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!
20 thoughts on “Who Do You Trust?”
You have zoomed in on three essential elements of trust in an organization: yourself (leader), others and processes. When staff morale breaks down it can be due to a break-down in trust of the processes; and often much can be resolved by simply reviewing the processes.
As for trusting the universe … the sun will come up every day (at least in Australia) …. and that knowledge is powerful in the healing from any crisis involving a loss of trust.
Your colleague asked a wise question.
I love this post on so many levels Ian. Trusting ourselves, trusting our teams (if we can’t trust them, why did we hire them) We have to trust that 99.9% of the time they want to do a good job. As for the universe, I believe in God. I don’t think this faith is like magic and that he will make everything work out perfectly for me with unicorns and balloons, etc. But I’m ok if things don’t work out the way I planned, trusting that there is something else out there. You said it better than I can here: 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.
Thanks again Ian!
Well said! My belief is that things almost always work out in a good way if we trust in the processes of our life. It’s when we try to change the process that we end up ‘poking the bear’! 😉 I think that is next week’s topic!
It’s interesting because I see poking the bear as a good thing sometimes and not necessarily something that is outside of the process. I look forward to your post. Perhaps we have a different definition of what that means. 😉
I think we’re on the same page. But also, no matter good nor bad, the bear does wake up when poked!
Sure does! 😉
Yet another great Sunday morning of thinking! Trust and Process both so very important. Blind trust without a solid process is a difficult thing for me. I do agree with you that we should trust in our team but we do not always hire / build our teams so we are then back to trusting the process that put that team together. It is a very “Utopian” way of thinking but I like it 🙂 For myself I openly trust everyone until proven otherwise this is a very good thing (I think) but also can cause difficulties. I feel a good positive attitude everyday, every morning wake up and be happy and grateful to be here. Trust that it will be a great day that the “Universe” will be kind and you will have a great day.
So yes definitely we as leaders we should be helping to guide our team to a place of trust, build great processes for them to follow and all the cards should fall into place.
Thanks again Ian
Thank you Heather. The word Utopian resonates with me. It is probably the concept that we wonder about as in “who are you trying to kid anyway?” I struggle with doing that. But maybe that is the key thing that stops us from just trusting the universe!
Not sure I’m completely getting the “who are you trying to kid anyway” part…Utopian to me is seeing and or wanting all things to be rosy it takes true trust to do that. But I like what you are saying here…hmm now on to more thinking! I’ll take this and bring it in and out of my mind today this lazy Sunday in Maui.
Right after I posted this comment I started to sing “The Sun will come out tomorrow”, from Annie. I thought that was interesting as I’ve not hummed that song in years and it’s so true. Trust that your day will be sunny and even in the rain it will be great. Trust that your team adds value and it will empower them to do so.
Cheers to a Sunny happy day.
So much meat in this post. As a writer and blogger myself, I appreciate the thought and skill that goes into what you share.
I am especially touched by your observation that each of us needs to trust in ourselves. I am busy managing the dragon of self-doubt who teams up with the dragon of perfectionism. What a dynamic duo!
Thank you Katie! I must admit that I have my own dynamic duo who had a lot to say to me as I was forming this concept! There’s a lot of trust required to trust ourselves!
I think there is a spirituality question embedded in the “trust the Universe” question. The acknowledgement of something “greater than”–bigger than our reliance on our brilliant thinking capabilities and bigger than our willingness to look in our hearts for emotionally intelligent answers. Beyond the self and beyond the self in relationship with others. A willingness to “be” the fullest expression of ourselves. To me, there’s a surrender involved in this acceptance that we are absolutely and intimately a part of the great Mystery–the vast Mystery at the level of Universe.
Trusting at this level allows us the freedom of not being constrained by scarcity or limits or over-attachment. It recognizes that in fact there are flaws–in ourselves, others, and processes, and it accepts that. It invites a sense of possibility, curiosity, and ability to be responsive to reality, no matter how events unfold.
Karl and I talked about this a bit this a.m. over coffee–he also pointed out that “being the fullest expression of ourselves” is closely correlated to high joy on the EQ profile. It’s his observation (and a useful one, I think) that this kind of joy is what it takes to trust the Universe. Hugs, Karen
Hi Karen. Hope Mexico is being good to you!!
Thank you very much for this thoughtful comment. I am in complete agreement with you and I am glad you added this to the discussion here. It is an interesting addition in a leadership context, in that we are generally resistant to including discussion of spirituality in a business context. In some ways I know my colleague intended me to consider my dilemma from a spiritual context, and my post was trying to express that in a way that a leader could act upon.
What are your thoughts with respect to this blending of leadership and spirituality?
Mexico is lovely–In addition to getting to touch whale babies, I petted a whale mother who very intentionally looked me right in the eye and I can still feel the wonder of it.
Marcia Reynolds, a former president of ICF, wrote on her blog recently about spirituality and leadership and I was moved by her thinking around transformational leadership In a nutshell, she was saying that the transformational leader is one who so values each individual worker’s place in the Whole that he/she demonstrates appreciation and contribution for every worker and his/her job. He/she helps each person develop a sense of deeper meaning and personal satisfaction in their work that then leads to a more engaged and productive worker. She notes that when we are dissatisfied with our work or when we are unfulfilled, our efforts and products suffer. As a leader, we don’t want our employees to feel this way. As a result, the transformational leader focuses on the expansion of wisdom, growth and development, and (what I particularly loved), the delight people feel when fully engaged. Thus, the leader coaches people to “find meaning in their work and fulfillment in their relationships.”
Hello Ian, great post! As an artist and a writer, trusting in the process is essential — and I learn about it every time I look at a blank canvas or screen.
last year, I took a 40 day online creativity course on spirituality. each day a series of questions, reflection and the drawing of a mandala. One day, my reflections lead me to create a mandala around ‘trusting the universe’. I didn’t trust it. It was a huge revelation to me — the fact I didn’t trust the universe. That I had this inherent victim’s voice that believe it was me against the world…. in meditation, reflection, through art and writing, I have explored that aspect of my being to discover that in not trusting the universe, I was the one setting myself up for the fall — it was my ‘critter’s voice’ holding me back from shining bright.
When I trust in myself, trust in the process and trust in the universe, the world is a place of infinite possibilities and wonder. Miracles happen everywhere — including the teams I work with. It’s an infinitely possible place to live!
Thank you Louise. I think you captured this well! Whether we treat this as a spiritual issue or just an approach to being part of a larger community, the idea of trusting the bigger picture is important in that it opens so much more in the way of possibility!
This is such a meaty post and discussion Ian. Thank you! I also walk the fine line between spirituality and the corporate world. Trust is so important when in comes to teams and colleagues…. yet we also must have faith in what isn’t yet known. I tend to use the word trust with the tangible and faith for the bigger vision. Trust the process and have faith in the outcome.
Since I wrote this post I’ve been trying to live in this space, particularly at work. It’s been an interesting learning. First bat how it feels to let go of control over the outcome in some situations. What has been most noticeably is the calm that cones with releasing a pre-conceived outcome and being greeted by awareness of new possibilities. The calm becomes even more present as we realize many of these possibilities lead to outcomes that are at least as rewarding to us than that we first conceived.
Ian – Nice insights into letting go too. Letting go and trusting come after the pause. Without pause, there is less chance for opening into new possibilities.