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Five Secrets to Great Skip Level Meetings

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Five Secrets to Great Skip Level Meetings

Done well, skip level meetings can inspire, engage, motivate and inform the skipper, skipee, and even the skipped. On the other hand, poorly run skip level meetings inadvertently bring on diaper genie feedback and diminish trust.

In my latest role, most of my skip level meetings were even more tricky because I was skipping across many layers or holding focus groups in other companies for which I was the client. There was the added fear that the reps would tell me something that their boss’s, boss’s, boss didn’t want me to know. And yet, I wanted to know it, so we could help. Tricky.

How to Hold Great Skip Level Meetings

Prepare – It’s arrogant to go into a skip level meeting without doing your homework. Understand what the team is doing really well and know what concerns to anticipate. Know something about the people attending, have a few specifics to recognize. Bringing along a note taker enables you to fully engage in a dynamic conversation, but don’t overwhelm the room with extra spectators.

Make it Personal – I always start skip level meetings the same way. I invite participants to share their name, and “what makes them a ROCK STAR in their current job.” People like to share what they’re good at, and it’s beautiful to see what matters most to them.

Relate Through Stories – Skip level meetings are not only a great way to find out what’s on people’s minds, but they are also a great way to reinforce key messages through strategic storytelling. Share your stories, and invite them to share their stories then summarize the themes. For example, “tell me a story of when you turned around a really frustrated customer.” Or, “do you have a story of your team leader was most helpful to you?”

Ask Positively Framed Open-Ended Questions – Framing your questions in a positive light makes it more comfortable for employees to share ideas for improvement.

  • What’s the best part of working here?
  • How do you know how you’re doing? In which areas would you like more feedback?
  • If you were in my shoes and could change one thing to make your work easier, what would that be?
  • What could we do to improve the customer experience?
  • Which of your tools/resources do you find most helpful? Why?
  • If you could invent a tool or resource to help you do your job, what would it be, and how would you use it?
  • What does your team leader do that’s most helpful to you?
  • If you were the team leader, what would you focus on (or do more of) and why?
  • What additional support or resources do you need?
  • What questions haven’t I asked that you wish I would?
  • What questions can I answer for you?
     

Follow-up – Share a summary of your notes and key take-aways with the group. When giving readouts to others, including the “skipped” leaders, be curious, not accusatory. Remember there’s always many interpretations of every story.

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