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If you manage other managers, you must reach beyond those in management by implementing a skip-level meeting. Skip-level meetings involve temporarily disregarding the chain of command to allow the head honchos the honor of speaking with the employees directly. These meetings will keep your ear on the ground.

Meeting with your indirect reports one-on-one will give you better insight into your manager’s performance and provide feedback to your team. It builds trust with your employees, who are several layers removed from you. Holding these meetings demonstrates how deeply you value everyone in your organization in a scalable way.

Ideas for Improvement

As a senior leader, you can become wrapped in a good-news cocoon. You’re often the last to know if a strategy is working. Mid-level managers may be guilty of calling the shots without collecting the necessary feedback due to busy schedules and upcoming deadlines. And like every other place of employment, there are always miscellaneous issues that arise throughout the workdays. Now is the time to become knowledgeable about them and gain valuable input to create viable solutions. Just remember to avoid allowing the meeting to turn into a sneak attack session on the mid-level managers.

There are many questions that you can ask during a meeting with an indirect report. It would be best to make a personal connection, listen to feedback, and create takeaways from the conversation. Questions should build rapport, give praise, and understand what is happening in your organization.

  • What do you need more of to be successful in your position?
  • What is harder than it needs to be?
  • What is a recent situation you wish your supervisor managed differently?
  • What is the most challenging part of working with your manager?
  • What is the most significant bottleneck that affects you and your group doing their tasks well?

During a skip-level meeting, there are also several things not to do. For example, don’t make decisions. This can undermine your managers. Don’t problem-solve. Leave this for your next meeting with your manager. Don’t escalate. Take time outside the meeting to determine how to respond to a shocking or surprising event. And don’t refute. If you start responding to their feedback by becoming defensive, it will negate the reason for the meeting altogether.

Better Employee Relationships

Each employee has their unique talents and professional goals that are often overlooked or blatantly ignored. These meetings present the perfect moments to ask them if they feel satisfied with their position and whether their abilities are being put to good use. Inquiring about their long and short term professional goals will give an even greater idea of who they are and what they have to offer.

Greater Understanding of the Company’s Ideals

The lines of communication can often get murky, leading to utter confusion when it comes to general expectations. A skip-level meeting’s transparent nature allows higher-level managers the floor to share their vision and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Though this isn’t the time to reprimand anyone, there is no harm in briefly going over any prominent standards or core values.

Remember that some employees may not be so willing to open up to an authority figure who happens to be so high in the ranks. So, to make for a successful session, be sure to create a welcoming environment while ensuring that no harsh consequences will follow. Setting the right tone with skip-level meetings can prove to be the single most effective tool to improve any business’s inner and outer workings.

How often should I have a skip-level meeting? 

Once a quarter is a good cadence for meetings with the direct reports of your managers. If that’s not possible, can you meet once a year? Can you share the load with another executive? There is no one approach for every company. But by regularly holding these meetings, you will improve your leadership skills and the direction of your organization.

Conclusion

Skip-level meetings can help senior leaders make better strategic decisions and improve employee engagement. Meeting with indirect reports will lead to a better understanding with team members, build trust in the company, and get an accurate understanding of your work environment. When groups have skip-level meetings, they will better understand the purpose, focus, and alignment.

This article was originally published on HamiltonLindley.org