How to build a relationship with your skip manager
One of my previous newsletters talked about the importance of building relationships with your skip-level reportees. While it is absolutely gold for leaders to build skip-level relationships, the opposite is also true. As leaders or emerging leaders, maintaining relationships with your skip-level managers is equally important because you can get both mentors and sponsors in them.
A major part of how you develop and manage this relationship depends on your organization's culture. While some organization’s encourage skip-level relationships, others might not. But in the end, it’s always going to be helpful for you to build these connections.
Here are some tips that have helped me in the past to build rewarding relationships with my skip-level leaders and might be helpful for you too.
Find a Purpose: Before you start to forge this connection, you must know why you want to do it. Your purpose could be anything, right from you expecting your skip-level manager to be your mentor or you wanting to share feedback about your direct manager or maybe also discuss the organization’s goals. Clarity about what you want from this relationship will help you structure your approach better.
Evaluate if Your Organization Encourages Skip-Level Relationships: Ask around if it is ok for you to reach out to your skip-level leaders. I have been fortunate enough to have always worked at organizations where everyone has been super approachable and in fact, always encouraged to reach out to leaders irrespective of the hierarchy.
Reach Out to Your Skip Leaders: The next step is to reach out to the leader you want to connect with and set up a meeting with them. I would suggest not to schedule a recurring meeting in the beginning. Show that you are mindful of the other person’s time.
In one of my previous organizations, my skip-level leader flatly refused my request to set up recurring meetings! He insisted that we keep these meetings open in terms of the schedule. This meant that I could schedule them whenever there was a requirement. We started with this arrangement but eventually these meetings became recurring (how? - see below!).
Prepare Well: Once your meeting is set up, the next step is to prepare well for it. Have a structured agenda so you can manage the flow of the meeting and get the maximum out of it. Also, think about your intentions. For instance if this meeting is supposed to be for providing feedback about your manager, then go with the right intent and make sure to communicate your intent.
Think About What’s In It For Your Leader: These meetings shouldn’t only be about you. Think of ways in which these meetings can benefit your skip-level managers also. So go in with insights, learnings and feedback that you think could be of interest to your skip-level leader. In the example I shared earlier, once my skip-level manager found value in the meetings, he proposed to make them recurring.
These are just some ways that have helped me build long-lasting relationships with my skip-level leaders.
Skip-level relationships always help to develop leaders on both sides, bring alignment across the organization and ultimately help to scale up the company.
How do you think about these relationships? Do share what has and hasn’t worked for you to build these connections!
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