3 Top Coaching Tips For Derailers: Skeptical

As part of our blog series 3 Top Coaching Tips for Derailers, we will take a look at each of the 11 behavioral traits identified by Hogan’s research that cause leaders to derail and include examples with suggestions to overcome each derailing behavioral trait. In this blog we highlight Skeptical.


Coaching leaders with this derailing behavior is one that when elevated, gives me insight into how difficult it will be to really make quick progress with the executive.

You see, at the high levels, these leaders tend to scrutinize everything I say and try to determine if there are underlying or hidden messages when in fact there are none. It takes longer to build trust with these coachees who have this derailer.

Recently, I was coaching a leader (VP IT) who had an elevated score on Skeptical as well as serious issues with her boss, the CAO. She was not very supportive of her boss and felt that he was not competent in her IT function, so whenever he would provide her direction, she would question it and decide to do what she wanted to do. As a result, it was important to ensure there were clear, positive and negative consequences for not meeting leadership behavior expectations to help motivate changes from her in the coaching engagement.

In her case, changing her behaviors to build stronger stakeholder relations and having a good relationship with her boss could lead to a desired promotion (CIO) and not addressing these would result in her staying in her current role. It took many tough coaching sessions to be sure she understood and accepted responsibility for the perceptions she had created in the organization. Over many months she changed and dealt with the serious derailing behaviors and, as a result, was later promoted to CIO.


The leader should continue: thinking about and analyzing others’ motives and intentions; challenging others’ assumptions

The leader should stop: arguing with others

The leader should begin:

  • Developing the capacity to trust at least some other people
  • Keeping their doubts to themselves
  • Praising instead of arguing
  • Asking a trusted colleague for feedback on how critical and argumentative they are

Leaders can be assessed using the Hogan suite of assessments which are very helpful to leaders by increasing their self-awareness and gaining a better understanding of why they are not getting the results required in their roles.

Look for our blog series to continue with coaching tips for the other derailing behaviors identified by Hogan. Next time we’ll offer tips for Cautious derailers.

Choosing the Right Executive Coach


Executive Coaching, once a sign of trouble for leaders, is now widely considered as a valuable leadership development tool. According to a recent American Management Association survey, coaching’s three most common uses are developing leaders, improving performance and optimizing strong contributors. The survey found that 50% of companies provide coaches only to midlevel or senior staff, while 38% make them available to anyone.

The Executive Coaching industry is growing at a rate of 18% per year, per Harvard Business Report. This increase can be attributed to the unprecedented challenges that today’s leaders face including economic uncertainties, global demands, complex technologies, and the pressures of being “on call” 24/7. Executive Coaching has proven to help CEOs manage their increased responsibilities, while enhancing the productivity, quality, strength, motivation, retention, and profitability of their teams and organizations.

Finding the best fit for a CEO is a science, so how do you choose the right executive coach? Here are some tips to consider when hiring an executive coach:

    • DUE DILIGENCE: When hiring a coach, apply the same stringent guidelines (e.g., background and reference checks) that you would for other consultants and contractors. Don’t just go with “reputation”. Conduct your own research and ask for referrals from others with similar types of issues to be addressed.
    • EXTERNAL VS. INTERNAL COACH: Qualified external executive coaches are most helpful when the level of the coachee is VP+, the developmental needs are highly complex, and the degree of change required is high. Internal coaches are most helpful when the level of the coachee is Manager or Director, the development needs are easy to moderately complex, and the degree of change is low to moderate.
    • SEEK QUALITY: Search for a highly qualified, experienced leadership coach who supports and challenges executives. Coaches who offer direct and honest feedback with an action plan for improvement are “must haves”.
    • GOOD CHEMISTRY: The personality styles of the CEO and executive coach must mesh well to maximize success. Building trust is the foundation of any coaching relationship and good chemistry can accelerate this outcome.
    • WATCH FOR RED FLAGS: If coaches appear to make unrealistic promises, such as immediate results with minimal effort, walk away. To truly improve, leaders must invest time and effort.
Selecting an experienced executive coach can be a life changing experience for the leader, team, and organization. The feedback of an experienced executive coach can help leaders develop the essential skills they need to adapt, grow, and thrive in an ever-changing business climate for continued success.