Skip-Level Meetings

If you manage managers, it’s very powerful to set up a recurring catch up with their direct reports. These are commonly referred to as “skip-level” meetings, and they’re the only way to get an accurate sense of how your direct reports are leading — and how people on their teams are feeling about the business and the strategy you’ve set. It’s also an efficient way to uncover the obstacles that are preventing teams from executing so that you, as the skip-level manager, can work to unblock them in ways their direct manager can’t. When teams are running hard, these meetings often get deprioritized or forgotten. They’re too important for that. Make them a priority.

Conducting skip-level (or skip-multiple-level) meetings and listening sessions with people who are likely to have a very different perspective on what it’s like to work there is also a good way to figure out what your blind spots are. Make sure you have a prior relationship with these individuals in order to elicit candid and critical feedback about their experience working in the organization. Ask about:

  • Morale in the office from their point of view.
  • How they are feeling about his or her team.
  • What their manager is doing well and not well.
  • What obstacles they’re facing in their job. (If you are their skip-level manager, take steps to unblock these obstacles — it will mean a lot to the person that you took action.)
  • Do you understand the company’s goals? Your team’s goals?
  • Do you feel like you can do things you believe are right for the business?
  • Do you think leadership acts consistently with your values?
  • What would make work better for you?
  • When was the last time you took a vacation?
  • What is your sacred space? Do you feel like you have time for it?

This is how you’ll overcome your blind spots. You have to work to not lose touch with how others are perceiving and experiencing the organization. I made a regular habit of holding monthly sessions with all of the women in my region to listen to their viewpoints, as well as monthly sessions with the junior members of the Operations organization to answer questions and take feedback. These sessions were invaluable to me in order to see my cultural blind spots. Regular “walk and talk” sessions with people around the office you don’t work with closely are another valuable way to unlock blind spots and learn new perspectives.

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