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Hey guys!

I just finished your series on Skip Levels. I work for a small company (~100 people). The idea of a skip level meeting is something very foreign to my organization. The meetings we do have are "all hands" meetings done by our president about 3 -4 times a year.

I personally like the idea of skip level meetings and see value in them. I plan on starting these but I need a questions answered first.

1. You talked about excluding your direct reports from the skip level meetings. You threw this out very casually like it was common knowledge but I was taken a back by this a bit. Is the reason for excluding my directs from the meeting so that my skips feel more open to discuss things with me? If the reason is otherwise, let me know.

2. Knowing that the idea of skip level meeting are very foreign to my organization, how do you recommend appoaching this topic with my directs? Are there any key points I should make to them as to why I'm excluding them from these meetings?

3. Finally, being a small organization, I am in charge of 6 different groups. The number of skips in each of these groups ranges from 1 to 8 people. All total I have 25 skips. Would you recommend that I have separate skip meetings or would you recommend that I have just one. Personally I think I could handle 25 people, but I can also see a benifit of separating them. The groups are very different and many of their concerns may be with other groups that are also under me. If they are all togehter, they may be reluctant to speak their mind. Any advice on this?

Sorry for the shopping cart list of questions. Thanks in advance. Love the podcast!

-Jim

Mark's picture

Jim-

Thanks for the kind words. Glad you're enjoying our show.

Your answers:

1. Your supposition regarding why to leave managers out is correct. If they've got issues with that, as I like to say... well, they've got issues.

2. Here's what I wrote in a different post on talking to your directs about skip levels:

First, I’d tell them, “I can understand your concerns, and I’m sorry if you got the wrong idea. Sometimes when we communicate, messages get confused, as this one did. I think Wellington said, “[communicate] in a way not only so that you are understood, but so that there is no way you are misunderstood.

“This is NOT a fact finding or fishing expedition, or an effort to learn something about you. Frankly, it has nothing to do with you. It is about me trying to reinforce the many messages their folks get through their chain of command by reducing the friction that is inevitable when communicating through multiple layers. Yes, that might reflect on my skips’ bosses, but it also reflects on me.

“What’s more, they know I’m your boss. They know I know stuff that I don’t communicate to you, but I don’t specifically intend to hold on to. Sometimes, I just can’t say everything I want to because of time and volume constraints. This gives me a chance to hear from them what their concerns are. I don’t doubt that you’re doing your best to help me understand those issues. But in the same way that I’m not always perfect at communicating downward, I’d bet you’re not always perfect at telling me what’s going on.

“Even that, though, doesn’t make this about you. Sometimes, people want a shot at the boss. This is an opportunity for me to be a leader and hear them out if they want to speak up.

“As well, we all should be cautious about jumping to distrust as a motive. This is an open communication environment. We’re not about layers and levels and who can talk to whom. If you disagree with me, let’s sit down and talk about that (so you can learn to see it my way ). If one of your folks came to see me, I’d talk to them. If you want to go talk to my boss, go. I trust you.

“I appreciate your concerns, and sorry I wasn’t clearer. As a matter of professional development, this is done everywhere in nearly all large organizations. Don’t assume this is rare or different or otherwise motivated other than a genuine interest in EVERYONE in my organization.

“It’s not about you.”

3. 25 in a skip level is fine. Probably a lot of their concerns are similar, and even if not, they ought to recognize how they all are connected anyway.

Hope these help!

Mark