Skip-level meetings can be gold for a leader!
Managing organizational culture is always challenging. As the organization grows, the layers increase & communication gaps widen. In such situations, I always find skip-level meetings to be a crucial communication strategy that helps in the flow of ideas, increases organizational transparency, drives leadership development, and frankly, teaches me a lot!
Skip-level meetings are beneficial in a number of ways
Avenue to give team members insights into leadership expectations
As an organization grows, the sharing of vision and values becomes more difficult than you can imagine. Skip-meetings provide me a platform to share expectations with the team. At the same time, I can get genuine feedback on the team’s direction, and that forces me to think more. Truly a win-win!
Opportunity to become aware of challenges
Often times the challenges being faced at the ground level don’t reach the leaders in the company. Hearing about the team’s challenges directly from the ones who are facing them on a day-to-day basis, is a great way to understand what is truly going on in the team.
Ability to collect actionable feedback for my directs
In these meetings, having frank conversations about what they think is affecting their performance and how it can be improved is important. Make them feel heard and note down details of their problems.
When you aware of the issues affecting your employees’ performances, you will have actionable feedback for their managers (your directs) instead of just high-level feedback.
Actionable feedback for myself
The skip-level conversations help me to understand and evolve my own leadership style. I receive direct and helpful feedback on what I can do better as a leader and how I could contribute more effectively to the company.
The correct way of doing skip-level meetings
These meetings can be tricky to conduct. Here are some tips to conduct them in the correct way.
Focus on building a connection
I always think of my skip-level managers as the bench strength for my team. I would start with informal sessions, but with a disciplined cadence. These meetings are a great way to build deeper connections with your skip-levels. Some questions that I often ask are -
“How are you doing?”
“What are you most excited about?”
“What’s bothering you?”
“How can I help?”
Maybe even consider spending some time talking about their families, their aspirations and share yours as well.
Don’t make it about others; no politics
A skip-level meeting shouldn’t be about the person in-between or about their peers. Always make the expectation clear that these skip-level meetings are about feedback and increasing transparency for each other. It is not the chance to gossip about the person getting skipped i.e. your direct. Hence, ensuring no politics is critical in this skip-level relationship.
Stay away from giving directives
Skip-level meetings should be more about brainstorming, ideation and providing transparent feedback.
Don’t make any promises
It is important to not make any promises in skip-level meetings like a new project, a promotion or an increment, without the manager being a part of the conversation.
Don’t act like their manager
Identify what you can help solve but never override the manager, unless you see clear wrong doings. Instead, partner with your directs to solve issues.
Skip-level meetings are time-consuming. But they are a fun and effective way to connect with your team members. They teach you about your leadership style and also help to drive alignment at the same time.
Let me know if you find skip-level meetings useful and how you have been doing these in your teams.
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