerful question. It certainly led me to another level of thinking about this!