Give Your Skip-Level Meetings a Makeover

Linda Dulye's picture
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skiplevel.jpgLast year in this space we trumpeted the skip-level meeting as a powerful tool in a leader's workbench. We think the skip-level is such a valuable tool that it deserves another look and, in some cases, a makeover.

Just to recap, from the employee's perspective, a skip-level is a chance to share their background, experience and career aspirations.

For a manager, it offers 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.

In the spirit of continuous improvement, here are three ways to reenergize your skip-levels to get more value from them:

  • Keep skipping. Traditionally these meetings are discussions with employees who report to a member of your staff, but who says tradition should win out? If you really want to know what's happening in your organization skip not just one level but two or perhaps even three.

  • Tone it down. If your meetings are formal settings around a lunch meeting in an executive conference room, stop! This environment can be intimidating for employees, many of whom might think they need to dress more formally than they do on a normal workday. Nervous or intimidate employees aren't going to be as forthcoming. Instead, insist on a casual setting. Center the meeting around coffee and bagels at a table tucked away in the cafeteria. Order pizza -- or skip the food altogether.

  • Change the name. Sometimes the name of a program can carry baggage. Does the term "skip-level" cause an instant spike in employees' blood pressure? Then change it. Call them "roundtables" or "touch base meetings." A more casual term could make a tremendous difference.

If you do decide to transform your skip-levels, there's one thing you'll want to keep doing: As soon as you can, send a handwritten 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.

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