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Mastering "Skips": What is a skip level meeting

Holding a skip level meeting is one of the most powerful ways to connect higher management with employees; often with the purpose of communicating important information without the risk of distortion. Commonly referred to as "skips", these are meetings in which a manager's manager meets with non-managerial employees to address department issues, challenges, areas of improvement, and other matters. These types of meetings also aid to improve transparency, build trust and enhance overall company communication and cohesion.

To gain a greater understanding of what a skip-level meeting is, its benefits and pitfalls, and how they should be approached and conducted, here is your quick guide to mastering the "skips".

  1. But... why skip-level meetings? 🤔
  2. Skip level meeting format and best practices: Get ready to kick-off the skips
  3. Benefits of skip-level meetings for the health of your organization.

What is a Skip-level Meeting (It's purpose & How to hold a good one 👍)

Long story short, the purpose of a skip level meeting is to hold a 1:1 (even though it can also be held in a group) between the upper manager and employee, literally skipping the employee's direct manager. It's a good way for the C-level managers to get to know their employees better and for the employees to better understand their team's goals as they relate to those of the company. In the remote working space, it's not always easy forming a solid relationship with your team. Therefore, if you're struggling to move your meetings online, it's about time to re-evaluate what you're doing and get clear on the purpose of your meetings.

What's the purpose of skip-level meetings?

The main goal of skip-level meetings is to enhance communication between the higher-level managers and the employees, something that, many times, gets forgotten, lost, or neglected between multiple layers of hierarchy. Eventually, the aim should be to align individual ambitions with organisational expectations and to build confidence.

Normal meetings vs. Skip Level meetings

A higher-level manager normally consults with the manager of a specific team to address things like employee productivity and overall team performance.

In a skip-level meeting, the higher-level manager skips the team's director and jumps directly to the employees. In this case, the goal is not necessarily centered on discussing productivity or performance, but on the importance of communication between the employee and their role towards the company's goals.

How to prepare for a skip-level meeting

Now that you know a little bit more about skips it's time to learn how to actually kick them off. First things first, having a skip-level meeting agenda prior to the meeting commencing is key to your successful skip level meeting preparation. Whether you're holding a meeting online or in-person, an agenda is indispensable.

Run a good meeting with these skip-level meeting best practices

As there are two sides of skip-level meetings, there are separate things that the manager will need to prepare for, which will differ from those of the employee.👇

How to approach and run the meeting as a manager

If you, as the department head or the manager's manager, have not had, or usually don't have any kind of direct interaction with your employees, it's best to start interacting with them before diving directly into a skip level meeting. Go out there and stroll about, make yourself visible and approachable, and start informal conversations. Do this for a few weeks or months before kicking off the skip-level meeting; this way your employees will get used to your presence and be more comfortable when the time comes to meet 1-1.

In the meantime, it's also advisable to inform the team's direct manager about the start of skips and the intentions behind them. While some direct managers will hop on the idea and back it up, others might take it as a control mechanism. Make sure to explain that the goal of the meeting is purely informational and there's no witch-hunt behind it.

Skip level meeting questions to ask your employees

To set a comfortable environment, we advise starting the meeting with an informal chat to serve as a lead-in to the more formal aspect of the meeting: the questions.

Some sample skip-level interview questions:

  1. What's your opinion on the company’s mission/vision?
  2. Are there any impediments to improved performance?
  3. Do you have the necessary resources?
  4. What can the executive team do to assist you in your role?
  5. How do you feel about the company's future?
  6. What is the most enjoyable aspect of working with [manager]?
  7. What is the most difficult aspect of working with [manager]?
  8. What would you like to see [manager] do more of?

How to approach the skip-level meeting as an employee

These meetings are purely informational and shouldn't focus much on individual performance. If you normally get anxious when called in for a skip-level meeting, think of these meetings instead as a good opportunity to get to know your boss' boss and gain insights into the company's goals and mission on a deeper level. This is also a chance for you to raise questions to ask your leader.

What is a Skip level meeting agenda?

The most efficient skip level meetings take place when both parties, managers and team members, work on a shared skip level meeting agenda. The three most important parts of the skip-level meeting format are:

  • Team performance, with special attention to the direct manager's leadership
  • Individual performance (good facets and aspects to improve)
  • Business goals and mission

As a note, these meetings should last roughly 30 to 45 minutes and take place every few months.

Skip-level meeting template

When it comes to creating your skip level meeting agenda, it's a good idea to work off a skip-level meeting template so that each meeting follows a set format. Not only that, but if you plan to hold frequent skip level meetings, you'll save time by using a template to get started, but make sure to use a meeting template that doesn't suck. Async collaboration tools like Complish offer discussion features, allowing you to create meeting agendas, and take minutes all from the same collaborative document.

Skip-level meetings benefits

We have explained that one of the main goals of skip-level meetings is to improve communication, but there are more benefits to the format.

Build better relationships across your team and organisation

Hierarchy sometimes prevents true team cohesion and blocks c-levels from getting to know and work side by side with their team. Skip-level meetings aim to put an end to these divisions.

An important aspect of continual learning

Another skip-level meeting benefit is the opportunity to better learn how to improve team performance towards the company's goals. With these 1:1s meetings, leaders can go straight to the source to uncover any problems or roadblocks and find ways to learn from their past mistakes by working through them.

It might take a little time to get used to what is a skip-level meeting and to have it run smoothly, but, when you do, the result is worth it. As the head of the department, it's important to keep track of your employee's performance, but there's more to management than that. Getting to know your employees and their day-to-day is essential too, and something that is greatly appreciated as managers sometimes tend to distance themselves from their team. Skip-level meetings achieve more than just one objective. If you haven't had one yet, or, it's been a while, it's time to start planning one.