That’s a phrase we use often in our organization — amongst ourselves, and as a source of encouragement for those with whom we work. What exactly do we mean when we say, “Trust the process?” Well, there are several important concepts rolled up in that one simple phrase.
- Big important goals take time. Success rarely happens in a single leap or stroke of good luck (no matter what it might look like from the outside). Consistent focus on taking one step at a time — even when those steps don’t seem exciting or flashy — builds a solid foundation for future success. Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden started each year by focusing on how his players tied their shoes — which new players often scoffed at. The UCLA basketball team won 10 national championships in 12 years, and Coach Wooden was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Trust the process.
- The middle of the process often feels like a hot mess. It is during this “muck in the middle” that a leader (and/or their team) can start to lose hope — when it appears that things have gone off the rails and are getting worse, not better. In the midst of this stage, the intended path forward appears futile and a leader may start to seriously question their best-laid plan. Ever hear the phrase “It is darkest before the dawn”? Trust the process.
- It doesn’t get easier. One would think that once you have walked through the wilderness a few times, you would learn how to avoid the challenges of implementing a major change or new initiative. Not so much. Perhaps that is what separates the leaders committed to long-term success from the wannabes. You have to be willing to work through the discomfort . . . and trust the process.
- But you can get wiser. Once you accept that the only way to get to the other side is to go endure a bit of fog and a few bumps along the way, you can predict — for yourself and others — what to expect. Being able to clearly articulate in advance, “yes, it always feels bad at this stage, but once we wade through it we will turn a corner, and the outcome will be worth the effort” gives you confidence, and then you in turn can help those you are leading feel more confident as well.
Knowledge is power, even if that knowledge is simply recognizing that the path ahead will include periods of uncertainty and discomfort. When you know that, you can recognize the uneasiness for the progress it is, and you can share that awareness and encouragement with those who are looking to you for guidance.
Trust the process.