Skip Level Meetings - Overview

Purpose and Benefits of Skip-Levels

A skip-level meeting is a meeting during which a manager’s manager meets directly with team members without the direct manager present. While 1-1s facilitate communication between a team member and their manager, skip levels should facilitate communication between the leader’s whole team, not just their direct reports.

The CEO conducts quarterly skip-level meetings with all indirect reports. The goal of this meeting is to help the CEO be a better manager of him/herself, of the report of their function, and the rest of the executive team. What is going well, what needs improvement, how can the CEO help, and what should the CEO focus on when coaching the report?

It also gives the skips and senior leaders an opportunity to:

  • Get to know each other and build rapport
  • Provide an opportunity to have contributions recognized by a senior leader
  • Ask questions
  • Clarify their understanding of company or functional objectives

What Skip-Levels Are Not

It’s important to note that the following are not purposes for the skip level meetings:

  • To check in on the performance of a manager by “going around them.”
  • To manage priorities, career management, or perform any duties typically handled by a team member’s direct manager.

Conducting skip level meetings

  1. If your reports have multiple reports, a skip level meeting is required.
  2. The skip level meeting is never recorded as it is a way to build trust with the team members.
  3. Skip level meetings should be held at least quarterly. Whether or not you choose to organize them more frequently is at your discretion, and likely impacted by the number of skips you have.
  4. Skip level meetings can be conducted one-on-one or in groups of no more than 10-15 (to encourage participation). You may prefer one approach over the other, or if you have too many skips one-on-one meetings may not be feasible.
  5. If you’re able to do one-on-one skip levels, we recommend the first meeting with each skip be similar to a coffee chat - a free-form discussion with the intent to get to know each other.
  6. Aside from any of these free-form initial skip levels, subsequent meetings should have a clear agenda. The first portion of the agenda should include anything you want to update or reinforce with your skips - review strategy, remind the team about areas of focus, etc. After that, there should be ample time for questions from the skips.
  7. In order to recognize team members and highlight the visibility of their work, consider preparing for a skip by reviewing accomplishments of the attendees ahead of time and documenting those at the beginning of the agenda.
  8. Don’t worry about repeating information in skip level meetings. One of the most common reactions managers have after they conduct skip levels is to say “I thought everybody knew that!” Remember that messages often have to be shared several times in several ways before they are communicated effectively.
  9. Skip level meetings can also be a great place to solicit feedback from your skips. SKS questions, among other feedback mechanisms, make solid agenda items.

Having a large organization is not a reason to not conduct skip-level meetings. Senior leaders with a a large organizations can opt to conduct skip-levels in a rotational fashion. If meeting with everyone is not scalable, instead meet with a new group of skip-level team members each quarter (or more frequently).

Learning From the CEO on Skip Level Meetings

Other Resources