It’s that time of year again. You get an email from your boss’ boss, who wants to have a conversation about your professional growth, your team, or to see how your first year at your new company has been. Or maybe it’s more sudden than that. Perhaps they’ve reached out for the first time ever to check in, and you’re suddenly stressed at the prospect of meeting with them one-on-one. 

Don’t let a “let’s touch base” subject line send a chill down your spine. Let’s explore skip level meetings, their purpose, and how you can make the most of your next one. 

What is a skip level meeting?

A skip level meeting refers to a conversation between an employee’s direct supervisor’s manager and the employee, without the direct supervisor present. The purpose is usually for a senior-level manager to gain insight into what is taking place at the organization from the perspective of an employee. The meeting can also be an opportunity for an employee to ask important questions and gain useful insights. 

The skip level meeting format is a leadership tool used to help increase productivity and communication at all levels of an organization. As an employee, connecting with the individual in charge of your direct supervisor can be beneficial for you and your organization as a whole. 

Write it down

Show up prepared and take notes throughout the meeting to put your best foot forward. Use a collaborative tool like Fellow to note any important talking points during your skip level meeting!

Why are skip level meetings important for employees? 

1 Offer new perspectives

It’s not every day that we get to pick the brain of our manager’s manager. While it may initially seem daunting to chat with your superior in the workplace, participating in a skip level meeting can be a fantastic way to learn about what takes place at all levels of your organization. An employee may not know what happens at the executive level, whereas a manager may not realize what routines and essential tasks take place within your team to keep the trains running on time. Learning about each other’s roles can help bridge knowledge gaps in the organizational hierarchy. 

2 Provide opportunities to make more of an impact at the company

Think of all the moments you’ve had an idea for your organization but haven’t had the opportunity to discuss it with a superior. This could be your chance to make a difference. You shouldn’t barge into your skip level meeting intending to resist company policies or procedures, but there’s nothing wrong with kindly providing positive or constructive feedback later on in the conversation, especially if your ideas will make work more productive or enjoyable for you and your teammates. 

3 Allow you to provide insight to higher level management

Perhaps the manager you’re meeting with has no sense of your team’s day-to-day operations. During your meeting, the senior manager will likely have questions about your role, your team, and even your pain points at work. By chatting with you, they may be looking to gain a new perspective on issues at your level of the company. If you can offer these insights in a calm and memorable manner, you’ll be on track to impress your superior during your meeting and contribute to company improvements. 

8 tips to prepare for a skip level meeting as an employee 

1 Know who you’re meeting

It may seem silly to study for a meeting with a colleague, but learning about the individual will better prepare you for the conversation you’re going to have. To best prepare, you can read their company bio, check out their LinkedIn profile, and ask any teammates who have had skip level meetings with this individual about the superior’s personality, leadership style, and what they discussed with your teammate during their own meeting. Take notes and jot down any questions that arise while you research. Remember that senior managers are human too! Learning about their priorities will help you guide the conversation and feel less anxious overall. Use Fellow’s private note features to jot down any information you don’t want to forget but would rather keep private to the meeting attendee. That way they won’t be able to see your notes, but you are confident when asking questions about themselves!

2 Have a list of things you love

This is your time to talk about all of the things you love about your role and company! Think deeply about the factors that have contributed to your success at work. Maybe you have a collaborative team that thrives under pressure, seamless administrative processes that make your life easier, or free coffee in the office that puts a smile on your face every morning. No matter the size, having a list of what your company does right and mentioning these qualities to your senior manager is a great way to get the conversation started and to showcase your gratitude as an employee. 

3 Have suggestions for what could improve

Don’t criticize your company or its management, but let your voice be heard on matters that are important to you. Communicate any problems that may have flown under the radar and offer suggestions to overcome these issues based on your own experiences. If you and your team have struggled to stay organized in your remote work environment, use this opportunity to discuss the new digital tool you found to help automate tasks and keep each other accountable. Since most senior managers want to improve efficiency, productivity, and workplace satisfaction, bringing valuable suggestions to your next skip level meeting is strongly encouraged. 

4 Know your goals and progress

Come to your next skip level meeting ready to discuss your future. Prepare an outline of your short- and long-term career goals, personal objectives and key results, and the progress you’ve made thus far towards achieving them. Remember that every senior manager was once an employee with your level of experience. Outline what you’d like to achieve as a professional at your company, the skills you want to develop, and the experience you’ll need to gather to climb to the next level of the corporate ladder. 

5 Share roadblocks you experience

Perhaps you needed a workplace accommodation that was unfamiliar for the company when you began your role. Or maybe the age-old internal onboarding system made it unnecessarily difficult to set up your devices at the start of your contract. While you shouldn’t spend your skip level meeting complaining, sharing your own personal roadblocks as an employee can help senior managers know what proactive measures need to be put in place to best prevent or resolve workplace challenges. 

6 Ask questions about work and life

Your conversation doesn’t need to be all about business! Asking questions about the senior manager’s work and life can provide you with excellent insight into their leadership style and personal philosophy. Ask your boss’ boss what they love about their job, what their day-to-day looks like, or who inspires them at work. Don’t forget to be yourself! Take a deep breath and act as if you were having a normal workplace conversation with a new teammate.

7 Reach out to team members for what to expect

If you know someone who has participated in this type of meeting before, ask for their advice as you prepare. See what they discussed during their skip level meeting, what questions they asked, and what they would do differently if they had another opportunity to chat with the person. While you should avoid gossiping, feel free to ask specific questions about the senior manager’s leadership and meeting styles if your skip level meeting is with the same individual. If you don’t know anyone who’s had this type of meeting, you can always reach out to your own manager for advice on how to best approach this conversation. 

8 Ask for feedback

The senior manager you meet with during your skip level meeting may have never worked with you directly, but they’ve probably seen some of the projects that your direct supervisor has passed along. Ask for their thoughts on the work of yours they’ve reviewed and see if they can provide any positive or constructive feedback. Asking for feedback shows that you care about self-improvement and value their opinion.

Don’t forget to follow up with the senior manager after your meeting to thank them and ask for any additional feedback. Expressing your appreciation for their time in writing will create a lasting impression. 

Free skip level meeting template

Don’t skip out on the skip level meeting benefits

Don’t skip out on your next skip level meeting. It may seem intimidating to have a one-on-one conversation with a senior manager, but we guarantee the pros will outweigh your initial anxiety. Meeting with a superior is mutually beneficial, because it will introduce you both to a side of your company you may not have had the chance to experience yet. Cut the nerves by doing your research on the individual and jotting down what you wish to discuss in advance. Lastly, use Fellow’s 100 skip level meeting questions and agenda template to prepare. Follow these key steps and your skip level meeting is bound to be a success!