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Don’t worry. I am not referring to quitting your job or married life. But let me give you some examples that relate to quitting “bad relationships” in a whole different way than you’d think at first sight.


  • Mark is result oriented. That is by far his best professional quality. It undoubtedly contributed to him getting the leadership position he holds today. Once he sets a goal, nobody can keep him from getting there. On the other hand, he is so result oriented that he tends to forget he is working with a team. But no matter how hard everyone is telling Mark he should wait. He doesn’t. He is absolutely driven to take his team to the top as fast as he can.


  • Laura is well organized. She counterbalances a lot of her colleagues because of that. Where all clarity is lost, she provides structure. You could definitely call this her number one strength. On the other hand, when the team needs to act quickly, she holds everyone back because of her unwavering desire for structure. She is aware of this. Her peers have mentioned their concerns several times before. But giving up on structure is not an option. Imagine what could happen if she did.


  • John is an extravert pure sang. This is what brought him his commercial success and in the end the position of sales director. He is always in for a chat about pretty much every possible subject matter. And although his colleagues love him for his openness and cordiality, sometimes they would love to bring him to silence for an hour or two. He is always the one speaking during meetings. It seems as if he speaks first and thinks second. He doesn’t listen to any other suggestions. And on top of that he’s distracting his colleagues with his redundant talking. But, hey, he’s the boss.


Mark, Laura and John are no exceptions. Maybe you know one of them? And take a look at yourself. What are you guilty of? When do you not know when to quit?

If you find it difficult to point your finger on it, take your most important strength as a starting point. Me, I am a bit of a Mark. I am extremely result oriented. My former boss used to say I was a high speed train. Me arriving in Paris whilst my team still in Bruxelles-Midi waiting for boarding. It used to frustrate me immensely. How could I literally push them on that train faster? Why were they so slow? Why didn’t they demonstrate the same business eagerness as me?

Now, many years later, I know I was judging the wrong people. I should have been looking at my own behaviour instead of theirs. My boss was talking to me, not my team. My initial strength was in fact the one thing holding us all back. I didn’t take the time to create support. I didn’t give them the right reasons to get on that train faster. It was my train, not ours. I didn’t listen when they expressed their concerns. Let alone take time to understand why in their opinion we should have gone to London instead of Paris.


In my executive Coaching practice I see the same things. What brought my clients the success they have today is often the one thing holding them back to grow even further as a Leader. Whether it is result orientation, assertiveness, control, structure, adding value, peacefulness, self-confidence, wanting to win, extraversion or other things. And the funny thing is, when addressing this they almost always immediately agree. Problem solved you’d say. Unfortunately it is not.

What if I told you to quit your result orientation starting today? Or to stop adding value? To lower your self-confidence? Not an option? I understand. We all (including myself) tend to hold on to the behaviour that has been so useful in the past, even when we are aware of the fact now it’s holding us back in our every day professional life. It’s much easier to start a new routine than to break up with an old one. Not to forget it all started with a strength. A strength that now is like a bad habit that has become part of who we are. On top of that, quitting this behaviour brings us very close to the one thing we are allergic to. I myself dislike people that are not result oriented. Let alone me becoming one of them? Take your own “bad habit” and I am sure you will feel the same way.

To use the high speed train example one more time, it is not about going to Paris or not going to Paris. It is about going to Paris a bit slower. With everyone on board. It is not about not reaching any goals. It is about reaching your goals efficiently. Easier. And maybe (for the result oriented amongst us) in the long run even faster. Laura doesn’t need to let go of all structure, she needs to build in some room for flexibility. And John can talk as much as he wants. But not always and everywhere. Assertiveness is a good thing, but watch out for arrogance. Don’t let your desire to control impede you from taking a helicopter view. Dare to lose a game in order to win. Etc. Etc.


Are you in search of some additional inspiration for exploring you own behaviour? In his book “What got you here won’t get you there”, Marshall Goldsmith identified 20 ineffective and often unrecognized habits of successful leaders. Communication patterns that create challenges in our interaction with others. And should you want to explore how you can get even more successful as a leader, don’t hesitate to contact me for a free one-hour consult.


One more thing. If I am/was a high speed train, what are/were you?
Looking forward to your comments!

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About the author

Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of and a certified Marshall Goldsmith Stakeholder Centered Coach. After studying a Master in Psychological and Pedagogical Sciences, she ogled into the magical world of Recruitment, Selection and HR Services. Working for the world leader in HR, she has always been in an advisory role in relation to the larger goals of several multinational organizations. In 2013 she started her own company in International executive Coaching. Doing what she is good at, challenging others as well as herself

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