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If you are around my age (don’t mind a year or ten) and a little ambitious at least, you’ll probably recognize this:

  • You come from a generation where being pigheaded and over-opinionated simply is your greatest asset
  • You’ve made it to your current position based on you being you. Your very own strengths. Your intelligent reasoning, your quick decision making style, your charisma, your drive for result, your eye for detail, your ability to add value
  • You might have experienced some professional ups and downs but you’ve made a beautiful career so far


There’s this saying that I love by John Wooden, “It’s what you learn after you know it all”. In sports it is commonplace to hire a coach for top performers. In business on the other hand, we used to look at ourselves only when things started to go less well (or should I say completely wrong). Coaching used to be all about fixing toxic behaviour.

That has changed. We are now moving towards a situation where having your own executive coach is considered a badge of honour, and just like in sports, you won’t be able to perform at the highest level without this regular reality check from an external and objective point of view. It is about further developing successful people, exploring and maximising high potential.

And just like in sports, it takes blood, sweat and tears to go from good to great. Let me give you 3 reasons why getting slapped in the face might do you (and your career) good:


1. Nobody’s perfect (not even Andy Murray)

Just like a top level tennis player focuses on continuous improvement for maximum result, being mirrored and confronted (it can be hard) creates consciousness and allows you to make small changes in your behaviour or leadership style. It pushes you to pay profound attention to small yet important things that are easily overlooked when everyone knows what you are talking about or is “familiar” with your communication style or substantive approach. It can make the difference between winning and losing. Is it worth the effort? You decide.


2. You can’t win them all (from tennis to ping pong)

How would you feel if you could play a point of challenge and reflection with an extra pair of eyes just for once without having the immediate need for taking into account personal interests, sensitivities and potential company impact? It’s like playing a game of ping pong. You can bounce ideas, one or more potential strategies and initiatives, for once not being sure in advance you’ll be able to win the game. On top of that, being able to ask and be asked questions will help you think outside of the box, adjust your path and in the end improve your impact and result. It’s enriching and fun!


3. It’s all about focus and discipline (just like swimming at the Olympics)

Even the best Olympic swimmers need to drag themselves to the swimming pool from time to time. After having decided and shared what you want to accomplish and in which timeframe you want to get there, your coach is not only able to push the schedule but can push you through as well when you tend to procrastinate. There’s this expression in Dutch saying ‘pulling someone through the keyhole’. That’s what good coaches do. Pull you through, even when it hurts. All it takes is building a system, define the scope of the engagement and agree on how progress and ROI will be measured and reported.


Do you want to be even more successful? Hire someone to slap you in the face from time to time. Give someone the power to frustrate you when needed. Take a chance. Improve your already high performance. You are in charge of your game.

What’s your experience? I am looking forward to your thoughts!

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About the author

Sofie Varrewaere is the founder of BigFish4.me 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


(She simply slaps people in the face, they then thank her and pay for it)

Image courtesy of roberthyrons at Getty Images International