Managing organizational culture is always challenging! As the organization grows, the layers increase & communication gaps widen. In such situations, I have always found skip-level meetings to be a crucial communication strategy that helped in the flow of ideas, increased organizational transparency, drove leadership development, and frankly taught me a lot!
Here’s how skip-level meetings helped me some learnings on how to conduct them:
Connect at a personal level and gain trust
I always think of my skip-level managers as the bench strength for my organization. I would start with informal sessions, but with a disciplined cadence.
Questions include - “how are you doing?”, “what are you most excited about?”, “what’s bothering you?”, & “how can I help?”.
Spend some time talking about their families, their aspirations and share from your side. Building a solid informal connection really helped me.
Help your employees gain insight into leadership expectations
As an organization grows , the sharing of vision and values becomes more difficult than you anticipate. Not everyone is as passionate and involved as the more tenured employees.
The skip meetings helped me to share expectations with the newer employees. At the same time, I would get awesome feedback on our direction that would force me to think more. Truly a win-win!
Ask them about challenges/pain points they are facing
Many times challenges at the ground level, don’t really reach the senior management or they don’t know the seriousness of those issues. Hearing granular details about the problems/challenges coming from people who are facing them on a day-to-day basis always compelled me to take action and improve business (especially in teams like customer service and sales).
Get actionable feedback for their managers
Always ask them about what they think is affecting their performance and how it can be improved. Make them feel heard, note down details of their problems.
When you know where the problems in your employees’ performances lie, you will always have some actionable feedback for their managers instead of just high-level feedback.
Learnings for myself
The skip-level conversations helped me to understand and evolve my own leadership style better. I received direct and very helpful feedback on what I could do better as a leader and how I could contribute more effectively for the company.
Important to remember- ensure there’s no politics in this manager-employee-skip relationship
Always make the expectation clear that these skip-level meetings are about resolving issues and increasing transparency. 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.
Skip-level meetings are indeed time-consuming, but a fun and interactive way to connect with your team members. They can also teach you a lot as a leader about your own self. Let me know if you find skip-level meetings useful and how you have been doing these in your team.