Secrets To 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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