All You Ever Wanted to Know about Skip Level Meetings!

Rabia Dhody | October 06,2010 10:56 am IST

If you've ever wondered what was going at senior levels, and thought that if "they" would keep you informed, things would be a whole lot better, the Skip Level is Your way of reducing those problems in your part of your organization.

 

The fact is, it's hard to communicate even directly to your team.

Many of us learned that when we "discover" our teams through One on Ones. Or If one of your direct reports were to leave your team, do you have the bench strength to replace them quickly? If you aren't sure, the next question is Why not? This is just one of the reasons that skip-level meetings are a powerful, if often underused tool in the workplace. From the employee's perspective, it's a chance to share their background, experience and career aspirations. For a manager, skip-levels offer a closer look at the people in their broader team, identify high-potential employees and gather unfiltered feedback on key initiatives and day-to-day operations. Skip level meeting??What is that? It's a tool (interview process) for managers to build trust and know their team members, one or more level below. This helps managers to understand the real problems and an opportunity to work on them.

 

Most of us are so much absorbed in trivial issues, that we instantly lose focus on the bigger picture. Such attitude adds fuel to the fire. We tend to begin a cycle that leads us to despair. Learn to forgive your little mistakes. Praise yourself for all your little achievements. Understand the fact that little mistakes do not cost your life. If you really master this concept of looking at the bigger picture, you will be more confident that things are not as awry as you think.

 

Normally, managers who are managing more than 10 to 12 team members, define two or three project leads, who are directly reporting to them while other team members report to project leads. Due to this hierarchical structure, team members may not find an opportunity to talk to managers to share their views on the project, company or management. To minimize this gap, managers should proactively schedule Skip level meetings with their team members.

 

Setting a Schedule

The larger your overall organization, the more rigorous your scheduling needs to be. Shoot for at least one skip-level each month and, if possible, two a year with each employee. Avoid canceling or rescheduling these meetings. Employees will be skeptical of your commitment to them if you're regularly backing out. Send a meeting invite to your team member (not to direct reportees) - a level or two below. Please do not try to schedule this meeting at 11th hour as s/he may not be ready. Best duration for this type of meeting is around 30 minutes.

 

Doing your Homework

Before the first skip-level, review the employee's resume and career path within the organization. Not only will you know what you want to ask about, but you'll show the employee you're not merely going through the motions. Note that your team member may not have an experience of these types of meetings and may not be aware about the outcome of the same. As you are trying to understand your team members' thoughts about the project, company and also their satisfaction, dissatisfaction etc, explain the purpose of this meeting. Take them into confidence stating that all the discussions will be kept secret and their views won't be revealed.

 

Asking Direct and Open ended Questions

Find out what the employee's goals are. Do they aspire to manage a team? Remain an individual contributor? Move eventually into a new career altogether? Don't forget to ask about their interests outside of work. Motivate your team member to open up and share his/her views/ideas. Please do not take anything personally or do not try to defend any comment. Focus your questions on areas like -

Project related views/ideas
Organization and management
Support required from Management/ HR Team


Following Up

As soon as you can, send a note to the employee thanking them for the meeting. Some might be nervous about meeting with their manager's boss, so a note of thanks from you will convey your appreciation and interest.

 

Typical Skip Level Questions that you could refer to :

If you could solve one problem that you or your team have, what would it be and how?
What is the one thing that is working right in our organization?"
What happens when problems come up, and who do you turn to for support?
What do you like about your job?
What aspects of your job would you prefer not to have to do? Why?
If you were to hire someone for a job like yours, what kind of person would you hire?
How do you find out how well you are doing?
How do you know you are not performing well?
What do you think it takes to get promoted in your work unit?
If you had a complaint about something connected with your job, whose attention would you bring it to first?
Where do you see yourself going from your present job?
How well does your supervisor and those above him/her understand the technical problems you face in doing your work?
Close with - I have asked you many questions. Do you have any questions you would like to ask me?

Concluded.

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Rabia Dhody is an MBA from University of Pune, and is currently working as Vice President in Jabong.com for the last 2 years. Prior to Jabong she has worked as Motricity- HR Head South Asia, HR Business Partner with Dell India and as manager with Reliance Capital - Life Insurance Division....