Skip-level meetings are your secret weapon when it comes to company cohesion and team building. No, this meeting isn’t about how to skip a level on the corporate ladder and get promoted to the C-suite ahead of schedule! However, you can use skip-level meetings to build trust between different levels of management and improve your relationship with your boss’s boss.
Read on to find out the benefits of skip-level meetings, and how this type of meeting can lead to a better work environment and boost employee engagement on your team.
What is a skip-level meeting?
A skip-level meeting is, in short, a one-on-one meeting with your boss’s boss or your manager’s manager instead of your immediate supervisor.
There are some similarities between a skip level meeting and a town hall meeting in that they’re both meant to foster communication beyond the team level.
The difference is in the format and the number of participants. A town hall or all-hands meeting is usually open to the entire company, and may involve an announcement or Q&A session with members of the executive suite.
A skip-level meeting, on the other hand, is much smaller and is a chance to build better relationships with upper management. The main purpose of the meeting is to check in about things that don’t come up at regular team meetings.
For example, your senior leaders may ask for your honest feedback about your direct supervisor and whether there are any roadblocks impacting your team.
Why have a skip-level meeting?
Communicating with other team members is usually pretty straightforward. Ideally, you’ll have regular team meetings and a Slack channel to stay on the same page.
You may also have one-on-one meetings with your direct manager or your direct reports in order to discuss performance reviews and troubleshoot any issues.
But with upper management, it’s a different story. You may not be in the same office as them, and you may not even attend the same virtual meetings. It’s easy for upper management to lose track of what individual contributors bring to a project, and they may not have all the info they need for effective decision-making.
The purpose of a skip-level meeting is to break through these barriers, and encourage the free flow of information up and down the chain of command.
If you don’t already have a relationship with your senior manager, then the idea of a skip-level meeting can seem awkward at first.But by asking the right questions and making a plan to follow up later, you can build better rapport with your leadership team.
Who attends a skip level meeting?
Before sending out those meeting invites, it’s important to know who should attend a skip-level meeting and who should stay home.
Since the purpose of a skip level meeting is to be able to speak freely about other team members and managers, they’re usually one-on-one. That said, depending on the size of your team, it’s possible to hold meetings with more than one employee at once, and to think of it as a kind of skip-level focus group.
How to schedule a skip-level meeting
First, find out if there’s already a history of skip-level meetings at your organization. If they’re already happening among some levels of management, great. That means you won’t have to convince everyone they’re a good idea.
Otherwise, you may need to pitch the idea to your leadership team and see if they’d be open to this meeting. Since one-on-one meetings are already common in the workplace – think performance reviews and quarterly check-ins – it isn’t that much of a stretch to extend them up or down the corporate ladder.
Still, skip-level meetings can be a significant time commitment. For example, think about how many employees report to your direct reports. How long would it take for you to meet with them all one-on-one on a quarterly or even annual basis? Consider how much time you want to spend on each meeting, and then you can figure out how often to have skip-levels.
How to run a skip-level meeting
To be able to run skip-level meetings efficiently, you’ll want to come up with a skip-level meeting agenda you can use repeatedly. You can start with the template you use for other one-on-one meetings and customize it with specific questions related to the projects or initiatives you want to discuss.
Ask the right questions
The trick to running a good skip-level meeting is to put your employees at ease and help them feel comfortable opening up to their boss’s boss or their manager’s manager.
That’s why simply asking them what they think of their superior isn’t likely to result in a productive discussion. Consider asking some of these specific questions instead:
- How do you feel about your role on the team?
- Are there any roadblocks or challenges that you’re facing?
- What about successes or accomplishments you’ve experienced?
- Are you familiar with the company’s goals and objectives?
- What could we do to improve your work environment?
- Do you have any ideas for the team or for the company?
- What would you do if you were leading the team?
- Is there anything your manager could do differently?
- How do you see your role progressing on this project?
- What goals or interests do you have outside of work?
These questions are just suggestions — you’ll want to tailor your skip level meeting questions and agenda template to suit your company and your team. And remember, a skip-level meeting should feel like a back-and-forth conversation, not an interview!
Keep things positive
Skip-level meetings shouldn’t feel secretive, and your direct reports or direct manager may know that you’re going to be talking about them.
Still, it’s important to be respectful: This isn’t a chance to vent and blame, but rather to bring up genuine issues that are impacting the organization.
After all, everyone is part of the same company, and should want what’s best for the organization. Direct reports need to feel like they can bring up concerns about their supervisor without leading to repercussions in the workplace.
Take good notes
Be sure to set aside some time after the meeting to look over your notes and follow up on any ideas that you discussed. After all, if you aren’t going to document action items, why bother with a skip-level meeting in the first place?
By asking the right questions and taking good notes, you can build trust and rapport in the workplace.
Use Anchor AI to take notes at your skip-level meetings
Skip-level meetings are a chance for you to sit down with your manager’s manager, or to speak with team members a couple levels below you. They’re a great opportunity to get to know your colleagues and find out what you could be doing better as a manager.
That said, watching a senior leader take notes while you ask them questions can make employees nervous and less likely to give you honest feedback.
Why not use an automated note-taking tool like Anchor AI? Not only can Anchor AI identify speakers and action items, but you’ll get a searchable transcript that you can review later to make sure you didn’t miss anything important.
Anchor AI isn’t just for skip level meetings: You can also use it to create board meeting minutes, interview transcripts, team meeting notes, and more.
Learn more about how Anchor AI works, or sign up for Anchor AI to be one of the first to use this automated note-taking tool!