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Mastering Skip-Level Meetings: Your Essential Guide and Process

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In meetings at a higher level, a manager meets with an employee two or more levels below him. The aim is to get a better insight into life on the front lines of the company.

In my nearly twenty years as an HR leader, I have coached countless managers and executives on how to combine mid-level meetings with employee engagement software to increase employee engagement and drive positive organizational change.

In this article, I'll show you the value they can bring to your business and how you can have impactful skip-level conversations.

What is a Skip Level Meeting?

A skip-level meeting is a conversation between a manager and a person who reports to one of their direct reports (i.e., an individual employee). The middle-level manager does not attend the meeting but is "skipped" to speak to lower-level employees.

The purpose of mid-level meetings is to gather feedback that ultimately supports decision making.

They help managers understand what employees care about, what problems they have, why they are so enthusiastic and motivated, and what they think of their managers.

They also create greater visibility, build relationships and trust, and promote better relationships between managers and frontline employees.

Conducting intermediate level meetings

Intermediate meetings are not rocket science, but they should be approached systematically to obtain effective feedback together.

Here is the process I offer to leaders and organizations that want to conduct skip-level meetings.

1.Preparation: Setting the tone

If you want to hold a skip-level meeting for the first time, there are a few ways to help employees ease into the conversation with their boss's boss.

Communicate in a team meeting

Managers should hold a meeting to inform the team about the skip levels and the expected course of action. This shows that they are committed and happy for them, and it's not something you're doing to exclude them or do behind their back (no "gotcha" moments).

Communicate via Slack or email

Reach out to the team via email or Slack to reinforce the purpose of the meeting and explain how it relates to your company's values or culture ("As you know, one of our values is learning, so I'd like to "I will learn from you and see what we can do differently or strengthen in our team"), and to explain the next steps (example: "I will speak to each of you individually to arrange an appointment").

Hold a group exercise beforehand

Depending on your company culture and how uncomfortable or different this may be for your team members, you may want to consider a group exercise first.

Try inviting the team to lunch (perhaps virtually) to create a more casual space for open dialogue, then move to one-on-one meetings in the next cycle.

Prepare questions in advance

Maybe the data tells you a story you want to confirm, there's a project you want to know more about, or you hear rumors about a particular manager or team.

In any case, you should take the time to prepare some questions to delve deeper into the topics that interest you most (some examples follow).

You can pass the questions on to the interviewer in the calendar invitation.

2.Conducting the meeting: Creating a safe space

Despite the preparatory work, it is only natural for employees to be hesitant to share their true thoughts and feelings.

Below are some tips on how to get the most out of the meeting.

  • Repeat the purpose. At the beginning, state the purpose of the conversation and let employees know that their answers will be kept confidential. This is also a good time to express any special praise you have for her.
  • Just listen. This is not a troubleshooting session, so resist the urge to problem-solve. Just listen actively, and when something interesting comes up, use techniques like the "5 Whys" to deepen the topic.
  • Leave the office. It may also be beneficial to hold the meeting in a less formal setting, e.g. with a coffee or lunch. JP Morgan and Chase CEO Jamie Dimon reportedly travels around the various offices on a bus doing "skip levels."

3.Follow-up: Close the loop

After you've had your interviews, it's important to do some follow-up too!

You want to make sure the team feels heard and that you took their feedback into account to make some changes (or why you didn't introduce something new if it didn't make sense).

The worst thing that can happen is that you have these conversations and people think they were just for show, so you come full circle!

  1. Acknowledgments. After the meetings, send thank-you notes with the key insights and actions you took away from the discussions.
  2. Link all measures to these conversations. Refer to it in team meetings or when announcing changes or new initiatives: "Based on the feedback I heard in my skip-level meetings..." or "Thanks to insights from the team..." .
  3. Refer to important topics when you meet with them again to continue the conversation: "Last time we spoke you mentioned X, has that improved or how is it going?"


Depending on the size of your organization and how quickly it is changing or evolving, I recommend a quarterly or semi-annual cadence for skip levels.

This gives you the opportunity to respond to any suggestions, drive improvements quickly, and receive feedback on whether the changes had the desired effect.

Skip Level Meeting Questions

It's important that you ask some leading questions, but also create space for an open dialogue and steer the conversation in the direction the employee wants to take it!

Here are some specific questions that can guide the conversation.

Measuring engagement

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how was this month for you? What would have made him a 10?
  • What are you most looking forward to in your role or for this team (or company)?
  • What worries you or gives you the most headaches?
  • What success have you had recently?

Identification of team or organizational problems

  • What is an obstacle you are currently facing?
  • What's happening on the team that you think I don't know (or don't know enough about)?
  • Is there a process you think we could improve?
  • Do you know the company's goals?

Obtain manager feedback

  • What do you appreciate most about your manager?
  • What would you like your direct manager to do differently?
  • Are you clear about what is expected of you and what your goals are?
  • What can I do differently as head of this department?


  • How can I support you with your career goals?
  • How can we better support you as an organization?
  • What do you see as the next step in your career?
  • What other feedback did you have that we didn't talk about, / or / What question did I not ask that you would have liked to ask?

Chat GPT prompts for developing skip-level questions

Chat GPT, you may have heard of it! It is useful for many tasks, including: for creating interview questions, and here are some prompts to help you create skip level questions.

  • Prompt #1: “Create questions for skip-level meetings that focus on understanding team dynamics and morale.”
  • Prompt #2: “Create questions for a skip-level meeting that relate to employee professional development and career goals.”
  • Prompt #3: “Develop insightful questions for a skip-level meeting that relate to perceptions of leadership and management effectiveness.”

Benefits of intermediate level meetings

Intermediate level meetings are extremely beneficial for both the manager and the team. The benefits include:

  • Valuable feedback. Managers gain valuable insight into team members, what is important to them, and ways to improve the work environment or initiate change.
  • Increased employee engagement. Employees feel that you care about them and that you want to support them in their careers and in their daily work.
  • Create a culture of feedback. Skip levels show that you are open to feedback, and that makes employees more likely to give it.
  • Talent Recognition and Development: Skip level meetings allow senior managers to recognize and recognize potential talent. This can be critical for succession planning and talent development initiatives.

A manager I worked with realized that a new organizational structure wasn't working by skipping levels.

She could only get this information through direct feedback from the team because the managers were unsure how to present the feedback given their position in the new structure.

Another executive I know believes that skip levels are extremely effective for getting market feedback from team members who speak directly to customers.

You'll be able to ask direct follow-up questions and get an overview of customer conversations instead of receiving second-hand feedback from managers.

Best practices for intermediate level meetings

Best practices for leaders in skip-level meetings

Below is a summary of my executive best practices for conducting effective skip-level meetings.

  • Preparation: Prepare thoroughly for the meeting and familiarize yourself with the team's current projects and challenges.
  • Active Listening: Focus on actively listening to employees and showing genuine interest in their views.
  • Confidentiality: Assure and maintain confidentiality to create a safe and open discussion environment.
  • Follow-up: Commit to addressing any concerns or suggestions raised.
  • Transparency: Be transparent about the goals of the conversation and how the feedback will be used.

Best practices for employees in skip-level meetings

A few tips to share with your interviewers to help them prepare and give them the most valuable feedback possible.

  • Honesty: Be honest and constructive when sharing your views and experiences.
  • Concreteness: Give specific examples or suggestions when discussing problems or improvements.
  • Professionalism: Maintain professionalism, especially when discussing sensitive topics.
  • Open-mindedness: Be open to giving and receiving feedback.
  • Preparation: Prepare points or questions in advance to make the most of the meeting opportunity.

Skip levels demonstrate strong leadership skills

Being a strong, present, vulnerable and available leader has never been more important than it is today.

While employees leave managers and companies that don't care about them, they also stay in companies where they feel heard, valued and supported.

They stay with managers and leaders who take the time to listen to them and respond to their feedback and make them feel heard.

Face-to-face conversations are a great way to build trust, obtain feedback, increase employee engagement and retain top talent.

They are an important part of your overall employee listening strategy.

Key takeaways

  • Purpose and Benefits: Intermediate meetings provide a connection between managers and lower-level employees to improve transparency and obtain direct feedback. They also help increase engagement and identify talent.
  • Conducting meetings: Effective meetings at the intermediate level require preparation, active listening, confidentiality and targeted follow-up. Creating a comfortable environment for open discussion is crucial, and preparing specific guiding questions can help guide the conversation effectively.
  • Impact on Leadership and Culture: These meetings demonstrate strong leadership and promote a positive company culture. They build trust, demonstrate leadership's commitment to employee feedback, and are key to retaining top talent because they make employees feel valued and heard.

Harness the potential of skip-level meetings with IceHrm's innovative tools. Strengthen connections, foster engagement, and drive organizational success!

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