Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video What is a skip-level meeting?, part of Holding Skip-Level Meetings.
- It's a very exciting time to be a leader. The practice of leadership is evolving quickly in the last few decades, producing many new types of beliefs and practices. For example, consider communication between managers and employees, it used to be that managers dictated and employees listened and followed orders, thankfully that's changing. Now, we understand that there needs to be a genuine two-way dialogue. We know that when teams feel they're part of a conversation instead of simply receiving commands they perform better, and they enjoy performing more.
Another old rule of thumb that's also being questioned concerns the need for integrity in the chain of command. What that used to mean is that a person should rarely if ever skip over their manager to speak to others higher in the hierarchy. This was considered an affront to the manager being skipped, and was strongly frowned upon as disrespectful. Today we see many positive trends that are changing how we view the hierarchy. We see an emergent peer mentality as opposed to a simple hierarchical mentality. We see a strong recognition of the need to collaborate both vertically and horizontally.
There's a strong movement towards authentic leadership, whereby the leader who's capable of discussing and using his mistakes and fears, as much as his accomplishments and accolades, is the leader people want to follow. One of the most interesting expressions of these trends is the skip-level meeting. A skip-level meeting takes place between a manager, and one or more of his or her employees who are at least two levels lower in the hierarchy without their direct manager being present. The basic goal is to build connection and understanding across multiple levels of the organization chart.
Think of it this way, you're directly connected to your boss and possibly one or two other leaders, depending on the type of organizational structure your firm uses. That means that you're not connected to the vast majority of the leadership team. You don't see them, you don't know them, and you don't interact with them. What we now understand is that finding a way to bring people together once in a while across levels does wonders for the employee's psyche. The benefits are significant, they include helping employees feel more connected and in the loop, stronger camaraderie, and a clear feeling of purpose.
As the higher level manager, who will conduct the meeting, you should know there are a few small risks involved, and there is a process you'll want to follow, but the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. While the chain of command concept is still quite important for decision making, communication in general should be more dynamic, more two-way, and more cross level. This course will explain how you can use skip-level meetings to help ensure that communication does meet these standards.