Preparing for a skip level meeting? And before you ask, no—these are not meetings you can skip. A skip level meeting is a one on one meeting between two members of an organization who don’t normally have an opportunity to meet. These meetings provide invaluable insight to managers while making employees at all levels of the organization feel seen and heard.
Let’s talk about what makes a good skip level meeting, how to create a skip level meeting agenda, and key questions for both managers to ask employees and employees to ask managers.
A skip level meeting is a one on one meeting where a manager’s manager meets directly with an employee—without the employee’s direct manager in attendance. Skip level meetings bypass one level to bring together two people who don’t normally get to meet.
As an employee, you have a chance to meet with someone much higher up in the company, someone you don’t usually have the opportunity to connect with. As the senior manager, you get to meet someone from a different business level who can provide insight into the daily dealings of the business and company morale. Plus, you’ll be making all members of the team feel important and valued.
You need to know who you are meeting with—and that goes for both the manager and the employee.
Do some minimal research into the other person's role in the company. If you aren’t familiar with them, make sure you learn their full name and what their position is. Put in the time to learn how to say the other person’s name correctly. Hearing your own name out loud instantly makes people feel more comfortable, and saying a name correctly will show respect to whoever you are meeting with.
If you have met before, refresh your memory so that you can pick up where you left off and continue to build rapport. If possible, follow up on an anecdote you remember about them. For example, if they have spoken to you about a particular hobby, you could ask them how it is going. Or, if you know they like to travel, you could ask where they are headed next.
Every meeting needs a clearly defined purpose and objective. Why are you meeting? What are the goals of the meeting? Clearly defining the purpose of the meeting at the outset will help you establish an effective meeting agenda, and it will ensure the meeting doesn’t end up being a waste of time.
Both parties should have a clear understanding of why you are meeting and what the goals of the meeting are.
Keep in mind that this may be an uncomfortable or nerve-racking experience for the employee. It’s up to the higher-ranking person to ensure their teammate feels welcomed and comfortable.
It should be a safe space to speak openly about thoughts, goals, what's working, what isn't, and how the employee feels about their work without fear of the conversation being repeated or gossiped about. One on ones are private. They are a chance for open dialogue, free of judgment. It should be clear that the skip level meeting is a time for transparency—it’s not a performance review.
Break the ice and make conversation about topics beyond work. This meeting is a chance to build rapport between two people who generally don’t have much communication in their day-to-day work. Ask questions and follow up when you learn something about the other person. Do all that you can to find common ground. Discuss topics like food, movies, books, music, sports, hobbies, travel, etc.
💡 Learn more about the importance of building rapport in one on one meetings and how you can do it successfully.
Part of preparing for a skip level meeting is determining some questions to ask. Below we’ll outline some common questions employees can ask managers, as well as questions managers can ask employees to build rapport, spark dialogue, and promote transparency.
It’s important to create a skip level meeting agenda with managers, no matter their role. Just because someone has an important position within the company doesn’t mean they can wing a meeting or ignore the predefined meeting agenda.
The meeting must have an agenda to ensure it stays on track and its objectives are met. While you should aim to make every meeting as effective as possible, this is particularly important for skip level meetings.
Skip level meetings often involve higher up managers who have limited time and busy schedules. The meeting agenda will ensure the meeting stays on track and sticks to the allotted time frame.
The best meeting agendas are collaborative, which means both people in the meeting get to contribute to it. Collaborative agendas ensure there are no surprises once the meeting begins. Advance planning will reduce the issues or delays that could occur if the attendees are not on the same page.
WorkPatterns helps employees and managers at all levels execute skip level meetings with transparent scheduling, simplified agendas, and intentional goal-setting. Stay connected and work with clarity before, during, and after your meetings.
We have a huge library of resources on our website dedicated to improving every type of meeting. Reach out to our team at any time if you have questions about our articles, guides, or products.