7 Skip Level Meetings Best Practices

What Is A Best Practice For A Skip-level Meeting?

To help you best conduct skip-level meetings, we asked CEOs and business leaders this question for their best advice. From encouraging employees to share feedback to focusing on the positives first, there are several tips that may help senior managers adopt the best practices in holding effective skip-level meetings with their employees.

Here Are Seven Skip-level Meetings Best Practices:

  • Encourage Employees To Share Feedback
  • Ensure Transparency
  • Talk Less as The Manager’s Manager
  • Make Sure an Agenda is in Place
  • Create Psychological Safety Well Before The Meeting
  • Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
  • Focus on the Positives First


Encourage Employees To Share Feedback

Skip-level meetings give management a chance to see things happening in their organization from a broader perspective. As a manager running such a meeting, you want to show the employee that you value their input. It’s important to ask questions and encourage people to share their opinions on a variety of topics.

Don’t be afraid to address more difficult subjects that many managers sweep under the carpet. By doing so, you will see what are the problems at your company from employees’ perspectives. Then, you can look for solutions together and find out-of-the-box ideas for dealing with team conflicts or other issues.

Remember that active listening is crucial for effective communication and encouraging people to share what’s truly on their minds.

Dorota Lysienia, LiveCareer


Ensure Transparency

No one likes being surprised, especially during a meeting with higher management. Skip meetings can be a big source of anxiety for employees, and can even go so far as affecting the working relationships between teams and management if handled poorly. To ease any tension and get the best results be transparent about a skip-level meeting.

Everyone involved should know the content of the meeting, when it will be held, and what is to be discussed. If the staff knows what to expect from the skipped meeting they’ll be able to provide better insights and feedback to questions. Upper management should be clear and not needlessly hide the purpose of skipped meetings. Skip meeting transparency is for the betterment of everyone involved.

Boye Fajinmi, TheFutureParty


Talk Less as The Manager’s Manager

Having been to many, but probably not enough skip levels in my career, I’m always astounded by how much the manager’s manager talks. In an hour-long meeting, it isn’t uncommon for that individual to talk for 50 minutes and to leave only 10 for Q&A. There are natural reasons that this happens. They have a lot of things they’re privy to in the organization and have a natural tendency to share them, which occupies time.

There may be concern about the types of questions they’d get, or alternatively that the employees will be too timid to raise certain topics. The best way to counteract these tendencies is to break the meeting into segments; 4 segments in an hour-long meeting seem to work. Two examples might be company-wide updates and business execution updates.

The leader can introduce the topic and then have employees surface topics that are top of mind. Both leaders and employees will realize that in a hybrid structured/open format, everyone has a better chance of having their voices heard.

Jeremy Ames, Accenture


Make Sure an Agenda is in Place

A best practice for a skip-level meeting is to ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the meeting in advance and that the agenda is clearly communicated. The agenda should be focused on key topics that are relevant to the business and its employees and should be designed to encourage open dialogue and feedback. This will help to ensure that the meeting is productive and informative for all involved.

Brian Meiggs, My Millennial Guide


Create Psychological Safety Well Before The Meeting

Skip-meetings can be an excellent way to improve communication between employees and senior management, while also improving employee engagement. But such a meeting would be fruitless if employees cannot speak their minds without fear of retaliation. Encourage open communication by nurturing psychological safety well before such a meeting happens.

Assure employees that their anonymity is guaranteed, feedback is valued, and they will not suffer any consequences for speaking out. It also helps to educate them about the goals of a skip-meeting– these crucial touch-base meetings are less about ”ratting out” the manager and more about identifying pain points, evaluating career progress, and finding opportunities for growth for each team member.

Ben Lamarche, Lock Search Group


Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

In skip-level meetings, you, as a member of the leadership team, should meet with the direct reports of the managers under you. This bridges the gap between yourself and your team members and allows you to gather valuable feedback that helps you build a healthier and more productive work environment.

There are several steps to take to make skip-level meetings a success:

  • Tell your managers – to avoid surprises or concerns about what will be a net positive for them.
  • Tell your skip-level participants – so they know why you are meeting with them and what to expect. An open, safe environment should be promoted.
  • Schedule in a manageable way – be deliberate in scheduling them at the right frequency so as not to miss anyone.

Take action – start the skip-level meeting with a strategic overview and end by agreeing on the following 3 steps:

  1. What you as the leader will commit to
  2. What the skip-level participants will commit to
  3. What you will discuss with the participant’s direct manager

Alexandra McGroarty, McGroarty & Co Consulting LLC


Focus on the Positives First

If not managed carefully, a skip-level meeting can become an emotional and de-motivating venting session. Facilitate the meeting so that employees share their positives first. What do they like about their jobs and the organization?

What achievements and accomplishments are they most proud of? Insist that every participant share at least one positive. If somebody brings up a negative, kindly ask them to bring it up when the meeting transitions to sharing challenges and opportunities.

Scott Baker, Stage 3 Leadership


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