Every forward-thinking company wants to build a highly connected, motivated, and productive workforce. While there are several ways to attain this feat, few are as effective as skip-level meetings with employees.
These conversations focus on employee development, growth strategy, and feedback. If well-planned and prepared for, a skip-level meeting is the best place to dispel barriers and challenges for employees in an organization.
Feel nervous when receiving a ‘let’s touch base email’ from your boss’s boss? Well, that’s understandable, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Like a skip-level meeting guide for senior leaders, there should be a guide for employees. And this post might just be the only thing you need to prepare for every skip-level meeting. Read on!
Simply put, a skip-level meeting is a one-on-one conversation between a top-level manager and the team members of lower-level managers without the employee's direct manager in attendance. They are short, scheduled meetings with organization-wide impact.
Skip-level meetings link two persons who wouldn't typically meet in an organization. Also, they are usually initiated by the top-level manager to get an insight into what happens in the company from an employee’s perspective. With this purpose, they can bolster the work culture and productivity in the organization.
The primary purpose of skip-level meetings is to build synergy in a workforce, irrespective of their hierarchy.
Senior management learns more about what is going on at the organization from the employee's perspective. Meanwhile, employees detail their career growth benefits and how they align with the company's goals.
This one-on-one meeting benefits an employee in several ways:
It gives lower-level employees a chance to have their say in the organization, which is vital for inclusivity.
It allows people lower down the pyramid to learn from experienced people and get valuable feedback on their careers.
A skip-level meeting bridges the gap between employees and decision-makers and improves the work culture in the organization.
It allows you to express your dissatisfaction and complaint about the organization to the people who can promote the needed changes.
Most employees are anxious when they are invited to a skip-level meeting. This is understandable, as you get to meet someone high above your role and can make vital decisions. However, with the right amount of preparation, you make the most of it every time.
Below are the steps to follow to prepare and approach the meeting with confidence.
Getting to know your skip-level manager gives you a glimpse of what your session will be. Besides, you'll also become more confident and comfortable chatting with them.
To be well-prepared, read their corporate bio, look up their LinkedIn page, and approach those who have had skip-level meetings with them in the past to ask about the person's demeanor, leadership style, and the topics of their discussions.
While doing your research, take notes and jot down any questions. Keep in mind that senior managers are also humans! Understanding their priorities will enable you to steer the conversation in a direction that suits you and your boss.
Talking about what you love and hate about the company is a beautiful strategy to initiate a conversation and demonstrate your preparedness as an employee.
There is no perfect machine, and there will undoubtedly be areas you feel can be improved within your team and the organization at large. The most important thing here is to get your facts right and list issues without exaggerating.
It is not enough to just list things that need improvement. Why not push one step further by suggesting potential solutions to some of those issues based on your research and experience, which will surely leave a good impression and show that you are well prepared.
Also, you can use this chance to talk about the new technology you or your team discovered to solve a problem and enhance productivity in the organization.
Attend your subsequent skip-level meeting prepared to talk about your future. Create a summary of your short and long-term career goals, as well as your aspirations, significant accomplishments, and current status. Remember that every senior manager once held a position equivalent to yours.
Describe your professional goals for your organization, the knowledge you wish to gain, and the experience you'll need to advance up the corporate ladder.
At the end of the skip-level meeting, the senior leader will typically ask, ‘Do you have questions to ask me?
Answering ‘No’ will be the biggest mistake. This is a chance to have a meaningful conversation with your boss’s boss. You can ask about the progress of the organization, feedback on your work, and how they can help to advance your career.
Below are some examples of the skip-level meeting questions to ask:
What skills do you think our team can acquire to improve?
Can you suggest a mentor for me in the company?
What is the most formidable challenge you have faced leading people?
Are there any big changes to look forward to in the near future?
What areas should I improve to take a big step in my career?
What is the company doing to stand out from the competition?
The primary reason why your boss’s boss schedules this meeting in the absence of your manager is to get first-hand information about what is happening in your team. Therefore you will be asked a bunch of questions about how your team works, what do you think of your manager, if you have suggestions for the company, etc.
Preparing answers for potential questions will boost confidence when entering the meeting room.
Even though your skip-level manager does not work directly with you, they presumably have seen some of your projects. Ask them their thoughts on some of the projects your direct manager has forwarded to them. Appreciate the critique and note what you can improve.
By requesting comments, you demonstrate that you value others' opinions and care about improving yourself. After your meeting, don't forget to thank the senior manager and ask for any extra input. Writing them a letter of thanks for their time will leave a positive impression.
1. Should I inform my direct managers about the meeting?
Holding skip-level meetings without informing your managers is virtually not possible. In most organizations, managers are already informed even before team members. It's the company's responsibility to inform your manager, not yours.
However, it is good practice to keep your manager in the loop. This shows a degree of loyalty and creates a stronger bond. Also, your manager might help you prepare better for the meeting.
2. What to avoid in a skip-level meeting?
Avoid making decisions: A skip-level meeting is not a decision-making session. More so, managers hold decision-making power with their team members. Doing so in a skip-level meeting will violate that power, which might be perceived as you unintentionally undercutting them.
Don't escalate issues: Resist the urge to exaggerate anything unexpected. If you receive negative comments and feedback, express your gratitude for the advice and respond appropriately if an answer is needed.
Don't counterattack: The fastest method to convince the manager that you aren't interested in their criticism is immediately refuting it. This leaves a lasting and negative impression on you. Even if the urge to counter-talk them, ensure you subdue the urge at all costs.
Having a one-on-one talk with a top manager could sound frightening, but we guarantee the benefits will transcend your initial apprehension. We have discussed everything you need to know about skip-level meetings in this guide.
From the tips to help you get prepared to the possible questions you need to ask, this article leaves no stone unturned.
Ranee has worked in the SaaS industry for nearly ten years. She loves working with, learning from, and helping develop effective leaders and is willing to share her thoughts through words. Outside of work, you can find her dancing, hiking in the mountains, or reading in a cafe.