C-Suite Network™

Skip Level Meetings: Why They Matter


The Emperor had no clothes

In a previous life, I was a Senior Vice President for a billion-dollar global enterprise. I always made an effort to watch and listen to other leaders to see what I might learn from them.  One thing that caught my attention was one of our senior executive’s communication style was to interact predominately with his direct reports, with very little interaction below them. Two of the departments that reported to him had very autocratic Vice-Presidents. Morale was very low in both departments. Everyone seemed to know it but this senior executive.   . In fact, a few of us tried to give him a heads-up, to no avail. Eventually, there were uprisings in both departments, and the exec had to dismiss both of these direct reports.  He set himself up to be blind-sided.

Learning from Others

While I always try to learn from my own mistakes, I took the opportunity to learn from this colleague’s mistakes. As a result, my remedy for this potential trap was to implement – meetings with direct reports of my direct reports. I was transparent about what I was doing and why.   My strategy was to meet one-on-one with these key people on a semi-annual basis. My objective was to build closer working relationships, get a broader view of reality from them, and see how I could better support them – without undermining their relationship with their manager.

Accordingly, I emailed an invitation to each of them for a one-on-one meeting with me. I explained the purpose of the meeting, and what questions I would like them to ponder for our conversation. For the first round, they came in somewhat nervous but quickly got over it. [eut_single_image image_type=”image-link” image_mode=”medium” image=”32023″ link=”url:https%3A%2F%2Fc-suitenetwork.com%2Fexecutive-membership|||”]

The Questions:

1.      What is your primary focus these days?
2.      What are you enthusiastic about?
3.      What frustrates you and gets in the way of doing your best?
4.      What improvement idea do you have that will make an impact?
5.      Is there anything you need from me?

*These were my questions. Feel free to borrow mine or create your own.  The idea is to create a connection.  

The Key Takeaway

These conversations were pretty casual, but also focused. My team members came in prepared. . Sometimes I came away with actionable items. Sometimes they were just great conversations. I feel certain that my team members felt respected and heard. I came away feeling informed, enriched, and inspired.   As I learned from a CEO many years ago, “ . .”


Dr. Mark Hinderliter works with clients to align their people strategy to their business strategy to attract and retain great people.  His experience as a Senior Vice President for a billion-dollar global enterprise along with a Ph.D. in Organization and Management is a unique fusion of real-world experience and academic credentials.

Mark is a Veteran-owned Business Owner and the host of the live stream, “The Retention Advantage.”  His LinkedIn profile is https://www.linkedin.com/in/markhinderliter/


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