One of the most important things one can learn as a leader is to listen and let people “be heard.” That should be a guiding principle for all leaders. However, a principle is only as good as a practice that will help make it real. A wonderful practice is conducting Skip-Level Meetings.
Skip-Level Meetings are those that take place with a leader and the people who report directly to his or her staff. You “skip” one level and go directly to the next.
The agenda –whatever is on the minds of the people who attend the meeting!
Several years ago, I was leading a global training function for the Gillette Company. One of my trusted staff members suggested I implement this practice.
The staff agreed (and granted me a lot of trust), and it became an ongoing ritual …often held at lunch time. I believe we ultimately became a better function because of the communication and insights we shared across all levels. It also built even stronger trust between me and my staff.
These meetings never became more important than during the period when
Gillette merged with P&G. During the transition, there were a lot of “unknowns.” Having this structure in place helped during a real time of uncertainty and change. I was able to hear what people were concerned about, what they hoped for, and how they were personally and collective dealing with the change.
I knew this practice had made a difference. As the merger finalized, a decision was made to combine the two training organizations. Several people were losing their jobs. At our final meeting, one of the attendees said, “This is hard, but I feel like we have been kept up to date, listened to, and treated with respect and dignity.”
What else could a leader ask for?