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May 2024

Know-how

Skip Level Meetings 2024 | The What, Why, and How Explained

Here are simple steps to run a skip-level meeting, helpful tips, benefits, dos and don'ts, and some great questions to ask during skip-level meeting.

Sanduni
Growth Content Editor
Overview

Skip Level Meetings 2024 | The What, Why, and How Explained

skip level meeting guide with jamie

You might have heard that skip-level meetings hold great potential. But what exactly are they? How do you facilitate them? And which questions should you even ask? Don't worry, we got you - this article will provide a quick guide to skip-level meetings and how to make the most of them.

Read along to learn about skip-level meeting questions and supporting tools to bring your skip-level meeting to the next level (pun intended).

What Are Skip-Level Meetings?

Skip-level meetings are meetings between an employee and their manager's manager, skipping their direct manager. They offer a chance for employees to give feedback directly to senior leadership.

what are skip level meetings? what is skip level meetings?

Skip-level meetings are used to create a more open and transparent communication flow within a company. They allow employees to voice their concerns, ideas, or roadblocks to a higher-level manager who may not be aware of them otherwise.

This can be helpful in situations where employees feel uncomfortable approaching their senior leader or direct supervisor or there's a sense of hierarchy that discourages open communication.

By talking directly to senior leadership, employees can feel more empowered and contribute to a better work environment. In fact, Gallup studies show businesses with highly engaged workforces experience 21% higher profitability.

How to Conduct Skip-Level Meetings (Step by Step)

how to conduct a skip level meetings step by step by jamie

After intense research, I've gathered some great advice from experienced managers to help you conduct successful skip-level meetings.

I have organized all of the advice into a step-by-step guide and this guide has everything you need to conduct the best skip-level meeting for your employees. These steps will help you create a friendly environment for open and honest discussions, leading to better decisions, higher morale, and a more united organization.

Before the Meeting: Setting the Foundation (1-2 Weeks Before)

Step 1: Define Your Goals (What Do You Want To Achieve?)

  • Grab a pen and a paper.
  • Clearly define what you want to get out of the meeting.
  • The clearer your goals, the more focused the conversation will be.

Step 2: Schedule the Meeting & Choose Participants

  • Pick a date and time according to the employee's availability and workload
  • Aim for 30-45 minutes to avoid taking up too much of their time.
  • Ask the employee to suggest topics for the agenda (see Step 4). This shows you respect and value their input.

Step 3: Prepare the Employee (Set Expectations)

  • Send a meeting invite.
  • Briefly explain the purpose of skip-level meetings and the topics you'd like to discuss in the invite (based on Step 1).
  • Reassure them and welcome open communication and confidentiality.
  • Offer an agenda template providing a basic outline for the discussion (encourage them to add their own points, see Step 4).

Step 4. Create an Agenda Together

  • Share the agenda template with the employee, this could be a simple list or a bulleted outline.
  • Welcome the employee to add their talking points to the agenda.
  • While their input is crucial, make sure the agenda aligns with your overall goals (established in Step 1).

During the Meeting: Building Open Conversation (The Meeting Day)

Step 5. Welcome and Set the Tone (Create a Safe Space)

  • Greet the employee warmly and thank them for taking the time to meet.
  • Briefly remind them of the skip-level meeting's goals (established in Step 1).
  • Make it clear that honest feedback is important and valued. You can also mention that feedback will be kept confidential if that applies.

Step 6: Active Listening is Key (Focus on Understanding)

  • Let the employee take charge and talk about the agenda items.
  • Put aside distractions and really focus on seeing things from their point of view.
  • Make sure to actively engage by asking open-ended questions to really understand the situation (See examples in Step 7).

Step 7: Start by Asking Open-Ended Questions

  • Feel free to ask about someone's thoughts, experiences, or preferences
  • Examples:
    • How are things going with the team?
    • Any thoughts on how we can work even better together?
    • What do you think about the latest project we're tackling?
    • Any suggestions for improvement?
    • Do you have any ideas on how we can communicate and work more efficiently as a team?
    • What do you see as the main challenges for our team right now?
    • Where do you see yourself heading within the company in the next year?
  • Open-ended questions lead to richer conversations and valuable insights.

Step 8: Give Thanks and Cheer Them On!

  • Thank them for their openness and their willingness to share honest feedback.
  • Validate their concerns and ideas by letting them know their input is valued and heard.
  • Express appreciation for their insights and perspectives.

After the Meeting: Following Through Shows You Care (1-2 Days After)

Step 9: Summarize Key Points & Action Items

  • Consider sending a follow-up email.
  • Briefly recap the main points discussed and any action items identified. Consider downloading jamie to get all your notes automatically transcribed and organized into action items, decisions, summaries, and more. This way you can attend the meetings without having to worry about taking notes ever.
  • Make sure that everyone is on the same page and avoid any misunderstandings.

Step 10: Follow Through on Commitments (Actions Speak Louder)

  • If you talked about looking into something for the employee, take action on it.
  • Give the employee a quick update on your progress, even if it's just to let them know you're working on it.
  • This shows the employee that you listened to their concerns and are committed to taking action.

Step 11: Maintain Confidentiality (Respect the Promise)

  • If anonymity was promised, uphold that commitment during and after the meeting.
  • Don't share details, always avoid anything that could identify the employee without their permission

How Should an Employee Prepare for a Skip-Level Meeting?

how should an employee prepare for a skip level meeting

We've been discussing how your senior manager prepares for skip-level meetings, but guess what? You, the employee, play a crucial role too! Don't worry, we've got you covered. Here's a simple step-by-step guide for you to follow to ace your next skip-level meetings!

Step 1: Understanding the Goal of the Meeting.

Ask your manager something like,

"Is there anything specific you'd like my feedback on in the meeting? Maybe a recent project or a new company policy?"

Knowing the goal of the meeting helps you prepare for it better. For example, if they mention a new marketing campaign, you could come prepared to share your thoughts on the target audience or the messaging. Allowing you to show your skills and talents that they wouldn't have known if it wasn't for the skip-level meetings.

Step 2: Identify Your Talking Points

Grab a pen and paper (or your phone's notepad) and write down anything and everything work-related that comes to mind.

  • Feeling overloaded with work? Jot that down!
  • Have ideas on how to improve a specific process? Write it out!
  • Do you have any questions about your career development opportunities? Include those too!

This is your chance to brainstorm freely, so don't hold back!

Step 3: Review & Contribute to the Agenda

After some time, your senior manager might send you a proposed agenda for the meeting. Take a look! See if anything is missing from the agenda that you'd like to discuss. Maybe you thought of a great suggestion for improving team communication that wasn't touched upon before. Feel free to suggest adding your talking points to the agenda! This helps ensure the meeting covers what matters to you.

Step 4: Gather Supporting Materials

In this step, you can consider gathering evidence to support your talking points.

For example, if you have a talking point in the agenda that mentions feeling overloaded with work. You can track how many hours a week you work and get the data ready for the meeting, that way your senior manager understands that you put in lots of effort and hours, and the manager may give you some well-deserved time off or even a promotion for your hard work.

Step 5: Be Yourself and Speak Up

Come to the meeting prepared to share your thoughts and experiences openly. It's your chance to be heard by someone who can make a real difference. Don't be afraid to ask questions or share your ideas. This is a safe space for open communication, so relax and let your voice be heard!

By following these 5 steps, you'll be well on your way to having a successful and productive skip-level meeting. Remember, it's your opportunity to connect with leadership, share your unique perspective, and make a positive impact on your work environment. So take a deep breath, be yourself, and good luck!

Skip Level Meeting Benefits for Employees and Managers 

how jamie the ai meeting assistant helps with skip level meeting - ai note taker

Skip-level meetings, where employees meet with a manager above their direct supervisor, can feel a little bit unconventional. However, these meetings offer surprising benefits for employees and upper-level managers, fostering a more open, transparent, and productive work environment.

Benefits of Skip-Level Meetings for Employees

1. Being Heard

‍Feeling heard is really important for employee satisfaction. When an employee feels like their voices are being heard and valued by the higher-ups, it boosts morale and makes them feel more connected to company goals.

Skip-level meetings provide a great opportunity for this by removing a layer of hierarchy and communicating on a personal level. This allows employees to feel comfortable sharing honest feedback, concerns, or innovative ideas when they directly report to their senior leadership. It can be especially helpful if they find it hard to communicate with their own team member's direct manager or supervisor.

2. Career Progression

These meetings can be a valuable opportunity for employees to showcase their skills and knowledge to senior managers who might not otherwise be aware of their potential. This exposure to senior management also can lead to future career development opportunities.

Build Rapport

Skip-level meetings allow employees to connect with senior managers on a more personal level. This can help build trust, understanding, and a sense of belonging with senior leaders within the organization.

Benefits of Skip-Level Meetings for Managers

1. Unfiltered Feedback

Senior managers often receive filtered information through the chain of command and direct reports. Skip-level meetings offer a chance to hear unfiltered feedback directly from the ground level, giving them a clearer picture of employee concerns, morale, and potential roadblocks within projects or gain insights on other sub-level managers.

2. Improved Decision-Making

By understanding employee perspectives, senior managers can make more informed decisions that address real-world issues and improve overall company performance.

3. Stronger Workplace Culture

Skip-level meetings provide the opportunity for the employees to be transparent and open in their communication. This helps build trust and collaboration in the organization, creating stronger teams and a more positive work environment.

Dos And Don'ts For Skip-Level Meetings

You are now fully aware of how to prep for your next or the first skip-level meeting! Now, let's talk about what not to do in a skip-level meeting. Skip-level meetings are all about open communication, so we want to avoid any missteps that might shut down the conversation and leave a bad energy in either party. Here's a quick guide to show you the Dos and Don'ts for skip-level meetings.

do's and dont's for skip level meetings

‍Do’s in a Skip-Level Meeting

1. Defining the Meeting’s Purpose

By clearly defining the meeting's purpose helps everyone understand the goals and expectations of the meeting. Then the attendee or attendees will prepare to bring out more focused and productive discussions.

This shows that there should be clarity in the meeting's purpose because it will maximize the efficiency of these meetings without wasting anyone's valuable time.

2. Reviewing Agenda

Looking over the agenda before the meeting helps keep things on track and ensures you cover all important topics. This keeps the attendees without diverting to topics that would take away the efficiency of the meeting and keeps both the party focused on what matters the most.

3. Add Talking Points to the agenda

Letting the attendees add their own points to discuss later during the skip-level meeting makes sure all relevant issues get addressed and their issues or ideas are being heard and valued.

4. Show Up on Time

Being on time shows respect for everyone's time and helps the meeting start and finish as planned.

5. Remove Distractions

Turning off phones and closing unrelated tabs keeps everyone focused, making the meeting more productive.

6. Listen Actively

Paying close attention to others shows respect and helps you understand their points of view, making it easier to respond thoughtfully.

7. Share Your Honest Thoughts

Being open and honest fosters trust and makes problem-solving more effective.

8. Suggest Solutions

Offering solutions, not just pointing out problems, moves the discussion forward and helps find practical ways to fix issues.

9. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Asking questions that require more than a yes or no answer encourages detailed responses and deeper discussions, leading to better understanding and more creative solutions.

10. Show Appreciation

Saying thank you boosts morale and makes people feel valued for their work. 81% of workers are motivated to work harder when they feel appreciated.

11. Use jamie to Take Meeting Notes

Download jamie the AI note taker to take notes for you, it will capture all important points, tasks, decisions, and action items, leaving nothing to be forgotten.

12. Send a Follow-Up Email

A follow-up email provides a clear summary and outlines the next steps, keeping everyone on the same page.

‍Don't's in a skip level meeting

1. Don’t Start Without a Purpose

Starting a meeting without a clear purpose can lead to confusion and wasted time. When everyone knows why they’re there, the meeting stays focused and productive. Meetings with a clear purpose save time and reduce frustration.

2. Don’t Ignore the Agenda

Skipping the agenda can cause the meeting to go off track and miss important points. Following an agenda keeps the meeting organized and ensures all necessary topics are covered.

3. Don’t Dominate the Conversation

Talking too much without letting others share their thoughts can make people feel unheard and unimportant. When everyone gets a chance to speak, discussions are richer and more inclusive.

4. Don’t Be Late

Arriving late disrupts the flow and shows a lack of respect for others’ time. Being on time sets a good example and keeps the meeting on schedule.

5. Don’t Multitask

Doing other things during the meeting, like checking emails, distracts you and others. Focusing on the meeting improves productivity and keeps everyone engaged.

6. Don’t Interrupt

Interrupting others can be disrespectful and stop them from fully expressing their ideas. Letting people finish their thoughts shows respect and leads to better understanding.

7. Don’t Hold Back Feedback

Not sharing your honest thoughts can prevent important issues from being addressed. Open communication helps solve problems more effectively.

8. Don’t Just Complain

Only pointing out problems without suggesting solutions can make the meeting negative. Offering solutions moves the discussion forward and helps fix issues.

9. Don’t Ask Yes/No Questions

Asking questions that can be answered with just "yes" or "no" doesn’t encourage deep discussion. Open-ended questions lead to more detailed responses and better ideas.

10. Don’t Forget to Acknowledge Contributions

Not recognizing people’s efforts can lower morale. Showing appreciation makes people feel valued and motivated.

11. Don’t Rely on Memory Alone - Use jamie

Not taking notes can lead to forgotten details and missed action items. Having notes ensures important points are remembered and followed up on. Downloading jamie can save you up to 10 hours a week and take meeting notes for you automatically without interfering with the meeting. And all you have to do is enjoy the meeting while jamie takes note of your skip-level meeting.

12. Don’t Skip Follow-Up

Not sending a follow-up email can lead to confusion about the next steps. A follow-up email clarifies what was discussed and what needs to be done.

5 Best Skip-Level Meeting Questions For Guaranteed Success

Whether you are a senior manager who is unsure which questions to ask or an employee who is curious about what skip-level questions they might be asked - we curated the 5 best skip-level questions to create and engage in an authentic dialogue.

1. Are There Any Processes or Policies You Would Like To Change or Have Experienced Pain Points With?

Ask your employees to put themselves in your shoes and ask them where they see the potential to grow - encourage them to be as honest as possible about current processes or policies that might need to be updated or adapted.

Explain how your priority is to improve the status quo and that realizing recurring pain points of employees helps you make important adaptations. Understand where your employees are coming from and ask them why exactly they would change something.

(As always), thank them for sharing their honest opinion and assure them that you value their input and will look into possible improvements, if applicable. 

2. Can You Give a (Recent) Example of When You Have Felt That Your Work or Contributions Were Overlooked at Work?

Don't pressure your employees to give an example if they do not have one - however, this question encourages direct and critical feedback. Leave them some time to think about it and share an example if applicable.

When the employee chooses to share an example, make sure not to brush it off - listen to understand their perspective and ask follow-up questions to understand what could have been done differently and how you can ensure that a similar situation in the future will be handled differently.

Talk them through your thought process and ask if they think your approach would make a positive difference for them and other employees - after all, it is not about guessing what will work but about making it happen together.

3. How Could We Enhance Our Current Dei (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Efforts?

Ask your employee if they would like to share their thoughts about current processes and implementations to foster greater DEI.

study by McKinsey has found that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion can significantly contribute to not only company growth but also employee satisfaction and retention. 

Emphasize how important DEI is to you, personally and professionally, and that you welcome a differing perspective as it encourages growth.

After all, providing a workplace filled with inclusivity, diversity, and equality is the baseline for how employees show up to their workplace and how they treat each other - engaging in a dialogue to ensure this should be a main priority by leadership.

4. How Can We Contribute to an Improved Work-Life Balance and Overall Employee Well-Being? ‍

If you want your employees to stay engaged and present at the workplace, be curious about their ideas and thoughts while emphasizing that every perspective adds to the learning of the leadership team.

The Harvard Business Review (2023) found that employees lay greater emphasis on their work-life balance and that implementation of respective measures leads to greater productivity and well-being while reducing employee turnover.

You can ask them if they have specific training they would find useful and interesting to attend, like a workshop about resilience.

5. How Can We Better Support You To Show Up as Your Most Authentic Self at Work?

Asking an open-ended question helps employees to open up, as they leave room for an open dialogue while, in this case, indicating that there is room for improvement.

Show genuine interest (as you should in every answer) and, if you are the one asking, you can encourage your employee to think about a time they felt their best and a time they felt their worst - emphasizing your full support to drive the positive factors in an environment of psychological safety.

Remember that skip-level meetings are not there to put someone on the spot and drill someone with questions, it's all about listening with the intent to understand, instead of just listening with the intent to reply

How Can I Bring My Skip-Level Meeting To The Next Level? 

Well, if you have not already gotten inspired by the 5 best skip-level questions or our checklist on how to best implement a skip-level meeting, we have gathered some tips and tricks for you to enhance the quality of your skip-level meeting.

While it is important to implement a sense of structure in your skip-level meetings to get the best results, you can switch it up a bit to prevent stale meetings with no fresh input.

  1. Start with a joke,
  2. Share a quick anecdote,
  3. Encourage your employee to share about their weekend plans,
  4. Informal talk at the beginning creates a calm environment.

You have to treat skip-level meetings as a vital part of teamwork improvement. So instead of following the same old questions, you can leave some time for asking your employee about their ideas and what they would like to see. Remember that dialogue goes both ways and emphasize that honest feedback is what keeps the ball rolling. 

Tired of the same old (virtual) meeting room? Try a more relaxed and informal environment! Encourage your employee to bring a coffee or tea to the virtual meeting or find a place in your office with a friendly environment.

Some boss's boss like to go for a walk during the skip-level meeting - it really is up to what works best for you and the individual employee to have an effective skip-level meeting.

How To Have Fun Skip-Level Meetings Tips!

  1. Choose a fun or interesting virtual background for the meeting.
  2. Start with everyone sharing an emoji that reflects their mood for the meeting.
  3. Play a quick game of "Would you rather..." with work-related scenarios.
  4. Schedule a separate, shorter virtual coffee break after the main meeting for a more casual chat.
  5. For pet lovers, dedicate a short segment where employees can unmute and share their furry.
  6. Encourage everyone to grab their favorite drink (coffee, tea, smoothie) for a more relaxed chat.
  7. Ask everyone to share a song that reflects their current work mood or project.
  8. Start the meeting with everyone sharing a random but interesting fact they learned recently.
  9. Pose quick "This or That?" questions related to work preferences.
  10. Have participants share a motivational or inspirational quote related to work.

Use AI-Powered Tools for Skip-Level Meetings!

download jamie and never take meeting notes again

Let's be honest, taking notes and being fully present at a meeting can be hard. Ever thought of using AI to make smarter use of your time by streamlining work processes?

We recommend using AI-powered virtual assistants, like jamie, to help you stay on top of your next skip-level meeting notes or skip-level meeting agenda - it summarizes meeting notes for you in just one click and provides you with a professional summary, a full transcript, and even action items. Try it out now for free here. 

If you are looking for more tips on how to boost your productivity during meetings or the best AI tools to use in meetings, check out our guides and find more information in our blog.

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